Israeli pensioner dies in Palestinian missile strike as ceasefire falters

Aftermath of Palestinian missile strike on Rehovot

A 70-year-old man has died during a Palestinian missile strike, with four more civilians hurt in the attacks.

The pensioner died after a missile fired from the Gaza Strip hit an apartment block in the Israeli city of Rehovot just south of Tel-Aviv in the country’s central district, with footage of the aftermath showing rubble strewn across the street nearby and civilians frantically running to safety. Israeli Defense Officials have stated that they will “respond harshly” to the attack.

It followed the death of at least two commanders of the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad militant group in Israeli strikes earlier on Thursday.

Attempts by Egypt to broker a ceasefire between the Israeli military and the Islamic Jihad militant group in Gaza failed to put an end to the violence.

The continuing bloodshed, which left 28 Palestinians dead, has seen the worst bout of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza in months.

At least 10 civilians — mostly women and children, including a four-year-old — are among the dead. The exchange, now in its third day, comes at a time of soaring tensions and spiking violence over the past year in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli military were pressing ahead with strikes resulting in the death of a senior commander in charge of the group’s rocket launching force, Ali Ghali, after his apartment was hit.

Israel said it killed a Islamic Jihad commander who was meant to replace Ghali in southern Gaza. Islamic Jihad confirmed the man, Ahmed Abu Daqqa, was one of its commanders.

Among the dead in Palestine, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, are at least nine Islamic Jihad militants, 10 civilians and nine others, including four whom Israel says were killed in failed rocket launches.

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told Israeli Army Radio two other militants were also killed in the early morning strike on Thursday, although no group immediately claimed them as members, and that the rest of the building remained intact.

The strikes targeted the top floor of a building in a residential, Qatari-built complex in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

The pre-dawn airstrike in the city of Khan Younis caused damage to three surrounding buildings. The complex, known as Hamad City, consists of several tall buildings and thousands of housing units.

The strike created panic among residents, with falling debris and shattered glass littering the streets.

“My children started crying. I did not see anything because of the dust, broken glasses, and debris,” said Abdullah Hemaid, who lives neary.

Islamic Jihad said Ghali was a commander in charge of its rocket squad and a member of its armed group’s decision-making body. The group has said it will only cease fire if Israel agrees to halt targeted killings of its fighters.

The current round of fighting erupted overnight on Tuesday when Israel killed three senior Islamic Jihad commanders in near-simultaneous airstrikes.

On Wednesday, a state-run Egyptian TV station announced that Egypt, a frequent mediator between the sides, had brokered a cease-fire, but with the violence continuing late on Thursday, it appeared to have amounted to little.

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The Israeli military says that in its strikes on some 150 targets, it has zeroed in on militants with what it says are precision strikes. That children, among them a four-year-old, appear to have been killed puts into question this claim.

Hagari, the military spokesman, told Army Radio that a quarter of the rockets launched have fallen in Gaza, killing at least four, including a 10-year-old girl, two 16-year-olds and a 51-year-old man. That claim could not immediately be independently confirmed.

Efforts to mediate a cease-fire were still underway on Thursday with top Islamic Jihad political bureau member Mohamad al-Hindi arriving in Cairo to discuss details. A delegation of Egyptian mediators also was travelling to Israel, according to Israeli press reports.

Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said that “despite our strenuous efforts, these efforts still have not yielded the desired fruits and results”.

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