Islamic Jihad in Gaza had fired another 135 rockets at Israel on Saturday as of 6:00 p.m., reaching another 401 rockets since Thursday night and totaling 1,234 rockets since this past Wednesday.
While most rockets have missed their targets or been shot down by the Iron Dome missile defense system, there was a second death in Israeli territory on Saturday, this time a Gaza worker legally in Israel who happened to still be in the country.
The first death was a woman from Rehovot on Thursday night.
Rockets on the Gush Dan area
At press time, with reports that there would be a ceasefire around 10:00 p.m., there were also initial reports of rockets fired on Rishon LeZion and Holon and the Gush Dan area in general for the first time since Wednesday afternoon. It was unclear if this would harm the ceasefire deadline or was a last round of rockets.
As of 6:00 p.m. Saturday, the IDF had launched on Saturday another 48 air strikes against Islamic Jihad, bringing the total to 180 since Thursday night and 371 since this past Tuesday morning.
Some of the attacks over the weekend were against senior Islamic Jihad commander Iyad al-Hasni, who briefly replaced Khalil Bahitini, the commander of the al-Quds Brigades in northern Gaza who Israel killed this past Tuesday morning, as well as some top Islamic Jihad officials' command centers.
One of the locations targeted by Israeli fighter jets struck was used by senior Islamic Jihad operative Muhammed Abu al-Ata as his operational headquarters.
However, the IDF said, Abu al-Ata had fled his headquarters and taken up residence inside a Gaza hospital, using the civilian population to keep himself safe.
The operational headquarters of Islamic Jihad operative Khaled Azzam was also targeted in Israeli strikes overnight. According to the IDF, Azzam is a senior operative in the rockets division of Gaza's Islamic Jihad.
Abu al-Ata is the brother of once top Islamic Jihad terrorist Bahaa Abu al-Ata, who Israel assassinated back in November 2019.
So far, six significant Islamic Jihad leaders have been killed since Tuesday.
A senior IDF official said on Saturday that the IDF had also killed eight rocket or missile crews on their way to firing on Israel since the conflict started. As a result of that success, he said there had been a 50% drop in the quantity of firing mortars from Gaza in recent days. It was unclear what impact this had on the terror group's overall rocket firing capabilities since many rockets are fired using preset timers.
Rockets strike Beit Shemesh area
Also, on Friday, Islamic Jihad rockets struck the Beit Shemesh and West Bank areas for the first time since Operation Shield and Arrow started Tuesday.
Until those rocket attacks Friday, there was an approximately 13-hour-long absence of Islamic Jihad rockets and reduced IDF airstrikes - the second time this past week when a ceasefire seemed close, but then fell through.
Though Hamas was still mostly staying out of the fray, there were increasing concerns that a drawn out conflict could force the group to join the fight.
Earlier Friday, a home in Sderot suffered a direct rocket hit.
No one was injured in the hit, the Sderot Municipality said, adding that infrastructural damage was caused to the home.
A rocket also landed on the rooftop of an empty home in the Gaza border kibbutz of Nir Am, Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council said. Damage was caused to the home.
Rockets were also simultaneously launched toward Jerusalem and the West Bank area for the first time in Operation Shield and Arrow, which entered its fourth day on Friday.
A rocket fell near the Gush Etzion settlement of Bat Ayin, according to preliminary Israeli reports.
The Gush Etzion Regional Council opened an emergency hotline on Friday for residents in need of assistance or information following the rocket. barrage on the area.
"The sirens and rockets have reached us as well. I ask that our residents follow the instructions given by the IDF Home Front Command," Shlomo Ne'eman, Yesha council chairman, said. "I would also like to show our support for our security forces, the IDF, and encourage the political echelon to continue fighting against the criminal terrorist organizations who have turned Gaza into a hornet's nest of terror."
The operation began with the targeted assassinations of three Islamic Jihad senior leaders on Tuesday morning.
However, the IDF has not mobilized the reserves in any large numbers to threaten a ground invasion – as it did in 2008-2009, 2014 and 2021.
On Thursday night, the first Israeli victim of the barrage of Islamic Jihad rockets from Gaza was killed in Rehovot with reports of over a dozen newly injured Israelis, a large number of them from Rehovot.
PIJ rockets on May 2-3
This latest round of conflict between Israel and Islamic Jihad had its roots in rockets that Israel faced on multiple fronts over the Passover holiday as well as over 100 rockets that the terror group fired at Israel over May 2-3.
Islamic Jihad said it fired the May 2-3 rockets as revenge for one of its top leaders dying from a hunger strike while in Israeli detention.
Although the IDF responded mildly to Islamic Jihad’s rocket attacks back on May 2-3, Netanyahu and Gallant already on May 2 ordered Israel’s security forces to prepare a much more substantial attack for the near future.
That attack was rolled out overnight between Monday and Tuesday with the killing of the three top Islamic Jihad officials.
The Jerusalem Post learned on Thursday that those original officials who were killed were even higher up in the organization than the Islamic Jihad officials killed on Thursday and over the weekend.