Israel-Gaza: Deadly Fire Traded Across Border
Seven people have been killed in a flare-up of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.
More than 400 rockets have been fired into Israel by militants since Monday night, while Israeli aircraft have hit 150 militant targets in response.
Six Palestinians, four of them militants, died in the strikes on Gaza, while a Palestinian civilian was killed in a rocket attack in southern Israel.
The United Nations has called on all sides to show restraint.
The escalation began when an undercover Israeli special forces operation inside Gaza was exposed on Sunday. A Hamas commander was among seven militants killed in clashes, and an Israeli lieutenant colonel in the undercover unit also died.
The incident came after apparent progress in an effort by Egypt and the UN to secure a truce on the Gaza border, where more than 200 Palestinians have been killed in protests since March.
The Israeli military has been accused of using excessive force against protesters, but has said its soldiers have only opened fire in self-defence or on potential attackers trying to infiltrate its territory.
How serious is the latest violence?
After a brief lull following Sunday night’s violence, a barrage of rockets and mortars was launched towards Israel late on Monday, which Israeli medics said killed one person and injured 28.
A bus, which had reportedly been carrying troops, was hit by an anti-tank missile in the Shaar Hanegev region, seriously wounding a male soldier.
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDFSpokesperson) November 12, 2018
Overnight, a man was killed when a block of flats in Ashkelon was hit by a rocket. He was later identified as a Palestinian from the occupied West Bank who had been working in Israel.
Eight other people were injured in the attack, including two women who the Israeli ambulance service said were in a serious condition.
In response, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out what it called a wide-scale attack against military targets belonging to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups.
It said they included Hamas’ military intelligence headquarters in northern Gaza and “a unique vessel” in a harbour in the south of the territory.
The building housing Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV was also bombed after being evacuated. The IDF said the outlet “contributes to Hamas’s military actions”.
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said six people were killed and 25 others injured in the strikes. Four of the dead were militants and two are said to have been farmers in northern Gaza.
#UN is working closely with #Egypt and all concerned to ensure that #Gaza steps back from the brink. The escalation in the past 24hrs is EXTREMELY dangerous and reckless. Rockets must STOP, restraint must be shown by all! No effort must be spared to reverse the spiral of violence
— Nickolay E. MLADENOV (@nmladenov) November 12, 2018
This is one of the most serious rounds of fighting since Israel and Hamas fought a war in 2014.
The IDF has warned it is prepared to “dial up its response” to the rocket fire, while Hamas’s military wing said it was ready to “expand the circle of fire” against Israel.
UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov said the escalation was “extremely dangerous” and that efforts were being made to pull Gaza “back from the brink”.
How did the violence start?
Palestinians said they discovered an undercover Israeli unit in a civilian car about 3km (2 miles) inside the Gaza Strip, east of Khan Younis, late on Sunday.
A firefight ensued in which the Hamas commander was killed. Israel launched air strikes and opened fire with tanks on the area, witnesses said. Six other militants were killed as well as one of the Israeli special forces soldiers.
Due to the secrecy of the operation, Israel has not revealed specific details about the mission.
The IDF said, however, that the operation was “not intended to kill or abduct terrorists, but to strengthen Israeli security”.
According to a former Israeli general, the incident was likely to have been an intelligence-gathering operation that went wrong.
A spokesman for Hamas denounced Sunday’s incident as a “cowardly Israeli attack”.
Why are Israel and Hamas enemies?
Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006 and reinforced its power in the Gaza Strip after ousting West Bank-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s rival Fatah faction in clashes the following year.
While Mr Abbas’s umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) has signed peace accords with Israel, Hamas does not recognise Israel’s right to exist and advocates the use of violence against it.
Israel, along with Egypt, has maintained a blockade of Gaza since about 2006 in order, they say, to stop attacks by militants.
Israel and Hamas have gone to war three times, and rocket-fire from Gaza and Israeli air strikes against militant targets are a regular occurrence.