Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Israeli, Palestinia­n conflict heats up


NOUR SHAMS REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank — Israeli airstrikes struck militant sites in Gaza on Sunday for the third straight day, the Israeli military said, after Palestinia­n militants near the border fence launched incendiary balloons into Israel and threw an explosive at soldiers. The strike came on the heels of an Israeli military raid in the northern West Bank that Palestinia­n health officials said killed two Palestinia­ns.

It was the latest bloodshed in a surge of violence during a sensitive Jewish holiday period. A series of violent escalation­s on the border between Israel and Gaza over the past week has raised the specter of an escalation for the first time since a brief round of conflict last May between Israel and the Palestinia­n Islamic Jihad militant group.

It comes at a fraught time. Jews were set to mark Yom Kippur, the holiest day on their calendar, on Sunday night followed by the weeklong Sukkot festival later in the month.

There were no reported casualties from the strikes in Gaza. Earlier on Sunday, the Israeli military shot and wounded five Palestinia­ns who were rallying at the separation fence along the Israeli frontier with the crowded enclave. It’s a familiar tactic for Palestinia­ns in Gaza protesting a 16-year blockade imposed by Israel with Egypt’s help. Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent the ruling Hamas militant group from arming itself.

The Israeli army said Sunday that it had targeted two posts belonging to Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, just east of the Bureij refugee camp and Jabaliya. The posts were close to the fence separating the territory from Israel, where dozens of Palestinia­ns have been holding daily demonstrat­ions for the past week.

For the third time in as many days, media outlets posted photos of militant protesters sending a barrage of balloons attached to incendiary devices over the eastern border. The Israeli army said the balloons set two fires in Israel.

Rising tensions were also palpable in the West Bank.

Earlier in the day, the Israeli military said it moved into the Nour Shams refugee camp, near the town of Tulkarem, to destroy what it described as a militant command center and bomb-storage facility in a building.

It said that engineerin­g units detonated a number of bombs planted under roads and that militants opened fire and hurled explosives, as troops responded with live fire.

The Palestinia­n Health Ministry said two men — Asid Abu Ali, 21, and Abdulrahma­n Abu Daghash, 32 — were killed by Israeli fire. The raid caused heavy damage to the camp’s main road, severing water pipes and flooding parts of the street. The ground floor of the targeted building was heavily damaged, while part of the exterior wall of the second floor collapsed.

The Hamas militant group claimed Abu Ali as a member.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, Birzeit University, a major Palestinia­n institutio­n, said the Israeli army carried out a rare raid on its campus near the city of Ramallah and arrested nine students, including the head of the student council. It said the students were all supporters of the Hamas militant group. The university denounced the raid, which it said caused damage to university property.

The Israeli military claimed the suspects were plotting an attack on Israeli targets.

Israel has been carrying out stepped-up military raids, primarily in the northern West Bank, for the past year and a half in what it says is a campaign to root out Palestinia­n militants and thwart future attacks.

But Palestinia­ns say the raids entrench Israel’s 56-year occupation over the West Bank. The raids have shown little sign of slowing the fighting and contribute­d to the weakening of the Palestinia­n Authority, the self-rule government that administer­s parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Some 190 Palestinia­ns have been killed in the West Bank since the start of the year, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Israel says most of those killed have been militants, but youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in the confrontat­ions have also been killed.

At least 31 people have been killed in Palestinia­n attacks against Israelis this year.

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinia­ns seek those territorie­s for their hoped-for independen­t state.

 ?? (AP/Majdi Mohammed) ?? Palestinia­ns inspect a damaged building Sunday following an Israeli army raid in Nour Shams refugee camp in the northern West Bank.
(AP/Majdi Mohammed) Palestinia­ns inspect a damaged building Sunday following an Israeli army raid in Nour Shams refugee camp in the northern West Bank.

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