Israel’s military offensive on the Gaza Strip continued Sunday as Palestinian medical sources reported 17 Palestinians killed and more than 30 wounded since it commenced on Friday 9 March.
Although this current wave of violence was initiated with Israel’s assassination of a senior Palestinian officer, Israeli political and military leaders hold Hamas responsible for military escalation in the south.
According to Israeli military sources, 130 missiles were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territories. 31 rockets were successfully intercepted by Israel’s military Iron Dome system. One person was seriously injured at the Eshkol Regional Council on Friday night.
On Saturday, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas called on leaders in Egypt, the European Union and the Quartet to bring a halt to Israeli military escalation in the Gaza Strip.
Abbas further contacted Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and head of the Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Shallah, and even attempted to contact Israel, in an effort to put an end to the current round of violence.
According to the PA news agency, WAFA, Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders said they do not want to see the situation escalate further and were committed to calm so as not to give Israel a pretext to continue with its military operations against the Gaza Strip.
President Abbas condemned the Israeli air attacks on Gaza and held Israel’s government responsible for what he described as “the dangerous deterioration as a result of its aggression against our people that include assassinations, incursions and destruction of infrastructure.”
The Israeli offensive began with the assassination of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) Secretary General, Zuhair Al-Qaisi, and a senior official in the organization, Ahmed Al-Hanani, who was released as part of the Shalit deal and deported to the Gaza Strip. According to the Israeli army, the two were “planning a combined terror attack that was to take place via Sinai in the coming days.”
Israeli and Palestinian officials reported that Israeli forces fired two missiles at a vehicle in northern Gaza, immediately killing al-Qaisi and Hanani, who were inside.
In a communiqué published by the PRC immediately following the assassination, the organization vowed to retaliate, claiming Israeli attacks thus ended the truce in place. This was also the position of the Islamic Jihad.
A spokesman for the Islamic organization, Dawoud Shihab, said these most recent assassinations confirm that the Israeli occupation does not want calm and stability and wishes to turn Gaza into a training ground for its army. Shihab called on the Palestinian resistance factions to re-evaluate the calm in Gaza and the West Bank and to agree on a strategy in response to Israel’s constant aggression and violations.
The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine supported the Islamic Jihad call for a new strategy to confront Israeli aggression. However the organization added that it is not enough to respond to the aggressions in the Gaza Strip, claiming that a united resistance front should also confront Israel’s settlement activities in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum also sees a relation between the attack on Gaza and Israeli settlement activities in Jerusalem and the West Bank. In a statement published by the Palestinian Information Center (PIC), Barhoum says that the escalation in Gaza aims to cover-up for Israel’s plans of Judaisation in Jerusalem and against the al-Aqsa Mosque in the city.
Barhoum held the Israeli occupation fully responsible for what might happen in response to its military escalation, and demanded the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority end its restrictions on resistance in the West Bank and enable it to defend its people.
Israeli officials evaluate as positive the airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during Sunday’s government meeting that ”We have collected a high price from them and we are still collecting. We will continue to operate as long as it is necessary.”
Israeli military spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, accused Hamas of the recent attacks and escalation in the Gaza Strip. According to Mordechai, it is a fact that “Hamas currently holds authority in Gaza and enables various terror organizations to continue firing rockets at Israeli civilian communities.” The Israeli Brigadier added that “the Hamas movement, although is not the one performing the launchings, is not doing anything to prevent them either.”
* This article was published by the Alternative Information Center