Friday, January 27, 2023

After intercepting rockets, Israel launches airstrikes on Gaza

Israel hits Gaza with airstrikes after rockets intercepted

 JERUSALEM: According to Palestinian officials, Israeli forces have killed nine Palestinians, including at least seven militants and a woman aged 61, in the deadliest single incident in the occupied West Bank in two decades.

Early on Friday, Gaza fired two rockets, and Israel responded with airstrikes on the territory, escalating tensions further.

According to the Israeli military, the Iron Dome missile defense system stopped both rockets. Since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power as the head of a far-right government that has pledged a tough line against Palestinian militancy, this was the first such attack from the militant Hamas-ruled territory.

The rocket fire and the raid in the Jenin refugee camp cast doubt on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's planned trip to the region next week and raise the possibility of a significant flare-up in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

The Palestinian Authority said it would cut all ties between its security forces and Israel in an effort to contain Islamic militants, raising the stakes. Due to the benefits the authority receives from the relationship and the pressure exerted by the US and Israel to maintain it, previous threats have been short-lived.

Over scattered enclaves in the West Bank, the PA already has limited control, and it has almost no control over militant strongholds like the Jenin camp. However, Israel may be able to accelerate the actions it claims are necessary to prevent attacks in response to the announcement.

Prior to the raid, Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, had threatened retribution. Retaliatory rocket fire from the Gaza Strip in response to violent escalations in the West Bank has previously prompted Israeli airstrikes on the secluded and impoverished territory.

The military claimed that training facilities for Palestinian militant groups were the focus of Israeli strikes early on Friday. Israeli drones fired two missiles at a militant base in the center of the Gaza Strip, according to witnesses and local media. Typically, the smaller airstrikes carried out by fighter jets are signaled by the drone strikes.

As Palestinians chanted in support of Jenin in the streets of the West Bank on Thursday, Israeli forces were put on increased alert. Residents of the refugee camp dug a mass grave for the deceased and President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a PA spokesperson, stated that Abbas had made the decision to reduce security coordination "in light of the repeated aggression against our people, and the undermining of signed agreements," referring to the 1990s Oslo peace process commitments. Additionally, he stated that the Palestinians planned to submit complaints to the International Criminal Court, the UN Security Council, and other international organizations.

Due to Netanyahu's desire to annex the occupied West Bank, which would render a Palestinian state virtually impossible, the PA cut security cooperation with Israel in 2020. However, six months later, the PA resumed cooperation, indicating the relationship's financial importance and the Palestinians' relief at President Joe Biden's election.

The top US diplomat for the Middle East, Barbara Leaf, stated that the administration was extremely concerned about the circumstance and that the civilian casualties that had been reported in Jenin were "quite regrettable." However, she also stated that the Palestinian decision to suspend security ties was incorrect.

She told reporters, "Obviously, we don't think this is the right step to take at this moment," stating that the Palestinian promise to take the matter to the United Nations and the International Criminal Court was problematic.

She added, "We want to see them move back in the opposite direction." They must interact with one another.

Since well over a decade ago, Israel and the Palestinians have not held serious peace talks.

Israel's military conducted a rare daytime operation in the Jenin camp on Thursday, claiming it was intended to prevent an imminent Israeli attack, resulting in the gun battle that resulted in nine deaths and twenty injuries. Nearly every night, Israeli arrest raids have targeted the camp, where the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group has a significant foothold.

The armed wing of Hamas claimed four of the dead as members, while Islamic Jihad claimed three more. An earlier statement from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a militia that has a loose connection to Abbas' secular Fatah party, said that one of the dead was a fighter named Izz al-Din Salahat; however, it was not clear if he was one of the seven militants who were killed.

The 61-year-old victim was named Magda Obaid by the Palestinian Health Ministry, and the Israeli military said it was investigating reports of her death.

The Israeli military released aerial footage that it claimed was taken during the conflict. The footage showed what appeared to be Palestinians hurling stones and firebombs at Israeli troops below from rooftops. One Palestinian can be seen firing from a rooftop, at least one of them.

The Palestinian Health Ministry reported that Israeli forces later that day shot and killed a 22-year-old man and wounded two others as Palestinians confronted Israeli troops north of Jerusalem to protest the raid on Thursday. The paramilitary Border Police of Israel claimed that Palestinians firing fireworks at them from close range opened fire on them.

Following a series of Palestinian attacks, Israel intensified its raids in the West Bank last spring, escalating tensions.

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