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UN ENVOY CONCERNED

Around 2.3 million Palestinians are packed into the narrow coastal Gaza Strip, with Israel and Egypt tightly restricting movement of people and goods in and out of the enclave and imposing a naval blockade, citing security concerns.

Israel stopped the planned transport of fuel into Gaza shortly before it struck on Friday, crippling the territory’s lone power plant and reducing electricity to around 8 hours per day.

The frontier had been largely quiet since May 2021, when 11 days of fierce fighting between Israel and militants left at least 250 in Gaza and 13 in Israel dead.

The UN Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland said he was deeply concerned about the violence and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority condemned Israel’s attacks.

Gaza streets were largely deserted and shops remained closed early on Saturday. At the site where top Islamic Jihad commander Tayseer al-Jaabari was killed, rubble, glass and furniture were strewn along the street.

A neighbour, Mariam Abu Ghanima, 56, said the Israeli military did not issue a warning before the attack as it has done in previous rounds of violence.

A spokesperson for the military said the force had made efforts to avoid civilian casualties in the surprise attack, which had used precision means to target a specific floor of the building.

Israel has imposed special security measures in its southern territories near Gaza and is preparing to call up some 25,000 military personnel, according to Army Radio.

Tensions rose this week after Israeli forces arrested an Islamic Jihad commander in the West Bank, drawing threats of retaliation from the group.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Friday’s strikes thwarted an immediate and concrete attack by Islamic Jihad, which is backed by Iran and designated as a terrorist organisation by the West.

Some Israeli political analysts said the military operation provided Lapid with an opportunity to bolster his security credentials ahead of a Nov 1 election.