Israeli jets shell Gaza in second day of attacks | News about the conflict between Israel and Palestine

Israeli jets attacked the besieged Gaza Strip for a second day after a wave of airstrikes on the coastal enclave killed at least 12 people, including a five-year-old girl and the commander of a Palestinian militant group.

The the fighting that started on Friday with Israel’s targeted killing of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander, continued throughout the night, drawing the countries closer to all-out war.

Shortly before midday on Saturday, Israel stepped up airstrikes against Gaza, leveling a two-story building in western Gaza City and causing heavy damage to surrounding homes. Women and children rushed from the area.

“Did you warn us? They warned us with rockets and we ran away without taking anything,” said Huda Shamallah, who lived next door, adding that 15 people lived in the house that was targeted.

Reporting from Gaza Al Jazeera’s Youmna ElSayed said the attacks on Gaza “have not stopped since the early hours of the morning”.

Standing in front of another four-story house destroyed by an Israeli strike, ElSayed said 30 residents lived in the building.

“Israel is now targeting homes,” she said, explaining that several other residences in the Gaza Strip had been attacked. “Many people fell as victims during the strikes, many of them children.

Reporting from the Gaza-Israel border, Al Jazeera’s John Holman said the area was on high alert, with people on the Israeli side taking cover, as several rockets from Gaza fell on southern Israel.

“We have the first report of injuries from the Israeli side – two soldiers,” he said, explaining that 160 rockets had been fired from Gaza into southern Israel since Friday.

“It gives you an indication of how unequal this battle is between Israel – which has enormous military capacity – and Islamic Jihad,” he added.

The ruins of the Palestinian home in Gaza
A view of the ruins that were the home of the Shamallah family in the Gaza Strip [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera]

The power plant stopped

Also on Saturday, Gaza’s only power plant shut down after running out of fuel, a power company spokesman said, five days after Israel closed the crossing point for goods with the Palestinian enclave.

“The Gaza power plant has stopped due to a lack of fuel,” said Mohammed Tabet, a spokesman for the electricity company.

Electricity supplies are expected to drop to just four hours a day, Tabet said.

Diesel for the power plant is usually trucked in from Egypt or Israel, which has maintained a blockade on the enclave since the militant group Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

In a statement earlier Saturday, Gaza’s electricity company said the shutdown “will affect all utilities and important installations and worsen the humanitarian situation.”

The company urged “all parties to intervene urgently and allow the entry of fuel supplies to operate the plant”.

“This puts the people and the health sector in a bigger crisis. There were eight hours of electricity in Gaza… that was cut to four. It will be nothing if the fuel does not enter the Strip,” said Al Jazeera’s ElSayed.

Gaza’s 2.3 million residents experience regular electricity shortages and last week received only an average of 10 hours of electricity a day, according to figures from the UN humanitarian agency OCHA.

Escalating tension

The latest round of violence in Israel and Gaza was sparked by the arrest this week of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in the occupied West Bank, part of a month-long Israeli military operation in the territory.

Citing a security threat, Israel then sealed off roads around the Gaza Strip and on Friday killed Taysir al-Jabari, commander of the al-Quds Brigades, in a targeted strike.

An explosion was heard in Gaza City, where smoke rose from the seventh floor of a high-rise building. A video released by the Israeli military shows the strikes blowing up three towers.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said a five-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman were among those killed in Gaza, and dozens of others wounded.

Overnight, Israel arrested 19 members of Islamic Jihad in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli army said.

In a speech broadcast on national television on Friday, the Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid said his country launched the attacks based on “specific threats”.

The violence represented an early test for Lapid, who took over the role of caretaker prime minister is forthcoming in the November election, when he hopes to retain the post.

Lapid, a centrist, former TV presenter and author, has experience in diplomacy, having served as foreign minister in the outgoing government, but has a poor security record.

The Gaza conflict could burnish his reputation and give him a boost as he faces off against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a security hawk who led the country during three of its four wars with Hamas.

Hamas also faces a dilemma in deciding whether to join a new battle just a year after the last war caused widespread devastation.

Since then, there has been little to no reconstruction and the isolated coastal territory has been mired in poverty, with unemployment hovering around 50 percent.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said “the Israeli enemy who started the escalation against Gaza and committed a new crime must pay the price and bear full responsibility for it.”

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