Israel on High Alert as it Engages in Night of Gaza Bombing

Published March 26th, 2019 - 10:38 GMT
A picture taken on March 26, 2019, shows Palestinians walking amidst next to the rubble of a building in Gaza City, after Israeli air strikes hit dozens of sites across the Strip overnight in response to rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave (AFP)
A picture taken on March 26, 2019, shows Palestinians walking amidst next to the rubble of a building in Gaza City, after Israeli air strikes hit dozens of sites across the Strip overnight in response to rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave (AFP)

A tense quiet took hold on Tuesday morning after a night of heavy fire as Israeli aircraft bombed Gaza.

Israel says it was responding to a rocket attack from Gaza.

The escalation threatened to devolve into a major conflict, just two weeks before the Israeli election.

An Israeli house was hit by a rocket early Monday and seven people were wounded. Gaza's Health Ministry said seven Palestinians were wounded by the air strikes.

The exchange continued into the early hours of Tuesday before the ceasefire went into effect.

Schools in southern Israel were cancelled on Tuesday and the military imposed restrictions on public gatherings near the Gaza border.

Overnight, Israel targeted a building in Gaza City that it said had served as a Hamas military intelligence headquarters and the office of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Israel also sent tanks and ground troops to its border with Gaza on Tuesday.

 

Monday's attack on Gaza prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cut short a visit to Washington and return to Israel.

The prime minister is facing corruption charges and goes into the election a damaged candidate. He has promised harsh action, setting the stage for perhaps the most serious conflict since a war in 2014.

But with no fatalities reported on either side yet, and the quiet holding for the moment, it still seems possible to step back from the brink once again.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in the last decade.

Although neither side appears to have an interest in another war, fighting could easily spin out of control.

The 2014 conflict lasted 50 days and ended with over 2,000 Palestinian deaths, including hundreds of civilians, and 73 killed on the Israeli side.

Netanyahu is scheduled to land later Tuesday and head directly to consultations at military headquarters in Tel Aviv.

He faces the difficult task of delivering a tough blow to Hamas while avoiding protracted fighting that could work against him on election day.

He has conducted indirect ceasefire talks through Egyptian mediators in recent months, and even allowed the delivery of millions of dollars of Qatari aid to Hamas to ease harsh conditions in Gaza.

Hamas under pressure

Hamas is facing perhaps its toughest domestic test since taking control of Gaza from the rival Palestinian Authority 12 years ago.

An Israel-Egyptian blockade, imposed to weaken Hamas, combined with sanctions by the Palestinian Authority and mismanagement by the Hamas government, have all fueled an economic crisis that has left Gaza with an unemployment rate above 50 percent.

Hamas has been leading weekly protests along the Israeli border for the past year in hopes of easing the blockade. Israeli forces have killed over 200 protesters in what the UN says could be crimes against humanity.

 

This article has been adapted from its original source.     


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