In response to the recent surge in Palestinian rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT),Major General Kamil Abu Rukun, announced that the amount of fuel Jerusalem authorizes for transfer through its Kerem Shalom crossing to the power station in Gaza will be downsized by 50%. The decision was ordered by Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, Benjamin Netanyahu, and went into effect immediately this morning (Monday) until further notice.
The move came after three missiles were launched from the Hamas-controlled enclave toward the Jewish state Sunday evening. Two were intercepted by the Iron Dome Aerial Defense System in the skies above an outdoor concert at the southern Israeli city of Sderot, and the third caused a fire after crashing next to the nearby Route 34. Air raid sirens were sounded in Sderot, Ibim, Or HaNer, Nir Am, Gevim and at Sapir College during the attack; and seven civilians required medical treatment for shock and light injuries sustained while racing to bomb shelters.
In a direct message in Arabic to the residents of the Gaza Strip published on his official Facebook page, Major General Kamil Abu Rukun wrote, “Hostile elements near and far, attempting to ignite a war, are dragging you into violence and destroying the stability and security of your home.” He added that “The Islamic Jihad, in the service of Iran, is causing destabilization again and again and harming the security of the area,” stressing “You are the ones who will suffer the consequences.” Major General Abu Rukun then emphasized that, “Fire directed at Israel, and at Israeli citizens, will bring the appropriate response. Israel will defend its citizens, regardless of what your leaders and their allies may do. Apparently the organizations in Gaza prefer the interests of Iran to your own interests. Deteriorating stability and damage to security will bring destruction and harm to the residents of Gaza as they continue to walk without light, and the guilt lies with those who are imposing terror and darkness on the Gaza Strip.”
Just hours before the violence, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hamas-rulers of the Palestinian enclave had threatened a response would soon be forthcoming to what they branded as Israel’s “aggression and provocation” in Lebanon.
In the first such incident in more than a decade, the Lebanese army and Hezbollah claimed that around 2:30 on Sunday morning (August 25), one Israeli drone fell in the Hezbollah-dominated southern suburbs of Beirut and that a second crashed near the terror group’s media center in the Dahiyeh suburbs. A spokesman for the Iranian proxy militia told Lebanon’s state news agency NNA the second drone had been rigged with explosives that caused serious damage to the facility.
The Israeli military has declined to comment on the Lebanon incident, although it occurred a short time after the IDF did announce that its aircraft had struck Iranian forces and Shi’ite militias near Syria’s capital Damascus planning to launch “killer drones” into Israel.
Following the Gaza rocket fire into Israel, the IDF retaliated by launching strikes against Hamas targets in the northern part of the Strip, including the office of the Islamist’s battalion commanders.
Israel and Hamas have engaged in three wars since 2008. Ahead of the outbreak of the latest spate of violence between the sides, Qatari envoy Muhammed Emadi spent the weekend in the Strip in an effort to defuse rising tensions. The Arabian Peninsula Nation has pledged $330 million in successive aid payments to the impoverished enclave toward the provision of fuel for electricity, salaries and assistance for poor families. After meetings with Israeli officials, Emadi crossed into Gaza on Friday to deliver the latest installment of funds to the territory’s Ministry of Social Development, with the stated purpose of easing “the suffering people of the Gaza Strip in light of the difficult humanitarian conditions they are living, particularly on the eve of the beginning of the new academic year for school and university students.” The same day, the Qatari Committee for the Construction of the Gaza Strip headed by Emadi, announced that the number of beneficiaries would be expanded from 100,000 from 60,000 just two months ago. While speaking in Gaza City to AFP on Sunday, the Qatari envoy said that the Gulf emirate’s hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and its contacts with both Hamas and Israel was helping prevent another catastrophic war. During another interview with Reuters on Saturday, Emadi voiced his belief that “both sides are committed (to the truce) and they have no war intentions at all,” adding, “Should people feel financially at ease, the ghost of war will be totally removed.”
This month’s significant spike in Palestinian rocket attacks and multiple attempted-infiltrations of Israeli territory has been met with fierce Israeli retaliation, thus posing threats to the fragile, informal ceasefire agreement between the sides. The United Nations and Egypt brokered a truce last May, after the deadliest recorded eruption of violence between the two sides since the 2014 conflict. Ceasefire terms mandated an easing of the blockade on Gaza maintained by Jerusalem and Cairo to prevent weapons and other contraband from reaching the hands of terrorists, put in place after the violent 2007 Hamas takeover of the entity from its rival Fatah faction.
The Islamist-leaders of the Strip insist Israel has not implemented sufficient measures to lighten restrictions, and the PIJ has repeatedly threatened to escalate attacks against the Jewish State on the same premise. Hamas holds Israel is responsible for the cause of Palestinian attacks as a result of economic pressures and repression; while Israel retorts that Palestinian corruption and misuse of international aid for terrorist purposes such as the building of tunnels into the Jewish State is the root of the poverty, and that Hamas is accountable for all violence emanating from the territory under its control.
Meanwhile in other weekend violence, scores of Palestinians in Gaza hurled rocks at Israeli soldiers and tried to scale the border fence during weekly riots after Friday Islamic prayers, held under the banner of the so-called “Great March of Return.” Israeli forces responded with live fire, rubber bullets and tear gas, wounding 120 demonstrators according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The protests began March 2018 as a campaign advocating the Palestinian people’s right to return to homes lost during Israel’s establishment in 1948. Since that time, seven Israelis have been killed in the cross-border violence, while Gaza says more than 300 demonstrators have been killed and 17,000 others wounded.
Palestinian factions have widened the demonstrations to include other events, and this past week it commemorated the 50th anniversary of an arson attack on al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem by a mentally-ill Australian Christian, Denis Michael Rohan, who was in Israel at the time on a tourist visa. Despite Rohan’s subsequent arrest and deportation upon his insanity plea, Palestinians have long held Israel responsible for the August 21, 1969 incident which fueled worldwide anger among Muslims still evident today.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh delivered a fiery speech during one of the demonstrations held in central Gaza city, where he proclaimed, “”We are fighting in Gaza for Jerusalem. We are defending our right to return. We are fighting in the field in Gaza while our eyes are looking toward al-Aqsa Mosque.” “We have always warned Israel, ‘Do not tamper with Jerusalem and our sanctuaries.’ We are warning you Israel about implementing your plans,” said Haniyeh.
The Israeli security cabinet convened this afternoon to discuss the security situation.