CMEP Bulletin: Gaza under fire
weekly update from Churches for Middle East Peace
Following a series of horrific kidnappings-murders and weeks of systematic Israeli security operations against Hamas focused in the West Bank leading to several deaths, Hamas escalated its rocket fire into Israel from Gaza following the death of a Hamas operative by an Israeli airstrike June 29, ending two years of only sporadic violence between Israel and Gaza.
In the past week more than 250 rockets and mortar shells have been fired from Gaza into Israel; the IDF has launched over 800 strikes and over 100 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, many of them non- combatants. Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Dimona, the home of Israel’s nuclear reactor have all been targeted by Hamas rickets, so far without loss of life or major damage.
There is fear that both sides are locked in a cycle of violence with a growing risk of an Israeli ground offensive into Gaza with far greater loss of life. Netanyahu told the Knesset July 10 he is “not talking to anybody about a cease-fire” with Hamas right now and called up 40,000 troops. President Obama has offered to mediate a ceasefire but so far without much response.
The violence presents domestic political challenges for both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. To Netanyahu’s right, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman – who would like to be Prime Minister one day – used the crisis to announced he was dismantling the political partnership of his party with Netanyahu’s party because the Prime Minister was not being tough enough on Hamas. A day later Netanyahu ordered preparations for a ground offensive.