Air raid sirens sound in Israel after rocket fired from Gaza
JERUSALEM (AP) — Air raid sirens sounded in southern Israel on Monday after a rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip, the first since the 11-day war between Israel and Palestinian militants in May.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket fire. It came hours after Israeli troops clashed with Palestinian gunmen during a late-night arrest raid in the occupied West Bank, killing four Palestinians in one of the deadliest battles in the area in years.
The Israeli military said in a statement that it identified one rocket launch that was intercepted by aerial defense batteries. Amateur video footage appeared to show the rocket being intercepted over the southern town of Sderot.
The rocket fire could jeopardize three months of relative calm since Israel and the militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip struck a cease-fire.
In the clashes earlier, fighting erupted in Jenin, a city in the northern West Bank where tensions have been high since a man was killed in fighting with Israel earlier this month.
Israel’s paramilitary border police said its forces were attempting to arrest a suspect when they “came under heavy fire from close range” by a number of gunmen. It said Israeli forces returned fire, and none of its officers were injured.
The official Palestinian news agency, WAFA, said four men were killed by Israeli fire and a fifth was seriously wounded. Amateur footage from the scene appeared to show an intense exchange of gunfire in the streets of Jenin.
Senior Palestinian official Hussein Al Sheikh accused Israel of “a heinous crime” and tweeted that “the international community should be ashamed of its silence about this and its failure to provide protection to the Palestinian people from this oppression.”
During the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s, Jenin experienced some of the heaviest fighting with Israel, though the area has generally been quiet in recent years. According to the Israeli military, there have been at least eight clashes between troops and Palestinian gunmen over the past two months.
The West Bank has experienced an uptick in deadly violence in recent months, with over two dozen Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in recent weeks, including children and Palestinian protesters. Israel’s war in May in the Gaza Strip, driven by friction in at a contest Jerusalem holy site and attempts by a settler group to evict Palestinians in east Jerusalem, and the recent establishment of a West Bank settlement outpost have contributed to the tensions.
Last week, Israel’s military chief urged troops to follow professional regulations and “act with discretion” in light of the complexity of the situation.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and in the decades since has established dozens of settlements where nearly 500,000 settlers reside. The Palestinians seek the West Bank as part of their future state and view the settlements as a major obstacle to resolving the conflict.