Islamic Jihad expands rocket range, firing at Jerusalem and Beersheba

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group on Sunday widened the range of its rocket attacks on Israel, launching several long-range rockets towards towns on the outskirts of Jerusalem, as well as the southern city of Beersheba.

As rocket attacks and Israeli strikes on the PIJ in Gaza continued, reports proliferated in the afternoon that a ceasefire was on the cards. AFP, citing an Egyptian source, said Israel had agreed to a truce.

An Israeli source, however, told the Ynet news site that talks were still ongoing.

At around 8 am, rocket sirens sounded in several communities near Jerusalem for the first time since the Israel Defense Forces launched Operation Breaking Dawn against the terror group on Friday afternoon.

Several rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system near the capital, and there were no reported injuries in the attack.

Later in the day, PIJ said it launched a “massive” rocket barrage at Tel Aviv and the southern city of Beersheba, in response to the death of a senior commander in an Israeli airstrike on Saturday night.

A home in a town in southern Israel is damaged in a rocket attack, August 7, 2022. (Eshkol Regional Council)

Sirens did not sound in Tel Aviv, but rather in several suburbs south of it. In Beersheba, one rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome and another landed in an open field outside the city. Several more rockets were downed in other areas of southern Israel. In Netivot, some 11 kilometers from the Strip, a rocket landed near the local train station, causing a fire.

There were no injuries in the long-range attacks, according to officials.

Earlier in the day at least two rockets landed near home in the Eshkol Regional Council, causing damage. Local authorities said there were power outages in some towns due to another rocket hitting electrical lines in the area.

The Defense Ministry said that three mortars also hit the Erez Crossing between Israel and Gaza. The terminal roof was damaged as a result of a fire, and shrapnel fell into the entrance hall, the ministry said.

The crossing is usually used by thousands of Palestinians to enter Israel every day for work. However, it was shuttered last week amid the threat of a PIJ attack on the border, and has remained closed amid the fighting.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says it has taken 28 people to hospitals since the beginning of fighting, including two people who were slightly hurt by rocket shrapnel, 19 after falling while running to shelter, and seven who were treated for anxiety.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid toured the military’s Southern Command and the Gaza border area Sunday afternoon, where he met with top military officials.

Along with the security assessment held at Southern Command headquarters with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, IDF chief Avi Kohavi and other officials, the premier’s office said Lapid visited Sderot, where he met with the rocket-hit city’s mayor and leaders of other nearby municipalities.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid (L) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz (2nd-L) tour the IDF’s Southern Command on August 7, 2022, amid fighting in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group. (Haim Zach/GPO)

IDF data on Sunday afternoon put the number of rockets and mortars launched towards Israel by PIJ since Friday at over 780. According to the data, some 180 rockets fell short in the Gaza Strip. In at least two cases, failed rocket launches killed Palestinian civilians.

The Hamas-run health ministry, meanwhile, said at least 29 people had been killed in Gaza, including six children. Another 203 people were wounded, it said.

Smoke billows from a building after an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 7, 2022 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Israel said many of the dead are PIJ terrorists, and rejected responsibility for nine fatalities, which it attributed to failed PIJ rocket launches. Israel disseminated video material showing a failed rocket launch that it said caused the death of seven Palestinians, four of them children, in the Jabaliya refugee camp on Saturday.

Also on Sunday, the military wing of Hamas said one of its members had been killed in an Israeli airstrike, marking the first official death from the terrorist group amid fighting between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Hamas said Muhammad Afana from the Jabaliya refugee camp was killed amid the “continuous Zionist aggression” in the Gaza Strip. Israel has said two deadly blasts in Jabaliya Saturday and Sunday were caused by misfired PIJ rockets. It was not clear if Afana was killed in one of those incidents.

The Israel Defense Forces has stressed that it is only interested in targeting PIJ operatives and sites across the Gaza Strip, not Hamas.

On Sunday, the IDF said it struck 11 PIJ rocket launching positions, two mortar launching sites, among other sites across the Gaza Strip.

The Gaza operation was launched after several days of closures and lockdowns in Israeli communities near the Strip due to the alert of an imminent attack, with the PIJ seeking to avenge the arrest of its West Bank leader last Monday.

Israeli leaders and military officials said the operation was started because Islamic Jihad had refused to back down from its plans to attack Israeli targets close to the border.

Batteries of Israel’s Iron Dome defense missile system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, are stationed in southern Israel on August 6, 2022. (Jack Guez/AFP)

In the opening round of Israeli strikes on Friday, the military killed one of PIJ’s senior commanders, Tayseer Jabari, whom officials said was planning to attack Israeli civilians near the border. Jabari replaced Baha Abu al-Ata as the group’s commander in northern Gaza after the latter was killed in an Israeli strike in 2019. In another major airstrike, on Saturday night Israel killed Jabari’s southern Gaza counterpart, Khaled Mansour.

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