Israel launches airstrikes on Gaza after rocket attacks as violence escalates
By Hadas Gold, Abeer Salman, Mohammed Tawfeeq, Richard Roth and Sana Noor Haq, CNN
Israel launched airstrikes targeting alleged weapons manufacturing and storage sites in Gaza on Thursday, following a rocket attack from the coastal enclave, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said.
In a statement, the IDF said “fighter jets struck a weapons manufacturing site” in central Gaza owned by Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that runs Gaza.
“In parallel, a military compound belonging to the Hamas Terrorist Organization in the northern Gaza Strip which also was used as a naval weapons storage warehouse was struck,” the statement said.
Earlier Thursday, the IDF said five rockets fired from Gaza toward Israeli territory, including the cities of Ashkelon and Sderot, were intercepted and another rocket fell in an open area.
The airstrikes come after the deaths of at least 11 Palestinians in Nablus in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, which occurred during a raid by the Israeli military that also left at least 500 injured, Palestinian officials said Thursday. One of the dead targeted in the Nablus raid was a Hamas member, and two were Islamic Jihad commanders, the two militant groups said earlier.
“Our teams dealt with 488 injuries during the occupation forces’ invasion into Nablus, including 103 injuries of live bullets taken to hospitals in Nablus,” the Palestinian Red Crescent said. The other injuries included tear gas inhalation and shrapnel wounds, they said. The Palestinian Ministry of Health confirmed the numbers.
The raid in Nablus lasted about four hours and, unusually, took place in broad daylight because the IDF said it had intelligence on where the suspects were. The IDF accused them of being responsible for the death of an Israeli soldier and of posing an imminent threat.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Thursday that Israel would “settle accounts with those who attack Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers,” praising the previous day’s Israeli military raid into Nablus.
Netanyahu said that raid targeted “three terrorists” who “shot and murdered Staff Sergeant Ido Baruch last October and they were about to carry out additional attacks against us.”
“I would like to commend the ISA and IDF Intelligence for the precise intelligence,” that led to the raid, the Israeli prime minister said, referring to the Israeli Security Agency, the Shin Bet, and the Israel Defense Forces. He also thanked “the soldiers who acted with heroism and confidence under fire.”
The United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process said late Wednesday he was “appalled by the loss of civilian lives” in the raid.
“I am deeply disturbed by the continuing cycle of violence,” Tor Wennesland said in a statement. “I urge all sides to refrain from steps that could further enflame an already volatile situation.”
‘Violent and deadly’
The occupied West Bank has been rocked by a series of lethal Israeli military raids in the past year, as tensions in Israel and the Palestinian territories remain sky-high in a region riven by bloodshed.
An Israeli raid in the city of Jenin in January caused the deadliest day for Palestinians in the West Bank in over a year, according to CNN records, with at least 10 Palestinians killed on the day and one dying later of his wounds. One day later, at least seven civilians died in a shooting near a synagogue in Jerusalem — which Israel deemed one of its worst terror attacks in recent years.
This comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet that has been described as the most far right and religious in the country’s history.
Netanyahu previously told CNN’s Jake Tapper that people can get “hung up” on peace negotiations with the Palestinians, saying he has opted for a different approach.
As relations between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants boil over, CNN’s Hadas Gold said the scenes on Wednesday reflected those “not seen since the second intifada,” or uprising.
“Even for the last year and a half or so here, that has been a very violent and deadly year, these numbers are some of the highest I’ve seen in my time here,” she added.
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