Five Palestinian militants were killed Saturday when an Israeli war jet struck a military training site of the Islamic Jihad (Holy War) movement’s armed wing al-Quds Brigades in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. The militant group vowed heavy revenge.
Palestinian medics said bodies of five militants and three wounded people were brought to Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in the town, adding that the three injured were in critical condition, reported Xinhua.
Abu Ahmed, spokesman for al-Quds Brigades, confirmed to Xinhua that an Israeli drone attacked ‘Muhajer’ training post in the neighborhood of Tal Sultan, west of Rafah town, while a number of Islamic Jihad militants were training, adding that five were killed and three others wounded in the attack.
The Israeli plane fired two missiles at the post, he said, while an Israeli army spokesman said in a statement that the airstrike targeted Ahmed Sheikh Khalil, a senior militant in charge of rocket makeshifts. Shekh Khalil had survived five rounds of Israeli airstrikes.
Al-Quds Brigades website said the group declared a highest status of emergency ‘to response to the coward crime of assassination.’ The website also quoted Abu Ahmed as saying that ‘ this is the most serious escalation in several months.’
‘From now and on, we won’t be able to speak about calm following this escalation. They had targeted our leaders and militants and our response to this crime will be selectively carried out on a proper time,’ said Abu Ahmed, referring to a fragile calm deal reached with Israel several months ago.
The armed Palestinian factions and militant groups had reached several months ago an agreement mediated by Egypt and Turkey. However, the calm was shaky due to violent escalation witnessed in the region between Israel and Gaza Strip militants.
In late August, around 30 Palestinians and two Israelis were killed in a significant violent escalation between Israel and Gaza militant groups after unknown militant groups attacked the southern Israeli town of Eilat and killed eight Israelis.
An Israeli army spokesman told Xinhua by phone that the Israeli warplanes struck ‘a terrorist cell that was behind the manufacturing and firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip to Israel, ‘ adding that ‘this group had fired Russian-made Grad rockets from Gaza at Israel two days ago.’
Two days ago, two Grad rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into central Israel. No casualties were reported, and no one claimed responsibility for the attack, but Israel had accused the Islamic Jihad armed wing for being behind the attack.
In response to the Grad rocket attack on central Israel, Israeli war jets struck with missiles three posts belonging to Islamic Hamas movement’s armed wing al-Qassam Brigades. No injuries were reported, but it was a clear message to the militants that Israel would retaliate.
Meanwhile, Sami Abu Zuhri, spokesman for Hamas in Gaza, condemned the Israeli attacks on the Jihad military training camp, adding ‘this crime is carried out in the frame of the ongoing Israeli aggression to damage the happiness of the prisoners’ release.’
Nabil Abu Rdeineh, spokesman for Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas, called on Israel to immediately stop its military escalation in the Gaza Strip. The state-run news agency Wafa quoted him as saying ‘We shouldn’t accept to bring back the atmosphere of war in Gaza.’
The Israeli military escalation and the rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip on Israel increased 10 days after Israel and Hamas reached an agreement on releasing Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been held in Gaza since 2006, for the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.