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Israel, Gaza Militants Exchange Fire   02/02 06:06

   

   TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) -- Israel struck targets in the Gaza Strip early 
Thursday hours after Palestinian militants fired a rocket at Israel, the 
military said, the latest in an uptick of violence in the region.

   Israeli aircraft struck a rocket production workshop in the Gaza Strip as 
well as a storage site used by a rocket production line. Late Wednesday, 
Israeli air defenses intercepted a rocket from Gaza, the army said.

   There were no reports of casualties from the rocket or the airstrikes and 
later Thursday the violence appeared to have subsided.

   Also Thursday, Israeli media reported a 75-year-old man wounded in a 
Palestinian attack last year died from wounds sustained from the violence.

   The exchange further raised tensions during a particularly bloody period in 
the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which in recent days has seen a 
deadly military raid in the West Bank and and a fatal Palestinian shooting 
attack outside a synagogue.

   Last week, Gaza militants and Israel broke months of cross-border calm by 
exchanging rockets and airstrikes after Israel killed 10 Palestinians, most of 
them militants, in a military operation in the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin.

   The latest friction point appeared to be over Palestinian prisoners held by 
Israel on security charges. Israel's National Security Minister, Itamar 
Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist and a senior member of the most right-wing 
government in Israel's history, has pledged even tougher treatment of the 
prisoners in recent days.

   Ben-Gvir said rockets from Gaza won't stop him from implementing punitive 
policies against the prisoners. He called for an urgent Security Cabinet 
meeting to discuss the issue.

   In Palestinian society, prisoners are generally revered as heroes, with 
virtually every Palestinian family having had members jailed by Israel on 
security charges over the course of the decades-long conflict. Several thousand 
are locked up at any given time, with charges ranging from stone-throwing to 
deadly attacks on Israelis.

   Israeli-Palestinian violence has spiked in recent days as U.S. Secretary of 
State Antony Blinken visited with a call for calm.

   Last week's army raid in the Jenin camp was followed by the shooting attack 
near the Jerusalem synagogue on Friday that killed seven and another Jerusalem 
shooting in which a 13-year-old Palestinian wounded two Israelis.

   Since then, Israel has approved a series of punitive steps against the 
Palestinians.

   The raids were sparked by a spate of Palestinian shooting attacks last 
spring. On Thursday, the death toll from those attacks rose to 20 after the 
75-year-old man died following an extended stay in hospital. A total of 30 
people were killed in Palestinian attacks last year.

   Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem last 
year, making 2022 the deadliest year in those territories since 2004 according 
to a leading Israeli rights group.

 
 
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