The Israel Defense Forces called off an airstrike on Palestinian Islamic Jihad assets in the Gaza Strip so as not to put at risk two children identified in the area at the last moment, the IDF revealed on Thursday.
Hamas and PIJ have long been known to build and store terrorist infrastructure in, around and under schools, hospitals, mosques and other civilian sites in Gaza, to shield its assets from Israeli strikes and from which to launch missile attacks against Israeli population centers.
In December, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency revealed the presence of a “man-made cavity” found beneath a school in Gaza. The structure, said UNRWA, “is a serious violation of the agency’s neutrality and a breach of international law. Moreover, it exposes children and agency staff to significant security and safety risks.”
Last July, the IDF exposed a number of Hamas tunnels under civilian sites in Gaza, including one in the Tafah area of Gaza City next to a franchised Pepsi bottling factory, and another running next to an UNRWA elementary school that acts as a shelter for some 2,500 people.
The tunnels pass under “buildings that are essential for civilian life, in the knowledge that a strike on those targets will be provocative. If the tunnels collapse, hospitals, mosques, universities, or factories will collapse with them,” said the IDF at the time.
A weapons storehouse and the entrance to a tunnel were also found in the homes of two Hamas operatives, added the military. One of the homes is located next to an UNRWA medical clinic which serves some 15,000 people in the area.
The Israel Air Force has struck some 150 terror sites in Gaza since renewed hostilities erupted with the targeted killing of three top PIJ members on Tuesday morning.
Around 4 a.m. on Thursday, the IDF announced that it had also eliminated Ali Ghali, commander of PIJ’s rocket launching force, as well as two other terror operatives in Gaza.
For their part, terrorists in Gaza have indiscriminately fired more than 450 rockets at Israeli civilian population centers in the latest round of violence.