Israel hits Gaza as conflict flares after West Bank clashes

  • Rockets from Gaza set off alarm bells in Israeli communities.
  • After the Israeli attack in the West Bank, there was firing from across the border.
  • At least nine Palestinians were killed in the Israeli attack.
  • Violence in the West Bank has increased over the past year.

JERUSALEM/GAZA, Jan 27 (Reuters) – The Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza opened fire on Israel overnight on Friday amid international efforts to ease tensions after one of the deadliest attacks in years in the occupied West Bank. Accepted responsibility for the rockets.

Israeli jets struck Gaza on Friday in response to rockets, which raised alarm in Israeli communities near the border with the southern coastal strip controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas.

There were no reports of casualties on either side, and there were no immediate signs of an escalation in the more serious conflict, with hundreds of rockets fired by Palestinian groups and Israeli shelling of Gaza in recent years.

The overnight exchange followed an Israeli attack on a refugee camp in the West Bank on Thursday that killed at least nine Palestinians, bringing the Palestinian death toll to at least 30 so far in 2023.

The deaths, which included militant gunmen as well as at least two civilians, left the West Bank’s deadliest in a single day in years, with another in a separate incident in al-Irum outside Jerusalem. With the death of the person.

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The raid, the latest in a near-daily series of clashes in the West Bank over the past year, comes days before US Secretary of State Anthony Blanken visits Israel and the West Bank. Washington called on both sides to remain peaceful.

In Gaza, thousands of Islamic Jihad supporters rallied after Friday prayers, calling for an escalation of the war against Israel after the Jenin attack.

“We didn’t sleep all night, the bombing and the missiles,” said 50-year-old Abdullah al-Hasari. “There is worry and there is fear, war can happen at any moment. Any clash in the West Bank can lead to war on the borders of Gaza.”

Khalid al-Batash, a leader of the movement in the Jabalia refugee camp, claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks and said Israel could not separate Gaza from the West Bank.

“The rocket unit of the Jerusalem Brigades responded,” he said.

Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed movement dedicated to overthrowing Israel, is active in both West Bank flashpoint centers such as Nablus and Jenin, as well as in Gaza, where it coexists with the larger and more powerful Hamas group. .

In August, Israeli jets bombed targets in Gaza affiliated with the group during weekend clashes that fired hundreds of Islamic Jihad rockets at Israel, most of which were intercepted by air defense systems.

In May 2021, there was an intense conflict in Gaza.

Airstrikes in Gaza on Friday hit an underground rocket manufacturing site and a military base used by Hamas, the Israel Defense Forces said.

‘deep concern’

Months of violence in the West Bank, which escalated after deadly attacks in Israel last year, have raised fears that the already unpredictable conflict could spiral out of control, triggering a wider conflict between Palestinians and Israel. will be done.

The latest season of violence began under the previous coalition government and continues after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu elected a new right-wing administration that includes ultra-nationalist parties that want to expand settlements in the West Bank.

In the wake of Thursday’s raid, the Palestinian Authority, which has limited governing powers in the West Bank, said it was suspending security cooperation arrangements with Israel.

In the Jenin refugee camp, a dense settlement of buildings and streets that has been a hotbed of militant activity and the target of repeated Israeli raids, residents said Thursday’s operation penetrated unusually deep into the camp. .

A two-story building at the center of the fighting was severely damaged and nearby houses were blackened by smoke. In another area around the camp’s community center, cars were crushed by Israeli bulldozers used in the operation.

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The US State Department issued a statement on Thursday saying it was “deeply concerned” by the violence in the West Bank and urged both sides to de-escalate the conflict.

Palestinian officials said that the United Nations, Egypt and Qatar have also appealed for peace.

CIA Director William Burns, who is visiting Israel and the West Bank on a trip scheduled before the latest violence, will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday, Palestinian officials said. There was no immediate comment from US officials in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned to power this year at the head of one of the most right-wing governments in Israel’s history, said Israel did not want to escalate the situation, although he ordered security forces to remain vigilant. is given

Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch and Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Ali Swafta and Henriette Chakar in Jenin. Edited by Gary Doyle and Edmund Blair

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Nidal Al Maghribi

Thomson Reuters

A senior correspondent with nearly 25 years of experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including several wars and the signing of the first historic peace agreement between the two sides.


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