In Gaza An Exchange of Fire, Again
“We want our people to realize a real change of their daily lives. We still have a lot to do vis-a-vis this Zionist occupation.”
A new fresh round of violence in the region has so far killed four Israelis and 25 Palestinians including women and children with about another 150 others injured. Both Israel and Gaza-based resistance factions have traded fire, since Friday.
Sparked by a Border Incident
According to the BBC, Saturday’s exchange of rockets and airstrikes began in retaliation for the Friday killing of two Palestinian protesters and wounding of dozens of others by the Israeli army on the border between Gaza and Israel. In response, Palestinian snipers shot and wounded two Israeli soldiers on Friday evening. However, the precise order of the fire exchange on Friday is unclear.
The current spate of attacks is the 13th and deadliest since the Great March of Return, a peaceful protest that began back in March 2018. Last month, few days before the Israeli parliamentary elections, Israeli air strikes hit dozens of Palestinian targets in the territory, in response to a Palestinian rocket that landed in the Israeli city of Tel-Aviv. By then, Hamas said the rocket was fired by mistake and Egyptian and international mediators brokered a ceasefire, provided that Israel allows the flow of Qatari funds and largely ease the 12-year-long blockade.
As the current spate of fighting has broken out, Palestinian Gaza-based resistance factions, headed by the ruling Hamas party, insist that Israel should lift it’s blockade once and for all, a demand that the popular border protests have emphasized for over a year now.
“We want a full implementation of all the understandings reached by Egyptian mediators. We want our people to realize a real change of their daily lives. We still have a lot to do vis-a-vis this Zionist occupation. The Zionist occupation has always relied on buying time. We, all the resistance factions are being unified, against the occupation and we rely on our arms, only our arms,” a spokesperson for the armed Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza told Citizen Truth while inspecting the rubble remains of a building in Gaza city hit by Israeli warplanes.
In the meantime, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who won his re-election in early April, ordered his army to deal “massive strikes” to Palestinian resistance groups in the territory and said that the current wave will continue for a few days.
“I ordered the IDF this morning to continue its massive strikes against terror forces in the Gaza Strip, and instructed [the army] to bolster its presence around the Gaza Strip with armor, artillery and infantry forces,” Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday ahead of its weekly meeting in Jerusalem.
Israeli warplanes and artillery fire have so far carried out about three hundred raids striking 15 buildings including residential, commercial and security facilities, as well as motorcycles, cars and posts that belong to armed resistance factions and open fields in different parts of the coastal territory. A Gaza-based office of the Anadolu Agency, a Turkish news organization, was struck by five IDF rockets as well.
According to the New York Times, Israel reported most of the rockets launched from Gaza were intercepted by Israel’s “Iron Dome” defense system or had landed in open fields. However, one rocket did strike a house killing 60-year old Israeli, Moshe Agadi.
Isreal-Palestine Escalation Could Persist
“I do believe that the Palestinian people in Gaza will no longer tolerate the state of Israeli blockade and the same scene of violence and counter-violence. I believe that the current situation will persist unless the mediators impose some kind of solid conditions that would largely ease the Israeli blockade. Netanyahu seems to only want imposing a humanitarian solution for Gaza; mainly specific measures to ease the blockade. As I said, unless the siege is largely eased, the same state of violence and counter-violence will continue,” Mohsen Abu Ramadan, a Gaza-based political analyst, told Citizen Truth.
Meanwhile, Egyptian officials have been intensively involved in mediation efforts between Israel and Gaza. The United Nations has also been engaged in reinstating calm in the region. Qatar has provided Gaza with tens of millions of U.S. dollars that have been used to buy fuel, pay salaries of Hamas-led government employees and create jobs for thousands of jobless Palestinians in the territory amidst dire economic conditions.
Is Mediation Futile?
Asked by Citizen Truth whether mediation efforts could bear fruit and restore any long-lasting calm, Tayseer Mohaisen, a Gaza-based political analyst said, “It seems to me that this time’s escalation is different. Compared with the 2014’s Israeli war on Gaza, I do think that the capabilities of the Palestinian factions have developed over the past five years. I believe that the armed resistance factions may be able to hardly hit nearby Israeli areas or even areas, deep inside Israel. This poses a question; will Israel tolerate heavier hits by Palestinians, hits that could inflict some more causalities to Israelis or Israeli facilities.”
Israeli army sources suggested that since Friday the Gaza-based resistance factions have fired around 600 rockets into nearby Israeli areas and other areas located about 40 kilometers away from Gaza. The same sources reported four Israelis killed and many others wounded, including moderate and critical wounds.
As United Nations officials and Egyptian mediators are currently exerting relentless efforts to install calm in the region, the ruling Hamas party in Gaza said that a truce is likely only if Israel lifts the Gaza blockade and commits to recent truce understandings.
The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank city of Ramallah called on the United Nations Security Council for an urgent meeting over Gaza. The European Union called for a ceasefire and warned against a large-scale Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip. Washington, which is a key ally to Israel, regarded the Israeli strikes on Gaza as an act of self-defense against Palestinian rocket fire.
“Palestinian national unity between Hamas and the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could only guarantee an end to Israeli blockade. Otherwise, Netanyahu will continue to buy time and extort Hamas. I do think that Gaza is mainly a humanitarian case, the way Netanyahu has always portrayed. The man seems to separate Gaza from the West Bank and in return, will make sure to rather ease the blockade instead,” Gaza-based analyst Mohsen Abu Ramadan told Citizen Truth.
Since 2007, when Israel first imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, both the Islamist Hamas party and the Fatah party of the Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have been split. Hamas and Fatah have been at odds in terms of political agendas. Abbas has stuck to peaceful negotiations with Israel since the Oslo peace accords of 1993, while Hamas has ever opted for armed resistance against the Israeli occupation.
Current political conditions appear to be worsening for Palestinians after U.S. President Donald Trump recognized the occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the U.S. embassy to the contested city.
The weekend escalation comes as Trump gets ready to announce his “deal of the century,” in which he envisions a solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. His vision for peace is said to be far away from a two-state solution, which has been envisioned by previous American administrations.