OAN Roy Francis
8:24 AM – Tuesday, May 9, 2023
The Israeli Air Force conducted strikes into Gaza killing three senior members of the Islamic Jihad terror group in the region early on Tuesday morning.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that they had targeted and killed Khalil Bahtini, the commander of the Islamic Jihad in Northern Gaza, Jahed Ahnam, a top official in the group’s military council, and Tarek Az Aldin, who directed the terror group’s activities in the West Bank from his base in Gaza.
The IDF said that Bahtini, 44, who had began his activities with the group, was the “group’s senior operational officer” and that he had close relations with the group’s senior political leadership. The Israeli Army also said that he was involved in planning terror attacks against Israel including suicide bombings, explosive attacks, rocket fire, and directing terror attacks in the West Bank.
“Bahtini was entrusted with approving and carrying out all terrorist activities from northern Gaza,” the IDF said. “As well as planning and directing terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians and planned rocket attacks against Israel in the immediate future.”
The IDF also said that Ahnam, 62, lived in Rafah and was the main liaison for transferring funds between Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. He was also one of the “most senior members of the organization” and had served as head of the Islamic Jihad’s Southern Gaza Brigade, as well as Secretary of the Military Council, according to the IDF.
Az Aldin, 49, also transferred funds between Gaza and the West Bank for terror activities, he had also been previously jailed in Israel for his involvement in suicide bombings in the early 2000s.
The surprise air strikes conducted by the Israeli Air Force began around 2:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said that the IDF had used 40 aircraft, and carried out the main strikes within seconds of each other. He added that the IDF achieved their objective and that the operation was a success.
“At this stage, we achieved what we set for ourselves, we hit those needed, and if necessary we will deepen the attacks more,” Hagari said. “We are prepared for any scenario. The operation was carried out with professionalism and precision in planning and execution… there were a few seconds between the hits. All the buildings were struck within seconds in a very tight window of time. A complex and high-quality attack by the Air Force.”
The operation was named “Operation Shield and Arrow” by the Israeli Army, with Hagari saying that it was both a “defensive and offensive operation.”
The deaths were confirmed by a spokesman for the terror group who goes by the assumed name, Abu Hamza. He also said that the group’s military wing has vowed to respond to the deaths.
“The Al-Quds Brigades and the resistance affirms we will abide by our commitment and duty toward the martyrs,” Hamza said. “And will confront the aggression with steadfastness and courage.”
Along with the three targets, at least 10 others were killed, which included the wives of the targets. Around 20 other people were injured in the strikes.
Turkey released a statement condemning Israel for the strike.
“Such despicable actions are in no way acceptable,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement. “We expect these attacks to be ended immediately, without further loss of life and causing a new spiral of violence in the region. We wish Allah’s mercy upon our Palestinian brothers and sisters who lost their lives in the attacks and extend our condolences to the State of Palestine and its people.”
Hezbollah, the terror group based in Lebanon, also condemned what it called a “treacherous” Israeli attack, and declares complete solidarity with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
“The Zionist enemy’s barbaric strikes that targeted freedom fighters and women and children is a crime against humanity,” Hezbollah said according to the Arab Independent Media Satellite Channel al-Mayadeen.
Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh said that Israel will “pay the price” for the strikes, and that the “resistance” against them would be unified.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the IDF and in his remarks to the Defense and Security Forum group, reiterated his pledge to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, adding that Israel’s forces are ready for a multi-front campaign against Israel.
“We are doing everything to prevent Iran from establishing terror fronts around us. We are acting with military means to prevent Iran from setting up a second Lebanon in Syria. So far this effort has been a success,” Netanyahu said. “We are preparing for this. I ordered the IDF and security branches to be ready for a multi-front campaign, if needed.”
Along with the airstrikes, the IDF also conducted arrest raids into the West bank on Tuesday morning, detaining eight wanted Palestinians. The raids were met with violence, although no injuries were reported.
The strikes into Gaza came days after over 100 rockets were launched into Israel after the death of a hunger striker who was found dead in his cell in Israeli custody.
The Israeli military is preparing its defenses and has warned the communities within 25 miles of Gaza of possible retaliatory rocket fire, and advised the residents of those areas to stay close to designated bomb shelters.
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