The Israel Defense Forces is aiming to inflict “mortal harm” on Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists in the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria and “any other arena,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said on Saturday evening, on the second day of a fresh conflict between PIJ and the Jewish state.

“This terror organization (PIJ) is now under attack. We won’t allow any organization—not here and not in the North and not in Judea and Samaria—to harm the sovereignty of the State of Israel. We are at the height of a justified operation, aimed at protecting the Israeli people,” Kochavi said during a visit to the IDF Southern Command’s firepower activation center, which has played a key role in coordinating airstrikes.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad on Saturday fired a barrage of rockets at Tel Aviv and other areas of central and southern Israel, sending millions of people into shelters or safe zones. PIJ, Gaza’s second largest terror organization after Hamas, fired some 350 rockets by Saturday evening since the start of the fighting with Israel erupted on Friday.

Out of that total, more than 80 fell inside Gaza, according to IDF figures. Some 15 rockets landed in Israeli territorial waters.

The Iron Dome intercepted 95 percent of the projectiles heading for populated regions.

Earlier on Saturday, the city of Modi’in was targeted.

In Ashkelon, one rocket was able to get past air defenses, slamming into a residential area and damaging vehicles and an apartment building. There were no injuries in the incident.

“For over 12 hours, Israelis have been kept awake throughout the night due to the continuous threat of Islamic Jihad rockets. We will continue to protect them,” the IDF tweeted on Saturday morning.

The Israeli Air Force has since struck PIJ targets including, among other sites, rocket production facilities and launchers.

Hamas has remained uninvolved in the fighting thus far. 

On Friday, the IDF launched a preemptive series of strikes on PIJ after detecting anti-tank attack cells approaching the shared border, the Israeli military stated.

The IDF declared a special situation in the 80 kilometer zone stretching from the border with Gaza into Israel.  

The IDF’s Operation Breaking Dawn began with airstrikes on at least two anti-tank squads, as well as the targeted killing of the commander of PIJ’s northern brigade, Tayseer Jabari, who had a history of ordering missile attacks on Israeli civilians and IDF personnel.

Jaabari was the successor of PIJ commander Baha Abu al-Atta, who was eliminated in a targeted Israeli strike during Operation Black Belt in November 2019, a three-day battle between PIJ and the IDF.

Egyptian authorities are reportedly mediating efforts to keep Hamas, which effectively rules Gaza, out of the current escalation.

JNS

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