The Israel Defense Forces killed three top Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders in strikes across the Gaza Strip early on Tuesday morning, following a month of intermittent confrontations with terrorists in the Palestinian enclave.
The IDF identified the targets of the operation as Khalil Bahitini, PIJ’s commander in northern Gaza; Jahed Ahnam, a senior member of the terror group’s military council; and Tarek Azaldin, who directs its activities in Judea and Samaria.
Israel also struck 10 sites belonging to PIJ, including weapons manufacturing facilities and depots.
The military dubbed the campaign “Operation Shield and Arrow.”
Israelis residing within 40 kilometers (25 miles) of the Gaza border have been instructed to enter or remain near bomb shelters amid fears of rocket attacks.
Bomb shelters were also opened in the southern cities of Ashkelon and Beersheva, as well as the central cities of Rishon LeZion, Herzliya, Ra’anana, Kfar Saba, Yavneh and Bat Yam.
“The strikes targeted senior figures responsible for rocket fire from Gaza in recent months and who were involved in organizing additional attacks on Israelis, including in Judea and Samaria,” said IDF spokesperson Brig. Gen. Daniel Hagari, adding: “Those who endanger Israeli lives, and those who work tirelessly to harm Israel’s security, will not remain unharmed.”
He noted that 40 IAF aircraft had carried out coordinated strikes within seconds of each other across three different locations in Gaza.
“At this stage, we achieved our objective, we hit what was needed. If necessary, we will ramp up the attacks. We are prepared for any scenario,” said Hagari.
Hundreds of reservists would be activated, mostly those serving in the IAF, Southern Command and intelligence units, he added.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant weighed in shortly thereafter, saying: “Any terrorist element that harms Israeli citizens will regret it. We will pursue and catch our enemies.”
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who last week sparred with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the government’s response to terror emanating from Gaza, said: “I congratulate the prime minister on the proactive operation in Gaza. It’s a good start, the time has come to change our policy.”
In a show of unity, opposition leader Yair Lapid also extended his backing for the IDF operation.
“The terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip were made aware this morning that the intelligence community and security forces are monitoring their every move, and that the account with them will be closed,” said Lapid.
“A firm Israeli response at a time and place that is good for us is the way to deal with terror from Gaza. We will back all operational activity to protect the residents of the south,” he added.
Added former defense minister and National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz: “Our enemies erred in assessing the situation. I commend the important action in the Gaza Strip. We will give full backing to the IDF and the security forces in every operation, and I hope that the government will conduct itself with the necessary combination of determination and responsibility.”
By contrast, the Islamist Ra’am (United Arab List) Party denounced the government’s “attack on families’ homes with women and children.”
Led by MK Mansour Abbas, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Ra’am was part of the previous Lapid-Naftali Bennett ruling coalition.
Last Wednesday, Israel and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza agreed to end 24 hours of fighting, during which more than 100 rockets were launched towards the Jewish state.
The military exchange erupted early Tuesday morning when senior PIJ operative Khader Adnan died in prison after a 87-day hunger strike.
Both Hamas and PIJ took responsibility for the rocket fire, the worst such instance since a conflict on Aug. 5-7 of last year.
In April, terrorists in Gaza fired 44 projectiles, including rockets and anti-aircraft missiles, towards southern Israel, a day after Hamas launched 34 rockets from Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon.