Israel-Gaza Conflict Rages on With Little Known on Cease-Fire Progress
Both Israel and Hamas insist that they will continue their cross-border fire
Heavy Israeli airstrikes continued over Gaza on Saturday and Sunday afternoon causing heavy loss of human life and material damage, while Hamas unleashed hundreds of rockets deep into Israel for a seventh day sending Israelis running for shelters.
The cross-border hostilities have shown no sign of abating, with Palestinians saying at least 174 people have been killed since the conflict began on Monday, including 47 children. Israel has reported 11 dead, including two children.
The latest outbreak of violence is the most intense since the 2014 Gaza war.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said late on Saturday that Israel is “still in the midst of this operation, it is still not over, and this operation will continue as long as necessary.”
US President Joe Biden’s envoy, Hady Amr, arrived in Israel on Friday, before a meeting on Sunday of the United Nations Security Council, as both Israel and Hamas insisted they would continue their violent campaigns. Amr met on Sunday morning with Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who told the envoy that the objective of the current military campaign is to restore long-term quiet to Israel’s borders and safety to its citizens, according to a statement from his office.
Biden spoke to both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday in an effort to restore calm.
“The party that bears the guilt for this confrontation is not us, it’s those attacking us,” Netanyahu said in a televised speech late Saturday night, in both Hebrew and English. “You know and I know, no country would tolerate this. Israel will not tolerate this.”
“Israel has responded forcefully to these attacks and we will continue to respond forcefully until the security of our people is reinstated and restored,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu said Israel’s air and artillery bombardment had eliminated dozens of Hamas fighters and reduced its military capabilities. Israel claims it has targeted Hamas’ missile launchers and the group’s complex and vast tunnel network.
In addition to the US diplomatic efforts, United Nations and Egyptian officials have been working to restore quiet but, so far, their efforts seem fruitless, as both Israel and Hamas insist that they will continue their cross-border fire.
Observers say the chance of reaching a long-lasting cease-fire is slim as long the United States refuses to engage with Hamas, which they regard as a terrorist organization.
Attorney Moien Odeh, who specializes in human rights and international law, told The Media Line that the Israel-Palestinian conflict does not have the urgency that it used to.
“For years now the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stopped being a priority for all of the diplomatic efforts. At the same time, the status quo was always not static, and the Israeli authorities used the time and the international ‘ignorance’ to create more facts on the ground to prevent the success of any future diplomatic efforts,” he said.
“The international community will need to recognize the fact that Hamas is the domino power on the ground,” Odeh said. “The problem with diplomatic efforts in the past was the fact that they were dealing with the symptoms of the problem and not with the roots of the problem,” he added, referring to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.
Protest erupted in many areas throughout the West Bank between Palestinians and the Israeli army, with at least 11 killed Friday night and Saturday in the widespread protests.
Abbas, who also spoke to President Biden on Saturday for the first time since Biden took office, has little influence over Hamas in Gaza and has seen his grip on power slipping further as the fighting continues.
Hamas began its rocket attacks on Monday evening, beginning with attacks on the Jerusalem area, after weeks of tension over a court case to expel several Palestinian families from homes claimed by Jews in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, and in retaliation for Israeli security forces’ clashes with Palestinians near the city’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh told a crowd of protesters in the Qatari capital of Doha on Saturday that the fighting evolved primarily because of Jerusalem.
“The Zionists thought … they could demolish Al-Aqsa Mosque. They thought they could displace our people in Sheikh Jarrah,” said Haniyeh.
“I say to Netanyahu: Do not play with fire,” he continued, amid cheers from the crowd. “The title of this battle today, the title of the war, and the title of the intifada, is Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” he said, using the Arabic word for uprising.
“The PA and the PLO are requesting that any negotiation should be through it as ‘the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,’ while on the ground Hamas is controlling the rockets and somehow even the people,” said Odeh.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other armed groups have fired around 2,900 rockets from Gaza since Monday, the Israeli military said on Sunday morning. It said at least 1,150 were intercepted by anti-missile defenses and 450 fell into the Gaza Strip.
Israel has launched more than 1,000 air and artillery strikes into the impoverished and densely populated coastal strip, saying they were aimed at Hamas and other factions’ targets.