Gazans fired several rockets toward southern Israel and Israeli Air Force warplanes carried out sorties in the Gaza Strip early Friday as tit-for-tat fighting broke out amid sky-high tensions following a West Bank raid that left nine Palestinian dead a day earlier.
At least three rockets were fired from Gaza at around 3:30 a.m. Friday, as Israeli jets bombed sites said to belong to the Hamas terror group in retaliation for a rocket attack hours earlier.
One of the rockets was intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, another landed in an open field and a third fell short of the border, the army said, after alarms sounded in the towns Nir Oz, Ein Habesor and Magen.
The Israel Defense Forces said it was also investigating after incoming sirens were activated near Kfar Aza, a kibbutz near the Gaza border.
The rocket attacks came as Israeli jets carried out a series of bombing raids in the central Gaza Strip in response to Gazan terrorists firing two rockets toward Ashkelon at midnight. Both projectiles were intercepted by Iron Dome.
The military said it targeted an underground facility where rockets are manufactured in the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza. It said the site was in an area surrounded by residential buildings and 180 meters (590 feet) from a storage facility maintained by UNRWA, the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees.
Footage released by the military showed the site being bombed from the air.
“The attack will lead to significant harm to Hamas efforts to build up its arms,” the IDF said in a statement.
In response to the second round of rocket attacks, the IDF said fighter jets targeted “one of the most significant” Hamas military bases, in the northern Gaza Strip.
On Friday morning Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that he had ordered the military to “prepare for action with a range of offensive means aimed at quality targets, in case we need to continue — until quiet is restored for the citizens of Israel.”
He also said that the terror groups in Gaza had suffered a “severe blow” overnight.
The military wing of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, claimed that its fighters fired anti-aircraft weapons and ground-to-air missiles at the Israeli planes carrying out the attacks.
There were no reports of injuries on either side.
Footage published on social media showed several large explosions from the airstrikes in Gaza.
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There was no claim of responsibility for the rocket launches against Israeli towns, which came after Israeli officials expressed concerns about potential retaliation, including in the form of rocket fire from Gaza, over the deaths of nine Palestinians during an IDF raid against a Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell in the northern West Bank city of Jenin Thursday morning.
Both Islamic Jihad and Hamas threatened to hit back over the deaths.
Israel says it holds Hamas responsible for all violence emanating from the Strip and generally responds to rocket fire with airstrikes against the group regardless of who launched the attack.
Another clip appears to show Iron Dome interceptions over Ashkelon pic.twitter.com/ZOgG6Bu4Fo
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According to Israeli officials, the IDF had foiled a “ticking time bomb” in Jenin on Thursday after receiving “accurate intelligence” from the Shin Bet security agency about the cell’s hideout apartment in the camp.
Nine Palestinians — including several members of the PIJ cell, other gunmen, and at least one uninvolved civilian — were killed, and another 20 were wounded in the clashes.
The clashes on Thursday morning marked the deadliest Israeli operation in the West Bank in years.
Separately on Thursday afternoon, a Palestinian man was killed in clashes with Israeli troops in the town of a-Ram, north of Jerusalem, the PA Health Ministry said. And in Gaza, a 13-year-old boy died of wounds sustained in the last major round of fighting between Israel and Gaza, in August 2022.
Tensions have recently soared in the West Bank as the IDF presses on with an anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of attacks that have left 31 people in Israel dead in 2022.
Jenin is widely seen as a hotbed of terrorist activity, and has been the focus of many of the raids.
The IDF’s operation has netted more than 2,500 arrests in near-nightly raids. It also left 171 Palestinians dead in 2022, and, as of Thursday, another 30 since the beginning of the year, many of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, though some were uninvolved civilians.
The last time a rocket was fired from the coastal enclave toward Israel was on January 3, following retaliation threats from Hamas over National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir paying a visit to the flashpoint Temple Mount site, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The rocket failed to cross the border.