Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 February 2020

Gaza calm breaks as Israeli strikes and rockets from enclave resume

The trade of fire comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened military action in the enclave

A rocket fired from Gaza late on Tuesday and continued Israeli military strikes broke a fragile truce that had been in place after earlier exchanges.

The trade of fire came just hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that he was ready to direct further military action in Gaza just two weeks ahead of Israel’s April 9 elections.

The latest severe flare-up began early on Monday when a rare long-distance rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a house north of Tel Aviv, wounding seven Israelis.

The Israeli military hit back with a series of air strikes across the enclave and Palestinian militants launched a barrage of new rockets.

Calm prevailed throughout Tuesday, with Hamas claiming Egypt had brokered a ceasefire, but as night fell Israel said a projectile was fired from Gaza around 8:00 pm (1800 GMT).

Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and other groups denied they were responsible for the launch and would respect the truce.

Mr Netanyahu said upon returning from Washington to visit US President Donald Trump that he was “prepared to do a lot more”.

The Israeli military launched about 80 strikes that levelled not only Hamas and Islamic Jihad installations but also the office of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

The situation in Gaza is worrisome for the Israeli premier as he is hoping to win the early vote on the back of security issues. But a flare-up from Gaza and a new round of fighting would be used by his rivals as a sign that he has failed to maintain quiet on Gaza’s southern border.

The prime minister is widely believed to want to avoid a fourth war in Gaza since 2008 with unpredictable consequences ahead of the elections, but he is also under heavy political pressure.

Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of protests and clashes along the Gaza-Israel border, and large demonstrations are expected for it.

Mr Netanyahu said earlier on Tuesday that Israel's response to Gaza fire was the largest-scale attack on Hamas sites since the last war between them in 2014.

While no casualties have been reported inside the strip, an 18-year-old on Wednesday was shot dead in West Bank clashes with Israeli troops.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry Israeli soldiers shot Sajed Mizher after stones were thrown at them during an arrest raid. Over the past four years Israel's forces have killed more than 260 Palestinians.

Palestinians have killed over 50 Israelis in the same period in stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks in the West Bank.

The destroyed office of a Hamas leader in Gaza City after Israeli air raids, March 26, 2019. AFP
The destroyed office of a Hamas leader in Gaza City after Israeli air raids, March 26, 2019. AFP

The government closed its people and goods crossing with the blockaded enclave and reduced the zone in the Mediterranean it allows for Palestinian fishermen.

It did not confirm the ceasefire announced by Hamas.

Updated: March 27, 2019 01:59 PM



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