Gaza rockets, Israeli strikes follow deadly raid
Palestinian militants in Gaza launched rockets at southern Israel and Israeli aircraft struck targets in the coastal enclave early Thursday after a gunbattle triggered by an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank killed 10 Palestinians.
The bloodshed extends one of the deadliest periods in years in the West Bank, where dozens of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the start of the year. Palestinian attacks on Israelis in 2023 have killed 11 people.
The Israeli military said Palestinian militants fired six rockets and two anti-aircraft missiles from the Gaza Strip toward the country’s south early Thursday. Air defenses intercepted five of the rockets and one landed in an open field, according to the military. The missiles did not hit their targets. The attacks were not immediately claimed by Palestinian militant groups.
Israeli aircraft then struck several targets in northern and central Gaza, including a weapons manufacturing site and a military compound belonging to the Hamas militant group that rules the enclave. There were no reports of injuries in Israel or Gaza from the rocket attacks or strikes.
The violence comes in the first weeks of Israel’s new far-right government, which has promised to take a tough line against Palestinians, and as security forces step up arrest raids of wanted militants in the West Bank. Israel says the raids — begun in the wake of a series of deadly Palestinian attacks last spring — are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future assaults.
But the operations have shown few signs of slowing the violence and Wednesday’s resulted in one of the bloodiest battles in nearly a year in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, raising the likelihood of further bloodshed.
“We have a clear policy: to strike terror powerfully and to deepen our roots in our land,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a meeting of his
Cabinet. “We will settle accounts with whoever harms Israeli citizens.”
Israeli police stepped up security in sensitive areas on Thursday, while Hamas said its patience was “running out.” Islamic Jihad, another militant group, vowed to retaliate.
A day after a raid in January on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank that killed 10 Palestinians, a Palestinian shot and killed seven people outside a synagogue in east Jerusalem.
On Thursday, police said security guards at the entrance to a West Bank settlement shot and lightly wounded a woman who police said attempted to stab the guards.
Among the 10 killed in Wednesday’s raid in Nablus were Palestinian men aged 72 and 61, and a 16-year-old boy, according to health officials. Scores of others were wounded. Various Palestinian militant groups claimed six of the dead as members. There was no immediate word on whether the others belonged to armed groups. Officials also said a 66-yearold man died from tear gas inhalation.
In response to the raid, a strike was called across the West Bank, and schools, universities and shops all shut down in protest. Schools and universities in Gaza and most shops in east Jerusalem were also closed.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.
The Israeli military said it entered Nablus, the West Bank’s commercial center and a city known as a militant stronghold, to arrest three militants suspected in previous shooting attacks. The main suspect was wanted in the killing of an Israeli soldier last fall.
Wednesday’s four-hour operation left a broad swath of damage in a centuriesold marketplace in Nablus. In the Old City, shops were riddled with bullets, parked cars were crushed, and blood stained the cement ruins. Furniture from the destroyed home was scattered among mounds of debris.