This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that fighting in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group is ongoing, despite earlier reports of a ceasefire following two days of deadly Israeli airstrikes and more than 400 Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel.
In an address Wednesday night, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, “I hope that we will bring it to an end soon, but we are ready for it to be protracted.”
Israel’s strikes have killed 21 Palestinians and wounded more than 40. Those killed were senior members of Islamic Jihad and at least nine civilians including women and children, according to Palestinian Health Ministry and United Nations figures. No Israelis have been reported killed or wounded by the more than 400 rockets the Israel Defense Forces say have been fired from Gaza to date, though eight have been treated for injuries while running for shelter.
The Israeli military named its offensive Shield and Arrow. Hamas, the group that controls the Gaza Strip and is labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, has also claimed involvement in the Gaza rocket fire alongside attacks by Islamic Jihad. Israeli officials have questioned the claim.
Israel has instituted emergency measures in towns near the Gaza border, evacuating thousands of residents. Its defense systems, including Iron Dome and a new interceptor called David’s Sling, have felled dozens of rockets since the attacks began.
Brokered by Egypt, the ceasefire will reportedly go into effect Wednesday evening. The conflict this week follows a heavy exchange of fire on May 2 between Islamic Jihad and Israel, following the death of an Islamic Jihad leader who was on a hunger strike in Israeli prison. It also comes after a far-right faction in Israel’s right-wing governing coalition boycotted parliamentary votes in protest of what it saw as a weak Israeli response to last week’s rocket fire.
Israel and militant groups in Gaza have engaged in several rounds of conflict in recent decades. Last year saw a three-day exchange of fire, while Israel fought with Hamas and other terror groups for 11 days in 2021. The most severe round of conflict lasted nearly two months in the summer of 2014.
The U.N., France and Turkey were among the international bodies condemning Israel on Tuesday for the deaths of civilians. The United States State Department issued a statement saying it was “aware of reports” that civilians “were tragically killed in the Israeli strikes” and called on “all parties to deescalate the situation.” The State Department added that the United States’ “commitment to Israel’s security remains ironclad.”
As Israeli defense officials said they wanted to limit the conflict, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled the opposite, telling communities near the Gaza border they should prepare for “the possibility of the expansion of the operation.”
Meanwhile, news coverage of the conflict has led to fighting within Israel. On Tuesday, Amichai Chikli, the minister of diaspora affairs, dubbed Israel’s Channel 13 “13 Jazeera,” a reference to the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network. The epithet came after a chyron on the channel read “With the P.M.’s approval: Women and children killed in overnight attack.” Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi also condemned the chyron.
On Wednesday, a pedestrian attacked Channel 13 reporters on the street with pepper spray after saying they were “worse than Al Jazeera” and stealing the cover off of one of their microphones. Israel’s journalists’ union condemned the pepper spray attack, and police announced that they had arrested a suspect.