July 26, 2021

First Israel-Hamas firefight since Gaza truce

Controlled shots or a new escalation in the making. Israeli air force targeted Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday (June 16) after throwing incendiary balloons at Israel.

These airstrikes are the first carried out by the Jewish state since the arrival in office Sunday evening of a new government led by the former defense minister, Naftali Bennett, having ended more than twelve years of uninterrupted reign of Benjamin Netanyahu.

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“Reprisals”

According to Palestinian sources, the Israeli air force targeted at least one site east of Khan Younès, a city in southern Gaza, an impoverished enclave of two million inhabitants, including about a thousand apartments, offices and shops. were destroyed in the last war with Israel, the fourth since 2008.

An Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer on site observed blasts, while the IDF confirmed in a statement that its “Combat jets” had struck Hamas sites, used in particular for “Meetings” of this Palestinian armed movement, in “Retaliation” to the launching of incendiary balloons on Tuesday which caused about 20 fires in Israel.

These strikes and balloons are the first major incidents between Israel and Gaza since a ceasefire on May 21, which ended eleven days of a lightning war that left 260 dead on the Palestinian side, including children, adolescents and combatants, and 13 deaths in Israel, including a child, a teenage girl and a soldier.

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Controversial march

These exchanges of fire take place on the sidelines of a controversial march by nationalist and far-right activists in East Jerusalem that brought together more than a thousand people on Tuesday evening and whose behavior raised fears of a resumption of hostilities between Hamas and Israel.

Israeli police forces arrest a Palestinian near the Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem as ultra-nationalists participate in the flag march near the Old City of Jerusalem on June 15, 2021.

The United States and the UN called for the ” detention “ before this controversial march that the new Israeli government of Naftali Bennett, in office since Sunday, had authorized while marking out its route to avoid confrontations with the Palestinians.

The Hamas movement, which made ” defense “ Jerusalem, his hobbyhorse in recent weeks, had, meanwhile, threatened Israel with reprisals if this march ventured into the Muslim neighborhoods of the Old City.

This “march of the flags” commemorates for the Israelis “The day of Jerusalem”, or the conquest and annexation by Israel of the eastern part of the holy city in 1967, however deemed illegal under international law.

Far-right Israeli lawmakers Bezalel Smotrich (right) and Itamar Ben-Gvir at the “flag march” near the Old City of Jerusalem on June 15, 2021.

In the end, the demonstrators, including the tenors of the extreme right Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, went to the square in front of the Damascus gate, overlooking the Muslim quarter of the Old City where the Esplanade des mosques is located. , third holiest site in Islam.

“The eternal people do not fear a long road”, the protesters sang, waving blue and white Israeli flags. Screams of “Death to the Arabs” broke through the crowd, according to an AFP team on the spot.

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“Dangerous repercussions”

However, the last round of clashes between Israel and Hamas began on May 10, the day initially scheduled for this march and after violent clashes on the Mosque Esplanade between Palestinians and Israeli police.

Playing the card of the “Solidarity” along with the hundreds of Palestinians injured in the clashes, Hamas launched a barrage of rockets at major cities in Israel which responded with heavy strikes, a prelude to the eleven-day war which ended in favor of a cease-fire obtained through mediation by neighboring Egypt.

After the Hamas-Israel war, Israeli far-right movements returned to the charge in order to finally hold the march. And this despite calls to cancel it from Israeli Arab MPs, even Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh warning against “Dangerous repercussions”.

According to Hamas, the “Mediators” working for a lasting ceasefire with Israel called on Palestinian factions to “Not to engage in a military escalation on the basis of the march of the flags” to avoid derailing the talks aimed at consolidating the ceasefire.

Read the editorial of the “World”: Israel-Palestine: changing the paradigm

The World with AFP