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Israel-Gaza border heats up after West Bank violence

The Palestinian militant faction Islamic Jihad stopped short of directly claiming responsibility for the rocket attack on Thursday but said it had the right to defend against Israeli aggression.

Reuters
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Trails of smoke are seen as rockets are fired from Gaza towards Israel during the sunrise, in Gaza City Feb 23. Photo: Reuters
Trails of smoke are seen as rockets are fired from Gaza towards Israel during the sunrise, in Gaza City Feb 23. Photo: Reuters

Gaza militants fired rockets and Israel carried out air strikes across the Israel-Gaza frontier on Thursday, a day after 11 Palestinian were killed during a Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank, renewing concerns of broader escalation.

Mediation efforts were underway by Egypt and the United Nations to calm the situation, officials said.

Israel's military said six rockets had been fired from the Gaza Strip overnight, setting off air raid sirens in southern Israeli communities. Five rockets had been intercepted by missile defences and the other had fallen in an open area. No injuries were reported.

The Palestinian militant faction Islamic Jihad stopped short of directly claiming responsibility for the rocket attack on Thursday but said it had the right to defend against Israeli aggression.

Israeli fighter jets had later struck a weapons manufacturing site belonging to Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, the Israeli military said. No injuries were reported.

The cross-border attacks followed an Israeli operation in the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday. Israeli troops had killed 11 Palestinians, including at least four gunmen and four civilians, and wounded more than 100 people, Palestinian sources said.

The Israeli army said troops there had tried detaining militants suspected of planning imminent attacks when they had come under fire and shot back.

The Islamic Jihad said Israeli troops had surrounded two of its Nablus commanders in a house, triggering a clash that drew in other gunmen. Explosions sounded and youths pelted armoured troop transports with rocks.

Palestinian sources said the two Islamic Jihad commanders had been killed along with another gunman. The four civilian fatalities had included a 72-year-old man and a 14-year-old boy, they said.

"I am continuing my engagement with all concerned parties to de-escalate the situation. I urge all sides to refrain from steps that could further enflame an already volatile situation," said UN envoy Tor Wennesland in a statement.

Palestinian groups in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza called for a general strike on Thursday. Schools, universities and banks in Gaza did not open after activists walked the streets with loudspeakers calling on businesses to remain shut.

Nablus and nearby Jenin have been a focus of raids that Israel has intensified over the past year following a spate of lethal Palestinian street attacks in its cities.

Sixty-two Palestinians, including gunmen and civilians, had been killed in 2023, the Palestinian health ministry said. Ten Israelis and a Ukrainian tourist died in Palestinian attacks in the same period, according to Israel's foreign ministry.

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