Jerusalem In Islamic Jihad Crosshairs As Gaza Fighting Continues


By Hazem Balousha

Fighting between the Palestinian resistance group Islamic Jihad and Israeli forces continued for a fourth day on Friday, with no signs of an imminent cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

For the first time since the start of the current round of fighting, Islamic Jihad fired shells toward Jerusalem. They were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.

Al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s military wing, said the Palestinian resistance launched “a focused missile strike in two phases toward occupied Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and enemy cities in response to the assassinations and the continued aggression against the Palestinian people.”

It added: “We fulfilled our promise, there are no red lines,” referring to the firing of rockets toward Jerusalem for the first time.

“The firing of rockets towards Jerusalem is an important message for everyone to understand that what is happening in Jerusalem is not separate from Gaza.”

The burst of rocket fire from Gaza sent warning sirens wailing as far north as the contested capital of Jerusalem — about 77 kilometers from the Gaza border — breaking a 12-hour lull in the fighting. There were no immediate reports of casualties on either side on Friday.

The fighting, which began on Tuesday between Israel and Islamic Jihad — the second-largest militant group in Gaza after the territory’s rulers, Hamas — has left 31 Palestinians in the strip dead, including women and children. More than 100 have been wounded.

A high-ranking Islamic Jihad official told Al-Jazeera that his organization could up the ante further, taking action that would surprise everyone, if Israel were to continue to attack. He described the coming hours as critical in the effort to reach a cease-fire agreement.

Following the firing of rockets toward Jerusalem, the Israeli media reported that Israel had informed Egypt to stop the cease-fire talks.

The Israeli radio station Radio Kan reported: “The person who conveyed the message to the Egyptian intelligence chiefs about suspending the mediation talks for a cease-fire via a phone call is the coordinator of the Israeli government’s operations in the territories, Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alayan.”

Egypt has been unsuccessfully trying to broker a cease-fire between the two sides.

The BBC website reported that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Jordan’s King Abdullah, and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will discuss the cease-fire talks over the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The BBC also reported that “the obstacle to achieving the understanding” is the Islamic Jihad’s condition that Israel cease its assassinations of Palestinian officials.

Israel on Friday continued to bomb areas of the Gaza Strip, most of which are agricultural lands and military sites belonging to the Palestinian factions, most notably Islamic Jihad.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said: “The resistance is carrying out its duty in defending our Palestinian people in the face of the continued aggression of the occupation.

“The occupation will not succeed in breaking the will of our resistance or the steadfastness of our people by escalating its terrorism, and all experiences have proven the impossibility of the occupation’s victory in the battle of wills with our Palestinian people.”

The Israeli closure of the crossings has added to the suffering of Gazans in need of medical treatment. Gaza’s power plant has been unable to supply adequate electricity because of the absence of fuel.

The government information office said it may cease operations within 72 hours due to the lack of fuel.

“The depletion of fuel allocated to the power plant due to the closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing will exacerbate the situation of the health system,” the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network said in a statement.

“PNGO warns of the serious repercussions of the continued Israeli aggression and the closure of the crossings on the lives of patients. It exacerbates their health conditions and the ability of the health sector to deal with them,” it added.

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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