Palestinians Cut Security Ties With Israel After Deadly Raid

(Bloomberg) --

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The Palestinian Authority said it’s ending security ties with Israel after eight militants and one civilian were killed in a West Bank gunfight, in an escalation in violence that was later followed by a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip.

Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian government body, on Thursday announced three days of mourning following the clashes in the city of Jenin. Hamas, the Islamic movement that rules Gaza, warned Israel would “pay the price for the massacre.”

The hostilities, which resulted in one of the highest daily death tolls in years, showed little sign of abating on Thursday night into Friday morning.

Palestinian militants fired rockets on southern Israel and the Israeli air force carried out reprisal airstrikes in the Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported on either side and no one claimed responsibility for the rocket fire.

Violence is escalating just days ahead of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to the region next week. Abbas has previously threatened to end security cooperation and it was not immediately clear what immediate changes the latest statement would bring if any.

The uptick in the fighting came just a month after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government was sworn in after pledging to implement policies such as loosening open-fire rules for some security forces.

The new administration, which includes some far-right figures, has also proposed expanding or building more settlements in the West Bank, where Palestinians are seeking to establish an independent state.

The Israeli army said violence broke out as security forces entered the Jenin refugee camp to arrest members of Islamic Jihad, another Gaza-based militant group, who it said were planning multiple terror attacks including the shooting of soldiers and civilians.

Egypt, the United Nations, and Qatar are mediating in a bid to avoid an escalation, according to a statement from Islamic Jihad. The United Arab Emirates, which established diplomatic ties with Israel in 2020, condemned the Israeli raid.

‘Deeply Alarmed’

“I am deeply alarmed and saddened by the continuing cycle of violence in the occupied West Bank,” Tor Wennesland, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process said in an email. “It is crucial to reduce tensions immediately and prevent more loss of life.”

Another Palestinian was killed in a clash elsewhere in the West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant instructed security forces to increase activity in the West Bank and along Israel’s borders, including the Gaza Strip. “Our security forces are prepared for any development,” he said in a statement from his office.

Overnight, the Israeli army said three rockets fired from Gaza were intercepted by air defenses, while another fell in a unpopulated area in southern Israel.

Israeli fighter jets early Friday carried out a series of airstrikes on facilities belonging to militant groups in the Gaza Strip in response, including a Hamas underground manufacturing facility, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Palestinian eyewitnesses said that more than 14 missiles were fired at a military post that belongs to Gaza militant groups. Palestinian medical sources said that no injuries were reported during the strikes.

--With assistance from Gwen Ackerman and Saud Abu Ramadan.

(Updates with rocket attack starting in first paragraph.)

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