Incendiary balloons, gunshots fuel Gaza border tension

A bird flies while smoke trails from test rockets fired by the Palestinian Islamist Hamas are seen behind it. (AFP)
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Updated 11 August 2020

Incendiary balloons, gunshots fuel Gaza border tension

  • Hamas not seeking escalation, says source
  • Hamas aims to pressure Israel to give the green light for the transfer of financial aid into the strip

GAZA CITY: Incendiary balloons and gunshots have fueled tensions on the border between Gaza and Israel.

The launch of the explosives-laden balloons toward Israeli towns in the past few days has led to the bombing of some Hamas and Islamic Jihad sites as retaliation.

According to Israel’s Channel 12, the commanders of the security services concluded at the end of a meeting held Sunday that “the continued launching of balloons will lead to a violent response even if this leads to a comprehensive escalation.”

Two sources told Arab News, on condition of anonymity, that Hamas was seeking to increase the interest of mediators from Egypt and the UN in the Gaza situation and to push Israel into providing additional facilities.

The sources explained that Hamas was not seeking to reach a major or widespread escalation, especially in light of the COVID-19 crisis as well as other problems plaguing the Middle East.

“There is an attempt to raise the voice a little, and draw attention to the fact that the Gaza crisis is still in place, especially in light of the deteriorating economic situation, and the high unemployment rates, mainly due to the coronavirus crisis,” a Hamas source told Arab News.

Hamas and Israel reached an understanding at the end of 2017 to provide facilities and ease the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip since 2007, although there have been spikes in tension since then.

One of the agreements reached was improving the Gaza Strip’s electricity supply, increasing the entry of goods, allowing materials that Israel considers to be of dual use, in addition to a permitting a grant from Qatar to help poor families that expires at the end of this month.

Al-Quds newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying that the reason for the recent increase in tension was to pressure Israel into speeding up the implementation of these understandings and improve the power supply, extend the Qatari grant for another six months and allow dual-use items to enter Gaza.

BACKGROUND

Two sources told Arab News that Hamas was seeking to increase the interest of mediators from Egypt and the UN in the Gaza situation and to push Israel into providing additional facilities.

Israel’s Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Monday that Israel had no interest in an escalation in Gaza.

During a Knesset session Gantz set a condition for improving the economic situation in Gaza for the return of Israeli soldiers who have been detained by Hamas since 2014.

Hamas abducted two Israeli soldiers, whom Israel says were killed although Hamas has not disclosed their health status. Two other men are being held after they crossed over into Gaza. One is Arab and the other is of Ethiopian origin.

The Gaza Strip has witnessed three wars since 2007 that have killed and wounded thousands of people. There have also been several rounds of violent confrontation.

Political writer Hani Habib refused to describe the current border tension as an escalation, saying it was a squabble that was no different from what had been happening during the past few months.

“This is an attempt by each side to remind the other that it is there, and that adherence to the cease-fire understandings is the best way for things to return to normal,” he told Arab News. “There is concern from both Israel and Hamas after dragging the region into a large-scale escalation, and that action and reaction are still well-limited.”

 


Iraqi officials: 3 dead, 2 wounded in Baghdad rocket attack

Updated 2 min 46 sec ago

Iraqi officials: 3 dead, 2 wounded in Baghdad rocket attack

  • The rocket targeted the international airport but struck a residential home close by instead
  • The attacks have become a frequent occurrence, often targeting the US Embassy in Baghdad and US troops present in Iraqi bases as well as Baghdad Airport

BAGHDAD: Three Iraqi civilians were killed and two severely wounded Monday after a katyusha rocket hit near Baghdad Airport, two Iraqi security officials said. It was the first time in months an attack caused civilian casualties.
The rocket targeted the international airport but struck a residential home close by instead, the two officials said. They requested anonymity in line with regulations. A child was among the dead, the officials said.
The rocket was launched from the Al-Jihad neighborhood of Baghdad, the officials said.
The attacks have become a frequent occurrence, often targeting the US Embassy in Baghdad, within the heavily fortified Green Zone, and US troops present in Iraqi bases as well as Baghdad Airport. Roadside bombs have also frequently targeted convoys carrying equipment destined for US-led coalition forces.
Previous attacks have caused minor damage but rarely deaths or injuries.
The frequency of the rockets have strained Iraq-US relations, prompting the Trump administration last week to threaten to close its diplomatic mission in Baghdad if Shiite militia groups believed to be orchestrating them are not reigned in.
The disparate nature of Shiite militias following the US assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani and Iranian militia leader Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis has complicated Iraqi efforts to clamp down on rogue armed elements.
A government raid on the powerful Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah, suspected of launching rocket attacks, backfired when those detained were released for want of evidence.