Palestinians bury dead as risk of flare-up ebbs after Israeli raid

Palestinians bury dead as risk of flare-up ebbs after Israeli raid
Mourners carry the body of a Palestinian woman, identified as Magda Obaid, 60, during her funeral in the West Bank city of Jenin, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. Palestinian health officials said Israeli forces killed at least nine Palestinians, including the Palestinian woman, and wounded several others during a raid in a flashpoint area of the occupied West Bank on Thursday, in one of the deadliest days in months of unrest. The Israeli military said it was conducting an operation to arrest a militant grouping linked to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which has a major foothold in the camp. A gun battle erupted, during which the military said it was targeting militants involved in planning and carrying out attacks on Israelis. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Palestinians marched in anger on Friday as they buried the last of 10 people killed by Israeli fire a day earlier, but the likelihood of a major conflagration appeared to ebb after the deadliest Israeli raid in two decades.

Scuffles between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters erupted after the funeral for a 22-year-old Palestinian north of Jerusalem and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, but calm prevailed in the contested capital and in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

No serious incidents were reported on Friday, and parties to the conflict appeared not to be interested in escalating the situation.

Palestinians burn tyres and wave the national flag during a protest against the Israeli military raid (Fatima Shbair/AP)

Thursday’s raid in the Jenin refugee camp descended into a gun battle that killed at least nine Palestinians, while clashes elsewhere left a 10th dead.

Gaza militants then fired rockets and Israel carried out air strikes overnight, but the exchange was limited, following a familiar pattern that allows both sides to respond without leading to a major flare-up.

Israel’s defence minister instructed the military to prepare for new strikes in the Gaza Strip “if necessary” — also appearing to leave open the possibility that violence would subside.

While residents of Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank remained on edge on Friday, midday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, often a catalyst for clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police, passed in relative calm.

At the funeral of the 22-year-old, crowds of Palestinians waved the flags of Fatah, the party that controls the Palestinian Authority, and militant Hamas, which rules Gaza.

In the streets of the town called al-Ram, masked Palestinians threw stones and set off fireworks at Israeli police, who responded with tear gas.

Palestinians protest after the funeral of Yusef Muhaisen in the West Bank town of al-Ram (Majdi Mohammed/AP)

But the Palestinian rockets and Israeli air strikes seemed limited to prevent growing into a full-blown war. Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and several smaller skirmishes since the militant group seized power in Gaza from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.

The Palestinians’ rockets were fired toward southern Israel, while Israel’s non-lethal air strikes were on targets in Gaza, such as training camps and an underground rocket-manufacturing site.

Israeli defence 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”.

Israeli police were out in force in Jerusalem as scores of Muslim worshippers gathered for prayers in the stone courtyard of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and chanted in solidarity with those killed in the Jenin raid.

Tensions at the holy site, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, have triggered violence in the past, including a bloody Gaza war in 2021. The site is considered the third-most sacred in Islam and the holiest place in Judaism.

Tensions have soared since Israel stepped up raids in the West Bank last spring, following a series of Palestinian attacks.

Mourners carry the body of Yusef Muhaisen (Majdi Mohammed/AP)

Jenin, which was an important militant stronghold during the 2000-05 intifada and has again emerged as one, has been the focus of many of the Israeli operations. Among the dead in Thursday’s raid were seven militants and a 61-year-old woman.

Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem last year, making 2022 the deadliest in those territories since 2004, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem.

Last year, 30 people were killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis.

So far this year, 30 Palestinians have been killed, according to a count by the Associated Press.

Israel says most of the dead were militants, but youths protesting against the incursions and others not involved in the confrontations also have been killed.

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