TEL AVIV, Israel — Militants fired a rocket into Israel’s south Wednesday, the army said, setting off sirens and raising already heightened tensions under the country’s new ultranationalist government.
Early Thursday, the Israeli military said it started attacking targets in the Gaza Strip in response to rockets. According to local media, Israeli fighter jets struck a militant site in the central Gaza Strip. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The rocket from the Gaza Strip was intercepted, according to the military. Israel usually responds to rocket fire with airstrikes, raising the possibility of further escalation.
Local residents reported hearing explosions. Israel’s rescue service said it received no reports of injuries except for a 50-year-old woman who slipped and fell while running to a shelter.
The action in Israel’s skies Wednesday comes after Gaza’s ruling Hamas militant group has threatened Israel over the combative stance of National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has promised harsh treatment of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. From the occupied West Bank to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, many Palestinians revere prisoners as heroes for the Palestinian cause.
Ben-Gvir said the new rocket fire from Gaza won’t stop him from implementing his punitive policies against Palestinian detainees. He called for an urgent Security Cabinet meeting to discuss a response.
Israeli-Palestinian violence has spiked in recent days as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited with a call for calm.
An Israeli military raid on a militant stronghold in the West Bank city of Jenin last week killed 10, most of them militants. The next day, a Palestinian shooting attack in an east Jerusalem Jewish settlement killed seven people. A separate east Jerusalem shooting over the weekend by a 13-year-old Palestinian wounded two Israelis.
Following the unrest, Israel approved a series of punitive steps against the Palestinians.
Hamas issued a statement Tuesday condemning alleged assaults by prison guards against Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons, specifically female detainees.
The Israeli Prison Service said the problems started last Friday when it placed dozens of Palestinian prisoners in solitary confinement after they celebrated the deadly Palestinian attack outside the synagogue in east Jerusalem. A female Palestinian detainee who was punished with isolation tried to set fire to her cell in protest, the prison service said. In an unrelated move, the prison service removed televisions from three cells in Israel’s Ofer Prison near the city of Ramallah.
Amani Srahneh from the Palestinian Prisoners Club, a group representing former and current prisoners, said the “escalatory measures and this new Israeli government’s policy of inciting against prisoners” was creating “a very tense situation.”