Israel bombs Gaza after rocket attacks, deadly West Bank raid
Gaza/Jerusalem, Feb 23 (EFE).- Israeli forces bombed the Gaza Strip on Thursday after Palestinian militants fired six rockets towards its territory, Israel’s military said.
The exchange of rocket fire comes a day after the Israeli army carried out an arrest raid in the flashpoint West Bank city of Nablus, which triggered a shootout that left nearly a dozen Palestinians dead.
“In response to the rockets fired from Gaza, IAF (Israeli Air Force) fighter jets struck both a weapons manufacturing site and military compound belonging to the Hamas Terrorist Organization, located in central and northern Gaza,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement.
The compound is located next to a mosque, a medical center, a school, a hotel and a police station, it added, claiming that Hamas, the Islamist organization that has governed Gaza since 2007, is “deliberately placing its weaponry in the center of civilian areas.”
The airstrikes were carried out in response to what the IDF said were six rockets fired hours earlier from the coastal enclave, and which sounded the anti-aircraft alarms in the southern Israeli towns of Ashkelon, Sderot and the areas surrounding the Strip.
Just before dawn in Gaza, residents heard the whistles of the firing of a volley of rockets. So far, no Palestinian group has claimed responsibility and no casualties have been reported on either side.
They were apparently fired in retaliation for the killing of the 11 Palestinians amid an Israeli incursion in Nablus the previous day. More than 100 people were also injured in what was one of the bloodiest days in the area in recent years.
To mourn the dead, Palestinians in the West Bank downed tools for a general strike that was called by several political factions, official news agency Wafa said.
The streets of major cities such as Nablus and Ramallah were empty as shops, schools, universities, banks and establishments remained closed to protest against the “Israeli army massacre in Nablus,” Wafa added.
Following the flare-up in violence, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said: “We have a clear policy: To strike at terrorism forcefully and to deepen our roots in our land.
“We will continue to take strong action on all fronts, near and far, in order to thwart our enemies’ efforts to attack us. Whoever tries to harm us – will pay the price.”
According to Israeli forces, their operation in Nablus was aimed at arresting three suspects involved in attacks against Israelis.
Three Palestinians targets were killed, along with others including a 16-year-old boy and a 72-year-old man.
Mohammad Shtayyeh, prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority, described the raid as organized terrorism and denounced that Israel seeks to transfer its internal political crisis to the conflict with Palestinians.
Such raids have become almost daily occurrences since late March last year when Israel launched its so-called “Break the Wave” operation in response to a series of deadly attacks by Palestinians.
The Palestine-Israel conflict is experiencing a new peak of violence, which so far this year has left 11 Israelis and 60 Palestinians dead, the highest number in occupied territory since 2000, according to the Palestinian ministry of health. EFE