After Major Flare-up In Gaza Strip, Tentative Calm Returns To Southern Israel
Israelis in southern Israel awoke Wednesday to tentative calm after Gaza-based terrorist groups targeted their communities throughout Tuesday and into the early morning with as many as 180 rockets and mortars. In response, the Israel Defense Forces struck by land and air some 65 targets belonging to Hamas, which rules the Palestinian enclave, and Iranian proxy Islamic Jihad, which was primarily responsible for firing repeated barrages of projectiles. Taken together, the conflagration was the most significant military exchange in the south since the fifty-day war between Israel and Hamas in the summer of 2014. According to Arab media reports, an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire agreement took effect at 5:00 am local time, although Israeli sources denied any such deal was reached. Instead, following a security meeting convened by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Intelligence Minister Israel Katz stressed that the country was “at the closest point to the threshold of war” since the 2014 conflict. Meanwhile, much of the international community—including the United States, France and Ireland, which is generally not supportive of Israel, along with representatives of the European Union and United Nations—condemned the Palestinians’ indiscriminate launching of rockets towards civilian areas; this, in stark contrast to the widespread criticism levied against Israel for the IDF’s use of force to quell the two-months-long “March of Return” protests along the Gaza border, which culminated May 14 in mass violence resulting in the deaths of 60 Palestinians, the vast majority of them Hamas members. Notably, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah faction is a bitter Hamas rival, on Tuesday denounced Israel’s “vigorous aggression” against the people of Gaza, which he claimed proved Jerusalem’s lack of desire for peace. The UN Security Council was slated to convene Wednesday, at the behest of Washington, to discuss the Gaza rocket fire.