Israeli airstrikes hit Gaza, escalating fears after Jenin raid | Israelo-Palestinian conflict

Israel launched several airstrikes on the blockaded Gaza Strip a day after Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians – including an elderly woman – in the Jenin refugee camp, marking one of the deadliest raids in the occupied West Bank. the Israeli army for years.

Local sources in Gaza told Al Jazeera that Israeli warplanes hit the Al-Maghazi refugee camp in the center of the territory with at least 13 strikes in the early hours of Friday.

The Al-Zaitoun neighborhood in southern Gaza City was also hit, as well as an open area east of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza.

Witnesses and local media reported that Israeli drones fired two missiles at targets in Gaza before the warplanes struck.

No casualties were immediately reported and «a cautious calm» had returned to Gaza by morning, Al Jazeera correspondent Maram Humaid said.

The Israeli military said the airstrikes in Gaza – one of the most densely populated areas in the world with 2.1 million people – followed the firing of two rockets into Israel around midnight (2200 GMT).

Air raid sirens sounded in southern Israel when the first two rockets were fired, and again after the Israeli airstrikes.

The Israeli military said the rockets were intercepted by Israel’s air defense system, and the country’s Channel 12 broadcast footage of Israeli interceptor missiles launched into the night sky above the city of Ashkelon, around 12 km (7 miles) north of Gaza.

No group has claimed responsibility for the reported rocket fire.

However, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said armed groups in Gaza «will continue to carry out [their] duty to defend the Palestinian people and their sanctity, and will remain the people’s shield and sword».

Israeli airstrikes and rocket fire followed Israeli forces killing nine people in a raid on the Jenin refugee camp. At least 20 people were also injured in what has been described as one of the deadliest days in the occupied West Bank since Israel stepped up raids in early 2021.

A 22-year-old Palestinian man was also shot dead by Israeli forces in the town of al-Ram, north of Jerusalem.

Four of those injured in the raid were in critical condition and among the dead was an elderly woman identified as Magda Obaid by hospital authorities in Jenin.

Obaid’s family said she was shot after looking out the window.

The Palestinians described the Jenin raid as a «massacre».

Climbing fears

In Gaza, there were fears that Israeli airstrikes, following the Jenin raid, were a sign that a new conflict was about to break out, just five months after the last major Israeli attack on the blockaded territory killed at least 49 people. .

«My children woke up [after the Israeli air attacks] and the sound was very loud,” Anas Abu Muailiq, who lives with his family in Al-Maghazi, told Al Jazeera. «My house and my windows shook a lot, and there were flames nearby – it turned out that a resistance site near our house had been bombed.»

«These short military escalations are often a prelude to wars, and we don’t want that,» Abu Muailiq added. «All we want is to live in peace and stability, what happens to us is enough.»

Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense minister, said on Friday that the Israeli army had been ordered to «prepare for action…in case we need to continue – until calm is restored for the citizens of Israel”.

However, with the situation calm on Friday morning, the Israeli army allowed Israelis living near Gaza to return to normal life, with shops and schools open.

Speaking from Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Ilyas Karam said the Israeli assessment was that this «wave of confrontation is over» and that the exchange of Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes had «not violated normal rules of engagement» between the two parties.

However, Karam added, the next week would be vital in determining whether the violence would escalate.

In the occupied West Bank on Thursday, people took to the streets to show solidarity with Jenin as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning.

Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Abbas had broken off security coordination with Israel «in light of the repeated aggressions against our people and the questioning of signed agreements». He also said the Palestinians plan to file complaints with the United Nations Security Council, the International Criminal Court and other international bodies regarding Israel’s violence.

The United Arab Emirates, China and France asked the UN Security Council to meet behind closed doors on Friday over the attacks, diplomats said.

Tor Wennesland, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said on Twitter that he was «deeply alarmed» and «saddened» by the violence and was engaged with the Israeli authorities and Palestinians to «ease tensions, restore calm and avoid new conflicts».

Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir praised Israeli forces for the Jenin raid, saying those trying to «harm our personnel must know that their blood is lost».

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