The security cabinet meets when more than 350 rockets hit Israel, sirens sound in Tel Aviv

Fighting between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in the Gaza Strip continued on Saturday through the second day, with numerous Israeli attacks on the Gaza and hundreds of rockets fired at Israeli communities.

On Saturday night, Israeli officials said more than 350 rockets had been launched from the Palestinian enclave. And for the first time in the current conflict in the central metropolis of Tel Aviv, rocket sirens sounded. Two incoming missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, and two more fell into the sea.

The vast majority of missiles did not threaten Israeli communities, but a few did hit cities, causing damage but no casualties. One hit Ashkelon Street, damaging nearby cars; the second hit the house in Sderot as the family hid in the reinforced room; the third hit the Sderot factory grounds; and the fourth hit a factory in an undisclosed town near the border.

Israel’s high-level security cabinet met Saturday night to review the state of operation before dawn and consider next military action.

As Israeli air strikes continued on PIJ sites in the Zone, the military chief of Gaza told news channel 12 that there were still “many” more targets to hit.

The military launched air strikes on Gaza on Friday afternoon in response to what officials said was an ongoing “concrete” threat by PIJ targeting Israeli civilians and soldiers. Thereafter, Islamic Jihad began firing relentless rocket fires at Israeli communities in southern and central Israel, and the missile fire continued until Saturday night.

The latest data from the Israeli Defense Forces indicate that the number of missiles fired at Israel is 350. 94 of them missed the Gaza Strip and another 29 fell into the Mediterranean Sea.

According to data, the Iron Dome air defense system intercepted 162 missiles. The military said the Iron Dome was 95.9% effective at intercepting missiles fired at populated areas. The system is programmed to ignore non-threat missiles.

Rocket strike in the southern city of Ashkelon after shelling fired at Israel by a Gaza terrorist group on August 6, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)

Three people, including two soldiers, were also lightly injured in a mortar shelling near the city in the Eshkol regional council.

Ambulance Magen David Adom reported that 21 people had been evacuated to hospitals since the beginning of the fighting, including two people who were lightly injured by rocket fragments, 13 people after a fall while escaping to the shelter, and six people due to anxiety.

Military chief Aviv Kohavi said Israel would attack PIJ in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and elsewhere. During a visit to South Command, Kohavi said the IDF had two main goals. “One is to prevent any attack, and two is to critically hit the organization of Islamic Jihad here in Judea and Samaria and in all other sectors,” he said.

People carry the body of Palestinian Hassan Mansour, who was killed in an Israeli air raid, during his funeral at Beit Hanun in northern Gaza on August 6, 2022 (Anas Baba / AFP)

“We will not allow any organization in any arena to harm the sovereignty of the State of Israel,” he said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz made a similar threat to PIJ leaders, who operate mainly from other countries hostile to Israel. “Islamic Jihad leaders who sit abroad in restaurants and stay in hotels in Tehran, Syria and Lebanon are disconnected from their people,” he said during a visit to the Iron Dome air defense battery in southern Israel.

He said they were “seriously damaging” the livelihoods of the people of Gaza during the current escalation in violence and that they would “also pay the bill.”

Earlier on Saturday, the IDF said it was prepared for a potential week of fighting PIJ, and later announced that it had hit numerous observation posts and weapons depots belonging to a terrorist group in the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas-led health ministry said at least 15 people, including a five-year-old girl, were killed in Israeli strikes, and 125 others were injured.

Smoke billows from the Israeli air strike at Khan Yuunis in southern Gaza on August 6, 2022 (AFP)

In the first round of Israeli strikes, the military killed one of PIJ’s senior commanders, Tayseer Jabari, who, according to officials, planned to attack Israeli civilians near the border. Jabari replaced Baha Abu al-Ata as group commander in northern Gaza after the latter was killed in the 2019 Israeli strike.

Israeli leaders said the raids were necessary after the group refused to back down from attacks on the Gaza border. Along with Jabari, the IDF also announced that it attacked the chief of the PIJ anti-tank guided missile formation and several units preparing the attacks.

Islamic Jihad has been threatening an attack since Tuesday – to bolster its demand that Israel release its West Bank commander Bassem Saadi, who was arrested in Monday’s IDF raid in Jenin – causing days of road closures and community lockdown in areas near the Gaza border in direct threat.

Egypt, meanwhile, has attempted to mediate between the parties in recent days, but has failed to persuade Islamic Jihad to withdraw. Egyptian negotiators on Saturday proposed a break in hostilities to create an opportunity to negotiate a longer ceasefire.

A missile from the Israeli Iron Dome air defense system was launched from the suburbs of the southern Israeli city of Sderot on August 6, 2022 (Jack Guez / AFP)

PIJ rejected a proposal for a temporary ceasefire, Hezbollah-related Al-Mayadeen reported. “Now is the time to respond to the crimes of the occupation,” a PIJ source told the network.

Israeli officials said the operation in Gaza was aimed specifically at PIJ, hoping to detain Hamas largely outside the conflict, as it did during the outbreak in 2019 following the assassination of Islamic Jihad’s previous leader Abu al-Ata.

As of Saturday night, Hamas did seem to stay out of the fight for the time being. Although fiery rhetoric against Israel has appeared in statements by its leaders, it has so far avoided participating in the attacks.

Palestinians in Gaza launch rockets at Israel August 5, 2022 (Mahmud Hams / AFP)

The IDF began calling on reservists to strengthen its Southern Command, Inner Front Command, air defense formation, and combat troops in the event of further escalation. Gantz has approved the appointment of as many as 25,000 reserve soldiers, his office said.

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