Gaza militants and Israel exchange more air strikes in the fiercest conflict in months, despite ceasefire efforts

Gaza militants and Israel exchange more air strikes in the fiercest conflict in months, despite ceasefire efforts
  • The second-largest Palestinian militant group, Islamic Jihad, fired rockets into the contested capital of Jerusalem on Friday.
  • In response, the Israeli military sent warplanes that hit four Islamic Jihad military posts in the Gaza Strip.
  • The exchange of air strikes in the fiercest confrontation between Israel and Palestine in recent months broke a 12-hour gap that had raised hopes for a ceasefire.

Palestinian militants fired rockets into Jerusalem on Friday, further escalating the fiercest clash in months between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip, despite efforts to broker a ceasefire.

The volley of rockets from Gaza sent warning sirens northwards to the contested capital Jerusalem – about 78 miles from the Gaza border – breaking a 12-hour lull that raised hopes regional powers could negotiate a cease-fire. fire soon.

There were no immediate reports of casualties on either side on Friday. Fighting, which began on Tuesday between Israel and Islamic Jihad – the second-largest militant group in Gaza after the rulers of the Hamas territory – killed 31 Palestinians in the strip, including women and children, and a man in his 70s in center of Israel.


A rocket hit an open field in the Israeli settlement of Bat Ayin, south of Jerusalem, said Josh Hasten, a spokesman for the area. Dull thuds could be heard inside the city, which is home to major sites holy to Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Videos showed Israelis jumping out of their cars and ducking under the highway tracks as sirens wailed. Residents of nearby settlements reported hearing explosions and seeing black smoke rising from the hills after an apparent missile intercept.

“The bombing of Jerusalem sends a message,” Islamic Jihad said in a statement. “What is happening in Jerusalem is not separate from Gaza.”

In response, the Israeli military said its warplanes hit four Islamic Jihad military posts and a mortar launcher in the Gaza Strip.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said it was conducting a security assessment. The Israeli military urged those within 40 kilometers of the Gaza border to stay close to air raid shelters and limit public gatherings until Saturday night.

Sirens near Jerusalem took some residents back to the spring of 2021, when Hamas fired rockets into the city, which helped spark a bloody 11-day war in Gaza. At that time, the militant group cited a provocative far-right march through Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem as one of the reasons for its barrage of rockets, along with the displacement of Palestinians from the east of the city.

Palestinians inspect the rubble of a house after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, on May 12, 2023. An hour break that raised hopes for a ceasefire. In response, the Israeli military sent warplanes across the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

Israeli police have said they will allow the same ultranationalist Jewish parade – intended to celebrate Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem – to take place on Thursday.

Since Tuesday, Israeli strikes have killed five leading Islamic Jihad figures and hit at least 215 targets in Gaza, including rocket and mortar launch sites and militants preparing to use them. Islamic Jihad retaliated with nearly 900 rockets fired at densely populated parts of Israel.

Israeli bombs and shells destroyed 47 housing units and damaged 19 so badly they became uninhabitable, leaving 165 Palestinians homeless, Gaza’s Ministry of Housing said. In addition, around 300 homes suffered some damage.

Palestinians on Friday examined the debris caused by the fighting.

“The dream we built for our children, for our children, is over,” said Belal Bashir, a Palestinian living in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, whose family home was reduced to rubble in an airstrike in Thursday. He, his young daughters and their two-week-old son would have died in the blast had they not run outside when they heard screams, he said.

“We were shocked that our home was targeted,” he added as he pulled his children’s dolls and blankets out of a bomb crater.

At least 31 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been killed in the fighting, including seven children and four women, according to the UN humanitarian office. At least three of the children were killed by misfired Palestinian rockets, according to the Israeli military and the Palestinian Center for Rights. More than 90 Palestinians were injured, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.


The civilian deaths drew condemnation from the Arab world and concern from the United States and Europe. In its last four wars against Hamas, Israel has repeatedly faced allegations of war crimes due to the high number of civilians killed and the use of heavy weapons against the crowded enclave. Israel, for its part, claims that Palestinian militant groups use civilians as human shields when fighting in their midst.

Hamas, the de facto civilian government with an army of around 30,000 men in Gaza, has sought to maintain its truce with Israel as it tries to keep poor living conditions in the blockaded enclave from spiraling since a devastating 11-day war in 2021. , which killed more than 260 people. Palestinians. The group, which took control of Gaza in 2007, has stayed out of this round of fighting – as did a similar wave of violence last summer. In a sign of restraint, Israel limited its airstrikes to Islamic Jihad targets.

Both sides appeared on the verge of a ceasefire earlier this week. Hamas officials on Friday told local media that Egypt was stepping up its diplomatic efforts to stop the fighting. But Israeli public broadcaster Kan reported that Israeli authorities pulled out of talks in Egypt after Islamic Jihad launched rockets into Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on the reports.


Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad figures sent mixed signals about the talks. Senior official Ihsan Attaya complained on Friday that the mediators “have not been able to provide us with any guarantees”. One sticking point has been Islamic Jihad’s demands that Israel cease its policy of targeted killings, Attaya said.

In Cairo, Mohamad al-Hindi, a member of the Islamic Jihad’s political department, was trying to discuss the details of a possible truce. He told Palestinian media that he hoped both sides would “reach a ceasefire agreement and honor it today”. But the continued firefight hours later seemed to undermine their optimism.

This week’s battles began when Israel on Tuesday launched simultaneous airstrikes that killed three Islamic Jihad commanders along with some of their wives and children as they slept in their homes. Israel said it was retaliating for a barrage of rockets launched last week by Islamic Jihad following the death of one of its West Bank members, Khader Adnan, on an 87-day hunger strike while in Israeli custody.

The airstrikes and rockets have shifted the focus of the long-running conflict back to Gaza after months of rising violence in the occupied West Bank under the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.

Israel has carried out nearly nightly prison raids across the West Bank that have killed 109 Palestinians so far this year – the highest death toll in two decades. At least half of those killed are affiliated with militant groups, according to an Associated Press count. At least 20 people were killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis during this period.


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