On June 16th, 2021, Israeli airstrikes fired at militant sites in Gaza ruptured the already fragile and recently implemented ceasefire in the region. There were no reports of immediate casualties. Following this, Palestinians responded by sending incendiary balloons into Israel.
This recent attack has proved to be a test for Israel’s new government, which came into office on June 13th. This includes the first-ever Arab faction to be part of an Israeli government and the appointment of Naftali Bennett, replacing Benjamin Netanyahu, as Prime Minister.
Prior to Israel’s airstrikes, there was a parade held on Tuesday by Israeli ultranationalists who chanted things such as “Death to Arabs”. The parade marched across East Jerusalem and offered a clear demonstration of force. Hamas saw this event as a provocation and felt they must respond in order to protect Palestinians.
In a statement, the Israeli military claimed it was “ready for all scenarios, including renewed fighting in the face of continued terrorist acts emanating from Gaza.” This shows the fragility of the ceasefire brokered by Egypt last month, as a spokesperson for Hamas stated Palestinians were to continue to “pursue their brave resistance and defend their rights and sacred sites” in Jerusalem. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid emphasized that those letting out “racist slogans were a disgrace to the Israeli people.”
Prime Minister Bennett has promised a pragmatic approach towards a diverse coalition government. However, Mansour Abbas of the Raam party believes the demonstration “was an attempt to set the region on fire for political aims.” Abbas adds that the authorities should have cancelled the event stating, “I call on all sides not to be dragged into an escalation and maintain maximum restraint.”
In the past, the parade that celebrates Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967, an act not recognized by most of the international community, was seen passing through Damascus Gate and into the centre of the Muslim Quarter. Importantly, this area is a crowded Palestinian neighbourhood. Compared to last month, the parade was smaller and seen throughout Old City and Jaffa Gate. However, the Israeli Police rejected the traditional route through the Muslim Quarter, for the 2021 parade, citing significant security concerns regarding the ongoing tensions.
With consideration of the violence that took place in the region, over the course of the past weeks, it appears that the parade was held as a way to celebrate supposed victory. Though Israeli officials claim the airstrikes were in response to the balloons sent by Palestinians, it is clear that the ceasefire is fragile as ever. The claims over East Jerusalem lie at the heart of this conflict and may continue to incite violence in the area.