Israeli air strikes hit Gaza as soldiers kill two in West Bank raid

Large protests have been mounted at the Israel-Gaza border fence in recent weeks

Smoke rises after Palestinian protesters detonate a bomb at the border wall during clashes on the eastern border of the Gaza Strip. EPA
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Two Palestinians have been killed in an Israeli military raid at the Nur Shams refugee camp near Tulkarm in the occupied West Bank, amid protests at the border fence between Israel and Gaza, and a second round of Israeli air strikes.

In the West Bank, witnesses said Israeli forces, travelling in a large group of armoured vehicles, exchanged fire with local militants, leading to the death of 21-year-old Usayed Jibawi, while another Palestinian, yet to be named, died from wounds later, Palestinian news agency Wafa said.

The raid comes amid a spike in violence in the occupied West Bank, with five Palestinians dying on Thursday in a series of raids, as well as continuing violent demonstrations near the Gaza fence, where Israel launched an air strike on Saturday, the second in two days.

Demonstrators, often in groups of several hundred, have been protesting near the semi-fortified security fence for several weeks, detonating improvised explosive devices and, in some cases, sending “fire balloons” towards Israeli farmland. Israeli forces have often fired on the demonstrators, and have launched several air strikes, which it claims are targeting Hamas militants.

There were no reported casualties from the strikes in Gaza. Earlier on Saturday, the Israeli military shot and wounded three Palestinians who were rallying at the separation fence along the Israeli frontier with the crowded enclave.

Protesters are demonstrating against a 16-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the enclave. Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent the ruling Hamas militant group from arming itself, and responded to protests last week by closing down the main crossing into Israel at Erez, a move that affects at least 16,000 Palestinian workers.

The latest violence has raised the spectre of an escalation for the first time since a brief round of conflict last May between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group.

Hamas-linked media outlets posted photos of militants sending a barrage of balloons attached to incendiary devices over the border from eastern Khan Younis, one of the biggest cities in the strip.

Updated: September 24, 2023, 5:56 AM