Human rights defenders on Tuesday condemned an intense Israeli aerial bombardment of densely populated areas of Gaza that killed at least 13 Palestinians—including at least 10 civilians and three leaders of a militant resistance group—while wounding more than 20 others.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF)—which is calling the airstrikes Operation Shield and Arrow—said it "targeted three senior Islamic Jihad commanders responsible for launching rockets toward Israel over the last month and planning further terror attacks," as well as "weapons manufacturing sites and military compounds."
"The strikes were carried out with pinpoint accuracy based on real-time intelligence while making efforts to avoid harming uninvolved civilians as much as possible," the IDF added.
However, the Palestinian Ministry of Health-Gaza said that at least 10 civilians, including six women and four children, died in the bombings, which killed Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders Jihad Shaker al-Ghannam, Khalil al-Bahtini, and Tariq Mohammed Ezzedine.
Standing in front of a bombed six-story apartment building in Gaza City, Adeeb al-Rabai, a 60-year attorney, toldAl Jazeera that "I thought I was dreaming until I realized that the bombing was on my building."
"It's a civilian residential building," Rabai stressed. "Israeli missiles hit the fourth, fifth, and sixth floors, which were partially destroyed. Civilians live in those apartments, women and children. The Israeli occupation meant to destroy and kill those in the building."
Victims of Tuesday's attack include Dr. Jamal Khaswan, a Russian national who was the director of the El-Wafa Charity Hospital in Gaza City, his wife Mervat Khaswan, and their 21-year-old son Yousef Khaswan. Dania Adass, who was 21, and her 17-year-old sister Iman Alaa Adass died when the IDF bombed their home in the Tofah neighborhood east of Gaza City.
"Dania was getting ready for her wedding in a few days, and Iman was sad because her sister was about to leave the family home," cousin Shaaban Adass told Al Jazeera as the slain woman's fiancée wept near her body. "What an enormous heartbreak and shock."
"What happened is a heinous crime by the Israeli occupation, which claimed the lives of innocent people who were supposed to be safe in their homes," Adass added.
Tor Wennesland, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said in a statement that he is "deeply alarmed" by Israel's "unacceptable" bombings.
Maurice Hirsch, an IDF reserve colonel, responded by accusing Wennesland of "moral bankruptcy" for not condemning last week's barrage of rockets fired by Gaza militants into Israel, an attack that wounded as many as a dozen civilians.
The rocket attack followed the death of Khader Adnan—a Palestinian activist imprisoned in Israel without charge or trial—during an 87-day hunger strike.
"Considering the military advantage gained by eliminating these senior terrorists," Hirsh tweeted, "it is irrelevant to ask how many children were incidentally killed."
Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and his far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party said Tuesday that they would end their short-lived boycott of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government due to what they said was an insufficient response to last week's rocket attack.
"If there's one thing Israeli leaders can agree on, it's killing Palestinians," tweeted Yumna Patel, Palestine news director at Mondoweiss. "Nothing bands them together quite like bombing the hell out of Gaza."