Israeli air strike kills Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza

Israeli warplanes unleashed another wave of heavy airstrikes on the Gaza Strip Monday, destroying about nine miles of militant tunnels and the homes of nine Hamas commanders — and also killing a senior Islamic Jihad leader, the military said.

As the escalating hostilities entered their second week, the Gaza Health Ministry said 198 residents have been killed, including 58 children and 35 women, and some 1,300 have been injured in the fighting.

The ministry doesn’t specify how many of the dead belonged to Hamas or other terrorist groups.

On the Israeli side, 10 people have been killed in the fighting, including a soldier and a 5-year-old boy.

The IDF announced Monday that it had assassinated Hussam Abu Harbeed, who commanded Islamic Jihad’s northern Gaza division and led attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians for almost 15 years, according to The Times of Israel.

In a statement, the IDF said Harbeed “was behind several anti-tank missile terror attacks against Israeli civilians.” One of those attacks occurred on the first day of the current round of fighting when a civilian was wounded.

There was no immediate confirmation from Islamic Jihad or its armed wing, the al-Quds Brigades, about the assassination.

The IDF also announced Monday it had destroyed just over 9 miles of militant tunnels.

“Our fighter jets neutralized 9.3 miles of the Hamas ‘Metro’ terror tunnel system overnight. That’s 9.3 miles that can no longer be used for terror,” it said in a statement.

There was no immediate word on the casualties from the latest strikes.

A three-story building in Gaza City was heavily damaged, but residents said the IDF warned them 10 minutes before the strike and everyone managed to get out.

Gaza Mayor Yahya Sarraj told Al-Jazeera TV that the strikes had caused extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure.

“If the aggression continues we expect conditions to become worse,” he said.

The Israel Defense Forces has hit over 1,180 targets in the Strip since the beginning of Operation Guardian of the Walls, according to the Haaretz Daily.

Over 3,150 rockets have been launched toward Israel, about 460 of which fell short and landed within the Strip. The IDF’s Iron Dome defense system has successfully shot down about 90 percent of the projectiles, the military said.

The hostilities broke out May 10 when Hamas militants fired long-range rockets at Jerusalem after weeks of clashes in the holy city between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police.

The protests centered on the policing of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a compound that is revered by Jews and Muslims, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.

“I have not seen this level of destruction through my 14 years of work — not even in the 2014 war,” said Samir al-Khatib, an emergency rescue official in Gaza, referring to the most destructive of the previous three wars fought between Israel and Hamas.

Despite international efforts at a cease-fire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the IDF attacks were continuing at “full-force” and would “take time.“

Israel “wants to levy a heavy price” on Hamas, he said.

Hamas’ top leader Ismail Haniyeh, who is based abroad, said the group has been contacted by the US, Russia, Egypt and Qatar as part of cease-fire efforts but “will not accept a solution that is not up to the sacrifices of the Palestinian people.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said his government is working to “urgently” end the violence.

With Post wires

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