Observers Rule Out Imminent Military Confrontation Between Israel, Gaza
Chances of a military escalation remain high with the new Israeli government coming into office soon, Gaza-based commentator expects
[Gaza City] After a period of relative calm lasting just a few months, the specter of a military confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza returns, threatening to bring normal life to a halt in the besieged enclave again.
On Saturday evening, an anonymous party in Gaza fired a shell that fell in an open field near the Israeli towns of Nahal Oz and Kfar Azza. It was viewed as a response to the flaring tensions in the West Bank and the surging number of Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers.
Although no specific Palestinian faction took credit for the firing, Israeli warplanes retaliated by launching a series of raids targeting several sites in Gaza. The Israeli military and claimed to hit a missile manufacturing facility and a tunnel used by Hamas, the Islamic movement that rules the Gaza Strip. Hamas’ military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, said shortly afterward that it had targeted the Israeli planes with anti-aircraft fire and surface-to-air missiles, which raised concerns that the fight between the two sides would be renewed.
“Watching the terrorism of this [Israeli] entity that killed the young Ammar Mufleh brutally at point-blank range and in front of cameras makes us determined to continue to confront the Israeli aggression against our people in Gaza and the West Bank alike,” Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem told The Media Line.
Ammar Mufleh Adili, 22, was killed by an Israeli border police officer in disputed circumstances in the town of Huwara, 5 miles south of Nablus, on Friday.
“The Israeli striking will not deter us from carrying out our duty to resist this terrorism and we will not let the Israeli occupation change the rules of engagement in Gaza,” Qassem threatened.
However, Hussam Aldajani, a Gaza-based political analyst, believes that what is happening remains within the framework of the rules of engagement understood by both sides.
“The Palestinian rocket that was launched toward Israeli border villages reflects the logical Palestinian sense of rage regarding the criminal execution of a Palestinian man in Huwara village, south of Nablus. The Israeli strike was limited and so was the Palestinian response, which means the chances of drifting toward a military escalation are low, at least for now,” Aldajani told The Media Line, pointing to many domestic and regional constraints on the situation.
“First,” he said, “there are the Qatari mediation efforts to maintain the calm, especially during the World Cup season. … The process of setting up a new, far-right Israeli government [is another] key factor delaying a military confrontation at this time.”
Yet an escalation remains likely, with former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu returning to power in the coming few weeks, says Aldajani.
Ayman Alrafati, a writer and journalist specializing in Israeli affairs, agrees with Aldajani, adding: “The issue of Palestinian prisoners may also provoke events in the coming weeks, barring international intervention, especially given that the new Israeli government will include extremist figures such as [incoming National Security Minister] Itamar Ben Gvir, who pledged to worsen conditions for Palestinian prisoners.”
After four bloody wars and tens of violent escalations, Palestinian residents of the coastal enclave are hoping to avoid another tragic round of violence in the near future.
“I believe that everyone in Gaza needs intensive psychotherapy for the rest of their lives to heal from the accumulated war traumas we have lived with for years. Another war is definitely beyond our endurance. Gaza deserves to rest and live peacefully, after all this,” Gaza resident Shady Qwaider told the Media Line.