Israel attacks Gaza for second time in a week

Hamas says Israel’s bombing will only make Palestinians more determined to ‘resist the occupation and step up their support for Jerusalem and its people’.

Israel has carried out air raids in the central Gaza Strip for the second time this week, according to witnesses, with its military saying its fighter jets attacked an underground complex used to produce rocket engines.

The raids came before dawn on Thursday. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Witnesses told Al Jazeera that the attacks damaged several homes in the al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.

Earlier in the night, a rocket fired from Gaza struck southern Israel, causing slight damage to a house but no injuries, Israeli police said. Four more rockets were also fired from Gaza, the Israeli military said, following its raids on the besieged coastal enclave, but were intercepted by air defence systems.

No Palestinian faction claimed responsibility for the rocket launches.

In a statement, Hamas, the group that governs Gaza, said Israel’s bombing will only encourage Palestinians to “resist the occupation and step up their support for Jerusalem and its people”.

Streaks of light are seen as Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel [Amir Cohen/ Reuters]

A surge of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory has raised fears of a slide back to a wider conflict, after last year’s 11-day Israeli assault on Gaza, in which more than 250 Palestinians in Gaza and 13 people in Israel were killed.

In March, Israeli forces killed at least 29 Palestinians in raids on the West Bank after 14 people in Israel were killed in street attacks.

Israeli riot police also stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque compound last week, wounding at least 158 Palestinian Muslim worshippers.

Tensions this year have been heightened in part by the Muslim holy month of Ramadan coinciding with the Jewish celebration of Passover.

Palestinians accuse Israel of encroaching at Al-Aqsa by allowing Jewish worshippers into the sacred compound. They say the move is a violation of a centuries-old policy under which non-Muslims may visit, but not pray.

Israeli leaders have said they are ensuring freedom of worship for all religions in Jerusalem.

Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam and is also revered by Jews as the location of two ancient temples.

Palestinians want occupied East Jerusalem, including its Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites, as the capital of a future state.

Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in a move not internationally recognised after capturing the area in a 1967 war, regards all of Jerusalem as its eternal capital.

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