Hamas, Israel Seeking to Calm the Ghost of War They Both Fear

Hamas, Israel Seeking to Calm the Ghost of War They Both Fear

Friday, 10 August, 2018 - 09:45
Israel launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip in retaliation for missile attacks (AP)
Ramallah, Tel Aviv- Kifah Zboun and Asharq Al Awsat
Eighteen citizens were injured on Thursday when Israeli planes targeted the Said Messhal Cultural Foundation west of Gaza city.

Calm returned to the Gaza Strip gradually after a long day, during which Israel bombed about 150 targets belonging to Hamas and other factions, which responded by about 180 rockets and shells at nearby Israeli settlements and cities.

Palestinian factions have declared the end of fighting “if Israel commits” to the decision. A Palestinian official said in a brief statement that the joint chamber of the factions “announces the cessation of all operations… as the factions consider that the round of escalation in response to the Israeli aggression is over.”

He added: “But if the occupation commits any of its crimes, the resistance will defend its people.”

Palestinian sources with knowledge of the matter told Asharq Al-Awsat that the decision to stop the fighting was made without much pressure in order to convey two important messages.

“First, that any Israeli bombing will be met with the same; and second, that Hamas does not want to engage in a war in the sector,” the sources said.

Israel also appears to be avoiding the specter of war with Hamas.

“We are not eager for war, but we will not make any concessions to Hamas,” Yuval Steinitz, a member of Israel’s inner cabinet, told Israel Radio on Thursday.

The latest escalation began on Wednesday following rocket attacks from Gaza that targeted nearby Israeli towns and cities and an armed attack on an army engineering vehicle on the border, in retaliation for Israel’s killing of two members of Qassam brigade on Tuesday.

In a subsequent development, a Grad rocket hit the city of Beersheba, the farthest area hit by a rocket from Gaza since the war of 2014. The Israeli army said sirens had been launched in Beersheba, the largest city in southern Israel, located about 40 kilometers from the Gaza Strip.

Explosions were heard in the outskirts of the city inhabited by 200,000 people, but no casualties were reported, as the rockets landed in an open area. Israel responded with raids. but no injuries were reported.

The United Nations’ Middle East envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, has expressed his concern about the latest escalation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip.

Mladenov said he was “deeply alarmed” by “multiple rockets fired toward communities in southern Israel” the day before.

“If the current escalation, however, is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people,” he added.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also announced that he has made intensive international contacts at all levels to stop the Israeli escalation “on our people in the Gaza Strip.” He called on the international community to intervene immediately and urgently to stop the fighting.

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