Israeli strikes kill two in Syria after Palestinian rocket barrage
DAMASCUS, Feb 24, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Israeli aircraft struck the Islamic
Jihad militant group in both the Gaza Strip and Syria late Sunday, killing
two fighters after the group fired a barrage of rockets at Israel.
In the latest tit-for-tat violence ahead of a fresh general election in the
Jewish state, the Israeli Air Force targeted “Islamic Jihad terror sites”
throughout Gaza and near the Syrian capital Damascus, a military statement
It followed more than 20 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza, themselves a
response to the killing of a Jihad militant along the Gaza-Israel border.
Islamic Jihad, which along with allied group Hamas has fought three wars
with Israel since 2008, operates in both Gaza, which lies to the west of
Israel, and Syria, which is to the north of the Jewish state.
The Israeli army said it had struck Islamic Jihad targets on the outskirts
of the Syrian capital Damascus, including a base “used as a hub” for the
group’s activities in the country.
Islamic Jihad confirmed early Monday that two of its fighters were killed.
Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Israel has carried out
hundreds of strikes in Syria, mainly targeting government forces as well as
allied Iranian forces and Hezbollah fighters.
It is rare for them to claim such strikes directly.
– Bulldozed –
The Israeli military said it had struck “dozens” of Islamic Jihad targets
A military aircraft also fired at a group of men preparing to launch
rockets near the border, the army said.
“A hit was identified,” a statement said, with health officials in Gaza
saying four people were wounded in the strikes.
Earlier Sunday, more than 20 rockets and mortars were launched from Gaza
towards Israel, setting off warning sirens in the southern city of Ashkelon
and several other locations, the army said.
More than a dozen were intercepted by the Jewish state’s Iron Dome missile
defence system, the Israeli army said, adding there were no reports of
serious injuries in Israel.
Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rockets, calling them a
response to the killing of one its fighters along the Gaza border early
Israel said the man had been part of a cell seeking to plant an explosive
device on the border fence.
A video later emerged on social media showing a bulldozer approaching a
body while a group of young, apparently unarmed men, were trying to retrieve
The sound of gunfire is heard and the men ultimately run away as the
bulldozer scoops up the body.
Israel’s hawkish Defence Minister Naftali Bennett has pursued a policy of
retaining the bodies of militants from Gaza as bargaining chips to pressure
Hamas, which has held the bodies of two Israeli soldiers since 2014.
Hamas is also believed to be detaining two Israeli citizens who entered
Gaza separately and whose families say suffer from mental illness.
Israel has a general election on March 2, its third in less than a year
after deadlocked polls in April and September 2019.
Embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing trial over a series of
corruption allegations, is again neck and neck with centrist challenger Benny
Gantz, a former military general.
Hamas and Israel last fought a full-scale war in 2014 but smaller flareups
are relatively common.
In November, Islamic Jihad and Israel fought a three-day conflict that left
35 Palestinians dead and more than 100 wounded, according to official
Under the informal agreements in the past year, Israel has slightly eased a
blockade of the impoverished Palestinian enclave in exchange for relative