Israeli jets struck Gaza overnight on Friday in retaliation for two rockets fired by Palestinian militants, further escalating tensions after one of the worst days of violence in the occupied West Bank in years.
The rockets fired from Gaza overnight set off alarms in Israeli communities near the border with the southern coastal strip controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas but there were no reports of casualties.
The cross-border fire came after an Israeli raid on a refugee camp in the West Bank on Thursday that killed at least nine Palestinians, including militant gunmen and at least two civilians, the highest single-day death toll in years.
Another man died in a separate incident in al-Ramm outside Jerusalem, bringing the Palestinian death toll so far in 2023 to at least 30.
The raid, the latest in a near-daily series of clashes in the West Bank over the past year, came days before U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to visit Israel and the West Bank.
The months of violence, which surged after a spate of lethal attacks in Israel last year, have drawn fears the conflict could spiral out of control, triggering a broader confrontation between Palestinians and Israel.
The U.S. State Department issued a statement on Thursday saying it was “deeply concerned” with the violence in the West Bank and urged both sides to de-escalate the conflict.
In Gaza, large rallies were planned for the afternoon following Friday prayers.
In the aftermath of Thursday’s raid, the Palestinian Authority, which has limited governing powers in the West Bank, said it was suspending a security cooperation arrangement with Israel that is widely credited with helping to keep order in the territory and preventing attacks against Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned to power this year at the head of one of the most right-wing governments in Israel’s history, said Israel was not looking to escalate the situation, although he ordered security forces to be on alert.
The Israeli Defence Force said Friday’s air strikes in Gaza targeted an underground rocket manufacturing site and a military base used by Hamas.