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GAZA CITY, (Palestinian Territories): Israel’s military warned Saturday deadly air strikes against Palestinian militants in Gaza could last a week, as cross-border fire reverberated for a second day in the worst escalation since last year’s war.

Israel has said it was necessary to launch a “pre-emptive” operation against Islamic Jihad, saying the group was planning an imminent attack following days of tensions along the border with Gaza.

Health authorities in the Palestinian enclave, which is controlled by the Islamist group Hamas, said a five-year-old girl was among 15 people killed in the Israeli bombardment, adding that more than 120 have been wounded.

Civilians meanwhile took refuge in air raid shelters on the Israeli side, with AFP journalists hearing sirens warning of incoming fire in the Tel Aviv area on Saturday evening.

Israel strikes kill top Gaza militant, triggering rocket barrage

Israel’s ongoing strikes are being met with barrages of rockets from the Palestinian side, stoking fears of a repeat of an 11-day conflict that devastated Gaza in May 2021. Daily life in the enclave has come to a standstill, while the electricity distributor said the sole power station shut down due to a lack of fuel after Israel closed its border crossings.

Gaza’s health ministry said the next few hours will be “crucial and difficult”, warning it risked suspending vital services within 72 hours as a result of the lack of electricity.

There have been no reports of Israelis wounded by rockets, though officials said a home was hit and land was set ablaze by income fire near the border.

An Israeli military spokesman said its forces were “preparing for the operation to last a week,” and told AFP that the army is “not currently holding ceasefire negotiations”.

UN experts slam Israel’s harassment in West Bank

Islamic Jihad’s leader in Gaza, Mohammed al-Hindi, said: “The battle is still at its beginning.”

Israel and Islamic Jihad confirmed the killing of Taysir al-Jabari, a key commander of the militant group, in a Friday strike.

Jamal al-Fadi, a political science professor at Gaza’s Al-Azhar University, said he expected the violence to end “within days”.

“Islamic Jihad is reacting in a limited manner and by doing so is preventing the occupation (Israeli military) from intensifying its air strikes,” he told AFP.

Islamic Jihad is aligned with Hamas, but often acts independently. Both are blacklisted as terrorist organisations by much of the West.

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