Several Gazan eyewitnesses have confirmed Israeli allegations that rockets fired by the Islamic Palestinian Jihad terror group were responsible for the deaths and damage in Gaza, falling short and returning to the coastal enclave during three days of clashes earlier this month.
“I was in my house with my wife and children when we heard a loud explosion. After two minutes I looked out the window and saw a horrible sight. A house nearby has been destroyed,” Abdul Rahman, a resident of Jabaliya refugee camp who did not want to use his full name for security reasons, told AFP after a week of violence between Israel and Gaza-based terror groups.
One of the rockets fired at Israel “landed on the house,” he said.
Another resident of Jabaliya, Souha, said, “This is war and there are mistakes of occupation and resistance,” referring to Israel and Islamic Jihad.
“But the cause of war is still business,” the woman continued, “watching rockets fall on her neighbors’ houses.” She also preferred not to give her middle name for similar reasons.
Israel said it launched air and artillery fire on Palestinian Islamic Jihad positions on August 5, to deter a “preemptive” cross-border attack. During the three-day battle, Islamic Jihad fired more than a thousand rockets, some of which went deep into Israel, and Israeli airstrikes targeted Islamic Jihad bases, stores, rocket launchers and terrorist leaders.
Most of the rockets fired from Gaza either hit unpopulated areas or were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. Some ransacked residential areas, where shrapnel injured four.
In Gaza, 49 Palestinians were killed, including 17 children, and more than 350 were injured, according to the enclave’s Hamas-run health ministry.
PIJ rocket misfires, lands in Gaza neighborhood during live Mayadeen TV broadcast – reporter claims it was launched towards sea, asks cameraman to turn camera away pic.twitter.com/S9GwFmSs6L
— MEMRI (@MEMRIRreports) 8 August 2022
Israel says about a dozen children have been killed and many other civilians killed in Gaza, either by PIJ rockets that fell short or were misfired, including in the Jabaliya camp. There, the IDF said, an errant Islamic Jihad missile was responsible for the deaths of at least four minors. IDF Published Video and radar data to bolster these charges.
The IDF said approximately 200 PIJ rockets failed to cross into Israel.
Israel has said it only targeted terrorists and did its best to save civilians. The Associated Press reported that at least one attack that killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in the southern city of Rafah late on August 6 killed five civilians, as Israel leveled a house and heavily damaged others.
PIJ members also admitted that the three-day hike was a blow to their leadership.
The conflict exposed the frustrations of ordinary Palestinians in the poverty-stricken Strip, which has been blockaded by Israel and Egypt since 2007 to prevent arms smuggling to Gaza terror groups.
In a rare outspoken criticism, some Palestinians publicly rebuked the PIJ on social media for the errant rockets.
Mohammed Shehada of the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said the rockets that fell short were large, designed to hit the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv and beyond.
“They (Islamic Jihad) have tried to improve the range and explosive power of their rockets – but there is no solid scientific basis,” said Shehada, an analyst in Gaza.
“Those who went beyond 40 kilometers (25 miles) were not mechanically or technologically savvy. That’s what fell back to Gaza,” he said.
Two rockets reached the outskirts of Jerusalem, more than 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Gaza, but were intercepted by Israel.
The issue of the rockets is “a source of great frustration and bitterness among the wider people of Gaza,” he added.
The three-day escalation has also widened the rift between Gaza’s Islamist rulers, Hamas, which, while publicly supporting Islamic Jihad, has stopped short of entering the fray.
A senior member of the West Bank told AFP that Hamas leaders were furious at what they said was the recklessness of Islamic Jihad.
“Hamas has repeatedly offered Islamic Jihad to help design and improve rockets, but Jihad always says it is under their control,” Shehada said.
Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Nakhaleh – speaking from Iran, where he was visiting when the conflict began – declared victory in the war.
Unlike past conflicts, Islamic Jihad had little to show for it after the conflict ended in an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire on August 7, Shehada said.
“Normally Hamas would agree to a ceasefire with some concrete deliverables to the people of Gaza,” he told AFP. “It offers nothing.”
Said Bessia, a local resident, pointed to a hole punched through the concrete where a missile struck a Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander.
“He was sitting right here,” Besia said, referring to Taisir Jabari, who met with several top fighters on the sixth floor of the Palestine Tower building on August 5.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the strike was a “devastating blow” that targeted the “entire senior military command” of the Iran-backed group in Gaza.
A senior Islamic Jihad leader told AFP that the slain commanders were replaced “within minutes”, but Ahmed al-Mudallal from the group’s political bureau acknowledged the impact.
“This round was difficult,” he told AFP. “We lost many great military leaders who were important to us.”
Mudallal’s son Ziad – an Islamic Jihad officer – was killed along with senior commander Khaled Mansour in an attack in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.
Mudallal vowed that the movement he had helped would recover.
Earlier, other leaders were lost, he said. “And this never stopped people’s resistance and journey of jihad.”