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Israeli jets bomb Gaza as tensions escalate

Israeli jets bombed the Gaza Strip at night in response to rocket fire on a Palestinian coastal enclave amid a sharp escalation in tensions following a deadly Israeli raid on the occupied West Bank.

Israel said its military had targeted a military base and an underground missile factory run by Hamas, the paramilitary group that has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007.

They added that the rockets that reached Israel were either intercepted or fell on open ground. There are no reports of casualties on either side.

An overnight shootout in Gaza follows the worst day of violence in the West Bank in years after Israeli commandos on Thursday killed at least nine Palestinians, including one elderly woman, in a raid on the Jenin refugee camp that targeted militants of the Palestinian Islamic group. Jihad.

Islamic Jihad subsequently claimed responsibility for Thursday night’s rocket attack.

A spasm of violence that follows months of near-night clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian militants has exacerbated long-standing fears that the security situation in the West Bank — which makes up most of Palestinian territory but has been occupied by Israel since 1967 — could spiral out of control. .

According to the UN, last year was the bloodiest for Palestinians in the West Bank since 2005, when Israeli forces killed 151 Palestinians in the territory after ramping up their activities there following a series of Palestinian attacks that began last spring that killed 31 Israelis. 2022.

The outbreak is the first major clash since Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline new government, widely regarded as the most right-wing in Israel’s history, came to power in December, with ultranationalists in key security positions vowing to take a tougher stance against the Palestinians.

Following the Jenin raid, which Israel says was carried out to avert an imminent threat, the Palestinian Authority said it was ending security cooperation with Israel that helps Israeli security forces thwart attacks.

The PA has canceled cooperation before, most recently in 2020, when Netanyahu’s previous government considered a plan to annex parts of the West Bank. Cooperation resumed after Israel abandoned the plan.

Michael Milstein, head of the Palestine Studies Forum at Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center, said that while security cooperation has been good for Israel, the symbolic effect of lifting it may be more important than the practical consequences.

“My biggest fear is that people [lower down] in the power structures of the PA. . . will understand this as a green light to promote violent steps against Israel, what will they understand [it as meaning] that we have entered a new context. . . and that they had received permission to return to fierce fighting.

“Even one or two instances where members of the Palestinian security forces are facilitating terrorist attacks could lead to a very fast and very violent escalation, which neither side really wants.”

The US administration warned the PA against ending coordination, and US Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs Barbara Leaf told a press briefing that it was “the wrong move at the moment.”

“We are not at all abandoning security coordination, we consider it very important that the parties maintain — and, in any case, deepen — security coordination,” she said, adding that US officials have been “on the phone” since morning Thursday. try to defuse the situation.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is due to visit Israel and the West Bank next week as part of a planned visit to the region. CIA chief William Burns also paid a visit on Friday.

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