Israel hits Gaza as conflict flares after West Bank clashes

  • Rockets from Gaza set off alarm bells in the Israeli community
  • After the Israeli raid in the West Bank, there was a border fire
  • At least nine Palestinians were killed in the Israeli attack
  • Violence in the West Bank has increased in the past year

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

Rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli communities near the border of the Hamas-controlled southern coast triggered warnings, but no casualties were reported.

Cross-border fire broke out after an Israeli attack on a West Bank refugee camp on Thursday killed at least nine Palestinians, including militant gunmen and at least two civilians, the highest single-day death toll in years.

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

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

Palestinian officials said CIA Director William Burns, who has been visiting Israel and the West Bank for a visit arranged before the latest violence, will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday. No comment was immediately available from US officials in Jerusalem.

Months of violence since a series of deadly attacks in Israel last year have fueled a wider conflict between Palestinians and Israel, raising fears that the already unpredictable conflict could spiral out of control.

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The US State Department said in a statement on Thursday that it was “deeply concerned” by 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 the Gaza Strip, large rallies were planned for the evening after Friday prayers as residents fear further clashes after years of rocket fire and airstrikes between Israel and Hamas.

“We didn’t sleep all night, the bombings and missiles,” said 50-year-old Abdullah al-Husari. “There is anxiety and fear, war could happen at any moment. With any conflict in the West Bank, there could be war along the border in Gaza.”

After Thursday’s raid, the Palestinian Authority, which has limited governing powers in the West Bank, said it was suspending a security cooperation arrangement with Israel that is widely credited with keeping order in the territory and preventing attacks against Israel.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned to power this year as the head of one of the most right-wing governments in Israel’s history, said Israel did not expect the situation to escalate despite ordering security forces to be on alert.

The Israel Defense Forces said airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on Friday targeted an underground rocket production site and a military base used by Hamas.

Additional reporting in Ramallah by Ari Rabinovitch, Dan Williams and Ali Sawafta; Edited by Gerry Doyle and Edmund Blair

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Nidal al-Mughrabi

Thomson Reuters

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


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