Israel carries out air strikes on Gaza Strip | Israel
According to journalists and witnesses, Israel carried out airstrikes on the central Gaza Strip early Thursday, hours after the military said it had intercepted a rocket fired from Palestinian territory.
After these attacks, new rocket shells were fired from Gaza and around 3:15 am local time, new explosions were heard from Gaza City, journalists from Agence France-Presse reported.
In a statement released at 2:41 am, the Israeli army confirmed it was “on strike in the Gaza Strip.”
According to local security sources and witnesses, the first attacks – at least seven – hit a training center of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas. The center is located in the al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.
Smoke billowed over buildings in Gaza City early Thursday. Photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images
A second round of Israeli airstrikes targeted the al-Qassam Brigades training center southwest of Gaza City, according to local security sources.
After the first airstrike, an AFP reporter saw two more rockets fired from Gaza at Israel, and witnesses said several more rockets were fired from different locations.
The Gaza Strip, which is densely populated with 2.3 million people, has been under an Israeli blockade since Hamas took power in 2007.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a secular Palestinian armed group, claimed to have fired “rocket fire… in response to Zionist aggression in the Gaza Strip.”
On the Israeli side, according to the army, warning sirens sounded in Sderot, a city in southern Israel near the Gaza Strip.
Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken ended his Middle East tour without a breakthrough in easing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, saying it was “fundamentally up to them” to end the violence after days of bloodshed.
Blinken said he heard “deep concerns about the current course” at meetings in Israel and the occupied West Bank, but other than calling for “de-escalation,” he had not offered any new US initiative.
An Israeli operation in the Jenin refugee camp last week, one of the deadliest raids in the West Bank in decades, killed 10 Palestinians, mostly gunmen but also two civilians, including a 61-year-old woman. The next day, a Palestinian gunman killed seven Israelis outside a synagogue in east Jerusalem in the worst attack of its kind in recent memory.
Nearly two dozen people have been killed over the past week as heightened tensions led to retaliatory attacks, including shootings aimed at Israelis and Palestinians.