Violence erupts in Gaza after deadly Israeli raid
GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Israeli and Palestinian militants exchanged airstrikes and rocket fire in and around Gaza on Thursday, a day after the Israeli army’s deadliest raid in the occupied West Bank in nearly 20 years.
Eleven Palestinians, including a 16-year-old, were killed by gunfire and more than 80 injured on Wednesday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, when Israeli troops raided the hotspot of the West Bank city of Nablus, calling for international appeals for calm.
The Israeli army said it was targeting militant suspects, while senior Palestinian official Hussein Al Sheikh called the raid a “massacre” and called for “international protection for our people.”
On Thursday, Palestinian militants retaliated before dawn, firing six rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli army said it intercepted five of them and the sixth struck an uninhabited area.
The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rockets after calling on “resistance forces” to respond to the “major crime” in Nablus.
Two hours later, the Israeli military launched airstrikes on several targets in Gaza, sending plumes of black smoke into the sky.
The rockets targeted “an arms factory” and a “military camp,” both run by Gaza’s Islamist ruler Hamas, the army said in a statement.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres called for calm and warned that tensions in the West Bank had reached their most dangerous level in years.
“Our immediate priority must be to prevent further escalation, defuse tensions and restore calm,” the UN chief said.
“The situation in the occupied Palestinian territories is at its most volatile in years,” he added, citing “sky high” tensions and the stalled peace process.
“Explosions and Gunshots”
The Israeli army said Wednesday’s raid targeted a “hideaway apartment” used by suspected militants accused of shootings in the West Bank.
One of the wanted suspects was “neutralized” along with two others who opened fire on troops.
Both sides had “exchanged fire”, and rockets had also been fired at the house by the Bundeswehr, spokesman Richard Hecht said.
Stones, explosive devices and Molotov cocktails were thrown at the troops, said the army, which said it had not suffered any casualties.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said those killed in the “occupation’s aggression on Nablus” ranged in age from 16 to 72.
Hours after the raid, the ministry announced the death of a 66-year-old man from tear gas inhalation.
Wednesday’s death toll was the highest since the end of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, in 2005, surpassing that of an Israeli raid last month in Jenin, another hotspot West Bank city.
Palestinian health officials said 82 people had been treated for gunshot wounds, and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said its medics had also treated 250 cases of tear gas inhalation.
Mostafa Shaheen, a Nablus resident, said around 9:30 a.m. (07:30 GMT), “soldiers … have besieged the whole area” and “we heard the explosions and gunfire”.
Among the wounded is Palestinian TV journalist Mohammed Al Khatib, who was shot in the hand, his colleague told AFP.
The Islamic Jihad militant group said one of its commanders was killed “in a heroic fight”.
The Lion’s Den, a Nablus-based militant group, said six of those killed were members of various Palestinian factions.
Defense Secretary Yoav Gallant hailed the army’s “courage” and tweeted that Israel’s “long arm” would reach “any terrorist.”
A huge crowd of mourners, including armed men, later gathered in Nablus and the nearby Balata refugee camp to bury ten of those killed.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was “extremely concerned by the level of violence,” while EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the European Union was “deeply concerned by the spiral of violence.”
Borrell urged “all parties” to work towards “restoring calm and … avoiding further deaths.”
France reiterated Israel’s commitment to respect international humanitarian law and to use appropriate force.
Neighboring Jordan said it will “work intensively with all parties to achieve calm”.
Since the beginning of this year, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed the lives of 60 Palestinian adults and children, including militants and civilians.
Nine Israeli civilians, including three children, a police officer and a Ukrainian civilian, were killed during the same period, according to official sources from both sides.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and separately with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday, urging both to “restore calm.”
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Last year was the deadliest year in the territory since the United Nations began tracking victims in 2005.
Source: Crypto News Deutsch