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Israeli and Palestinian forces exchange rocket attacks as tensions escalate

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A rocket is fired towards Israel from the Gaza Strip
A rocket is fired towards Israel from the Gaza Strip -
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Reuters
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed his country will do "everything required to protect ourselves", after the most serious escalation of tensions between Israeli and Palestinian forces in months.

A top commander from the Iranian-backed Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad was killed on Tuesday in an Israeli strike, prompting the firing of rockets at Israeli cities including Tel Aviv.

Claiming Israel is not interested in escalation, Netanyahu said: "This could take time. What is needed is stamina and cool-headedness."

Following the targeted killing of Baha Abu Al-Atta in the Gaza Strip, dozens of rockets were fired into Israel, setting off sirens in a number of cities.

The Israeli military said its air defence systems intercepted some of the Palestinian rockets but Israeli hospitals reported several civilians with injuries.

Raf Sanchez, the Daily Telegraph's Middle East correspondent, told Euronews: “This is feeling like a very significant escalation, the Israeli military has cancelled school and closed all non-essential businesses in southern Israel and in Tel Aviv for the first time since 2014."

And he added it could have significant implications for the political situation in the country, which has seen Netanyahu and his centrist political rival Benny Gantz fail to form a majority government, following two elections in this year alone.

"This may smooth the way for Netanyahu and Benny Gantz to set aside their differences, to form a unity government which both sides say they want even though they can’t agree on the exact details of how it would work," Sanchez said.

He added the fighting would probably make it more difficult for Gantz to execute his Plan B, which was to form a minority government with the party that represents Israel’s Palestinian minority.

An Israeli missile attack also targeted the home of an Islamic Jihad official in Damascus, Syria, killing two people including one of his sons, Syrian state media said. Israel declined any comment on that incident.

Hamas, the militant Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, called the assassination a "dangerous escalation and continuation of the series of aggression and criminality against our people and their valiant resistance".

"This aggression will only rebound in the face of the Zionist occupation and its criminal leaders who started and should pay the price and bear the consequences," it added in a statement.

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