Israel-Gaza violence escalates after botched covert op by Israel’s military

The most serious flare-up in violence between Israel’s military and Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in over four years escalated Tuesday as militants fired dozens of rockets at southern Israel, killing a man in a strike on a residential building. 

The cross-border attacks began Sunday after a botched Israeli undercover raid – apparently on a reconnaissance mission – into Gaza set off a battle that left seven militants, including a Hamas commander and a senior Israeli military officer, dead.

In Israel, at least 20 people have also been wounded, several seriously, from the 400 rockets and mortars launched from Gaza since Monday. Palestinian officials say an additional four people, including two Hamas militants, have been killed as Israel retaliated with a wave of airstrikes across the Palestinian coastal enclave. The strikes destroyed the TV station of Hamas, the Islamist militant group that rules Gaza. 

The Israeli man who died in the strike on the residential building on Tuesday was reported to be in his 40s and from Hebron, the West Bank’s largest Palestinian city.

Over the past few months, the sides have come close to a major escalation several times, only to step back in favor of giving a chance to a long-term Egyptian mediated truce. Still, the armed wing of Hamas threatened to step up its attacks and fire rockets further north toward the Israeli cities of Ashdod and Beersheba if Israel continued its airstrikes. Schools have been closed in large parts of southern Israel and a local election has been postponed because of the threat of further rocket fire. 

The United Nations has appealed for calm. 

The Israel-Hamas war in 2014 lasted for 50 days and killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, according to the U.N. Seventy-two Israelis were killed.

President Donald Trump’s administration has vowed to release a peace plan between Israelis and Palestinians but that pledge has faced setbacks including Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a city whose eastern half Palestinians claim as a capital for any future state. Revelations that Saudi Arabia was involved in the murder of the Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi have also cast doubt on the suitability of that country’s role as a potential peace mediator. 

Contributing: Associated Press



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