Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories remained tense but calm after an exchange of rocket fire between the Gaza Strip and Israel sparked by a deadly raid in the West Bank.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) entered the Jenin refugee camp in the north of the occupied territory at around 07:00 (0500 GMT) on Thursday. said in a statement.
Two civilians and seven men claimed by Palestinian militant groups were killed in the violent firefight that followed. Several camp residents said the violence was the worst they had seen since the second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, in the 2000s. The death toll from the raid is the highest of a single Israeli operation recorded by the United Nations since registration began in 2005.
Thursday’s events in Jenin led the Palestinian Authority, which has limited governing powers in the West Bank, to announce it was suspending security cooperation with Israel, and sparked clashes elsewhere: two other Palestinians were shot dead by soldiers during protests that turned violent. at checkpoints near Ramallah and in East Jerusalem.
On Friday night, six rockets were fired from the Islamist-controlled Gaza Strip into southern Israel, four of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. The IDF responded by carrying out bombardments on what it said were two military sites in central Gaza. The firing from Gaza and the Israelis appeared to have limited range and no injuries were reported on either side.
The leader of Islamic Jihad, a smaller and more belligerent group than the strip’s rulers, Hamas, claimed responsibility for the attack from Gaza at a rally in Gaza City on Friday that drew thousands.
Efforts by international mediators to defuse tensions appeared to have succeeded, with no immediate signs of escalation into a war of the kind seen between Israel and the Gaza Strip on several occasions since Hamas took control of the enclave. in 2007.
The compound of the holy al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, often the scene of violence, remained calm during Friday prayers, which were accompanied by a heavy Israeli police presence.
Fears that the intractable conflict could once again spiral out of control have not dissipated, however. Thursday’s events come against the backdrop of a nine-month Israeli military campaign targeting Palestinian factions in Jenin and nearby Nablus, launched in response to a deadly wave of Palestinian terror attacks last spring.
In 2022, around 250 Palestinians in the West Bank and 30 Israelis were killed, making last year the bloodiest since 2004. A surprise three-day Israeli bombing campaign against Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip in August killed 49 other people, according to Gaza’s health ministry. So far this month, 31 Palestinians have been killed.
A newly released poll suggests that support for the dormant peace process has reached an all-time high on both sides, and there are widespread fears that the recent election of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history will further stir the tensions.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to arrive next week for talks in Egypt, Israel and the West Bank. In a statement released Thursday, the State Department said it was «deeply concerned» about the violence and urged both sides to de-escalate.
The UN, Egypt and Qatar have also called for calm, Palestinian officials said, while the UN Security Council is expected to meet behind closed doors on Friday to discuss the deteriorating security situation.