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Israel strikes Gaza again, 20 Palestinian killed in two days

Arab League condemns ' barbaric' Israeli raids on coastal enclave

By AFP - May 10,2023 - Last updated at May 10,2023

Smoke billows following Israeli strikes on Gaza City on Wednesday. Israel and Gaza traded cross-border fire, renewing deadly violence a day after Israeli strikes killed 15 people in the Palestinian territory (AFP photo)

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — Israel's army and Gaza fighters traded heavy cross-border fire Wednesday, with 20 Palestinians killed over two days amid the worst escalation of violence to hit the coastal territory in months.

Smoke billowed from the densely-populated coastal enclave after Israel announced it was targeting rocket launch sites of the Islamic Jihad group.

Gaza's health ministry said five people were killed, a day after Israeli strikes on the Palestinian territory left 15 dead.

Sirens wailed in the Tel Aviv area warning of incoming rocket fire, an AFP journalist reported, and in communities close to the border according to the army.

An AFP journalist in Gaza saw dozens of projectiles fired, while in a joint statement Palestinian factions said "hundreds of rockets" were launched.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is "ready for the possibility of an expanded campaign and harsh strikes against Gaza," in a meeting with local leaders near the coastal territory.

Israel's Magen David Adom emergency service said it had received no immediate reports of casualties.

Israel's Iron Dome air defence system intercepted rockets above the coastal city of Ashkelon and elsewhere in the south, AFP photographers witnessed.

The latest violence comes a day after Israeli strikes on Gaza killed three top Islamic Jihad militants and 12 others, including four children, according to a health ministry toll.


‘Tension and fear’ 


Israel’s military said Wednesday’s strikes included firing on militants “who were travelling to a rocket launch site in the city of Khan Yunis” in southern Gaza.

Islamic Jihad had vowed on Tuesday to retaliate, with Israel warning its residents near the border to stay near bomb shelters.

Ahead of Wednesday’s exchange of fire, Gaza’s usually bustling shops were closed.

People in Gaza “expect the worst”, said resident Monther Abdullah, 50. “Everyone feels anxious and people aren’t on the street much.

“I definitely feel like there’s a war coming, and there’s tension and fear, whether here or there.”

The latest violence comes on the second anniversary of a devastating 11-day war fought between Gaza militants and Israel.

Hamas spokesman Abdul Latif Al Qanou said Wednesday “the strikes of the unified resistance are part of the process of responding to the massacre committed by [Israel].”

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad are considered terrorist organisations by Israel and the United States.

West Bank deaths 


Among those killed Tuesday were four children and three senior Islamic Jihad operatives.

The top militants were named as Jihad Ghannam, Khalil al-Bahtini and Tareq Ezzedine, a Gaza-based militant leader in the West Bank.

Earlier on Wednesday, Israeli troops raided the West Bank town of Qabatiya, killing two people whom the army accused of firing at soldiers.

The Palestinian health ministry identified the two men as Ahmed Jamal Tawfiq Assaf, 19, and Rani Walid Ahmed Qatanat, 24.

The Israeli military said troops detained one person during the raid when soldiers were shot at from a vehicle.

“The soldiers responded with live fire toward the two assailants and killed them,” the army said.

Mourners including armed militants later carried the two men’s bodies through the streets in a funeral procession.


‘Barbaric’ strikes 


The Arab League on Wednesday condemned the “aggressive [and] barbaric Israeli raids on the Gaza Strip, which targeted civilians, children and women in residential neighbourhoods”.

The Gaza violence this week is the worst since a three-day escalation in August killed 49 Palestinians, with no Israeli fatalities.

Washington called for “all parties to de-escalate the situation”.

While Hamas has fought multiple wars with Israel in recent years, the group stayed on the sidelines of last year’s conflict fought between Israel and Islamic Jihad.

The latest violence brings to 130 the number of Palestinians killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so far this year.

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