San Francisco Chronicle

Israel, Gaza trade fire after 9 deaths in West Bank raid

- By Isabel Debre

JERUSALEM — Israeli forces on Thursday killed nine Palestinia­ns — including at least seven militants and a 61year-old woman — in the deadliest single incident in the occupied West Bank in two decades, Palestinia­n officials said. Two rockets were fired from Gaza early Friday and Israel responded with air strikes on the territory, further escalating tensions.

The Israeli military said both Palestinia­n rockets were intercepte­d by its Iron Dome missile defense system. It was the first such attack from the militant Hamas-ruled territory since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power at the head of a far-right government that has pledged a tough line against Palestinia­n militancy.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the Israeli air strikes.

The raid in the Jenin refugee camp and the rocket fire increases the risk of a major flareup in Israeli-Palestinia­n fighting and casts a shadow on U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's expected trip to the region next week.

Raising the stakes, the Palestinia­n Authority said it would halt the ties that its security forces maintain with Israel in a shared effort to contain Islamic militants. Previous threats have been short-lived, in part because of the benefits the authority enjoys from the relationsh­ip and also due to U.S. and Israeli pressure to maintain it.

The PA already has limited control over scattered enclaves in the West Bank, and almost none over militant stronghold­s like the Jenin camp. But the announceme­nt could pave the way for Israel to step up operations it says are needed to prevent attacks.

Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, had earlier threatened revenge for the raid.

The Israeli strikes early Friday targeted training sites for Palestinia­n militant groups, the military said. Witnesses and local media reported that Israeli drones fired two missiles at a Hamas militant base before fighter jets struck it, causing four large explosions.

Air raid sirens went off in southern Israel as the initial two rockets were fired and then again after the airstrikes.

On Thursday, Israeli forces went on heightened alert as Palestinia­ns filled the streets across the West Bank, chanting in solidarity with Jenin. President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning, and in the refugee camp, residents dug a mass grave for the dead.

Thursday's gunbattle that left nine dead and 20 wounded erupted when Israel's military conducted a rare daytime operation in the Jenin camp that it said was meant to prevent an imminent attack on Israelis.

Hamas' armed wing claimed four of the dead as members, while Islamic Jihad said three others belonged to the group.

 ?? Majdi Mohammed/Associated Press ?? Mourners carry the bodies of eight Palestinia­ns, some draped in the flag of the Islamic Jihad militant group, in Jenin.
Majdi Mohammed/Associated Press Mourners carry the bodies of eight Palestinia­ns, some draped in the flag of the Islamic Jihad militant group, in Jenin.

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