At least one person was killed and five others injured in an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian health officials said Wednesday, after hours of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in the coastal enclave following the death of a prominent hunger-striking prisoner.
A tense cease-fire held hours after Palestinian militants launched around 100 rockets into southern Israel late on Tuesday. The Israeli military said it bombed tunnels, arms production sites and military installations belonging to the Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip said Hashil Mubarak, 58, was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City.
Hatem Mubarak, the man’s son, said a large explosion nearby woke them from their sleep, and “a chunk of roof fell in the explosion, and the metal roof broke into shards and one sliced into my father’s chest.” He said his father died of the injury at a hospital.
The cross-border fighting was some of the most intense since an 11-day war in 2021 between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. It came hours after Khader Adnan, a leader in the Islamic Jihad militant group, died in Israeli custody after a nearly three-month hunger strike, prompting Palestinians to launch a general strike and protests in the West Bank and Gaza.
Adnan is credited with helping introduce the practice of protracted hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners as a form of protest, primarily against the practice of administrative detention, a measure Israel uses to detain people without charge or trial.
The spike in violence is a test for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, its most right-wing ever, whose members have called for a tough line against Palestinian violence. Government members leveled criticism at their own leadership’s response to rocket fire from Gaza. Orit Struck, a Cabinet minister with the Religious Zionism party, told Kan public radio that Israel did not “exact a toll.”
“We needed to level a few buildings in Gaza, and some chief terrorists needed to join their friend who died in jail,” she said.
In the occupied West Bank, the focal point for Israeli-Palestinian violence over the last year, Israeli troops destroyed the houses of two Palestinians who carried out deadly attacks against Israeli civilians in October and November.
Israel says home demolitions are meant to deter future attackers, but critics say they amount to collective punishment against the families of assailants and only exacerbate tensions with Palestinians.
The military said it destroyed the house of Mohammed Souf in the northern West Bank town of Haris. The 18-year-old Palestinian killed three Israelis in a stabbing and car-ramming attack in a Jewish settlement in November before he was killed at the scene.
The army also said it leveled the West Bank home of a Palestinian man arrested on suspicion of stabbing an Israeli man in October. Shalom Sofer later died of his wounds.
Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank have been locked in an escalating bout of fighting for the past year. About 250 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire and 49 people have been killed in Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
Associated Press writer Mohammad Jahjouh contributed from Gaza City, Gaza Strip.