Hours after intercepting a rocket fired from Gaza and in response to U.S. calls for a cessation of the rising violence in Israel and the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military claimed to have attacked Gaza in the early hours of Thursday, February 2.
No initial reports of significant casualties were received.
In reaction to Wednesday’s missile launch, the military said the airstrikes targeted Hamas rocket and weapon production facilities. Hamas is the Islamist group that controls the blockaded strip.
Before dawn on Thursday, powerful explosions rattled buildings and illuminated the night sky over Gaza as warning sirens sounded again in Israeli neighborhoods surrounding the strip in anticipation of more incoming rocket fire.
Hamas or the smaller Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad faction, which fired rockets towards Israel last week, have not claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s missile attack.
The armed wing of the Marxist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine announced early Thursday morning that it had fired rocket salvos at Israel in retaliation to the airstrikes and “systematic brutality” against Palestinian inmates in Israeli jails.
After a Palestinian shooter killed seven people near a synagogue in East Jerusalem and an Israeli raid in a West Bank refugee camp killed ten Palestinians, the exchange of fire highlighted the tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.
After concluding a visit to the region on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged calm and reaffirmed Washington’s support for a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict.
Barbara Leaf, the top US diplomat for the Middle East, and Hady Amr, the US special representative for Palestinian issues, remained behind to conduct de-escalation negotiations between the parties.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s far-right National Security Minister who oversees prisons, stated in a tweet made after Wednesday’s rocket launch that he will proceed with measures to tighten conditions for Palestinian prisoners.
“The rocket fire from Gaza will not prevent me from continuing my efforts to abolish summer camp conditions for homicidal terrorists,” he said, adding that he has called a meeting of the security cabinet.
Since a wave of deadly attacks by Palestinians in Israel last year, Israel has conducted near-daily operations in the West Bank, resulting in a terrible January for Palestinians in which 35 militants and civilians were slain.