Islamic Jihad pummels Israel with rockets as IDF’s ‘Operation Breaking Dawn’ enters second day
(JNS.org) – The Israel Defense Forces on Saturday night was preparing for a “week of fighting” against Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, as terrorists in the enclave fired over 350 projectiles towards the Jewish state in the previous 24 hours.
The IDF said that the Iron Dome missile defense system had successfully intercepted 95 percent of the approximately 170 projectiles fired by PIJ that were headed for populated regions. According to the military, about another 100 rockets fell short in Gaza, with the rest hitting open areas in Israel or landing in the Mediterranean Sea.
One projectile struck a family home in Sderot, whose inhabitants had secured themselves in a shelter and were uninjured.
The IDF launched Operation Breaking Dawn on Friday afternoon, following days of tensions in the wake of the arrest of Bassam al-Sa’adi, the leader of PIJ in Judea and Samaria.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement that the goal of the mission was “the elimination of a concrete threat.”
A senior Israeli defense source on Friday was quoted by media as saying that the military campaign was initiated with a view to thwarting an imminent large-scale terrorist attack.
Lapid was set to convene the Security Cabinet at 22:30 local time on Saturday to discuss the latest developments and plot a path forward.
For his part, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides tweeted that Washington “firmly believes” that Jerusalem maintains the “right to protect itself,” adding that American officials were “engaging with different parties and urge all sides for calm.”
Since the beginning of Operation Breaking Dawn, the IDF said it struck dozens of PIJ assets in Gaza, including weapons manufacturing and storage sites, observation posts and rocket-launching pads.
As of Saturday afternoon, there were no serious injuries reported on the Israeli side, whereas the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said that 11 Palestinians had been killed.
In its initial round of airstrikes, the IDF on Friday eliminated senior PIJ commander Tayseer Jabari, who was responsible for numerous rocket attacks in May 2021 during “Operation Guardian of the Walls,” an 11-day battle initiated by Hamas and PIJ against Israel.
Jabari, 50, was from Gaza’s Shuja’iyya neighborhood and had been a high-ranking PIJ member since 2007. He served as a deputy of Baha Abu al-Ata until the latter’s assassination in a targeted Israeli strike in 2019.
According to the IDF, Jabari was PIJ’s head of operations.
Meanwhile, the Israeli military on Friday declared a “special situation” throughout the home front and warned residents within an 80-kilometer (50-mile) radius of Gaza that there was a risk of rocket attacks.
Palestinian terrorists began firing projectiles towards Israeli civilian centers at approximately 21:00 local time on Friday, with sirens continuing to blare across the country into Saturday night, including in Tel Aviv.
The IDF said that four rockets were launched at the bustling coastal city, all of which were either intercepted or landed in the Mediterranean.
The IDF had deployed Iron Dome batteries to central Israel in anticipation of the barrages, one of which targeted the city of Modi’in on Saturday, and authorized the mobilization of 25,000 reserve troops.
Tension reached a boiling point when Israeli forces on Monday conducted an operation in Jenin that resulted in the arrest of al-Sa’adi, who is suspected of building terror cells in Judea and Samaria.
Egyptian mediators on Tuesday were dispatched to Gaza, with Jerusalem having conveyed a message via the intermediaries to Hamas, which rules the Palestinian enclave, and PIJ, that it was not interested in an escalation.
However, with parts of Israel’s South effectively closed for days, diplomatic efforts to prevent the outbreak of fighting had by Friday been “exhausted,” local media reported.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi on Saturday night visited the Southern Command, where he vowed that Israel would continue striking PIJ targets and elaborated on the operation’s immediate goals.
“One is to prevent all attacks [against the home front] and, two, to critically attack the Islamic Jihad organization [in Gaza], in Judea and Samaria and all other sectors,” Kohavi said.