At least three high-profile commanders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad resistance movement have been assassinated after Israeli military aircraft launched a series of targeted strikes on the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli regime said in a statement that the officials assassinated in the strikes include Khalil Bahitini, the commander of the al-Quds Brigades in the northern Gaza Strip, Tareq Ezzaldin, a spokesperson for the movement who also manages retaliatory operations in the West Bank and Gaza, and Jihad Ghanem, secretary of the movement’s military council.
Following the onset of air raids, dubbed Operation Shield and Arrow, the Zionist regime’s war minister Yoav Gallant declared a “special situation at the top” and approved the call-up of reservists “for required roles according to needs.”
Highways were closed around the Gaza Strip border, railway traffic south of the city of Ashkelon was halted, and special instructions were issued by the Home Front Command to the public.
At least 13 Palestinians were killed in the strikes and 20 others were wounded, according to Palestinian reports, with a number of sites in Gaza City, Rafah and Khan Yunis targeted, among other locations.
According to the Zionist regime’s army, Bahitini was the most senior operational commander in the Islamic Jihad and was responsible for the rocket fire toward occupied territories in the past month. Bahitini was apparently planning further rocket fire in the near future.
Ezzaldin was responsible for the communications between the movement and its branches in the West Bank and for transferring funds and coordinating resistance active in the occupied lands.
Ghanem was one of the most senior and veteran operatives in Islamic Jihad and served at one point as the commander of the al-Quds Brigades in the southern Gaza Strip.
In his latest position, Ghanem was responsible for coordinating the transfer of funds and weapons from the movement to Hamas.
Alongside the assassinations, six military compounds and a military position belonging to the Islamic Jihad were targeted as well.
The Islamic Jihad resistance movement confirmed that the three senior officials were killed, along with their wives and some of their children.
“We affirm that the blood of the martyrs will increase our resolve, and we will not leave our positions, and the resistance will continue,” the group said.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh also warned that Israel will “pay the price” for the killings.
“Assassinating the leaders with a treacherous operation will not bring security to the occupier, but rather more resistance,” Haniyeh said.
The assassinations come a week after around 100 rockets were launched from Gaza toward the occupied territories following the martyrdom in prison of prominent Islamic Jihad leader Khader Adnan after an 87-day hunger strike.
Adnan, who Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups say was withheld medical attention, had taken the action in protest at his administrative detention.
Over the past 20 years, the Islamic Jihad member had been arrested a dozen times by Israeli forces for his political and anti-occupation activities. He spent a total of eight years behind bars.