One person was killed and 10 were injured Thursday when an explosion tore through a house in a popular marketplace in Gaza City, the Hamas-run interior ministry said.
It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion.
The blast in the Al-Zawiya area collapsed large parts of the house and damaged dozens of buildings and shops nearby, according to the statement.
Police explosives and engineering teams continue to investigate the causes of the explosion. Civil defense teams and the police were able to control the resulting fire.
The blast shook the neighborhood on the third day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The Israeli army signaled it wasn’t involved, calling the explosion an “internal matter” in Gaza.
Gaza City already was struggling with heavy damage sustained during an 11-day conflict in May between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
The World Bank earlier this month said rebuilding Gaza would cost $485 million, including up to $380 million to repair the physical damage alone.
Israeli officials have said they will condition allowing the reconstruction of Gaza on progress and easing the heightened restrictions on reaching a prisoner exchange with Hamas that secures the return of two Israeli civilians and two soldiers’ bodies held by the terror group.
An explosion in a market in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Thursday killed one person and injured 10.
The explosion in the Al-Zawiya area caused the collapse of parts of a house and damaged dozens of buildings and shops, said the Palestinian interior ministry as reported by the AP. The cause of the blast is unknown.
The Israel Defense Forces called the explosion an “internal” matter. The blast occurred on the third day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The World Bank had estimated that reconstruction in Gaza, following the 11-day conflict in mid-May that Hamas instigated by launching rockets into Israel, would cost $485 million.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Monday that while Israel wants to see a peaceful and prosperous Gaza Strip, the Hamas terror organization that rules it seeks the opposite.
Suzy Ishkontana, 7, clings to her new toys and clothes, but mostly to her dad.
For hours, they were separated under the rubble of their family’s home. Now she cannot bear to be apart.
More than two months have passed since rescue workers pulled the 7-year-old from the ruins, her hair matted and dusty, her face bruised and swollen. The sole survivors of the family, she and her father heard the fading cries of her siblings buried nearby.
Suzy’s mother, her two brothers and two sisters — ages 9 to 2 — died in the May 16 Israeli attack on the densely packed al-Wahda Street in Gaza City. Israeli authorities say the bombs’ target was Hamas tunnels; 42 people died, including 16 women and 10 children.
Altogether, Gaza’s Health Ministry says 66 children were killed in the fourth war on the Gaza Strip — most from precision-guided Israeli bombs, though in at least one incident Israel alleges a family was killed by Hamas rockets that fell short of their target.
And then there are countless others, like Suzy, who bear the scars.
“My kids who died and my wife, they are now in a safe place and there is no worry about them, but my greater fear is for Suzy,” says her father, Riad Ishkontana.
This story is part of “The Cost of War,” a series of stories on the effects of four wars in Gaza over 13 years.
With schools shuttered due to the war, the coronavirus and the summer hiatus, Gaza’s children have little to keep them occupied as they wade through the wreckage. Most are poor; more than half the population lived in poverty before the pandemic and war wiped out more jobs.
Some of them are irritable, their parents say. Some wet themselves at night, are afraid to be alone, suffer from night terrors — all signs of trauma, says Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei, director general of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program.
But there is only one licensed child psychiatrist for Gaza’s 1 million children, who make up just under 48 percent of the population, Abu Jamei says.
To recover, he says, children need to feel the traumatic event they’ve experienced is over and that life is returning to normal.
These children live in a place where the piercing whine of warplanes, the tremors of airstrikes and the humming buzz of armed drones are familiar sounds, even in times of cease-fire. Where when war erupts, there is no safe place — and where four wars and a blockade have crippled life over the past 13 years.
In Gaza, Abu Jamei says, “life never goes back to normal.”Refugee claimant from Gaza ‘horrified’ when asked why Hamas wouldn’t protect her – Jun 14, 2021
In the hours he and his daughter spent trapped in the rubble, Riad Ishkontana recalls hearing his older daughter Dana, 9, and youngest son Zain, 2, calling for him: “Baba, baba.” Later, Suzy would tell him that she could feel Zain under the wreckage.
Before the war, Suzy was an independent child, walking to school down the street with Dana, and picking up fruits and vegetables from a corner store for her mom.
Now, she struggles to speak with relatives or detach from the mobile phone, spending hours playing games, stopping to look at web pages related to the attack. “It’s almost like in losing her mom, she lost her life and her ability to deal with life and people,” Ishkontana says
When Ishkontana leaves to go on any errand, Suzy weeps and insists on going along — she fears losing him, too. He took her to her mother’s grave; she brought along a hand-written note.
“Mama,” she wrote, “I want to see you.”
The blast blew the al-Masri family apart. And it left a young brother and sister shattered.
It all happened in an instant, around 6 p.m. on May 10. The al-Masri family were harvesting wheat in an open field in Beit Hanoun by their house overlooking Gaza’s border with Israel. The children — cousins, siblings, the neighbor’s kids — played as the adults prepared to break their daylong fast in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
As usual, BATOOL AL-MASRI, 14, carried her cousin Yazan, a toddler barely 2 years old. “Twenty-four hours a day she was spoiling him,” says Batool’s father, Mohammed Atallah al-Masri.
Then, an explosion.
It’s not clear whether the rocket was fired by Israel or Hamas. But in an instant, eight people were dead, including six children.
Yazan bled out in front of Batool. She tried to save him, ignoring injuries to her legs and pelvis.
Batool’s 8-year-old brother, Qasim al-Masri, 8, was wounded in his head, as were other brothers, including 22-year-old Hammoudah, who lost an eye.
Qasim survived, but his best friend and cousin, Marwan, 7, did not. They’d been inseparable, even in school, al-Masri says. Marwan’s only brother, Ibrahim, 11, also was killed.
Also killed were Batool and Qasim’s sister Rahaf, 10 and their brother Ahmed, 21, who was just a week shy of his wedding.
The attack “completely changed” Qasim, his father says. The young boy talks to himself. At night, he’s paralyzed by fear and does not get out of bed to use the bathroom.
Batool has become irritable, weeps often and in the evenings is terrified, waking every 20 or 30 minutes. She has little appetite.
“What they saw was terrifying,” al-Masri said. “These were innocent kids.”U.S. sees rise in anti-semitic attacks – May 22, 2021
It was the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid in May. Instead of playing with their new toys, the Abu Muawad children were running for their lives.
The airstrikes hit without warning. Their mother — eight months pregnant — and the four children, ages 3 to 11, fled their home in northern Gaza just before it was destroyed.
In the chaos, Maya Abu Muawad, 8, was separated from her mother. Alone and afraid, she rode in an ambulance to safer ground. For 15 minutes, she was locked in the wailing vehicle with a dying person and a wounded boy, her neighbour.
It would be six hours before Maya would be reunited with her parents.
Her younger brother, Oday Abu Muawad, 6, had never experienced war before. He was stunned by the scenes of chaos and death, the sound of airstrikes.
Before the war, Maya was confident and independent. She liked having her hair brushed, couldn’t stand it if her clothes became dirty and liked to wear rings.
Now, the family is sheltering in a U.N.-run school with other displaced families. Maya repeatedly asks when they’ll return home, but her father Alaa Abu Muawad, who works as a driver, has no money to rebuild. She sits alone mostly, preferring to spend all her time on the phone, listening to songs or watching videos on TikTok — anything to escape her reality, says her father.
“If she asks her brother for something and doesn’t get it, she just cries and screams. Everything about her … it’s not my daughter before. It’s not Maya,” Abu Muawad says.
Before the war, Oday always smiled and loved to joke around with people. He preferred playing with older kids and sitting with adults, his father says.
“Now, he watches kids playing on the television and asks: `Why can’t we play like them?”’ Abu Muawad says. “I don’t know how to reply, what to tell him.”
And in the night, he often wakes up screaming.
When the 2014 war broke out, Lama Sihweil, 14, and her family fled their home in Beit Hanoun when the Israeli army invaded, joining some 3,300 Palestinians crammed into the U.N.-run Abu Hussein school in the Jabaliya refugee camp.
As they slept, Israeli shells pounded the school and the street. Three of 7-year-old Lama’s cousins — ages 14, 16 and 26 — were among the 16 killed in that attack. The 2014 war claimed more than 2,100 Palestinian lives in Gaza.
Seven years later, she is afflicted by memories: of screams in the darkness; of frantic searches of loved ones; of the stench of blood and debris.
“Just sitting with her, she appears fine,” says he father, Thaer Sihweil.
“But try to talk to her, she can’t express herself. From the fear she has, she’s unable to communicate what’s in her heart,” he says.
After the war, her grades dropped. She would walk out of class without the teacher’s permission. She became forgetful. The fear and anxiety were constant.
Then, war came again this year. Lama, her mother, siblings, aunts and cousins were sleeping over at her grandmother’s when more Israeli missiles hit. The walls of the house collapsed; the family ran screaming through the streets, stepping over shards of glass, twisted metal and electrical cables until they reached the nearest hospital.
Now, Lama is afraid to venture out on her own. Each night, she clings to her parents.
And there is no escape; Lama and her brothers would love to go the beach for a day, but the war cost their father his job. He does not have 40 shekels ($12) to get to Gaza’s coast.Top UN humanitarian official visits worst-damaged areas in Gaza, discusses aid efforts – May 22, 2021
When Youssef al-Madhoun, 11, hears the popping sound of firecrackers, or a metal door closing loudly, he is terrified. The war courses back.
Youssef, his brother and his parents fled their home in the late afternoon on the last day of Ramadan, as the first rounds of Israeli fire sounded. They’d be safer, they thought, at his great-grandfather’s house in a more crowded neighbourhood of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza Strip.
By nightfall, the neighbourhood was engulfed in a barrage. A family of six was crushed under the weight of a building just steps from where the al-Madhoun family was staying. Their house and others nearby partially collapsed or crumbled around them. An uncle and his wife were killed.
The family fled again, to another grandparent’s home.
Before the war, Youssef excelled in school and talked of one day becoming a doctor. Now, said his father, Ahmed Awad Selim al-Madhoun, he’s afraid to sleep at night, afraid to step outside the house alone. He leaves the door open when he’s in the bathroom.
This was the third war of Youssef’s short life. It’s left him feeling terrified, and unsafe.
Elien al-Madhoun, 6, was not yet born when her father lost his home in the 2014 Gaza War. Young as she is, she doesn’t entirely understand life and death.
But in May, she screamed out at the sounds of airstrikes and shelling in Bait Lahia in northern Gaza, says her father, Ahmed Rabah al-Madhoun.
He tried to shield her from talk of war, tried to keep her busy with games. But older cousins, huddled around her, talked about “airstrikes, missiles, martyrs openly because nothing is really hidden from children.”
Nine people died in the neighbourhood, including relatives.
“When nine homes are completely destroyed next to one another and my daughter sees this, she can’t understand what happened,” he says.
Her father says he doesn’t know what the future holds for her.
“We envy the people who’ve been killed and have returned to God. We envy them because they know their future,” he says. “But here, we’re just waiting for our turn. Our kids, our mothers, our fathers, our siblings, we’re here waiting our turn.”Hamas and Israel both claim victory after ceasefire deal – May 21, 2021
For years, Abdullah Srour, 16, lived in a state of constant fear. He’s survived four wars in Gaza, and with each war he grows more afraid, more insular.
When he was 9, the bedroom where he was sleeping in the Jabaliya refugee camp was hit by a missile, says his mother, Amal Srour. The family fled in their pyjamas to a U.N.-run school to seek shelter, but when they reached the school it too was hit. They saw people killed and animals dead on the road.
Abdullah spent four years in therapy. With time, he began to enjoy being around friends and leaving the house more, his mother says.
Then came May, and the fourth war.
The family would stay up all night, crammed into one room, praying to survive. Except for Abdullah; he refused to stay in the family home located on an upper floor, sleeping instead on the ground floor in his grandmother’s home until the ceasefire was announced.
Abdullah also saw a family of six — a father, a pregnant mother and four children — crushed to death under the rubble of a home that belonged to his grandfather during this last war. He stood amid the debris as rescue teams pulled their bodies out.
Now the smallest thing, including a needle prick at the doctor’s office, sends him into a panic. He bites his nails constantly. He doesn’t like to sit longer than 10 minutes in any one place, rarely smiles and sleeps next to his mother, by his much younger siblings.
“After this war,” says his mother, “he’s regressed to a child of 5 years old.”
For so long, 5-year-old Thaim Abu Oda’s childhood was sheltered, pleasant. There were trips with his father and younger brother to the nearby pool, to the beach and to the few play areas available in Gaza; his parents have steady incomes, and they live in the heart of Gaza City.
But for 11 days in May, the boy’s life was devastated by war — by the terrifying boom of fighter jets overhead and the bombs that shook his neighbourhood.
He stopped eating. He lost more than 5 kilos (11 pounds). His face became gaunt and his ribs protruded. He lost sleep, too, especially after hearing his grandfather had survived an airstrike on his building and had been hospitalized for breathing problems.
When the war ended, Abu Oda’s parents took him to see a therapist. After three sessions and weeks after the cease-fire held, his appetite returned and his weight began to climb.
He still fears sudden noises and has many questions about the sounds heard during the war, but his parents say he appears to be on a path to recovery. They worry, though, about the long-term effects of the war on his personality, and on his future in Gaza.
Seeking to avoid drawing Israeli firepower south towards Gaza, which is deep in recovery mode, Hamas is looking for new avenues to promote an “equation”; Hezbollah to the north announced the equation, and Iraqi militias and the Houthis have pledged allegiance to it.
The two Grad rockets launched at northern Israel early on Tuesday from southern Lebanon were likely fired by Hamas as part of its attempt to respond to tensions in Jerusalem and clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians around the Temple Mount on Sunday.
The Iron Dome air-defense system intercepted one projectile and a second fell in an open area, causing no injuries or damages. Warning sirens went off in border areas of northern Israel, and the Israel Defense Forces responded with artillery fire, firing about 12 shells into Lebanese territory.
The Lebanese Armed Forces found a third rocket, which was not launched, south of Tyre.
“Hamas looked for a response to the Temple Mount tensions, but it isn’t interested in firing from Gaza. Hence, it was easier to do this from Lebanon—with Hezbollah’s coordination,” said Maj. (res.) Tal Beeri, director of the research department at the Alma research center, who analyzes security threats to Israel emanating from Syria and Lebanon.
According to Beeri, a former IDF intelligence officer specializing in the Lebanese and Syrian arenas, Hamas chose to fire from Lebanon for a number of reasons.
The first is that it has not been able to recover from the May conflict with Israel and did not want to draw Israeli fire towards Gaza. Hamas correctly assessed that Israel’s retaliation in Lebanon would be significantly smaller in scale than in Gaza, said Beeri.
A broader strategic consideration is Hamas’s desire to implement, albeit symbolically, a new “equation,” announced by Hezbollah, according to which any perceived Israeli offensive activity near the Temple Mount will be answered with attacks.
Beeri noted that in recent weeks, Iranian-backed Iraqi militias and Houthis in Yemen have pledged their allegiance to this same equation.
The Iraqi Qataib Hezbollah militia announced that it had joined the “regional equation” in June in the latest sign of a coordinated Iranian-led axis of radical entities operating against Israel.
Hamas in Gaza and Hamas in Lebanon tightly coordinate their activities, mainly through the terror organization’s headquarters in Turkey, according to Beeri.
A branch of that headquarters, known as the “Construction Bureau,” is responsible for arming Hamas in Lebanon and ensuring that it has its own ability to activate weaponry.
It appears as if Hamas’s gamble was well-calculated, judging by Israel’s restrained reaction. Israel also seems reluctant to respond more forcefully in Lebanon at a time when the country is experiencing severe economic and humanitarian crises—basically, sitting at the brink of collapse.
Addressing the rocket attacks from Lebanon, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz stated that Israel “has an interest in a stable, economically prosperous Lebanon. Unfortunately, the situation in Lebanon is deteriorating, and Hezbollah and other terror organizations are working against the interests of the Lebanese people. We responded last night, and we will continue to respond in the right time and place against any violation of Israeli sovereignty.”
He added that Lebanon is responsible for what occurs in its territory.
“We outstretched a hand to Lebanon and offered it humanitarian assistance,” said Gantz. “That same outstretched hand is also a steel fist that will respond against any aggression.”
Hamas believed its support among Palestinians would increase after its defense of Sheikh Jarrah and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the fierce war with Israel called the “Battle of the Sword of Jerusalem,” an expectation that was fulfilled according to surveys conducted by independent Palestinian research centers. The surveys showed that the movement’s popularity increased because it engaged in a military confrontation with Israel not because of the siege on Gaza, the delay of the Qatari financial grant, or because one of its leaders had been assassinated but rather in defense of Jerusalem.
Hamas’ popularity was evident in its ability to galvanize and mobilize Palestinians within not only Gaza but the West Bank, Jerusalem, Israel, and neighboring countries, for example at the Lebanese and Jordanian borders with Israel. This widespread response was unprecedented for Hamas, as the movement traditionally has found little support for its military confrontations with Israel outside of Gaza, a fact that has long frustrated the movement.
Palestinians’ admiration for Hamas throughout the war was due in large part to the movement’s ability to combat the Israeli war machine without surrendering. Palestinians raised Hamas’ green flags throughout the West Bank and placed pictures of the movement’s leaders in Al-Aqsa Mosque. Even Fatah members were spotted chanting Hamas slogans during protests in the West Bank.
The Retreat of Fatah
The Palestinian Authority, in contrast, appeared to be a mere spectator at the conflict between Hamas and Israel, playing no role apart from making the usual calls to stop the violence. Neither Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, his prime minister, nor any ministers initiated a visit to Gaza, which received a number of Arab and international delegations. Ramallah, the headquarters for the leadership of the Fatah movement and the Palestinian Authority (PA), received no such visits, a fact that angered the PA and aroused the fear that Hamas would be seen as a viable alternative by the international community when it came to reconstruction.
What was most unusual for Palestinians was that while Israeli planes bombed Gaza, Abbas delivered a speech in which he invited Hamas to join in the creation of a single national government. Hamas quickly rejected the invitation for two reasons: the timing was bad considering the ongoing war with Israel; and Hamas had little interest in forming a government. What would have been of interest to Hamas instead was holding general elections (which Abbas postponed unilaterally in April) and reforming the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
Despite Hamas’ refusal, the Palestinian Authority sought to promote its goal of forming a unity government through consultations with regional and international mediators including Egypt, the European Union, and the United States. Hamas in parallel consulted with its allies among Palestinian factions about forming a national leadership, as the PLO does not include Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other affiliated factions of the resistance.
Despite the war seemingly working out in Hamas’ favor, the PA gained the upper hand when it was granted the authority to administer a $30 million grant from Qatar and rebuild Gaza after the war, an effort that was spearheaded by the Biden administration and approved by Israel, Egypt, and other international actors. Hamas has vehemently rejected the PA’s role because it views the effort as a means to nullify its military triumphs and prevent them from being translated into political victories.
It has become clear that there is a concerted U.S. effort to revive the PA after a period of estrangement during the Trump administration, with the goal of returning it to the negotiation table with Israel. Israel’s new government realized that the humanitarian agreements reached under Netanyahu—including a $30 million Qatari grant targeting underprivileged families—strengthened Hamas and contributed to its recent impressive military performance. Seeing that, Israel has decided to promote Egypt’s influence in Gaza at Qatar’s expense.
According to high-level sources within Hamas, “the movement fears a return to regional or international pressure, whether that be in the form of restricted cash flow into Gaza, the distancing of its allies, or the restriction of influence from allies such as Qatar and Turkey in favor of parties that are not completely aligned with the movement. All of these factors would diminish humanitarian conditions for Gaza residents and lead to more pressure from them on the movement.”1
Failure of the Cairo Talks
Since Abbas announced the postponement of general elections in late April due to fear of a Hamas victory, Hamas and Fatah have been estranged despite Egyptian efforts at reconciliation. Immediately following the war in Gaza, Cairo invited delegations from the Palestinian factions to meet. Egyptian sources indicated that the positions of Fatah and Hamas “appeared far apart, as Hamas, through its political chief Ismael Haniyeh, asked the head of Egyptian General Intelligence Abbas Kamel to ensure that the discussion would be a collective one among all factions rather than a bilateral one between the two movements, as Fatah prefers.”2 According to an inside source, Hamas “insisted that the discussion begin with the most important subjects: the PLO and setting dates for the general elections.”
The Fatah delegation, led by Central Committee Secretary Jibril Rajoub, arrived in Cairo with only one item on their agenda: the formation of a new government, eschewing any discussion of elections or the PLO. Because of the difference in agendas, the talks were doomed from the start.3 Fatah and Hamas’ positions further diverged when the PA (with regional, Israeli, and international support) showed its desire to exclude Hamas from everything related to the administration of Gaza, thereby igniting new disagreements in an already tenuous relationship.
The Palestinian political scene, which appeared unified throughout the war in Gaza, has returned to a state of internal division and might deteriorate further due to bullying by the PA and external actors. Hamas faces difficult political choices as it finds that its military achievement has not delivered the expected increase in internal and external political legitimacy.
Adnan Abu Amer is a professor of political science at al-Ummah University and a writer and researcher at the Arab Studies Center. He holds a doctorate in political history from Damascus University. Follow him on Twitter @AdnanAbuAmer2
1 The author spoke to these sources within Hamas.
2 The author spoke to well-formed Egyptian sources in regards to these meetings.
3 The author interviewed a knowledgeable Egyptian journalist familiar with the Palestinian discussion in Cairo on June 21.
In early July 2021, it was broadcasted that several arson balloon attacks were launched from Gaza and ignited multiple fires in South Israeli Towns. This comes after two weeks of seemingly quiet combat between Gaza and Israel. The attacks on 1 July 2021 have then sparked Israeli forces to target a Hamas weapon factory. Historic tensions between Israel and Gaza, run by the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Jerusalem, have created violence and conflict in the region for decades. A cease-fire declaration was made in May after conflict caused the death of 260 Palestinians, however, there have been various flare-ups of conflict since then.
Israeli’s new Prime Minister (PM), Naftali Bennett, stated on 3 July 2021 that “Israel is interested in calm and has no interest in harming Gaza residents, but violence… will be met with a strong response”. He also stated that “things have changed” since the recent arson attacks. PM Bennett continued that “we are also working on a solution to allow humanitarian assistance to Gaza residents”. In the Times of Israel, the PM also refers to the reports that Qatar donated money to Gaza. In May 2021, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, commented at the UN General Assembly Meeting on the conflict mentioning he was “horrified” and “deeply shocked by the continued air and artillery bombardment” in Gaza.
It is important to place pressures on the UN and other nations to make more of an effort to ensure that the conflict from both sides is ceased, and that civilians can return to their homes, safely. This, however, is likely to end up in another war. Aid agencies and the UN have set up emergency response funds and access to humanitarian goods for victims, although, other countries should implement non-violent measures including sanctions. The hopeful solution from the UN in that Jerusalem remain as the capital of both Israel and Palestine should be the main goal.
The conflict between Israel and Palestinians living in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank has occurred for decades. Gaza, ruled by Hamas, and its borders are tightly controlled by Israel and Egypt to stop weapons getting into the hands of the militant group. Israel claims that its efforts are to restrict the violence coming out of Gaza and to protect its citizens. According to the BBC, the primary issues surrounding the conflict refers to the Palestinians refugees in these areas, and whether Jewish settlements should be moved on. Further, the two cannot agree on whether a Palestinian state should be formed beside Israel and if they can share Jerusalem. Former President of the United States, Donald Trump, attempted to release a peace-plan for the Middle East in January 2020, however, this plan fell through. In May 2021, The UN reported that 208 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli military. Further, approximately 12 Israeli fatalities by Hamas.
It becomes more unlikely every day that the conflict and tensions between Israel and Gaza are likely to subside or stop. This creates an array of future issues in the Middle East and across the globe as tensions continue. Unfortunately, it is highly likely that more casualties will occur before a solution is found and implemented into the region. The conflicts between the parties will continue to create uproar in activists around the globe.
For Palestinians who lost loved ones in the fighting between Gaza fighters and Israel two months ago, there is little cause for celebration during the upcoming holiday of Eid al-Adha. The holiday, coinciding with Haj, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah, begins tomorrow, and the occasion is traditionally marked by slaughtering sheep or cows and exchanging gifts. For this year’s four-day festival, Mahmoud Issa, a 73-year-old retired teacher, bought new clothes for his grandchildren and took them to a farm to choose an animal to slaughter. But he mourns the death of his daughter Manar, 39, and her daughter, Lina 13, who he said were killed by an Israeli missile that destroyed their house in the Bureij refugee camp on May 13. Manar’s husband and three other children survived. “As adults, we are still haunted by pain, but we must get the children out of this atmosphere and make them live the atmosphere of Eid, so that they forget the pain of losing their mother and their eldest sister,” Issa said, sitting next to a large mural of Manar. Gaza’s Hamas-run government says 2,200 homes were destroyed and 37,000 damaged by Israeli bombing during the 11 days of cross-border fighting in May. More than 250 Palestinians were killed in hundreds of Israeli air strikes in Gaza that were launched after Hamas began firing rockets at Israel in retaliation for what the group said were rights abuses against Palestinians in Jerusalem. Thirteen people were killed in Israel during rocket barrages that disrupted life and sent people running for shelter. In Gaza’s livestock markets, breeders and farmers reported poor sales ahead of the holiday. At one market in the town of Khan Younis, some customers loaded animals onto donkey carts to take them home. “This year, the purchase of animals is weak because of the blockade, war and the coronavirus,” said merchant Saleem Abu Atwa, referring in part to tight border restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt, which cite security concerns for the measures.“We hope calm continues. It is for the sake of everyone,” he added. At a street stall in Gaza’s busy Rimal neighbourhood, Mohamed al-Qassas laments the destruction of his shoe store in the fighting as he sells goods that he salvaged from the rubble. The 23-year-old fears that an Egyptian-brokered truce that ended the most serious hostilities between Gaza fighters and Israel in years might not last. “Another war would be a disaster,” he told Reuters.
GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Israeli jets launched air strikes on Gaza overnight Thursday to Friday after militants in the Palestinian territory again set off incendiary balloons into southern Israel, the army and AFP journalists said. The fire balloons and air strikes are the latest violence heaping pressure on a fragile cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers that came into place on May 21, ending 11 days of heavy fighting. “Over the past day, arson balloons were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory,” Israel’s military said in a statement. “In response… fighter jets struck military compounds and a rocket launch site belonging to the Hamas terror organization.” AFP journalists in the Palestinian enclave also reported hearing explosions, which the army said hit sites in both Gaza City and in Khan Yunis, in the south of Gaza, home to some two million people. Soon after the strikes, Hamas militants opened fire with heavy machines guns toward the Jewish state, as Israeli warning air raid sirens rang out. US Secretary of State Blinken spoke on Thursday with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and discussed “the need to improve Israeli-Palestinian relations in practical ways,” the State Department said in a statement. “They also shared opinions on opportunities to deepen normalization efforts as well as on regional security issues, including Iran,” the State Department said. Palestinian militants in Gaza launched balloons for a third day running on Thursday, according to Israeli firefighters battling the blazes sparked by the devices. The balloons are basic devices intended to set fire to farmland and bush surrounding Gaza.
Flames are seen after an Israeli air strike hit Hamas targets in Gaza City, Gaza on June 15, 2021 [Ali Jadallah – Anadolu Agency]July 17, 2021 at 1:04 pm
Two months after the end of the last Israeli aggression on Gaza, Israel admitted that there is no simple solution to the situation in the strip. The instability of the current ceasefire entails Israel to discuss a number of necessary steps to weaken Hamas and bring the Palestinian Authority (PA) back to Gaza.
Defence Minister Benny Gantz and senior officials agree that a sustained ceasefire in Gaza requires strengthening the PA and allowing it to participate in the reconstruction of Gaza, but the gap between the West Bank and Gaza runs deep.
Since the beginning of the war, Egypt has sought to lead an alternative strategy based on the assumption that the PA is gradually coming back to rule Gaza. This is echoing in the US and Israel as a fundamental change that allows for coordinated Israeli-Egyptian-US efforts. The main idea of this strategy is to support the strengthening of the PA and its return to Gaza. However, the current challenge is to transform this idea from rhetoric into practice on the ground.
The biggest dilemma facing Israel in Gaza is money reaching Hamas and how to design a reconstruction mechanism that ensures that the movement does not benefit from it. We are talking about a mechanism that was established after the 2014 war, but needs updating in order to achieve stability in Gaza. However, this step alone will not be enough to change the balance of power between Hamas and the PA. Strengthening the PA and facilitating its return to ruling Gaza requires Israel to undertake five fundamental steps.
The first step is to improve the chances of success for this idea. The two sides will not agree to participate in or lead an effort that is doomed to fail. To this end, Israel should ease restrictions on the movement of goods and people into Gaza and support large projects, including the planning, construction and operation of a seaport under the supervision of the PA, taking into account Israel’s security needs.
The second step is for the PA to allow for more understandings between Fatah and Hamas about the distribution of power and responsibilities between them. Israel must support the formation of a technocratic government, and not veto it. This government, led by the PA, would be responsible for managing civil affairs in Gaza, subject to a guarantee mechanism that Hamas won’t have access to funds run by this government.
The third step concerns the lack of an effective means of defence and security in Gaza. Israel will not blame the PA, nor hold it responsible for any violation of the ceasefire by a third party.
As for the fourth step, the PA is not expected to cooperate with a strategy that only improves conditions in Gaza, so the whole proposed approach entails ensuring that the situation in the West Bank improves as well, regardless of how far Gaza is from it.
Finally, the fifth step relates to avoiding any Israeli provocation in the holy places in and around Jerusalem, maintaining the status quo in Al-Aqsa Mosque, and not evacuating Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem. These are all steps that do not go beyond the ideological boundaries of the new Israeli government, and none of the coalition members opposes measures directly concerning the quality of life, stability or security in the West Bank.
Taking these steps has a number of benefits for Israel; primarily, they would stop Hamas from claiming that it represents the Palestinians. More importantly, the Israeli government does not want to be drawn into the reoccupation of Gaza, and therefore it has an urgent need for a Palestinian government there. Israel should know that developments in the West Bank and Jerusalem affect stability in Gaza, and vice versa.
This means that two months after the Gaza war, the situation there is still unstable and dangerous. So far, negotiations over the prisoner exchange deal seem to be stalled, and the reconstruction of Gaza is still a distant dream. Indeed, Hamas was seriously hurt in the war, but it exited appearing victorious. During the days of the fighting, its fighters appeared confident, and some of them even became media stars on Arab networks. However, in reality, they know that they must soon either obtain a great deal of aid for the reconstruction of Gaza, or escalate the situation again if their demands are not met, as they had promised their supporters.
Over the past 14 years, Israel assumed that the policy of “divide and conquer” between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and between Fatah and Hamas, served its interests. However, none of this happened. During the last Gaza war, Israel realised that it is impossible to contain Hamas or to reach an understanding with it. Hamas is an ideological organisation with clear goals.
There is no doubt that Hamas wants to become master of the house in the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and gain international recognition, so the next round of fighting with Hamas seems inevitable. It may happen now in the middle of the hot summer, or on another occasion. It is useful for the Israelis to understand that this time Hamas fighters will increase the production of rockets to refill their reservoirs and mine underground tunnels.
The increased strength of Hamas in the Palestinian street, especially in the West Bank, and Israel’s insistence on a new equation with the movement in Gaza, increase the chances of further military escalation to come. If Israelis try to clearly describe the situation in Gaza and summarise the results of the war, they may find it difficult to do so, or to find answers. This confirms that Gaza is a complex problem for Israel, and it seems that the last war is just a small break. Thus, the occupation army leadership continues to review the events of the war, draw lessons from it and prepare for the next one.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.