The Israeli military believes it inflicted “significant” damage on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group, destroying infrastructure including a tunnel into Israel described as a “flagship” project and eliminating its top brass, the army said Tuesday.
Israel and Islamic Jihad on Sunday halted three days of intense fighting that saw hundreds of rockets lobbed at Israeli towns and intense airstrikes across the Gaza Strip. Dozens of Palestinians were killed in the round of violence, according to Hamas authorities in Gaza, though Israel blamed errant fire by Palestinian fighters for many of those deaths.
In a briefing wrapping up the 66-hour Operation Breaking Dawn, the Israel Defense Forces said it “significantly damaged Palestinian Islamic Jihad and its leadership.”
The army launched the first airstrikes after indications of an imminent PIJ anti-tank guided missile attack against Israeli civilians or soldiers on the border. Those strikes killed PIJ’s north Gaza commander, Tayseer Jabari.
According to new details revealed by the IDF on Tuesday, the IDF used small glide bombs in order to hit Jabari’s sixth-floor apartment in the 14-story tower in Gaza City.
The munitions entered the seventh-floor wall at an angle, penetrated the ceiling of the sixth, and only then exploded, in order to minimize collateral damage, senior officers said.
In another major airstrike on the second night of the operation, the PIJ’s south Gaza commander, Khaled Mansour, was killed.
The IDF delayed the strike on Mansour several times, as his apartment was close to a playground. The military published a video of it aborting the strike, in a bid to show its efforts to avoid harming civilians, even when confronted with the opportunity to hit a top-tier target.
The IDF struck 170 targets, using fighter jets, armed drones, combat helicopters, and artillery, according to the briefing.
The targets included 17 observation posts (six of which were manned by PIJ operatives), 45 rocket and mortar launching sites, eight military camps, eight weapon caches, six weapon production facilities, three targets related to the PIJ’s naval force, and an “attack tunnel.”
In total over the three days, 1,175 rockets and mortars were launched from the Gaza Strip at Israel. The Iron Dome anti-rocket system intercepted over 380 projectiles fired toward populated areas, at an unprecedented 97 percent success rate, the IDF said.
The May 2021 conflict saw a 94% interception ratio, up from 89% in the 2014 war and 86% in 2012, according to military data. The high interception rate was attributed to upgrades to the defense system, as well as PIJ’s limited firepower.
Several rockets managed to evade the system and land in populated areas, causing some damage to homes and civilian infrastructure, as well as slightly injuring at least four people, including two soldiers. Dozens more people were treated for injuries sustained while running to shelters and anxiety.
The IDF still struggled to prevent rocket fire on Israel, with officers saying that it had struck just 10 squads who were en route to launching an attack or had just fired rockets.
The military said it focused much of its airstrike efforts on rocket storage and production sites, in order to set PIJ back ahead of the next potential conflict. The IDF believed these strikes would make it “significantly more difficult” for PIJ to rearm itself, but some officials say it already has thousands more rockets ready.
According to the IDF’s data, some 200 rockets launched toward Israel fell short inside the Gaza Strip. In several cases, failed rocket launches killed Palestinian civilians. According to military estimates, at least 16 uninvolved Palestinians were killed in such incidents, some of them children.
The IDF said the most significant target of the operation was an attack tunnel it hit on early sunday. The military said the tunnel, built several meters underground from the southern Gaza city of Rafah, was to be used to “enter and attack Israel by surprise.” The IDF said the tunnel did not cross into Israeli territory, as Israel has a high-tech belowground wall guarding its frontier with Gaza from attack tunnels, which once threatened southern towns.
The tunnel was Mansour’s “flagship” project, according to a senior IDF officer.
Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip said 45 people were killed amid the fighting, including 16 children, but it did not say how many of the total killed were affiliated with terror groups. At least 15 deaths were claimed as members by the PIJ, Hamas and another, smaller, terror group.