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Netanyahu Vows Israel Isn't Done As Rockets And Clashes Ramp Up

Khalil Hamra, AP
Palestinians inspect their destroyed houses Friday following overnight Israeli airstrikes in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.

Israel has ramped up its attacks on the Gaza Strip to a new level, including using 160 aircraft along with artillery and tank fire to pummel what it says is a tunnel network that Hamas militants rely on to move people and equipment. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel isn't done.

"This is not yet over. We will do everything to restore security to our cities and our people," Netanyahu said in a statement issued from Tel Aviv.

In another new development, the clashes in Gaza and Jerusalem brought large protests in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli security forces shot and killed at least 10 Palestinians on Friday, according to the Palestinian news agency WAFA. Israeli media outlets reported that protesters were throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails and shooting fireworks, and that the military responded with live fire and other measures.

Some of the most intense attacks on Gaza came Thursday night. But the Israeli military struck anew on Friday, with warplanes targeting a multistory building in northern Gaza that it said contained a branch of a Hamas bank.

Israeli jets also hit a tunnel in southern Gaza that the Israel Defense Forces says was holding Hamas computer servers and military equipment. The tunnel "was located adjacent to a kindergarten and a mosque," the IDF said.

In Netanyahu's statement about the operation, the prime minister also thanked President Biden and other leaders for their support.

"They have upheld our natural and self-evident right to defend ourselves," Netanyahu said, "to act in self-defense against these terrorists who both attack civilians and hide behind civilians."

Hamas began firing rockets at Israel this week in response to a rising tide of public confrontations between Muslims and Israeli police. Those clashes coincided with the last week of the holy month of Ramadan as well as a closely watched legal fight over Israeli settlers' attempts to have Palestinians evicted from their long-held homes in an Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

More than 123 Palestinians have died in Gaza, according to WAFA. In Israel, authorities said seven people have died.

As of Friday evening, militants in Gaza had fired some 2,000 rockets at Israel, the Israeli military said. Israel has mounted hundreds of airstrikes on Gaza, targeting high-ranking officials and operatives as well as munitions and other stores.

"I said that we would strike Hamas and the other terrorist organizations very hard – and we are doing just that," Netanyahu said. "In the last 24 hours, we have attacked underground targets. Hamas thought that it could hide there but it cannot hide there."

Some of the targeted tunnels are in residential areas, including one under a school and near a hospital, the Israeli military said. One attack focused on the crowded city of Beit Hanoun. Unlike recent strikes, where Israel warned residents by phone to leave before the attack, Israel did not do that this time.

In another change, Israel augmented its airstrikes with artillery and tank fire from ground forces along the border, which can be less precise, making it more difficult to avoid casualties.

Israel has closed the border crossing with Gaza, and reporters have been unable to enter. But in Gaza, a Palestinian colleague spoke with a paramedic who said emergency teams had evacuated more than 100 people to the hospital, including some who died from the attack. The colleague also said people fleeing the strikes took shelter in a U.N. building.

NPR's Daniel Estrin contributed to this report from Jerusalem.
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