The IAF targeted an underground rocket production facility and a "significant" military camp belonging to Hamas in the central and northern Gaza Strip early Friday morning after rockets were fired from Gaza towards southern Israel.
The rocket fire came hours after an IDF raid in Jenin which resulted in nine Palestinian deaths.
The Iron Dome intercepted two rockets fired from Gaza toward Ashkelon and communities near the Gaza border on Thursday evening. During the IAF strikes overnight, additional rockets were fired towards southern Israel. In total, seven rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel overnight.
"A short time ago an alarm was sounded in the city of Ashkelon. These two launches towards the city were intercepted by the Iron Dome system," said the Ashkelon Municipality spokesperson. "We would like to add that following the security tensions, the public shelters and shelters throughout the city are open for the welfare of residents... the municipal teams are fully alert and prepared for any scenario."
"A short time ago an alarm was sounded in the city of Ashkelon. These two launches towards the city were intercepted by the Iron Dome system."Ashkelon Municipality spokesperson
Fear of escalation
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated on Friday morning that he had instructed the defense establishment to "prepare for action with a variety of offensive measures and high-quality targets, in case it is necessary to continue to act - until peace is restored to the citizens of Israel."
A senior IDF officer said in a press briefing earlier on Thursday that they were prepared for an escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip in response to Thursday's raid.
"I expect the response to Hamas to be disproportionate. The dangerous precedent of connecting the events between the West Bank and Gaza is a strategic danger to the State of Israel," MK Almog Cohen said shortly after the missile strikes from Gaza.
US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price issued a statement regarding the potential escalation of tensions on Friday morning: "We underscore the urgent need for all parties to de-escalate, prevent further loss of civilian life, and work together to improve the security situation in the West Bank. Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely."
"We recognize the very real security challenges facing Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and condemn terrorist groups planning and carrying out attacks against civilians. We mourn the loss of innocent lives as well as injuries to civilians, and are deeply concerned by the cycle of violence in the West Bank," Price continued.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland shared the senior IDF officer's sentiment, saying “I am deeply alarmed and saddened by the continuing cycle of violence in the occupied West Bank. The deaths today of nine Palestinians, including militants and one woman, during an Israeli arrest operation in Jenin is another stark example."
"Since the beginning of this year, we are continuing to witness high levels of violence and other negative trends that characterized 2022... I urge and remain actively engaged with Israeli and Palestinian authorities to de-escalate tensions, restore calm, and avoid further conflict,” Wennesland declared.
The United State's response
The United States is deeply concerned about recent violence in Israel and the West Bank and believes there is an urgent need for all parties to de-escalate in the region, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Friday.
The United States is aware of reports that at least 10 Palestinians, including militants, were killed in an Israeli Defense Forces counterterrorism operation and deeply regrets civilian loss of life, Kirby told reporters.
"We believe there's an urgent need here for all parties to de-escalate, to prevent the further loss of civilian life and to work together to improve the security situation in the West Bank," Kirby said.
Yonah Jeremy Bob and Reuters contributed to this report.