Israel pounds Gaza after rocket strikes house

An Israeli airstrike targets a building said to house the offices of Hamas politburo leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City on 25 March.

Ashraf Amra APA images

Seven Palestinians were injured as Israel bombarded Gaza on Monday night in what Israel’s acting foreign minister said was the military’s largest offensive there since 2014.

Palestinian factions fired rockets from Gaza towards southern Israel in response. Video showed a home in Sderot that was hit with a rocket fired from Gaza:

The bombing and rocket launching continued despite reports that Egypt had mediated a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Palestinan factions in Gaza.

Gaza rocket destroys Israeli house

The bombing began Monday hours after a rocket fired from Gaza destroyed a home in Mishmeret, an agricultural town north of Tel Aviv, injuring seven. No Palestinian faction claimed responsibility for the rocket.

Monday marked the second time in two weeks that projectiles fired from Gaza reached central Israel, both purportedly by accident.

Israel claimed that a three-story building in Gaza targeted by its warplanes was a “secret headquarters” belonging to the intelligence services of Hamas.

Videos were said to show that building being hit:

Also reportedly targeted were the offices of Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political wing:

Israel also closed the Erez and Kerem Shalom checkpoints, preventing the movement of people, including international correspondents, and goods in and out of northern Gaza.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s Middle East peace envoy, decried the firing of the missile towards Israel and said that his side was working with Egypt “but [the] situation remains VERY tense.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is up for reelection in 15 days, faced a barrage of criticism from other Israeli leaders who demanded blood after the Israeli home was hit.

Israeli leaders call for assassinations

Culture minister Miri Regev echoed previous calls by Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s chief election rival, by calling for the extrajudicial killing of Palestinian leaders.

“Only when the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza feel they’re being hunted down and are in the crosshairs will they start to interpret us differently,” she said.

Israel’s finance minister, Moshe Kahlon, also advocated “restoring the policy of targeted assassinations.”

Before they were limited by Israel’s high court, 339 Palestinians – 210 of them the target and 129 of them civilian bystanders – died in “targeted killings” between 2000 and 2006, according to B’Tselem, a human rights group.

Itamar Ben-Gvir of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party stated “it is high time to charge Gaza a heavy price.” He said that for every rocket fired from the territory, “30 terrorists should be killed, Gaza should be leveled and we should return to Gush Katif,” referring to a settlement in Gaza evacuated by Israel in 2005.

In a joint statement, Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennet, the outgoing justice and education ministers, respectively, stated that “Israeli deterrence has collapsed,” and that “deterred people don’t shoot.”

Israeli leaders have long sought the total capitulation of Gaza’s population, now more than two million, half of them children, and two-thirds of them refugees from lands on the other side of the Gaza-Israel boundary fence.

Israel’s land, sea and air blockade, imposed on Gaza after the elected Hamas government took charge there in 2007, was intended to do just that, as were Israel’s three major offensives on the coastal enclaves between 2008 and 2014.

Over the past year Palestinians in Gaza have rebelled against the siege, which has seen unemployment rates reach the highest in the world, families thrust into poverty, a majority of children grapple with psychological distress, and its population become dependent on humanitarian aid.

Palestinians have paid dearly for that rebellion, with nearly 200 shot and killed and 7,000 injured by live fire during massive unarmed demonstrations under the banner of the Great March of Return.

A UN commission of inquiry has found that Israel’s use of lethal force against protesters warrants criminal investigation and prosecution and may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the protests.

Trump signs executive order on Golan Heights

Palestinians in Gaza reported Monday’s attacks in real time on social media as Netanyahu, in Washington, watched his American counterpart Donald Trump sign an executive order delivering on his promise to recognize Israel’s claims to sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

As recognized by international law, the Golan Heights is Syrian territory captured by Israel during the 1967 war along with the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, from which Israel eventually withdrew.

After Israel claimed to annex the Golan Heights in 1981, the UN Security Council declared the move “null and void and without international legal effect.”

Syria’s foreign ministry said the US move was a “blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Syria.

Al-Marsad, a human rights group based in the Golan Heights, stated on Monday that “The decision sets a dangerous standard that glorifies systematic human rights abuses, legitimizes illegal aggression and occupation, and endangers peace in the Middle East.”

The head of the United Nations, as well as Human Rights Watch, emphasized that Trump’s executive order did not change the status of the Golan Heights under international law:

Tags

Comments

picture

Is there independent evidence or confirmation of the source and/or identity of the rocket that hit the house in Israel? I ask because the timing, just before the Israeli election, is awfully convenient for the Israeli right. It seems like such an obvious strategic fail with no gain whatsoever for the Palestinians.

Add new comment

Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.