Israel continues to bomb besieged Gaza Strip, says hit Hamas
It was the third consecutive night of escalation in the Strip, with Israel having bombed Gaza repeatedly, claiming this was in response to rockets having been launched from the Strip.
Tensions have risen after last week's daring escape from Israel's Gilboa Prison by six Palestinian detainees, as well as struggling efforts by Egypt to broker a long-term ceasefire in the wake of Tel Aviv's deadly 11-day bombing campaign against Gaza in May which killed 256 Palestinians. In Israel, 13 were killed by rocket fire from Hamas and other Gaza groups.
The Israeli military attacked attacked a number of locations in Gaza, which it claimed were targets belonging to the enclave's rulers, Hamas. Tel Aviv reported three separate rocket launches late on Sunday and early on Monday, saying at least two of them were intercepted by its rocket defences. It said its airstrikes were in response to these. There were no reports of casualties on either side.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday called for a new approach to Hamas instead of the current cycle of escalations, describing a plan of international investment in Gaza's infrastructure in exchange for pressure on Hamas to halt its military build-up and preserve calm.
“The policy Israel has pursued up until now hasn’t substantially changed the situation," Lapid said during a speech at Reichman University, north of Tel Aviv.
“We need to change direction,” he added.
It remains to be seen if any agreement will be concluded, though previous deals reached between Palestine and Israel, such as the Oslo Accords of the 1990s, have seen Israel renege on its promises.
Much about his proposal — which he said was made in consultation with the United States and other countries — has been floated before but never implemented due to escalations, deep distrust, and bitter internal divisions on both sides. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, whom Lapid is to replace in 2023 under a rotation agreement, did not immediately comment on the proposal.
In the latest violence, the Israeli army claims Tel Aviv struck a military post belonging to Hamas. It said rockets were fired into Israel by Hamas and shot down by the country's Iron Dome defence system.
Within hours, the Israeli army alleged an attempted stabbing had occurred against a solider at the Gush Etzion Junction, south of Bethlehem. The army said no soldiers were reported injured and that the assailant had been transported to a hospital.
Over the weekend, Israel caught four of six Palestinian inmates who tunnelled out of maximum-security Gilboa Prison last Monday, an effort which has embarrassed Israel and been seen as a sign of hope in Palestine.
Palestinian militants responded to their capture with rocket fire. Israel's search for the last two prisoners is continuing.
Meanwhile, Egyptian-mediated efforts to deliver a long-term truce have struggled with the sides only recently able to agree on a system to renew Qatari payments to needy Gaza families. The United Nations will begin on Monday to distribute cash aid to thousands of poor families in the Strip under this programme, the UN Middle East envoy has said.
Gaza is an impoverished territory whose population is overwhelmingly comprised of families who fled or were forced from properties in what has become Israel with the 1948 establishment of the Israeli state.
Hamas is pushing for Israel to end the crippling blockade that has devastated Gaza's economy, while Israel is demanding that Hamas free two captive Israeli civilians and return the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers.
Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting the forces of the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority in 2007, a year after the Islamic militant group won Palestinian parliamentary elections.
Since then, Israel has launched multiple deadly campaigns against the Strip with catastrophic results for the Palestinian civilians living there.
(The New Arab, AP, Reuters)