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Israel launches air strikes on Gaza Strip

Palestinian factions responded by firing missiles in the latest round of cross-border fire. No casualties reported.
Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israel launched air strikes on the besieged Palestinian enclave early on 2 February 2023 (AFP)

Israel carried out overnight air strikes on the besieged Gaza Strip on Thursday, prompting Palestinian fighters to fire rockets, according to reports from both sides.

There were no casualties reported on either side.

Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian movement Hamas that rules Gaza, said its defence forces responded to the raids “with surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft missiles".

The bombing comes hours after the Israeli army announced that a single missile was fired from Gaza towards the settlements surrounding the Strip.

AFP reported that the first round of strikes - at least seven- hit a training centre of the al-Qassam Brigades. The centre is in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. 

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Another round of air strikes hit the al-Qassam Brigades' training centre southwest of Gaza City.

A statement by the Israeli army said fighter jets had "struck a production site for raw chemical material production, preservation and storage along with a weapon manufacturing site" belonging to Hamas.

The strikes came "in response to the rocket launch from the Gaza Strip into Israel earlier" on Wednesday.

The raids come less than a week after another air strike in which Israeli warplanes fired 15 missiles on a site in al-Maghazi refugee camp, in the centre of the enclave, causing damage to property and resulting in a power outage in the area.

Last week's air strikes came a day after a deadly Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank killed nine Palestinians and wounded 20 others, on eof whom later died from his wounds. 

They were followed by a deadly shooting by a Palestinian man in East Jerusalem which killed seven people and another shooting the following day that wounded two Israelis. 

On Wednesday, far-right Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said Palestinian rockets were in retaliation for his decision to close bakeries run by Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons, describing them as "an absurdity."

Ben-Gvir's office said in a statement that the move was aimed at denying "benefits and indulgences to terrorists" in Israel, which it said were denied to regular prisoners.

The move was criticised as vindictive by rights groups and the Palestinian Authority.

Deadliest month since 2015

A total of 35 Palestinians were killed by Israelis in January, making it the deadliest month for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since 2015.

Six of the fatalities were under the age of 18, with the youngest being 14-year-old Omar Lotfi Khumour. The victims also included 60-year-old Majda Abdel Fattah Obaid, who was reportedly shot dead while reading the Quran inside her home. 

The vast majority were shot dead by Israeli troops, while three were killed by settlers. 

More than half of those killed were in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, which, along with Nablus, has been the focus of near-nightly search-and-arrest operations by Israeli forces since last year. 

Israeli violence in the West Bank has been getting more deadly and frequent, prompting a rise in armed Palestinian resistance. 

According to data compiled by Middle East Eye, Israeli forces killed more Palestinians in the occupied West Bank in 2022 than in any single calendar year since the Second Intifada

The January death toll includes unarmed civilians and armed fighters.

Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has devastated the Palestinian coastal enclave's social and economic life, is now in its 15th year.

The land, air and sea blockade, which began after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, has left two million Palestinians living in an open-air prison. The siege has been condemned as unlawful collective punishment under international law. 

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