Hostilities snowball as Hamas calls off truce with Israel
“Aircraft targeted two terror tunnels and a weapons storage facility in the southern Gaza Strip, as well as a terror activity site in the northern Gaza Strip,” the Israeli military said in a statement. The spokesman added that one tunnel was intended for the infiltration of terrorists into Israeli territory.
The statement added that the attacks were in response to the killing of eight Israelis by suspected Palestinian militants near the Egyptian border on Thursday and to artillery fired from Gaza since then. On Saturday morning, a total of six Gazan rockets fell in Israel, with shrapnel from one of them injuring three men in the southern city of Ashdod, according to the Israeli military.
On Saturday evening a Grad rocket from Gaza landed on a residential home in the southern Israeli city of Ofakim . A 4-month-old baby, a 9-year-old boy and a young man were injured.
Israel’s continuing retaliation has infuriated the military wing of Hamas to the extent that it has withdrawn its commitment to a more than two-year de-facto ceasefire with Israel. The statement, aired on Hamas-controlled radio on early Saturday, said “There is no more truce with an enemy.”
Palestinians say a total of 14 people were killed and over 40 wounded in Tel-Aviv’s air raids on Thursday and Friday. Overnight attacks did not add to these figures.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council in an effort to halt Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, Palestinian media reported on Saturday.
Journalist Joseph Dana questioned why Israelis is conducting the air strikes on Gaza. He says the Israeli government first needs to “prove factually” that the Popular Resistance Committees are behind the attacks.
“We do not really know who is behind these attacks,” he argued. “And yet Israel is conducting air strikes against Gaza.”
The exchange of fire has been ongoing since Thursday, when eight Israelis died and over 40 were injured in a number of assaults near the southern Israeli city of Eilat, which is a popular holiday spot. Israeli forces hunting down the perpetrators killed at least seven of them at the Egyptian border.
The operation also resulted in deaths of five Egyptian policemen.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed regret for the inadvertent killing of three Egyptian border guards. He stressed that "the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt is of great importance and strategic value for the stability of the Middle East."
Meanwhile, Cairo has reversed an earlier decision to withdraw its ambassador to Israel, according to RIA Novosti news agency.
Earlier on Saturday Egyptian State TV reported that Cairo was withdrawing the ambassador to protest at the deaths. The statement caused Israeli diplomatic officials to hold internal discussions on Saturday, reported Agence France Presse news agency. The Israeli military has pledged to probe the incident and advise Egypt on its findings. According to the latest reports, Israeli diplomats will visit the Ministry of Home affairs in Cairo.
Meanwhile, the Arab League has said it will host an urgent meeting on the Gaza attacks on Sunday.
Dr. Moustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian parliament, believes Israel is using the violence to distract from its internal problems and to hide its growing “diplomatic isolation.”
“Israel has been trying to provoke an escalation of violence regardless of the fact that all the Palestinian groups in Gaza, including Hamas, have been committed to ceasefire,” said Dr. Barghouti. “Regarding the attack in Eilat, all the groups in Gaza denied all the responsibility or relationship to it. This attack happened from the Sinai peninsula, which is under Egyptian control.”