At least 10 Palestinians, including a child and an armed group commander, were killed and 55 injured on Friday in Israeli airstrikes on military targets of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), an Islamist organization active in the Gaza Strip.
A 5-year-old girl and Tayseer al-Jabari, commander of the PIJ armed wing Al-Quds Brigades, as well as his three aides were killed in the heavy Israeli air raid on a residential apartment in the Palestinian Tower in central Gaza that houses media offices, according to eyewitnesses, the PIJ, and the Palestinian health ministry.
At least six of the injured were in critical condition, the health ministry said in a statement.
The Israeli airstrikes, dubbed the Breaking Dawn operation, targeted "10 terrorist operatives" of the PIJ in Gaza, to "eliminate the threat to the citizens of Israel," according to the Israeli military.
Security sources in Gaza said Israeli airstrikes targeted military lookout posts and a motorcycle in northern and southern Gaza. The Palestinian health ministry has announced emergency readiness across all local hospitals and ambulances stations.
The heightened tension came after Israeli forces arrested a senior official of the PIJ in the West Bank city of Jenin on Monday. The PIJ vowed to take revenge, prompting the Israeli military to raise its alert along the border with Gaza.
Late on Friday, the Israeli military announced that up to 25,000 reservists will be called up to the border with Gaza in case of rocket firing from the Palestinian enclave, adding the country's Iron Dome defense system has intercepted rockets fired from Gaza into Israel in the evening.
The PIJ said they fired more than 100 rockets toward southern and central Israeli towns in the evening after the Israeli airstrikes.
"The Israeli enemy is the one who started the escalation against the resistance in Gaza, and committed a new crime. It must pay the price and bear full responsibility for it," said Fawzi Barhoum, spokesman of Gaza's ruling faction Hamas.
Meanwhile, the PIJ spokesman Daoud Shehab told Xinhua that just before the Israeli raid, Egypt was contacting the movement for a possible meeting between the two sides on Sunday "to break up the crisis."
"But what happened today is a message of disdain for the mediators," Shehab said.
An Egyptian official told a local TV that Egypt is conducting intensive communications with the Palestinian and the Israeli sides to end the ongoing escalation in Gaza and to contain the situation, according to official Ahram online news website.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party said in a statement that the Israeli bombing of Gaza and the targeting and intimidation of defenseless civilians "is a new crime added to the crimes" committed by Israel against the Palestinian people.
Munther al-Hayek, Fatah spokesman in Gaza, called on the international community and mediators (Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations) to intervene immediately to prevent Israel from "committing massacres" against the Palestinians in Gaza.
Produced by Xinhua Global Service