The violent flare-up came after nine Palestinians were killed in a refugee camp in Jenin.
Israel has carried out airstrikes on an alleged “military site” in the Gaza Strip, claiming the mission was a response to rockets fired from the area. Palestinian officials accused Israeli troops of a “massacre” in the occupied West Bank earlier in the day, with militant groups vowing to retaliate.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced the strikes early on Friday morning, saying it targeted an “underground” facility used to produce rockets for Hamas, the political party and armed faction that has ruled Gaza since 2007.
“The attack was carried out in response to the launch of rockets earlier tonight from the Gaza Strip into Israel, which were intercepted by air defense fighters,” the military said, adding that the strikes resulted in “significant damage to the strengthening and arming of Hamas.”
At least five rockets were fired toward Israel overnight, according to the IDF. Three were intercepted, one landed in an open area and another fell short inside Gaza. The launches prompted air raid sirens in settlements bordering the Palestinian enclave, including the city of Ashkelon just north of Gaza.
The rocket salvo followed an Israeli special forces raid on a refugee camp in the West Bank on Thursday, which ended in a shootout with militants and left nine Palestinians dead, among them a 61-year-old woman, according to the Palestinian Authority.
The IDF said the operation targeted an Islamic Jihad terrorist faction active in Jenin and shared footage purporting to show gunmen firing rifles and throwing Molotov cocktails at Israeli troops, claiming the terror cell was a “ticking time bomb.”
IDF & Israeli security forces operated in Jenin to apprehend an Islamic Jihad terrorist squad planning imminent terrorist attacks earlier today.
Armed gunmen fired heavily at our soldiers from civilian rooftops as they carried out their critical mission.
See for yourself: pic.twitter.com/Yi8Qgr4f4K
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) January 26, 2023
The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited control in the occupied West Bank, denounced the operation as a “massacre,” saying it would halt all security cooperation with Israel in response.
“Security coordination with the occupation government no longer exists as of now,” Palestinian Authority Deputy Prime Minister Nabil Abu Rudeineh said, adding that the decision was made in light of “the repeated aggression against our people, and the undermining of signed agreements, in reference to commitments from the Oslo peace process in the 1990s.”
Video clips circulating in local media showed the aftermath of the refugee camp raid, with residents seen picking through rubble and burned out buildings in Jenin. According to the Associated Press, the attack was the single deadliest raid in the West Bank in more than two decades.
#شاهد .. فلسطينيون يتفقدون آثار العدوان على #جنين pic.twitter.com/e7n7K8rKR7
— قناة راجعين Rajeen TV (@rajeentv) January 26, 2023
Hamas declared that its retaliation would “not be delayed” soon after the Israeli operation, while Islamic Jihad leader Khader Adnan accused IDF troops of “field executions” and said “the Palestinian resistance will do everything in its power to defend our people.”
The last major breakout of violence in Gaza came in May 2021 following an Israeli raid on the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a venerated holy site for Muslims. For more than two weeks, IDF warplanes battered the Palestinian territory while militants fired off countless rockets, leaving hundreds dead in Gaza and more than a dozen killed in Israel. Though the IDF vacated Gaza in 2005, the Israeli government maintains a tight blockade on the territory and continues to occupy the West Bank, stoking periodic clashes between the two sides.