Rocket fire and airstrikes between Palestinians and Israelis continue

Rocket fire and airstrikes between Palestinians and Israelis continue – Al Jazeera English

Ceasefire negotiations are ongoing as airstrikes and rocket attacks kill 31 Palestinians in Gaza and a 70-year-old man in central Israel this week.

Israeli warplanes have attacked targets in the Gaza Strip and more rockets have been fired at Israel by Palestinians as deadly confrontations continue for the fourth straight day.

On Friday, there were no immediate reports of casualties on either side as foreign mediators continued efforts to secure a ceasefire.

Al Jazeera’s Willem Marx reported from the Israeli city of Ashkelon that sirens were wailing throughout the area to warn residents of fires.

“Possibly about two dozen rockets were fired from Gaza out of the more than 800 fired this week,” Marx said. “The Israeli military has confirmed to us that they are evicting residents from these areas to places where they are less likely to be hit by this heavy rocket fire.”

Warplanes could be heard over the region, indicating Israeli attacks were continuing. Fighting in recent days has killed 31 Palestinians in Gaza and a 70-year-old man in central Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with army and intelligence officials early Friday. “This will shed light on how the Israeli military will proceed in the coming hours,” Marx said.

A rocket fell into an open field in the Bat Ayin settlement in south Jerusalem, said Josh Hasten, a spokesman for the region. Videos showed Israelis jumping out of their cars and crouching under highway rails while sirens wailed.

An umbrella group of Palestinian factions based in the Gaza Strip, known as the Joint Operations Room, said it fired rockets “in response to the attacks and ongoing aggression against the Palestinian people.”

Reporting from Gaza, Youmna El Sayed of Al Jazeera said people were on their way to attend Friday prayers but Israeli attacks worried the faithful.

“There’s always fear here,” she said. “We assume everyone will stay home after Friday prayers, but homes have been targeted in recent days. The level of fear remains very high here.”

“We were shocked”

During a lull in fighting, Palestinians surveyed the debris caused by the Israeli attacks.

“The dream that we built for our children and our sons is over,” said Belal Bashir, a Palestinian living in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza whose family home was reduced to rubble in an airstrike late Thursday ashes were laid.

“Our situation is the same as that of a Palestinian citizen whose home is attacked and whose dream built over years is shattered,” he said.

He and his family would have died in the blast if they hadn’t run outside when they heard the screams, he said.

“We were shocked that our home was attacked,” Bashir said as he retrieved his children’s dolls and blankets from a bomb crater.

In cross-border clashes this week, Israel went up against Islamic Jihad, the second largest armed group in Gaza after Hamas rulers in the area.

Since Tuesday, Israel has said five senior Islamic Jihad figures have been killed in its attacks. Islamic Jihad responded by launching hundreds of rockets into densely populated parts of Israel.

The Israeli military said it had hit at least 215 targets in Gaza with airstrikes, including rocket and mortar launch sites.

ceasefire talks

Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations have been working to negotiate a ceasefire.

Hamas officials told local media on Friday that Egypt was stepping up diplomatic efforts to end the fighting through “intensive contacts” with both Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Islamic Jihad officials have sent mixed signals on the talks.

Senior official Ihasan Attaya complained Friday that the mediators “couldn’t give us any guarantees.” A sticking point was the demands of Islamic Jihad that Israel should stop its policy of targeted killings, Attaya said.

This week’s fighting began on Tuesday when Israel launched simultaneous airstrikes that killed three Islamic Jihad commanders and at least ten civilians – some of their wives, children and neighbors – while they slept in their homes.

Israel said it was retaliating for rocket fire fired by Islamic Jihad last week after the death of one of its West Bank members, Khader Adnan, while on a hunger strike in Israeli detention.