Israel’s military has confirmed carrying out targeted airstrikes that killed three Palestinians who were allegedly fighting against Israeli occupation on May 9, 2023. The strikes hit an apartment building in Gaza City and a house in the southern city of Rafah, resulting in 12 civilian casualties, including women and children. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported that 20 people were injured, and ambulances were continuing to evacuate people from the targeted areas.
According to the Israeli military, the three targeted individuals were responsible for recent rocket fire towards Israel. The individuals were identified as Khalil Bahtini, a resident of the northern Gaza Strip; Tareq Izzeldeen, the group’s intermediary between its Gaza and West Bank members; and Jehad Ghanam, the secretary of the group council. The Israeli military advised residents of communities within 25 miles of Gaza to stay close to designated bomb shelters in anticipation of Palestinian rocket attacks in response to the airstrikes.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh warned that Israel would “pay the price” for the killings, including innocent women and children. He stated that “Assassinating the leaders with a treacherous operation will not bring security to the occupier, but rather more resistance.”
These airstrikes come at a time of heightened tensions between Israel and Palestinian freedom fighter groups in the Gaza Strip, linked in part to fighting against Israel in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israel has been conducting near-daily raids for months to detain Palestinians in the West Bank, and Palestinians see these attacks as further entrenchment of Israel’s 56-year, open-ended occupation of lands they seek for the freedom of Palestine.
In the past, Palestinian groups in Gaza have retaliated for targeted killings, and the exchange of fire has resulted in a fragile ceasefire mediated by Egypt, the United Nations, and Qatar. Since the start of 2023, 105 Palestinians, including women and children, have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The United Nations has expressed its deep concern over the escalating violence between Israel and the Palestinians. A spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General said that “civilians must be protected at all times, and international humanitarian law must be respected by all parties.” The spokesperson also called for restraint and urged all parties to avoid actions that could further escalate the situation.
The US State Department also issued a statement expressing concern about the violence and calling on both sides to exercise restraint. The statement said, “We urge all parties to refrain from actions that could escalate the situation and call on all sides to work towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict.”
The European Union has also called for restraint and urged all parties to respect international law. A spokesperson for the EU foreign policy chief said that “the cycle of violence must stop, and efforts must be made to find a political solution to the conflict.”
Meanwhile, protests have erupted in several countries, with demonstrators calling for an end to the Israeli aggression and for the international community to take action to protect Palestinian civilians. In the occupied West Bank, clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces have also escalated, with several Palestinians injured and arrested.