The death toll rose on Thursday, the third day of hostilities between Israel and Palestinian resistance fighters in Gaza, sparked by Israel’s surprise attack on Tuesday that killed three leaders of Islamic Jihad along with some of their children, other family members and neighbors.
The violence also claimed the first fatality in Israel, where one person was killed when a missile fired from Gaza hit a residential building in Rehovot, a town in central Israel.
The rocket was part of a volley fired by Islamic Jihad after a day in which Israel assassinated two more of its leaders in Gaza.
Since Tuesday, at least 30 Palestinians have been killed in the territory, including six children.
There have been more than 90 Palestinian injuries.
At least 25 people were injured in Israel due to Palestinian rocket fire, while running for bomb shelters or what Israeli media reported as anxiety.
As of late Thursday, all efforts to reach a mediated ceasefire had failed as Tel Aviv refused Islamic Jihad’s demands that it abandon its policy of assassinating Palestinian resistance leaders, and return the body of Khader Adnan, the hunger striker who died in an Israeli prison last week.
Even the United States, Israel’s chief arms supplier, has been urging Israel to bring the violence to an end.
“Two senior American officials spoke with their Israeli counterparts on Thursday night and called to prevent an escalation,” according to the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz.
A day earlier, White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with his Israeli counterpart and “emphasized the need to deescalate tensions and prevent further loss of life.”
But Al Jazeera reported Thursday evening that contacts aimed at bringing about a ceasefire had ended, further dimming hopes for an immediate truce.
In a televised statement Thursday, a spokesperson for Islamic Jihad’s military wing said the group was determined to force Israel to end its policy of assassinations and would not back down no matter what the cost.
The group said it was ready for a long fight and would expand its target bank if the fighting went on. The spokesperson said that Israel’s assassination of the group’s leaders would only encourage its members to keep up their struggle.
While Hamas has not participated in military operations, the joint operations room, where all Palestinian resistance factions are represented, reaffirmed its readiness for all eventualities – a hint that they would join the fight if the situation continued to escalate.
Late Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office asserted that Israel would continue its attacks on Gaza and “make Islamic Jihad pay a heavy price for its aggression against Israeli citizens.”
While Israel claims to be seeking a ceasefire, it appears to be doing everything possible to make an end to the violence less likely.
In the early hours of Thursday, Israeli warplanes struck an apartment building in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, killing 50-year-old Ali Hasan Ghali, said to be the commander of the rocket forces of Saraya al-Quds, Islamic Jihad’s military wing.
Also killed were Ghali’s 33-year-old brother Mahmoud and 26-year-old Mahmoud Walid Abd al-Jawad.
The attack caused widespread damage in the building, injuring seven others including three women and a girl.
In the afternoon, Israel assassinated Ahmad Abu Daqqa, another leader in Saraya al-Quds.Reports coming in from human rights groups are providing a clearer picture of the impact of the violence as field researchers document incidents across Gaza.
On Wednesday afternoon, a missile struck the house of Jawdat Fathi Elayyan, 48, in Gaza City, killing him along with two children. They were Layan Madoukh, 8, and 16-year-old Yazan Jawdat Elayyan.
Twelve other people including two children were injured in that strike, according to Gaza-based human rights group Al-Mezan. The human rights group did not specify the origin of the missile.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said it was investigating the incident but that initial information suggests it may have been caused by a Palestinian rocket that fell short.
Also on Wednesday afternoon, Israeli warplanes fired a missile at a group of people east of Rafah in southern Gaza, killing Ayman Karam Saydam, 26, and Ilm al-Din Samir Abdel Aziz, 23.
A missile also struck the house of Ahmad Muhammad al-Shabaki, 50, on Wednesday afternoon, killing him and injuring his wife, according to Al-Mezan.
PCHR said its investigation was ongoing but that initial indications were that the incident in the northern town of Beit Lahiya could also have been due to a Palestinian rocket that fell short.
Earlier on Wednesday, an Israeli drone fired a missile at an agricultural field east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, injuring Muhammad Yousef Abu Tuayma, 23, and Alaa Maher Abu Tuayma, 28.
Both were taken to a hospital but died from their injuries.
Israeli warplanes continued attacking densely populated residential areas on Thursday morning.
Since Tuesday, at least eight Palestinian homes have been completely destroyed in Israeli attacks. Dozens more have been damaged, a direct consequence of Israel’s policy of attacking apartment buildings without regard for the safety of those living in them.
For instance, an Israeli drone attacked the home of Ziyad Musa al-Agha, 54, in Khan Younis on Wednesday evening, completely destroying it.
Over half of the 19 Palestinians living in the three-story building were children.
A short time later, Israeli warplanes struck the home of 67-year-old Muhammad Saadi al-Masri in Beit Lahiya, completely destroying it.
That attack left four families homeless, including eight children.
The Israeli air force also destroyed an uninhabited house in eastern Khan Younis early Thursday.
Punishing cancer patients
Israel’s total closure of the Erez checkpoint, the only crossing for people between Gaza and Israel, entered its third day on Thursday.
This silent form of violence specifically targets medical patients.
Since Tuesday, more than 430 Palestinians and their companions, mostly cancer patients, have been blocked from leaving Gaza to access treatment in hospitals in the occupied West Bank and Israel, according to the health ministry in Gaza.
This is in addition to 27 patients in need of life-saving treatment.
Israeli authorities also closed the Kerem Shalom checkpoint, the only place Israel allows goods in and out of Gaza, blocking the entry of fuel for Gaza’s only power plant.
That has forced the power plant to reduce electricity to just 12-14 hours per day, which “places at risk the continued provision of essential services,” the United Nations humanitarian monitoring group OCHA said Wednesday.
The closure of the checkpoint blocks the entry of “over 300 truckloads of goods a day carrying vital items such as food, medical supplies and fuel,” OCHA added.
Meanwhile, Israeli occupation forces fatally shot 66-year-old Ghazi Yousef Shihab in the Nur al-Shams refugee camp in the occupied West Bank city of Tulkarm on Thursday.Another Palestinian succumbed to wounds he sustained on Wednesday during Israel’s raid in Qabatiya, a town near the northern West Bank city of Jenin.
He was named as 30-year-old Aws Jamal Kamil.
Tacit support for Israel’s crimes
As has been habitual during Israel’s attacks on Gaza, the response from the so-called international community has been to offer Israel tacit support for its attacks, even if couched in qualified criticism.
The European Union on Thursday said it was “deeply alarmed by this new round of violence.”
It called for “an immediate comprehensive ceasefire which will end Israeli military operations in Gaza and current rocket firing against Israel, which is unacceptable.”
Typically for the EU, criticism was reserved for Palestinians defending themselves with the limited means available to them, while Israel, which launched this aggression, escaped admonishment.
Demonstrating a similar double standard, the UN human rights office expressed “concerns” about how Israel had carried out Tuesday morning’s surprise attacks on civilian homes killing sleeping children and other noncombatants, but failed to condemn those attacks outright.
At the same time, the UN human rights office declared categorically that “the launching of indiscriminate rockets from Gaza” towards Israel “violates international humanitarian law.”Earlier on Thursday, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Egypt and Jordan met in Munich to consult “on measures needed to achieve a just and lasting peace.”
Their communique, which also urged a ceasefire, used language almost identical to that of the EU.
While a ceasefire may bring temporary relief to Palestinians in Gaza, another round of violence between Israel and Palestinian resistance factions is all but certain so long as Israel maintains its air, sea and land blockade on the coastal enclave that has been in place since 2007.
Notably, the four foreign ministers exempted Israel from any criticism whatsoever, absolving the occupying power of its responsibilities.
Instead, they asserted vaguely and in a passive voice that “all causes of tension and triggers of violence must end including unilateral measures undermining the viability of the two-state solution and prospects of a just and lasting peace.”
Such language only provides Israel with cover for its ongoing crimes and attempts to conceal the complicity – especially of France and Germany – in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights and international law behind ritual calls for a so-called “solution” that everyone knows is an empty slogan.
Ali Abunimah contributed reporting and analysis.