The Israeli army launched airstrikes on targets in the Gaza Strip hours after Palestinian militants in the regions fired six rockets towards Israel’s south. The escalation in violence came a day after an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank that killed 11.
The strikes occurred shortly after 6am on Thursday and were confirmed in a statement from Israel’s military.
Hours earlier, Israel’s air defences intercepted five rockets which were fired towards the cities of Ashkelon and Sderot, the military said. One other rocket landed in an open field. There were no reports of damage or casualties.
The raid was one of the biggest of the past year, during which the situation in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem has steadily worsened. A similar raid in January was followed by a Palestinian militant attack near an East Jerusalem synagogue that killed seven Israelis.
Ziad al-Nakhala, leader of the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad militant group, called the raid a “major crime” that “the resistance must respond to”.
On Wednesday, US state department spokesperson Ned Price told a regular press briefing that Washington recognised Israel’s security concerns but was deeply concerned by the large number of injuries and loss of civilian life.
The violence comes at a critical juncture in ties between Israel and the Palestinians, with the new Israeli government dominated by ultranationalists who have vowed a hard line against militants, while at the same time pushing for an expansion of settlements in the West Bank.
Associated Press and Agence France-Presse contributed to this piece