IDF has been ready for Gaza operation since last week, Gallant confirms

Three senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad members were killed in Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip early on Tuesday morning.

 Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks with an IDF official at the start of Operation Shield and Arrow, May 9, 2023. (photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI/DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks with an IDF official at the start of Operation Shield and Arrow, May 9, 2023.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had issued instructions regarding the overnight airstrikes in Gaza last week on Tuesday, 

The IDF and Shin Bet has been ready for an operation with Gaza since Tuesday last week, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant confirmed on Tuesday afternoon, hours after the IDF launched Operation Shield and Arrow.

"The IDF and Shin Bet carried out a precise and successful operation against the leadership of the Islamic Jihad organization in the Gaza Strip last night," he said in a meeting with council leaders and officials in southern Israel. "We will not tolerate shooting that threatens the residents of Israel, this is not only an act of terrorism, but a challenge to our presence."

He continued, confirming that the IDF had been prepared for the operation for the last week, saying: "Already on Tuesday, I instructed the IDF and the Shin Bet to be ready to thwart the three terrorists who were killed last night, who are responsible for firing rockets into Israel and for directing numerous attacks in Israel.

"We must be ready for any scenario, including a prolonged campaign and expanding the firing ranges. It is very important that the citizens, under your leadership, be disciplined, attentive and listen to life-saving instructions. The IDF and the security forces are prepared by all means on all fronts."

The IDF struck a number of senior terrorists in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist movement in airstrikes in the Gaza Strip early Tuesday morning, declaring the launch of Operation Shield and Arrow.

The officials targeted include the commander of the al-Quds Brigades in the northern Gaza Strip, an official responsible for terrorist activities in the West Bank and the secretary of the military council in the movement.

At least 12 Palestinians were killed in the strikes and 20 others were wounded, according to Palestinian reports, with a number of sites in Gaza City, Rafah and Khan Yunis targeted, among other locations.

The officials killed in the strikes include Khalil Bahitini, the commander of the al-Quds Brigades in the northern Gaza Strip, Tareq Ezzaldin, a spokesperson for the movement who also manages terrorist activities in the West Bank and Gaza, and Jihad Ghanem, secretary of the movement's military council.

According to the IDF, Bahitini was the most senior operational commander in the PIJ and was responsible for the rocket fire toward Israel in the past month. Bahitini was planning further rocket fire in the near future, according to the IDF.

Ezzaldin was responsible for the communications between the movement and its branches in the West Bank and for transferring funds and coordinating incitement efforts in Israeli territory.

Ghanem was one of the most senior and veteran operatives in the movement and served at one point as the commander of the al-Quds Brigades in the southern Gaza Strip. In his latest position, Ghanem was responsible for coordinating the transfer of funds and weapons from the PIJ to Hamas.

IDF strikes sites belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist movement in the Gaza Strip. (Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Alongside the strikes against the terror group members, a number of sites for the production of weapons were targeted as well, including a rocket factory in Khan Yunis and a facility used to produce concrete components for terrorist tunnels.

Additionally, six military compounds and a military position belonging to the PIJ were targeted as well.

The IDF conducted the assassinations in three separate locations simultaneously with 40 fighter jets, helicopters and other aircraft.

"This is about professionalism in planning and precision in execution that led to this operational achievement. This is planning with tweezers in the heart of a civilian population-a targeted assassination in a multi-story building in a dense area, seconds between the impact, a very narrow time window and at 2 a.m. all the buildings are attacked and the three operatives are killed," said IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari.

Among a number of other measures, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has approved the call-up of reserves as needed by the IDF, and the Security Cabinet is set to meet on Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. in light of the situation.

A senior government official stated on Tuesday morning that the strikes were conducted "in response to the incessant aggression on the part of the Islamic Jihad" and that the terrorists killed in the strikes were working to carry out terrorist operations against Israeli citizens.

The official stressed that "Anyone who initiates terrorist activity against us will not get away. We will protect the citizens of Israel everywhere and with all our strength."

"We call on the international community to condemn the shooting at Israeli citizens from civilian population concentrations in Gaza, and to express clear and unequivocal support for Israel's right to defend itself."

Strikes come less than a week after heavy rocket fire

The strikes come less than a week after over 100 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel after the death of PIJ official Khader Adnan, who had been on hunger strike for over 80 days while under Israeli custody.

Since the rocket fire last week, the Otzma Yehudit party has demanded a stronger response to the violence from Gaza, boycotting votes and government meetings until such a response was carried out. After the strikes began on Tuesday morning, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, the head of the party, published a tweet reading "It's about time!" Later in the morning, members of the party announced that they would end their boycott.

Last August, the IDF launched Operation Breaking Dawn against the Gaza Strip after the PIJ issued threats against Israel after the arrest of an official in the movement in the West Bank. A number of high-ranking officials in the PIJ were assassinated in the operation and over 1,000 rockets were fired toward Israel.

This is a developing story.