Since Friday noon a fire exchange between besieged Palestinians in the Gaza strip and Israel escalated into heavy bombing and missile fire.
The reporting thereof in U.S. media again proves that these are unable to fairly cover on the conflict.
Pressing ahead with Israeli aggression, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he had ordered his army to continue striking Palestine’s blockaded Gaza strip, Israeli media reported, Anadolu reports.
At a Security Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said he had ordered the Israeli army “to continue their strikes on targets in the Gaza Strip,” adding that the Israeli army “is beefing up its armored forces, artillery batteries and infantry troops in the Gaza border area,” Yediot Aharonot daily reported.
The Security Cabinet decided to continue the military attacks on Gaza, Israel’s Channel 13 reported.
A source from the Cabinet told the channel that it will not accept a proposal of calm in exchange for calm, saying that any pause will come with Israeli conditions.
In what appears to be its first response to the assassination, the military wing of the Hamas Movement, known as Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, announced that his fighters had targeted an “Israeli jeep” north of the Gaza Strip with an advanced anti-tank guided missile (ATGM).
Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad threatened to expand rocket firing at Israel if airstrikes continue to hit the Gaza Strip.
It began on Friday, during protests in Gaza against the blockade of the area – which Israel says is needed to stop weapons reaching militants.
A Palestinian gunman shot and wounded two Israeli soldiers at the boundary fence. Israel retaliated with an air strike that killed two militants.
The rocket barrage from Gaza began on Saturday morning. Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system shot down dozens of the rockets, but a number of homes in Israeli towns and villages were hit.
Armed factions in Gaza, who are otherwise known as the Joint Operations Room and include the military wing of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, vowed on Saturday to “extend its response” if the Israeli army continued to target the strip.
In a statement on Saturday, the Joint Operations Room said: “Our response will be broader and more painful in the event [Israel’s] extends in aggression, and we will remain the protective shield of our people and our land.”
Israel and Egypt have maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007.
Following heavy fighting in late March, Israel agreed to ease the blockade in exchange for a halt to rocket fire. This included expanding a fishing zone off Gaza’s coast, increasing imports into Gaza and allowing the Gulf state of Qatar to deliver aid to the cash-strapped territory.
Gaza militants fired hundreds of rockets into southern Israel on Sunday, killing at least four Israelis and bringing life to a standstill across the region in the bloodiest fighting since a 2014 war. As Israel pounded Gaza with airstrikes, the Palestinian death toll rose to 23, including two pregnant women and two babies.
The bloodshed marked the first Israeli fatalities from rocket fire since the 2014 war. With Palestinian militants threatening to send rockets deeper into Israel and Israeli reinforcements massing near the Gaza frontier, the fighting showed no signs of slowing down.
Yaakov Amidror, former head of the Department of Research and Development of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), told the Jerusalem Post that if the rockets or mortars are fired too close to their targets “there is not enough time to intercept them”, which constitutes a breach in the “missile shield”.
Islamic Jihad spokesman Musab al-Braim said that the “resistance was on the threshold of a new phase in repelling the [Israeli] aggression that could lead to an open war.” He said that in light of the continued “aggression on our people and the targeting of children, houses and the implementation of the policy of assassinations, we are on the threshold of this phase, and we will not have mercy on this enemy.”
Ahmed al-Mudalal, a senior Islamic Jihad official, said that the “current Zionist escalation on the Gaza Strip is a serious attempt to break the will of the Palestinian people and divert attention from the March of Return [weekly protests near the border with Israel].”
Mudalal warned that the Palestinian terror groups will not stand idly by toward the “Zionist aggression against the Palestinian people, and have the full right to respond to these attacks.”
In a statement issued on Sunday evening, Islamic Jihad said that it was ready to wage an “open confrontation” with Israel. It said that the continuation of Israeli military strikes “will be met with a similar and large-scale response” targeting all Israel.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum held Israel fully responsible for the “consequences of its crimes and violations against the Palestinians and failure to implement the recent Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire understandings. “The resistance won’t allow Israel to repeat its crimes and will continue to defend the Palestinian people,” Barhoum said.
Another Hamas official, Fathi Kar’awi, condemned the “cowardly” Israeli military strikes against the Gaza Strip and called on the international community to hold Israel to account for its “crimes against the people of the Gaza Strip.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian political analyst Hassan Lafi told the Islamic Jihad-affiliated Palestine Today news site that by resorting to targeted assassinations in the Gaza Strip, Israel could pave the way for a new stage that may lead to an open war. Israel, he said, has “changed the rules of engagement that followed the 2014 war” – a reference to Operation Protective Edge. Lafi, however, said he believes that Israel’s decision to resume targeted assassinations “proves that it wants to end this round of escalation quickly.”
As rockets from the Gaza Strip continued to batter the south of the country Sunday, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz the Tamar offshore natural gas field closed and put the country’s energy infrastructure into an emergency mode.
The Tamar field is Israel’s only operating natural gas source and without its supplies power stations will need to use other fuels to meet electricity demands.
In a statement, the Energy Ministry said it was declaring an “emergency situation in the natural gas sector” but offered no further explanation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he has ordered “massive strikes” in the Gaza Strip following the escalation of tensions between Israel and Hamas over the last two days. The violence resulted in the deaths of nine Palestinians and three Israelis. Five more Palestinians and three Israelis were killed on Sunday.
In addition to the increased number of strikes, Netanyahu also instructed Israeli forces stationed around the Gaza Strip to “be stepped up with” enhanced tank, artillery, and infantry forces, saying that Hamas is “paying a heavy price” for its own strikes against Israel. Israel’s military said Hamas fired more than 450 rockets into southern Israel, many of which were intercepted by Israel’s missile defense system, the Iron Dome. Israel said it has hit 220 targets belonging to militant groups in Gaza.
Hamas, in turn, vowed to “extend its response,” especially if Israel acts with aggression.
Another full-scale conflict — in which factions in Gaza fire thousands of rockets at Israel and Israel responds with a ground invasion of Gaza — would put most of Israel at risk of rocket fire, disrupting air traffic in the region and shutting down most, if not all, commercial activity in much of central and southern Israel. Even isolated rocket fire can pose a direct threat to civilians in Israeli cities, forcing authorities to block roads and temporarily shutter commercial activity. More intense military exchanges, even if they fall short of full conflict, would cause even longer disruptions.
While Iron Dome air defense systems can be useful in intercepting projectiles, operational limitations mean they are not a fail-safe measure against rocket fire. Individual units can only protect a limited area, and Israel has a finite number of systems it can deploy. A March 25 strike in central Israel showed that isolated rocket fire can affect civilian targets in areas not covered by Iron Dome, while subsequent exchanges — not to mention previous conflicts in 2012 and 2014 — showed that rocket barrages can overwhelm IDF such that it cannot intercept all of the rockets.