Israel Strikes Hamas Targets In Response To Recent Palestinian Rocket Attacks

This Monday, the Israeli Air Force said it attacked a Hamas training compound to the north of the Gaza Strip. The strikes were carried out in response to recent rocket strikes from the Palestinian enclave, which have intensified in the two weeks since U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6. So far, neither side has reported any casualties in the overnight shelling exchange.

Militants in Hamas-controlled Gaza have launched rockets into Israel during the last two weeks in what has been described as the most intense attack since a seven-week-long Gaza war in the summer of 2014. The latest of these attacks took place on Sunday, with one of two rockets exploding inside an Israeli border community and the other hitting an open area, the military said. Another rocket that was launched early on Monday fell inside the Strip. Three structures in a Hamas training camp are said to have been hit during the Israeli counter-strike. Hamas usually evacuates such facilities when tensions rise and Israel’s choice of the low-profile target appeared to signal a desire to avoid more serious confrontation with the group.

Rocket alarm sirens sounded prior to the blasts, a situation that has become all too familiar to ordinary Israelis nowadays. In response to this latest emergency situation, Tamir Idan, head of the Sdot Negev Regional Council said, “Tonight, another rocket alarm siren went off in the communities next to Gaza, and this time, a resident’s house was damaged. Thank God there was no bodily or spiritual harm.” He also added that they (the community) “expect and demand that the security apparatuses issue a strong response, and clarify to the terrorists that the State of Israel will not allow the fire to continue. We will not accept a situation in which emergency becomes routine. We must say clearly that we are strong and determined, and that we are in control of security forces.”

This sentiment was echoed by Zeev Elkin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, who in a radio interview said that Israel’s military response would “have to be harshened” if the rocket fire did not stop. Mr. Elkin and other Israeli officials have blamed the fire on smaller militant groups in Gaza and called on Hamas to rein them in. Israelis have warned that failure to do so could see Israel eventually targeting the group’s leadership.

A threat to attack Hamas’ leadership marks a significant upturn in events. Such talk is reflective of the unrest caused by Mr. Trump’s announcement, the damage of which U.S. diplomats have so far failed to contain. Their task is made considerably more difficult in light of the unified reaction from the international community, which has so far remained unified in its opposition to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. A factor that seems to have weighed heavily in their thinking is the possibility of violent uprisings and the exploitation of unrest by groups such as Hamas.

How Mr. Trump and those who advocated such a move failed to take this possibility into consideration is truly baffling. By breaking away from past protocols, the Trump administration upended years of both U.S. diplomacy and international legal consensus. In the process, the U.S. also lost its neutrality that made it a reliable mediator in previous Israeli-Palestinian peace-talks. The loss of that quality greatly hinders its ability to broker peace between the two sides. Worse yet, it now seems that relations between Palestinian officials and Washington have deteriorated to the point that U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s planned visit to Bethlehem and the Church of Nativity has been cancelled. Coupled with news of an impending move by the UN Security Council to draft a resolution— although it is likely to be vetoed by the U.S. — that would insist any decision on the status of Jerusalem have no legal effect and must be rescinded, events over the past week are a strong indicator of how isolated Mr. Trump currently is.

Meanwhile, reports claim that several thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip clashed with IDF troops, with the former hurling Molotov cocktails and rocks at the Israeli forces. Who can resolve what can only be called a regression in Israeli-Palestinian relations remains to be seen. What cannot be disputed is the fact that the chances of injecting fresh impetus to the peace process have a taken a severe hit. One hopes that growing opposition to Mr. Trump’s decision can at least be harnessed into a concerted effort to salvage the process and truly address the issues that have impeded the Palestinians and Israelis from achieving true and lasting peace.

Arthur Jamo
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