x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Gaza Strip situation 'fragile and volatile'

Three Palestinians and an Israeli teenager were reportedly wounded yesterday during a barrage of rocket fire and air strikes exchanged, respectively, between fighters inside the Gaza Strip and Israel's military.

JERUSALEM // Three Palestinians and an Israeli teenager were reportedly wounded yesterday during a barrage of rocket fire and air strikes exchanged, respectively, between fighters inside the Gaza Strip and Israel's military.

Israel's military head, Lt Gen Gabi Ashkenazi, called the situation "fragile and volatile" during testimony delivered before the Knesset, Israel's parliament, yesterday.

"We have no guarantee the situation won't deteriorate," he said.

Early yesterday morning, Israel's air force struck seven targets in response to what the military said were as many as 14 projectiles fired from Gaza since Sunday. It reported direct hits on all intended targets, including several Hamas smuggling tunnels, a weapons-manufacturing facility and what it called a "terror activity centre".

Palestinians reportedly said a dairy factory had been struck in the operation.

On Saturday, in an indication of escalating violence there, Israel killed five fighters - the deadliest attack in Gaza in months, The Associated Press reported.

Israel's military reported on its website yesterday that a 14-year-old girl was injured by a Qassem rocket that landed near a kindergarten in a kibbutz in the southern part of the country.

Adham Abu Salmia, a health worker in Gaza, said three Palestinians were wounded in the air strikes. Lt Gen Ashkenazi told a group of reporters yesterday that the military struck three Hamas militants during the fighting in Gaza, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported. It was unclear if they were the same three.

Violence in Gaza has dropped considerably since Israel's three-week military campaign that began there in December 2008. Operation Cast Lead ultimately killed nearly 1,400 people, many of them believed to be civilians. Thirteen Israelis died in the fighting.

Since then, Hamas officials have sought to restrain projectiles fired on Israel from Gaza. Even so, according to the Israeli military, about 200 have fallen on Israel since the beginning of the year and nearly 500 since the end of the Cast Lead.

Israel holds Hamas, which took control of Gaza three years ago, responsible for such rocket attacks.

Most projectiles are thought to be fired by smaller militant groups, such as the Palestinian Resistance Committee and Islamic Jihad.

Haaretz, without detailing how it obtained its information, reported yesterday that the rocket fire was believed by Israel's military to be a deliberate strategy by Hamas. While not intended to spark another war, the newspaper reported, it was the result of frustration over foundering negotiations about prisoner exchanges with Israel and reconciliation efforts with Hamas's rival Palestinian faction, Fatah, which controls the West Bank.

 

hnaylor@thenational.ae