- Rockets from Gaza set alert to Israeli communities
- Cross-border fires follow Israeli raids in West Bank
- At least 9 Palestinians killed in Israeli raids
- Violence spikes in West Bank over the past year
JERUSALEM/GAZA (Reuters) – Israeli jets struck Gaza on Friday night in retaliation for two rockets fired by Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank in recent years. Tensions escalated further after the worst of the violence followed.
Rockets fired overnight from Gaza alerted Israeli communities near the border with the Islamist movement Hamas-controlled southern coastline, but there were no reports of casualties.
Cross-border fires erupted after Israel stormed a West Bank refugee camp on Thursday, killing at least nine Palestinians, including militant gunmen and at least two civilians.
Another man died in another incident in the Jerusalem suburb of Arram, bringing the Palestinian death toll so far in 2023 to at least 30.
The raid is the latest in a series of clashes that have erupted almost daily in the West Bank over the past year, and comes just days before Secretary of State Anthony Brinken is due to visit Israel and the West Bank.
CIA Director William Burns, who was visiting Israel and the West Bank on an arranged trip before the recent violence, will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday, Palestinian officials said. US officials in Jerusalem were not immediately available for comment.
Months of violence, which surged after a spate of deadly attacks in Israel last year, could spiral an already unpredictable conflict out of control and spark wider conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. It raises concerns that
The US State Department issued a statement on Thursday saying it was “deeply concerned” by the violence in the West Bank and urging both sides to de-escalate the conflict.
Palestinian officials say the United Nations, Egypt and Qatar are also calling for calm.
In Gaza, a mass rally was planned for Friday afternoon after prayers as residents feared further clashes after years of rocket exchanges and airstrikes between Israel and Hamas.
“We were up all night with bombings and missiles,” said 50-year-old Abdallah Al-Husary. “There is worry and fear. War can break out at any time. If there is conflict in the West Bank, there could be war along the Gaza border.”
In the aftermath of Thursday’s attack, Palestinian authorities restricting their authority to govern the West Bank are widely believed to be helping maintain order in the territory and deter an attack on Israel. said it would suspend its security cooperation agreement with Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned to power earlier this year from one of Israel’s most right-wing governments in its history, has ordered security forces to be on alert but said Israel did not intend to escalate the situation.
The Israel Defense Forces said Friday’s airstrikes in Gaza targeted an underground rocket manufacturing site and a military base used by Hamas.
Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch, Dan Williams, and Ali Sawafta of Ramallah.Editing by Jerry Doyle and Edmund Blair
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A senior correspondent with nearly 25 years of experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.