Israel hits Gaza as conflict flares after West Bank clashes

  • The rockets from Gaza have raised alarm in Israeli communities
  • The cross-border fire has followed the Israeli incursion into the West Bank
  • The Israeli raid killed at least nine Palestinians
  • Violence has escalated in the West Bank in the past year

JERUSALEM/GAZA, Jan 27 (Reuters) – The Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza claimed responsibility for rockets fired at Israel overnight on Friday amid international efforts to defuse tensions after one of the deadliest incursions in the occupied West Bank in years.

Israeli jets struck Gaza on Friday in retaliation for the rockets, which had set off alarms in Israeli communities near the border with the blockaded southern coastal strip that is controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas.

There were no reports of casualties from either side and there was no immediate sign of escalation into a more serious conflict of the kind seen repeatedly in recent years with Palestinian groups firing hundreds of rockets and Israel pounding Gaza.

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

The deaths, which included militant gunmen and at least two civilians, left the West Bank’s highest single-day death toll in years, with another man killed in a separate incident in al-Ramm outside Jerusalem.

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The raid, the latest in a near-daily series of clashes in the West Bank over the past year, came days before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to visit Israel and the West Bank. Washington called for calm on both sides.

In Gaza, thousands of Islamic Jihad supporters gathered after Friday prayers, demanding that the fight against Israel be stepped up after the Jenin incursion.

“We didn’t sleep all night, shelling and missiles,” said Abdallah Al-Husary, 50. “There is concern and there is fear, every minute a war can happen. With every clash in the West Bank, there can be war along the borders in Gaza.”

In the Jabalya refugee camp, one of the movement’s leaders, Khaled Al-Batsh, claimed responsibility for the missile strikes and said Israel could not isolate Gaza from the West Bank.

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

Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed movement dedicated to the overthrow of Israel, is active in both the West Bank’s flashpoints of Nablus and Jenin and Gaza, where it exists alongside the larger Hamas group and powerful

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

There was a fiercer conflict in Gaza in May 2021.

The Israeli Defense Force said Friday’s airstrikes in Gaza targeted an underground missile manufacturing site and a military base used by Hamas.


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

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

Following Thursday’s raid, the Palestinian Authority, which has limited governing power in the West Bank, said it was suspending a security cooperation agreement with Israel.

In the Jenin refugee camp, a densely packed mass of buildings and alleyways that has been a center of militant activity and the target of repeated Israeli raids, residents said Thursday’s operation had penetrated unusually deep into the field

A two-story building at the center of the fighting was heavily 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” about the violence in the West Bank and urged both sides to step up the conflict.

The UN, Egypt and Qatar also urged calm, Palestinian officials said.

Palestinian officials said CIA Director William Burns, who was visiting Israel and the West Bank on a trip arranged before the latest violence, met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday. No comment was immediately available from American 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 was not seeking to escalate the situation, although it ordered to the security forces to be alert.

Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch and Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Ali Sawafta and Henriette Chacar in Jenin; Edited by Gerry Doyle and Edmund Blair

Our standards: Thomson Reuters’ principles of trust.

Nidal Al-Mughrabi

Thomson Reuters

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


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