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Israeli air strikes hit Gaza hours after rockets fired into Israel

The Israeli army has launched air strikes into besieged Gaza, an AFP journalist said, after rockets were fired from the territory into Israel about two hours earlier.

Shortly after 0400 GMT (6:00 am local time) on Thursday, black smoke rose over one of the targeted locations north of Gaza City.

In a statement sent to the press a few minutes later, the Israeli army said that it was “carrying out strikes in the Gaza Strip”.

A couple hours prior, sirens were sounded in southern Israel amid a salvo of rockets reportedly from northern Gaza.

Air defences intercepted five of the rockets, which were fired toward the cities of Ashkelon and Sderot, the military said on Thursday, and one missile landed in an open field.

Witnesses on the Palestinian side said they saw at least eight rockets fired from besieged Palestinian territory.

There were no reports of damage or casualties.

The rocket attacks, which were not immediately claimed by Palestinian armed groups, appear to be triggered by the Wednesday morning Israeli violence in Nablus.

Israeli forces killed nearly a dozen Palestinians in the occupied West Bank during a military raid, sparking anger and vows of retaliation across Palestine.

In the incursions, Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians, including several elderly and a teenage boy.

Wednesday’s military raid also left 102 Palestinians wounded, including six in critical condition, Palestine’s Health Ministry said in a statement.

Among the killed in Nablus were three Palestinian men, ages 72, 66 and 61, and a 16-year-old boy, according to health officials. 

Palestine’s Health Ministry said a resident, Anan Shawkat Annab, 66, suffered from tear gas inhalation and died in a hospital.

They shot to kill’: Israeli troops kill 11 Palestinians in Nablus raid

General strike across occupied West Bank

A general strike on Thursday paralysed all aspects of life in the occupied West Bank to mourn the 11 Palestinians killed in Wednesday’s Israeli military raid in Nablus.

“The comprehensive strike is spreading across all governorates of the West Bank, and it is a form of resistance in the face of the Israeli occupation,” Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told Anadolu Agency.

He condemned the military operation in Nablus as a “massacre,” calling for international intervention to stop the Israeli “aggression.”

The strike includes shops, the transport and communication sector, education at schools and universities, banks and exchange offices, and government institutions.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh urged the European Union on Wednesday to “end its double standard policy that encourages Israel to continue its attacks.”

Shtayyeh received the Chair of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Palestine, Margrete Auken, at his office in Ramallah, according to a statement by the Prime Minister’s office.

The EU Representative to Palestine, Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, was also present at the meeting.

Shtayyeh briefed the delegation on Israel’s increasing violations against the Palestinians and the recent attack in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

He urged the EU to “take punitive measures to halt Israeli violations against international law in Palestine.”

‘Put an end to these massacres’

In one emotional scene, an overwhelmed medic pronounced a man dead, only to notice the lifeless patient was his father. Elsewhere, an amateur video showed two men, apparently unarmed, being shot as they ran in the street.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said its medics treated some 250 people affected by tear gas fired by Israeli forces.

The influx of wounded overwhelmed the city’s Najah Hospital, said Ahmad Aswad, the head nurse of the cardiology department.

The 36-year-old medic told The Associated Press that he saw many patients shot in the chest, head and thighs. “They shot to kill,” he said.

Palestine’s ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, urged the international community “to put an end to these massacres against our people.”

Nearly 60 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem this year, according to an AP tally.

Illegal settlements

In a move that could further raise tensions, Yesha, the Israeli settlement council, announced that Israeli planning officials had granted approval to nearly 2,000 new homes in illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank. 

There was no immediate confirmation from the government, but an announcement was expected on Thursday.

Palestine and most of the international community says settlements built on occupied lands are illegal and obstacles to peace. 

Over 700,000 illegal Jewish settlers now live in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in 1967 along with Gaza.

Since 2005 when Israel withdrew from Gaza, the 2.3 million residents of the tiny enclave have been living under a crippling Israeli blockade, from land, sea and air, that critics say amounts to collective punishment.

Palestine sees East Jerusalem, along with Gaza, as part of the country with East Jerusalem its heartland.

Israeli settlement expansion threatens peace, UNSC warns

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