Israel’s defense minister signaled Friday that the military would stop its airstrikes if Palestinian militant groups halted rocket attacks, a day after the deadliest Israeli raid in decades raised the prospect of a major flare-up in fighting. After a limited exchange of Palestinian rockets and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza overnight, residents of Jerusalem were on edge Friday morning as they waited to see what comes next. Israel’s defense minister instructed the military to prepare for new strikes in the Gaza Strip "if necessary." The bombardments followed an Israeli raid in the flashpoint Jenin refugee camp. The Palestinian Authority says nine Palestinians were killed, including a 61-year-old woman, and a 10th was killed in a clash hours later, CNN reports.
The escalation in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict created an early test for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new far-right government, which came to power as tensions with the Palestinians soared and has vowed to take a hard line, the AP reports. The raid also prompted the Palestinian Authority to halt security coordination with Israel and drew “deep concern” from the State Department just days before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was expected to visit the region. So far, the hostilities have followed a familiar pattern that allows both sides to respond without forcing the other side into a major escalation. Palestinian militants fired rockets from Gaza toward the south of Israel. Israel retaliated with airstrikes on militant targets in Gaza, such as training camps and an underground rocket manufacturing site.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant claimed the military dealt a "tough blow" to Palestinian militants in Gaza and said the army was preparing to strike "high-quality targets ... until peace is restored to the citizens of Israel." Tensions have soared since Israel stepped up raids in the West Bank last spring, following a series of Palestinian attacks. So far this year, 30 Palestinians have been killed, according to the AP. Israel says most of the dead were militants. But youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in the confrontations also have been killed. (Read more Israel and Palestinians stories.)