After a night of rage between Gaza and Israel, Jerusalem is asking, “What now?”

Share This Post

- Advertisement -

Israel’s defense minister said on Friday the army would halt the air strikes if Palestinian militant groups stop the rocket attacks, a day after the deadliest Israeli incursion in decades raised the prospect of a intensification of fighting.

- Advertisement -

after a limited exchange of rockets and Palestinian airstrikes Israeli strikes on Gaza overnight, Jerusalemites were nervous Friday morning, waiting for what would happen next.

The Israeli defense minister has instructed the army to prepare new attacks in the Gaza Strip “if necessary”.

- Advertisement -

The bombing came after an Israeli raid on Jenin refugee camp ended in a firefight that killed at least seven militants and a 61-year-old woman.

The raid has started clashes elsewhere during which Israeli forces a 22-year-old man was killed in al-Ram, a Palestinian town north of Jerusalem.

At the funeral held in Al Ram, a crowd of Palestinians lifted the body of the young man and saluted him the flags of Al Fatah, the party that controls the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas, as it angrily calls for revenge. Two more Palestinians were killed in clashes the day before.

The escalation of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict has tested the new far-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who came to power as tensions with the Palestinians mounted and promised adopt a hard-line policy.

The raid also caused the Palestinian Authority to break security coordination with Israel and raised “deep concern” at the State Department just days before the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the region.

Until now, hostilities have followed a familiar pattern that allows either side to respond without forcing the other to further escalate. Palestinian militants fired rockets from Gaza south of Israel. Israel responded with non-lethal air strikes against militant targets in Gaza, such as training camps and an underground rocket manufacturing facility.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the army had dealt a “major blow” to Palestinian militants in Gaza and said the army was preparing to attack “high quality targets… until peace is restored for the citizens of Israel.”

Tense calm in Jerusalem

In the vicinity of the Al-Aqsa mosque complex, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, an uneasy calm reigned.

Tensions in Jerusalem’s unstable holy site have sparked violence in the past, including a bloody war in Gaza in 2021. The site is considered the third holiest site in Islam and also the site of an ancient Jewish temple which is the site of the holiest of Judaism.

Israeli police crowded the entrance to the limestone alleyways leading to the sacred complex, apparently preparing for violence as they searched Palestinian passers-by before the weekly midday prayers.

Fadi, a 41-year-old shopkeeper with a shop near Al-Aqsa, recounted the outbreak of violence had scared the neighbors and reduce the usual Friday morning shopping frenzy. She did not want to give her surname for fear of reprisals.

“The old Town it’s empty because of all these problems,” he said. “We just try to work and it happens. It’s like we’re trapped in every way.” The night before there had been scuffles between Jewish and Palestinian religious youths in restaurants and shops in the area.

Tensions have soared from Israel intensified raids in the West Bank last spring, after a series of Palestinian attacks.

Last year, nearly 150 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, making 2022 the deadliest year in those territories since 2004, according to prominent Israeli rights group B’Tselem. In the same year, 30 people were killed in Palestinian attacks on Israelis.

So far this year, 30 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Associated Press tally.

Israel claims that most of the dead were militants. But young people who protested against the incursions and other people unrelated to the clashes also died. This year, nearly half of the Palestinians killed by Israeli troops or civilians were claimed to be members of three militant groups.

Gulf Arab countries have strongly criticized the military incursion. Anwar Gargash, a senior UAE diplomat, warned on Friday that “the Israeli escalation in Jenin is dangerous and worrying and undermines international efforts to advance peace agenda priorities.” The UAE recognized Israel in 2020 along with Bahrain, which has been silent on the increase in violence.

At the entrance to the Old City through the Damascus Gate, young Palestinians strolled as usual and women sold raisins from their fields. News of the nine dead in Jenin and the rockets fired during the night blared from phones and radios.

Ibrahim Salameh, a 21-year-old who smokes on the steps of the Damascus Gate, said he has never been so scared. On Wednesday, he said, his teenage neighbor was killed when police entered Shuafat refugee camp to demolish the home of an attacker.

“Every day there is more fear, more tension,” he said. “Somehow I live with the idea that at any moment I may be killed.”

Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and several minor skirmishes since the militant group seized power in Gaza from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.

In the West Bank, Fatah has announced a general strike and most businesses have remained closed in Palestinian cities. The Palestinian Authority said on Thursday it would cut ties its security forces maintain with Israel in a joint effort to contain Islamist militants. Previous threats have been short-lived, partly because of the benefits authority derives from the relationship and also because of pressure from the United States and Israel.

The Palestinian Authority has limited control over scattered enclaves in the West Bank and almost none over militant strongholds such as Jenin camp.

Jenin, a city in the northern West Bank, was a major militant stronghold during the 2000-2005 intifada. In the last year it has once again become a stronghold of Palestinian militancy and the epicenter of Israeli military operations. Many of the Palestinians who killed Israelis in shelling last spring were from the Jenin region.

Israel says its raids are aimed at dismantling militant networks and thwarting attacks. Palestinians say they are further strengthening Israel’s 55-year occupation of the West Bank, captured by Israel along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians are claiming those territories for their long-awaited statehood.

Israel has set up dozens of settlements in the West Bank now housing 500,000 people. Palestinians and much of the international community view the settlements as illegal and an obstacle to peace, even though talks to end the conflict have been dormant for more than a decade.

Associated press

Translation: Elisa Carnelli

Source: Clarin

- Advertisement -

Related Posts