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Palestinians fire rockets, Israel aircraft hit Gaza

Powerful explosions have shaken buildings and lit up the night sky over Gaza as sirens sounded in Israeli towns, warning of incoming rocket fire before dawn.

February 3, 2023
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
3 February 2023

Israeli aircraft have struck in Gaza in response to Palestinian rocket fire, days after the United States called for calm, but there was no immediate sign of a wider escalation in violence following days of tension.

With no reports of serious casualties, the exchange on Thursday followed a familiar pattern that signalled neither side was seeking a wider conflict.

Separately, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said Israel, which collects taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA), would use 100 million shekels ($A41 million) from PA funds to compensate victims of Palestinian militant attacks, against stipends the PA pays to assailants’ families, said.

There was no immediate comment from the PA.

The military said its air strikes targeted rocket and weapons production sites used by Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the blockaded strip, in response to Wednesday’s rocket launch.

No Palestinian groups claimed Wednesday’s rocket fire.

Powerful explosions shook buildings and lit up the night sky over Gaza as sirens sounded in Israeli towns and villages around the strip warning of incoming rocket fire before dawn on Thursday.

The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) said it had fired some of the rockets in response to the air strikes and the “systematic aggression” against Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

The exchange of fire underlined the tensions between Israel and the Palestinians after a Palestinian gunman shot dead seven people near a synagogue on the outskirts of Jerusalem and an Israeli raid in the West Bank killed 10 Palestinians, including eight militants.

Last year was the deadliest in more than a decade in the West Bank, with violence steadily escalating following a spate of lethal Palestinian attacks in Israel, which drew stepped-up Israeli raids against gunmen.

US President Joe Biden met Jordan’s King Abdullah at the White House on Thursday and the two discussed “opportunities and mechanisms to reduce tensions, particularly in the West Bank,” between Israel and the Palestinians, the White House said in a statement.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on both sides to restore calm while wrapping up a visit to the region on Tuesday, in which he reaffirmed Washington’s support for a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict.

Cairo has also invited Hamas chief, Ismail Haniyeh, who currently resides between Qatar and Turkey, for separate talks next week, said a Palestinian official familiar with Egyptian mediation. 

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