By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
JERUSALEM (Worthy News) – Israel’s military confirmed Friday that it had killed the head of the armed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) movement’s rocket force and his deputy after hundreds of missiles were fired at the Jewish state.
Palestinian authorities say the strikes are part of an Israeli operation that cost 30 lives in Gaza, including women and children. However, Palestinian cross-border rocket salvoes inflicted the first fatality in Israel on Thursday, Israeli officials said.
The deaths of Ali Ghali and Ahmed Abu Daqqa brought to five the number of senior figures from Iranian-sponsored PIJ killed since Israel began striking Gaza early on Tuesday.
Despite mediation efforts by Egypt, neither side appeared ready on Friday to end the worst flare-up of fighting since August, now on its third day.
“We are at the height of a campaign, both offensive and defensive,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a videotaped statement issued during a visit to an air base. “Whoever comes to harm us – his blood is forfeit.”
He referred to hundreds of rockets fired at Israel, apparently by groups such as PIJ. Israel intercepted most but not all missiles, and thousands of people were forced to evacuate, Worthy News witnessed.
The PIJ was founded in 1981 by Palestinian students in Egypt to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and other areas that they say were “illegally occupied” by Israel.
The armed group is seen as sharply critical of the Palestinian Authority and its policies but limits its role to military confrontations with Israel.
Israel defended targeting PIJ and has consistently denied targeting innocent civilians. Instead, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) accused militants of placing weapons in crowded areas and using civilians as human shields.
On Thursday, however, the IDF did apologize over the death of apologized for the death of Al Jazeera television journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
The apology came a year after she was killed by a bullet to the back of the head while covering an Israeli military operation in Jenin in the West Bank.
It is the first known the IDF has apologized for the killing of the well-known correspondent after conceding last year that there was a “high possibility” she was shot by an Israeli soldier.
“I think it’s an opportunity for me to say here that we are very sorry for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh,” said IDF’s chief spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari.
“She was a journalist, a very established journalist,” he told the Cable News Network (CNN). “In Israel, we value our democracy, and in a democracy, we see high value in journalism and in a free press. We want journalists to feel safe in Israel, especially in wartime, even if they criticize us,” he explained.
However, the IDF’s Military Advocate General’s Office said it did not intend to pursue criminal charges or prosecutions of any of the soldiers involved.
The apology comes days after the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) published a report claiming that no accountability was taken by the Israeli military “over its killings of at least 20 journalists” over the past two decades.
Responding to the CPJ report earlier this month, the IDF said it “regrets any harm to civilians during operational activity and considers the protection of the freedom of the press and the professional work of journalists to be of great importance.”
“The IDF does not intentionally target noncombatants, and live fire in combat is used only after all other options have been exhausted,” it stressed.
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