Israel bombards Gaza as regional tensions soar after Iran threat

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Residents reported heavy Israeli fire in central Gaza on Friday, with regional tensions soaring after Iran threatened reprisals over a strike in Syria this month that killed two Iranian generals.

As ceasefire talks aiming to pause the six-month-old war dragged on, fears that Iran could soon launch an attack on Israel spurred France to recommend its citizens avoid travelling to the region.

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Mohammed al-Rayes, 61, told AFP that he fled Israeli “air strikes and artillery shelling” in Nuseirat, central Gaza overnight.
“It was all fire and destruction, with so many martyrs lying in the street,” he said.

Another resident, Laila Nasser, 40, reported “shells and missiles” throughout the night.

“They will do to Nuseirat what they did to Khan Younis,” said Nasser, vowing to flee to the southernmost city of Rafah, like most of Gaza’s population.

Israel last week pulled its troops from the devastated city of Khan Younis after months of bombarding the area, but officials said they were preparing for operations against Hamas militants in Rafah, near the Egyptian border.

Authorities in the coastal Palestinian territory on Friday reported dozens of new air strikes in Gaza’s central region.

The Hamas media office said 25 people were taken to hospital in Deir al-Balah city “as a result of an air strike on a house of the al-Tabatibi family.”

Syria strikes

Israel’s military said its aircraft had struck more than 60 militant targets in Gaza over the previous day.

Israel’s offensive in Gaza has killed at least 33,634 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry. The ministry’s updated toll on Friday included at least 89 deaths over the previous day.

The latest bombardments in Gaza came after Israel said it was strengthening air defenses and paused leave for combat units, following a deadly April 1 air strike that destroyed Iran’s consulate building in Damascus.

Iran blamed Israel, its arch foe, which has stepped up strikes against Iran-linked targets in Syria since the Gaza war began.

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Among the targets have been fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement in Syria. The group has also exchanged regular deadly fire with Israel over the Lebanese border since October.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said late Thursday he had received phone calls from German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock as well as her British and Australian counterparts.

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