Situation in Gaza Intensifies as Israel Mobilizes Troops

Israeli soldiers gather at a military staging area outside the southern Gaza Strip July 7, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

On Thursday of this last week, Israeli military rushed additional forces to its southern border with the Gaza strip in response to repeated rocket fire from the Palestinian terrority. Meanwhile, new clashes exploded in east Jerusalem after the death of an Arab boy who Palestinians believe was killed by Israeli extremists, according to Josef Federman’s article Israel Moves Troops Toward Gaza As Tensions Soar. According to the Israeli military, more than 40 rockets or mortar shells were fired by Hamas controlled Gaza on Thursday prompting Israel to take up defense measures and possible retaliation. The tension in the region has remained high due to the abduction of three Israeli teenagers from the West Bank on June 12 whose bodies were later found earlier this week after a massive manhunt. Israel blames Hamas for the abductions and in response crackdown on the Islamic militant group in the West Bank causing a daily cycle of rocket fire from Gaza and their own airstrikes. To make matters worse, on Wednesday, the burned body of a Palestinian youth identified on Thursday as Mohammed Abu Khdeir was found in the forest after being seized near his home in east Jerusalem. The Palestinians accused Israeli extremists of killing the teen as retaliation against the deaths of the Israeli youths. The same day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to calm the situation condemning the boy’s killers and promising to find who did it.

Early Thursday, defense officials confirmed that tanks, artillery and ground forces were sent to the border after an intense barrage of rocket fire which hit homes in the southern Israeli town of Sderot. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli spokesman call the move defensive and hoped it would de-escalate the situation. The Israeli military said 34 of the rockets or mortar shells exploded inside Israel on Thursday while many blew up prematurely inside Gaza or were shot down. Four rockets were fired out of Gaza before nightfall, however no injuries were reported according to Federman. The Israeli military has responded to the roughly 130 rockets fired toward Israel in recent weeks with airstrikes on some 70 targets in Hamas controlled Gaza. In Gaza, two senior Hama officials said the group has no interest in escalating the situation and hope the ceasefire will be restored, however, rocket fired would continue until Israel stops its attack on Gaza. In east Jerusalem, Palestinian youth clash with Israeli security forces for a second straight day in response to the death of Abu Khdeir. No injuries were reported.

Early on Monday June 7th, the Islamic militant group Hamas who rule Gaza have vowed revenge on Israel in response to seven of its own being killed in an airstrike making it the deadliest exchange of fire since the last round of attacks a week ago, the Associated Press reports. The reason for the airstrikes on Gaza, according to Israel, is due to the recent barrage of attacks from Gaza including a dozen rockets fired overnight with one injury to a soldier and the 25 rockets fired on Sunday. Lt. Col. Peter Learner, a military spokesman, had this to say: “We will continue to act in order to debilitate and incapacitate the Hamas terror infrastructure striking its warehouses, rocket manufacturing capabilities and those that endanger the well-being of the Israelis in the south of the country.” The nine militants killed overnight Monday has marked the deadliest day of fighting so far as Gaza has continued its rocket attacks for weeks with Israel responding with airstrikes. Later in the evening Monday, militants continued to unleash dozens of rockets on southern Israel causing hundreds of thousands of Israelis to stay indoors while the military rushed to the border of the Gaza Strip warning that heavier fighting could ensue.

Meanwhile, as tensions soar between the two, an investigation of six Jewish youths suspected of abducting and killing a Palestinian teenager is underway as Israeli leaders try to calm an emotional debate over whether the country’s politically charged atmosphere led to the gruesome crime, according to Josef Federman’s article 3 Israeli Suspects Confess Killing Palestinian Teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir. An Israeli officials said that three of the youths had confessed to the attack. The increased rocked fire followed the killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16 year old Palestinian boy from east Jerusalem who was abducted and burned to death last week. On Sunday, Israeli officials announced the arrest of six Jewish youth in the killing including some minors were from the Jerusalem area. Abu Khdier’s death triggered several days of violent protests in Arab areas of Jerusalem and northern Israel as Israeli extremists were blamed by Palestinians for the killing of the boy to avenge the earlier death of the Israeli teens, explains Federman. The three who confessed to the murder re-enacted it for authorities, an Israeli official said. In addition, the three minor suspects were allowed to meet with lawyers Monday and the primary suspects were not. Few details of the crime were known, however, Israel’s Channel 10 TV did say that the suspects were the son and grandsons of a prominent rabbi in Jerusalem and two suspects used the rabbi’s car for kidnapping without his knowledge. Israeli officials have yet to confirm the details. The news that the suspects were Jewish has the nation questioning how Israelis could carry out a gruesome attack. According to a preliminary autopsy, Abu Khdeir was still alive when he was set on fire. In addition, Israeli police Monday were investigating the police beating of Tariq Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian American teenage cousin of the murdered Palestinian youth.

On Tuesday, July 8, according to military officials, launched a long term offensive against the Hamas ruled Gaza Strip striking 50 cities in Gaza by air and sea and mobilizing troops for a possible ground invasion in order to halt rocket attacks in Israel, reports Daniel Estrin (Israel launches military offensive against Gaza in new operation dubbed ‘Operation Protective Edge’). The offensive named Operation Protective Edge so called by the army aims at striking Hamas and ending the rocket fire that has intensified in recent weeks amid tensions over the killing of three Israeli teenagers and the revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager. Nearly 300 rockets and mortars have been fired at Israel in recent weeks with about 80 projectiles on Monday alone. In response Israel has launched dozens of airstrikes and eight Palestinian militants were killed Monday. According to Estrin, among the 50 sites targeted early Tuesday four were houses belongs to militants, three militant compounds, 18 concealed rocket launchers and other militant infrastructure sites. Most were targeted using airstrikes with three targets attacked by sea. Gaza health officials Ashraf Al-Kendra said nine Palestinian civilians were brought to the Gaza hospital with light to moderate injuries from airstrikes, but treated and released later in the day. Lerner, the military spokesman, said the military will increase its attacks on Hamas in Gaza and will add additional reservists in order to mount a ground invasion into Gaza.

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