Israel hits Gaza as conflict erupts after West Bank clashes

  • Rockets from Gaza have raised alarm in Israeli communities
  • Cross-border gunfire followed an Israeli raid in the West Bank
  • Israeli raid kills at least nine Palestinians
  • Violence has increased in the West Bank over the past year

JERUSALEM/GAZA, Jan 27 (Reuters) – Israeli fighter jets struck Gaza on Friday night in retaliation for two rockets fired by Palestinian militants, further heightening tensions after one of the worst days of violence in the occupied West Bank For years.

Rockets fired from Gaza overnight raised alarms in Israeli communities near the border with the southern coastal strip controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas, but no casualties were reported.

The cross-border blaze came after an Israeli raid on a refugee camp in the West Bank on Thursday killed at least nine Palestinians, including armed militants and at least two civilians, the highest single-day death toll in years.

Another man died in a separate incident in al-Ramm, outside Jerusalem, bringing the Palestinian death toll so far in 2023 to at least 30.

The raid, the latest in a series of near-daily clashes in the West Bank over the past year, took place days before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to visit Israel and the West Bank.

Palestinian officials said CIA Director William Burns, who was visiting Israel and the West Bank on an organized trip before the latest violence, would meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday. No comment was immediately available from US officials in Jerusalem.

The months of violence, which erupted after a series of deadly attacks in Israel last year, have raised fears that the already unpredictable conflict could spin out of control, triggering a wider confrontation between Palestinians and Israel.

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

The United Nations, Egypt and Qatar have also called for calm, Palestinian officials said.

In Gaza, large rallies were planned for the afternoon after Friday prayers, as residents hardened by years of exchanges of rockets and airstrikes between Israel and Hamas feared further clashes.

«We didn’t sleep all night, bombardments and missiles,» said Abdallah Al-Husary, 50. «There is worry and there is fear, at any moment a war can break out. With any clash in the West Bank, there can be a war along the borders of Gaza.»

In the aftermath of Thursday’s raid, the Palestinian Authority, which has limited governing powers in the West Bank, said it was suspending a security cooperation agreement with Israel that is widely credited with helping maintain order. in the territory and to prevent attacks against Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned to power this year leading one of the most right-wing governments in Israel’s history, said Israel was not seeking to escalate the situation, although he ordered the security forces to be on high alert.

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 in Ramallah; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Edmund Blair

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Nidal Al Mughrabi

Thomson Reuters

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

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