The Israeli army and the Palestinian militias Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been facing each other since last Monday, May 10, in an open contest, with a little hint of a truce, and that exceeds one hundred fatalities, the vast majority in the strip of Loop. International mediation attempts, especially from the United Nations, Egypt and Qatar, have so far failed. Hostilities have reached a level of violence not seen since the 2014 conflict.
These are the keys that summarize the latest war escalation in the Middle East:
What was the trigger? The level of violence unleashed between the Israeli Armed Forces and the Palestinian militias has been simmering during the month of Ramadan. Already on the night of April 22-23, more than a hundred Palestinians were injured in clashes with the police, of which about twenty had to be hospitalized. The demonstrators were protesting against a march of hundreds of Israeli ultra-rightists who marched towards the Old City of Jerusalem in the middle of the holy Muslim holiday shouting “Death to the Arabs!” The malaise of the Arab population had been in crescendo in the face of the restrictions by the pandemic wielded by the police to prevent the traditional concentrations of Palestinians in Ramadan at the Damascus Gate of the Old City.
Around the same entrance, Palestinian youths engaged in harassing ultra-Orthodox Jewish boys who were on their way to pray at the Western Wall. The clash reached its peak on Monday, the 10th, when more than 300 Palestinians were injured in clashes with the police after prayer at the Al Aqsa mosque, the third sacred place for Islam. Following this, Palestinian militias launched rockets into Jerusalem and central Israel.
What do holy sites have to do with fighting? As every year, not without tension, last Monday thousands of Israelis prepared to walk through the Old City of Jerusalem to the Wailing Wall, at the foot of the Esplanade of the Mosques – called by the Jews Temple Mount -, in the Jerusalem Day celebration. These visits are traditional in commemoration of the capture of the eastern part of the city by the Israeli Army during the Six Day War in 1967. In the presence of dozens of Palestinians stationed in the Al Aqsa Mosque and in anticipation of In an open clash, the police first banned Jewish groups from visiting the religious compound. The nationalist parade, hours later, was finally diverted towards the Jaffa Gate, through the Christian and Armenian neighborhoods, in the direction of the Wailing Wall. But the tension was already high and the armed wing of Hamas fired a salvo of rockets towards Jerusalem. The Israeli Army intercepted one of the shells with the Iron Dome defensive missile shield, causing explosions to be heard around the Holy City for the first time since 2014.
The evictions from the Sheikh Yarrah district. The threat of eviction that weighs on dozens of Palestinian families from Jerusalem who have lived in the Sheikh Yarrah district (north of the Old City) for seven decades has been another reason for the confrontation between protesters and police in recent weeks. Settler groups linked to the Israeli extreme right brandish property titles to the houses, which they claim to have acquired from Jewish owners prior to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. The Supreme Court on Sunday postponed the publication of the final sentence.
Who are they facing today? The so-called Israel Defense Forces, the Armed Forces, command retaliation for the launch of rockets from the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Army has reinforced the border areas with the Palestinian enclave with battalions of infantry and tanks. More than 3,000 reservists have been mobilized by the command of the Southern Division. The aviation has carried out half a thousand operations against the Palestinian militias positioned in Gaza. According to the latest military information, of the 1,600 missiles launched from the Strip as of Thursday – 400 fell in Gaza – 90% had been intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system.
The Israeli offensive points to two Palestinian armed groups, the Ezzedin al Qassam Brigades, the military arm of the Hamas militia-party, which rules de facto in the Gaza Strip, and the Al Quds Brigades, of Islamic Jihad, both considered terrorist groups by the Hebrew state. Since Monday, during the first four days of the offensive, 1,600 rockets have been launched from the Strip in the direction of central and southern Israel. The spokesman for the armed wing of Hamas, Abu Obaida, has said: “Hitting Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Dimona – where there is an Israeli nuclear plant – Ashdod or Beersheba is easier than drinking a sip of water.”
What damage has the current conflict caused? More than 120 people have lost their lives during the first five days of hostilities between the Israeli Army and the Palestinian militias. Most of the fatalities have been registered in Gazati territory. There, 119 Palestinians, including civilians and militiamen, have died from the Israeli bombings, of which at least 31 are minors and 11, women. Eight Israelis have been killed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad rocket launchers, including two minors and a soldier.
In addition, in Operation Guardian of the Walls, the Army has killed at least 16 Palestinian militia commanders and destroyed several buildings where, according to information from the Shin Bet (the Israeli internal intelligence service), offices of the two Islamist groups in the Gaza Strip.
Are there prospects for a truce? Hamas has linked any cessation of hostilities to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Esplanade of the Mosques, while Israel conditions the truce to guarantee security for its population, which would end with Operation Guardian of the Walls. None of the mediation attempts, not by Egypt, Qatar or the United Nations, have succeeded so far. The reluctance of the US administration of Joe Biden has so far held back the adoption of a resolution in the UN Security Council.
What stages are open for the next few days? During the early hours of Friday morning, the Israeli army intensified its operations against the infrastructures of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad militias with artillery fire from the border with the Gaza Strip and the bombardment of their planes. More than 550 rounds of artillery fire were added to the attacks of 160 fighter jets with 450 missiles against more than 150 positions of the Gaza militias. The main objective of the coordinated attack was the destruction of much of the internal tunnel network, made up of kilometers of passageways, through which Hamas fighters travel to rocket launch pads and attack posts in the vicinity of the dividing line with Israel, as reported by a military spokesman earlier this Friday. For the moment,
The Israeli offensive against Gaza, day by day
The strong Israeli offensive in Gaza has led to demonstrations throughout Israel in cities where Arab and Hebrew citizens coexist. More than 700 protesters have been detained since May 10. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that there is no greater risk for the country than that of riots in its cities due to protests by the Arab population.