Photo: Flash 90

Gaza-Israel Tensions Spike

Tensions surrounding Israel’s hostile borders intensified once again over the weekend, raising renewed concerns over a possible escalation.

The situation began to deteriorate on Friday, when thousands of Palestinians demonstrated on the Gaza side of the border with Israel. According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, the protest quickly turned violent and a large number of explosive devices, grenades and firebomb” were hurled at the security barrier in the direction of Israeli forces. There were also an increased number of infiltration attempts, including several incidents in which Palestinians managed to cross the border. Two of the suspects who entered from the northern district of the Hamas-controlled enclave were immediately apprehended by an IDF force. No weapons were found in the Palestinian’s possession, and they were transferred the the Shin Bet Security Agency for further questioning.

Despite the Israeli military’s insistence that it responded to the violence with standard “crowd dispersal means,” a 14 and 17 year-old were reportedly killed. An IDF Spokesperson rejected Gaza’s claim of casualties,  and said there has not been “any information regarding Palestinian casualties.” The Islamist-Hamas organization declared that ‘Palestinian victims killed” – by what it referred to as the “Israeli occupation forces” were being mourned. The rulers of the lawless enclave vowed to perpetuate the violent demonstrations, which it calls “the Great March of Return.” A statement further from the group asserted that the Friday demonstrations “are a continuation of the path of resistance taken by the Palestinian people until liberation and independence.”

Several hours later around midnight, a barrage of rockets was fired by Palestinian-Islamists in Gaza Strip toward Israel’s southern communities.  the IDF confirmed that five projectiles were fired. Four landed in undisclosed areas, and even though the other exploded in an uninhabited area of Sderot, two women in the city sustained shock, and were transferred to a medical center for treatment. IDF aircraft and a tank conducted a retaliatory strike against “a number of Hamas military targets in the northern Gaza Strip, including a post and military positions.”

On Saturday an unmanned aerial vehicle from southern Gaza Strip dropped an explosive device onto an IDF vehicle in the area of the security fence, before it was remotely flown back to the Islamist Strip.  The Israeli military vehicle was lightly damaged, although no injuries were reported. An Israeli aircraft immediately targeted the squad which had launched the drone, while fighter jets also struck a number of additional Hamas military targets, including offensive naval equipment and two military compounds in the northern and central sectors of Gaza.

The IDF underscored in a statement that it “will continue operating against all efforts to harm Israeli civilians and soldiers,” while stressing that the IDF “holds Hamas responsible for all that transpires in the Gaza Strip and emanates from it.”

In an opening statement of his weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to maintain national security by any means necessary, saying, “We are acting vigorously against any attempt to harm our citizens and soldiers. Just like we showed again last night, we will not tolerate any attempted aggression against us, and we will maintain the security of Israel.” Addressing the besieged Israelis living under Hamas fire, he said he wanted to take the opportunity “to again express appreciation for the steadfast stand by the residents of the south and the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip,” adding that “They allow us the room in which to take action and fight our enemies in the correct manner.”