(Bloomberg) -- Israel’s military launched airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on Friday, killing a top Palestinian militant leader and at least nine others, prompting dozens of retaliatory rocket launches toward its southern and central towns and cities. 

Authorities imposed restrictions on southern Israeli towns, and the Iron Dome missile-defense system was deployed including in areas around Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. No wounded were reported in Israel, while the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said there were at least 50 wounded. 

The militant leader killed, Taysir al-Jabari, was commander of the Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades in Gaza City and the northern Gaza Strip.  His group, considered to be closely affiliated with Iran, later claimed it had fired more than 100 rockets toward Israel. The Israeli air force responded by striking weapons production and storage facilities as well as shooting positions. 

The larger Hamas militant group, which runs Gaza, signaled it was considering joining the Islamic Jihad in its response to the Israeli raids. “The occupation has crossed the red line and the time has come for us to teach it a lesson,” Hazem Qassem, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in a statement. 

Israel said it had approved the draft of 25,000 reservists. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the offensive, dubbed “Breaking Dawn,” was aimed at “eliminating the threat posed to Israeli civilians and towns.” 

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters “we’re actively engaged with Israeli, Palestinian and regional partners to work towards achieving some calm in the wake of these strikes, and we certainly urge all sides to avoid further escalation.”

He said “we absolutely fully support Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel.” But he also emphasized that the Biden administration remains “committed to a two-state solution.” 

Iran Connection

The violence escalated as diplomats from the US, Europe and Iran returned to Vienna after months of deadlock for another attempt to save the moribund nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic that Israel opposes. 

Henry Rome, deputy head of research at the Eurasia Group, said in an email that “Tehran may be encouraging the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to dial up tensions with Israel to gain leverage as the negotiations to revive the nuclear agreement resume in Vienna.” 

Read more: What’s Behind Surging Israeli-Palestinian Violence

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have skirmished repeatedly since Hamas wrested control of the coastal territory in 2007, and have fought several wars. The confrontation on Friday appeared likely to expand to a conflict lasting several weeks, incurring meaningful disruption on the Israeli home front, Rome said.

“The occupation will pay a heavy price for its aggression against Gaza today, and there are no red lines now, nor mediation,” the secretary-general of Islamic Jihad, Zeyad al-Nakhala, said on Al-Quds radio. “We are going to fight, and Tel Aviv will be a target for our missiles.”

Gaza has been under Israeli and Egyptian restrictions since the Hamas takeover, and troubled ties with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, which is locked in a power struggle with Hamas, have intensified Gaza’s distress.

More broadly, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been stalled for years, and as Arab governments from the United Arab Emirates to Morocco established formal ties with Israel, Palestinians grew increasingly frustrated.

Earlier this year, rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, with Israeli forces shooting down at least one missile and carrying out an airstrike in retaliation. Those attacks came amid clashes in Jerusalem that erupted after Israeli police entered the Al-Aqsa compound, saying they needed to quell riots as Palestinians gathered for Ramadan prayers. 

(Updates with White House comment starting in sixth paragraph)

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