Palestinian Islamists kept up cross-border rocket fire today, with no firm sign of any imminent ceasefire despite international calls to end Gaza’s conflict with Israel.
The Hamas-controlled territory has indiscriminately fired at least 3,800 missiles at Israeli towns and cities – including about 350 over the past 36 hours alone – since the hostilities erupted on 10 May, when the Iranian-proxy Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired 7 rockets at Jerusalem during public celebration of the city’s reunification in 1967.
More than 550 rockets have been recorded as “failed launches” that exploded within the Palestinian enclave reportedly including populated areas, causing both civilian injuries and damage.
While Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defense system has intercepted about 90% of the missiles fired from Gaza, those which hit Israeli territory killed 13 people, including 3 foreign workers and an IDF soldier, in attacks for which Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups have claimed responsibility.
Israeli leaders said they were pressing on with Operation Guardian of the Walls ahead of any prospective truce to eliminate terror infrastructure throughout Gaza with the aim of preventing future attacks.
“They received blows that they did not expect,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said about Hamas and Islamic Jihad following an assessment of the situation at IDF Southern Command headquarters and a tour of the Hatzerim Air Force Base.
“I have no doubt we set them back by years,” underscored the Israeli leader.
Accompanied by with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Prime Minister Netanyahu also received an operational briefing – including data on Air Force attacks and operations against various targets in the Gaza Strip – from GOC Air Force and the commander of Squadron 107.
“We are striking Hamas very hard in ways and at a magnitude that we have not previously,” Netanyahu said during a later meeting with the Southern Council leaders, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Those who participated in the meeting included Be’er Sheva Mayor Rubik Danilovitz, Ashkelon Mayor Tomer Glam, Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi, Merhavim Regional Council head Shai Hajaj, Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council head Ofir Leibstein, Hof Ashkelon Regional Council head Itamar Revivo, Sdot Negev Regional Council head Tamir Idean, National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat and PMO Acting Director General Tzachi Braverman.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated in a Twitter post last night that Israel’s attacks “will continue for as long as it takes to restore calm” for all of its citizens.
IDF retaliatory strikes continue to target Hamas and Islamic Jihad rocket-launching cells, military compounds, weapons caches and the so-called underground “Metro” network of passageways and warehouses. One 25-minute overnight operation involved 52 Israeli Air Force (IAF) jets that successfully hit 40 sites in precision strikes, said the IDF.
As opposed to deliberate fire by Palestinian terrorists at Israeli population centers, the IAF has undertaken massive efforts to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza.
The IAF provided TV7 with a rare glimpse into operational activity in video taped over Hamas-controlled territory, during which a pilot was not authorized to strike until command control verified homes adjoining the intended targets had been evacuated.
It has been impossible to completely avoid civilian casualties, however, due to the intentional placement of military operations in densely-populated areas of Gaza by Hamas and PIJ. Gaza medical officials say 219 Palestinians have been killed, of which the IDF maintains include at least 160 terrorists. It should be noted that the Gaza medical authorities are employed by Hamas, so TV7 is therefore unable to validate accuracy of the reported casualties.
The Gaza terror groups launched their “Swords of Jerusalem” assault for what they alleged were Israeli rights abuses against Palestinians in Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as well as over a property dispute in the city’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. By taking the lead in confrontation with Israel over the sensitive issue of Jerusalem, Hamas posed a challenge to its main rival, West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas – who had just cancelled the first parliamentary election since 2006 in which the Islamist group appeared set to win.
Local Israeli media reported that an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire arranged through private channels would take effect tomorrow morning at 6 AM. Channel 12 News cited Palestinian sources saying Hamas has agreed to the offer, while there has been no response from Israel.
Hamas political bureau member Ezzat El-Reshiq, who is based in Qatar, denied the reports.
“There has been no agreement reached over specific timings for a ceasefire,” he said. “We confirm that efforts and contacts are serious and are continuing and the demands of our people are known and clear.”
Israel has reportedly demanded there must be a 3-hour cessation of rocket attacks from Gaza before the IDF will reciprocate, while Hamas has demanded Israel cease its “provocations” in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, the international community is stepping up efforts to resolve the conflict, and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is set to convene in a special session to discuss the violence tomorrow.
France called for a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution on the violence, while the United States told the council that a “public pronouncement right now” would not help calm the crisis.
“Our goal is to get to the end of this conflict,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters yesterday. “We are going to evaluate day by day what the right approach is. It continues to be that quiet, intensive behind-the-scenes discussions are tactically our approach at this time,” she said.
Biden administration officials say they have held more than 60 phone calls with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas, as well as other leaders in the region.
Germany called for a ceasefire and offered more aid to help Palestinians before emergency European Union (EU) talks.
EU foreign ministers issued a call for a ceasefire yesterday, but failed to reach the unanimity necessary to give the 27-member-state bloc leverage in peacemaking.
Hungary, Israel’s closest ally in the EU, declined to accept the initiative during a video call convened by High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.
“We condemn the rocket attacks by Hamas (and) another terrorist group on Israel’s territory,” said Borrell at a later news conference in Brussels, going on to say that, “And we fully support Israel’s right to defense but we have also considered and stated that it has to be done in a proportionate manner and respecting international humanitarian law.”
The EU foreign policy chief said that after hopes that “the problem will be solved by itself,” there is a need for the international community to “engage on looking for a solution and we call for (a) renewed engagement with our key partners – hopefully today it’s possible with the US – and revive the Quartet (on the Middle East, which comprises the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia) and the European Union.”
The EU is Israel’s biggest trade partner and a major aid donor to the Palestinians, although it has so far held back from utilizing this leverage by discussing possible economic sanctions on Jerusalem.
Washington has long been the key broker in Middle East peacemaking, but President Joe Biden did not publicly back the idea of a ceasefire until a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Israel-Gaza confict has fuelled the tensions in the West Bank, as well as street violence in Israeli cities between Jews and Arabs.
Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank held a ‘Day of Rage’ and a general strike in a show of solidarity with Gaza, during which thousands participated in hundreds of riots. 4 Palestinian protesters were killed in clashes with Israeli forces, and 2 IDF soldiers were reportedly injured.
One Israeli man was killed in violent clashes between Israel’s Arab and Jewish communities that have been ongoing for roughly two weeks. A curfew is currently being enforced in the flashpoint, mixed city of Lod.
Israeli Internal Security Minister Amir Ohana declared that police have been instructed to do all in their power to restore public order nationwide.