Israeli Airstrikes Target Gaza Sites – First Since Ceasefire:
Israeli airstrikes target militant sites in the Gaza strip early Wednesday, provoking Palestinians to send a series of fire-carrying balloons back across the border for the second day in a row, putting a fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas to the test.
On Tuesday, a parade of Israeli ultranationalists marched through contested east Jerusalem, sparking the latest round of violence. The march was interpreted as a provocation by Palestinians, who launched balloons into southern Israel, sparking several fires in parched farmland. Israel then carried out the airstrikes, the first since a cease-fire on May 21 ended 11 days of fighting, and more balloons followed.
According to the army, the airstrikes targeted facilities used by Hamas militants for planning attacks. There were no reports of anyone being injured.
“The Hamas terror organisation is responsible for all events in the Gaza Strip and will pay the repercussions of its conduct,” the army stated. It went on to say that it was ready for any scenario, including a resumption of hostilities.
By Wednesday afternoon, masked Palestinians had launched several balloons into Israel, each laden with fuses and flaming rags.
The unrest has put the cease-fire to the test when Egyptian mediators are working to reach a longer-term agreement. It comes as tensions in Jerusalem have risen again, as they did before the recent war, prompting Gaza’s Hamas rulers to launch a barrage of rockets at the holy city on May 10. More than 250 Palestinians were killed in the fighting.
The flare-up has put Israel’s new government, which took office earlier this week, to the test. The coalition includes several hard-line parties, centrist and dovish parties, and the first Arab faction ever to form part of an Israeli government.
Maintaining the fragile coalition will be a difficult task for the new prime minister, Naftali Bennett.
Hundreds of Israeli ultranationalists, some chanting “Death to Arabs,” paraded in east Jerusalem on Tuesday in a show of force. Hamas urged Palestinians to “resist” the parade, commemorating Israel’s 1967 capture of east Jerusalem. Palestinians regard it as a provocation.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who leads the centrist Yesh Atid Party, slammed those shouting racist slogans on Twitter, calling them a “disgrace to the Israeli people.”
Bennett, who will hand over the Prime Ministership to Lapid after two years, is a hardline Israeli nationalist. He has promised a pragmatic approach as he oversees a diverse, delicate and coalition government.
Though there were concerns that the march would inflame tensions, cancelling it would have exposed Bennett and other right-wing coalition members to harsh criticism from those who would see it as a capitulation to Hamas.
Mansour Abbas, whose Raam party is the first Arab faction to join an Israeli coalition, called the march an “attempt to set the region on fire for political purposes” to undermine the new government.
According to Abbas, the event should have been cancelled by the police and public security ministers.
While the parade provided the immediate impetus for the balloons, Hamas is also upset because Israel has tightened its blockade of the territory since the cease-fire. Imports of fuel and raw materials for Gaza’s power plant are among the restrictions.
Israeli Airstrikes Target Gaza: After Hamas, a militant group seeking Israel’s destruction, took control of Gaza from the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority in 2007, Israel imposed the blockade. Since then, Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and numerous skirmishes. Israel claims that the embargo, which it is enforcing in collaboration with Egypt, is required to prevent Hamas from importing and developing weapons.
According to one of the masked activists who fired the balloons, they launched hundreds of them on Tuesday.
They will continue to respond to what he called Israeli provocations in East Jerusalem. Following its capture of east Jerusalem in 1967, Israel annexed the area in a widely condemned international community.
It regards the entire city as its capital, whereas the Palestinians envision east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. The competing claims over east Jerusalem, home to Jewish, Christian, and Muslim holy sites, are at the heart of the conflict and have sparked numerous protests.