Several Gazan eyewitnesses have corroborated Israeli accusations that rockets fired by the terrorist group Islamic Palestinian Jihad were responsible for deaths and damage in Gaza after falling short during three days of conflict earlier this month and again in the coastal enclave had landed.
“I was at my house with my wife and children when we heard the sound of a huge explosion. Two minutes later I looked out the window and saw a horrific scene. A house nearby was destroyed,” said Abdul Rahman, a resident of the Jabaliya refugee camp who did not want his full name to be given for security reasons, a little over a week after the latest round of violence between Israel and Gaza-based terrorist groups .
One of the rockets fired at Israel “landed on the house,” he said.
Souha, another Jabaliya resident, said that “it is a war and there are mistakes of occupation and resistance,” a reference to Israel and Islamic Jihad.
“But the reason for the war is still the occupation,” added the woman, who “saw a rocket falling on her neighbors’ house.” For similar reasons, she also preferred not to give her last name.
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Israel said it launched air and artillery fire on Palestinian Islamic Jihad positions on August 5 as a “preemptive” operation to halt an impending cross-border attack. In three days of fighting, Islamic Jihad fired more than a thousand rockets, some deep into Israel, and Israeli airstrikes targeted Islamic Jihad bases, shops, rocket launchers and terror chiefs.
Most of the rockets fired from the Gaza Strip either hit uninhabited areas or were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. Some hit populated areas, where shrapnel injured four people.
In Gaza, 49 Palestinians were killed, including 17 children, and more than 350 injured, according to the enclave’s Hamas-led health ministry.
PIJ missile fails to ignite, lands in neighborhood of Gaza during live TV program Mayadeen – Reporter claims it was fired towards the sea, asks cameraman to turn camera away pic.twitter.com/S9GwFmSs6L
– MEMRI (@MEMRIReports) August 8, 2022
Israel says about a dozen of the children killed in Gaza and several of the other civilian deaths were caused by PIJ rockets that missed out or misfired, including at the Jabaliya camp. There, the IDF said, a misguided Islamic Jihad missile was responsible for the deaths of at least four minors. The IDF released video and radar data to support this allegation.
The IDF said about 200 PIJ rockets failed to reach Israel.
Israel said it only targeted terrorists and did everything it could to spare civilians. The Associated Press reported that in at least one attack that killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in the southern city of Rafah late August 6, five civilians were also killed as Israel leveled a house and severely damaged others.
Even PIJ members acknowledged that the three-day escalation had dealt a blow to their leadership.
Palestinians search the rubble of a building where Khaled Mansour, a top Islamic Jihad fighter, was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on August 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa, File)
The conflict exposed the frustrations of ordinary Palestinians in the poverty-stricken coastal enclave, which Israel and Egypt have blocked since 2007 to prevent arms smuggling to terrorist groups in Gaza.
In rare outright criticism, some Palestinians even publicly chided the PIJ on social media for the stray rockets.
A Palestinian boy holding an Islamic Jihad flag walks past a portrait of the terrorist group’s commander in chief Khaled Mansour, who was killed in recent fighting between Israel and the Gaza Strip, during a mourning gathering in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, August 8, 2022 became. when a ceasefire was declared by Israel and PIJ after three days of conflict. (SAID KHATIB/AFP)
Muhammed Shehada of the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said the missiles that failed were larger ones designed to hit the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv and beyond.
“They (Islamic Jihad) have tried to improve the range and yield of their missiles – but without any solid scientific basis,” said Shehada, a Gaza-based analyst.
Rockets are fired at Israel from Gaza City in the Gaza Strip on August 7, 2022. (Hatem Moussa/AP)
“Those who went beyond 40 kilometers (25 miles) weren’t mechanically or technically adept. They were the ones who fell back into Gaza,” he said.
Two rockets reached the outskirts of Jerusalem, more than 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Gaza, but were intercepted by Israel.
The issue of the rockets was “marked by immense frustration and bitterness towards the broader population of Gaza,” he added.
The three-day escalation has also deepened divisions among the Gaza Strip’s Islamist ruler, Hamas, which, while publicly offering its support for Islamic Jihad, has balked at entering the fight.
Commanders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Tayseer Jabari (L) and Khalid Mansour take part in a parade for the movement’s military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, in Gaza City May 5, 2022. (AFP)
Hamas leaders are furious at what they see as the recklessness of Islamic Jihad, a senior West Bank official told AFP.
“Hamas has repeatedly offered to help Islamic Jihad design and improve the missiles, but Jihad always says it has it under control,” Shehada said.
Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Nakhaleh, speaking from Iran, where he was visiting when the conflict erupted, declared victory in the battle.
Unlike previous conflicts, Islamic Jihad has had little to show for after the conflict ended on Aug. 7 with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, Shehada said.
Ali Fadavi, deputy chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (C), along with other officials, raise his fists during a protest in Tehran August 9, 2022 in support of Palestinians following the latest round of fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad in Tehran Gaza . (ATTA KENARE / AFP)
“Normally, Hamas would agree to a ceasefire that would bring concrete results to the people of Gaza,” he told AFP. “That offers nothing.”
Local resident Said Bessia pointed to a hole punched in concrete where a missile killed a Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander.
“Here he sat,” Bessia said, referring to Tayseer Jabari, who met with several top fighters on August 5 on the sixth floor of the Palestine Tower building.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the attacks “dealed a devastating blow” targeting the “entire senior military command” of the Iran-backed group in the Gaza Strip.
Masked members of the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad group, stand with their weapons and flags outside the main mosque in Khan Younis City, during a rally to celebrate a killing spree in Israel in which a Palestinian killed two Israelis southern Gaza Strip, April 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
A senior Islamic Jihad leader told AFP that the killed commanders were replaced “within minutes,” but Ahmed al-Mudallal of the group’s politburo acknowledged the impact.
“This round was difficult,” he told AFP. “We lost many key military leaders who were important to us.”
Mudallal’s son Ziad – an Islamic Jihad officer – was killed along with senior commander Khaled Mansour during a strike in Rafah, the city in southern Gaza.
Mudallal vowed that the movement he helped found would recover.
It has previously lost other leaders, he said. “And that has never stopped people’s resistance and the path of jihad.”