Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Gaza-Israel Rocket Fire Continues Into The Night - Iran Attempting To Spark A War On Israel's Southern Border?

The Times of Israel is liveblogging Tuesday’s events as they unfold.

No sign of ceasefire as rockets, sirens and IAF strikes continue after midnight

Late night barrage sends residents across Gaza border region running for cover; IDF says some 70 projectiles fired into Israel in most serious flare-up since 2014

Rocket from Gaza lands in Israeli town, no injuries

A rocket fired from Gaza after midnight landed in the southern Israeli town of Netivot, Israel Radio reports.

Rocket fragments hit town of Netivot, causing damage

Fragments of a rocket from the Gaza Strip that had apparently been intercepted by the Iron Dome land in a sports facility in the southern town of Netivot.
The shards of the projectile cause light damage to a number of structures, but no injuries.
One woman, who was close by at the time, is said to have suffered a panic attack.
A video, shared by Channel 10 news on social media, shows a cloud of smoke coming out of the area following the impact.

UN Security Council to meet on rocket, mortar fire at Israel

The UN Security Council will meet today (Wednesday) at the request of the United States to discuss Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks on Israel, diplomats say.
The United States circulated a draft statement yesterday calling on the council to condemn “in the strongest terms the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinian militants in Gaza” toward Israel, according to a copy of the text seen by AFP.

Sirens blare in central Negev, army says

Incoming rocket alarms are sounding in the town of Netivot and throughout the central Negev, the army says.
The sirens could be heard in the Sdot Negev and Bnei Shimon regions, according to the IDF.
The military says it is investigating what triggered the system. Earlier, rocket sirens in the town of Netivot were later found to have been a false alarm.

Iron Dome intercepts projectile fired from Gaza

An Iron Dome battery intercepts a projectile fired into Israel from Gaza just after midnight. There are no reports of injuries or damage.
The interception comes after sirens wail around the Gaza periphery and the IDF continues to hit sites in Gaza in response to the day-long attacks.

IDF confirms it is conducting renewed airstrikes in Gaza

The Israeli military confirms that it is carrying out additional strikes in the Gaza Strip, after targeting more than 35 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad positions earlier in the day.
“At this time, the IDF is operating in the Gaza Strip. The explosions being heard are coming from this activity,” the army says in a statement.
Palestinian media reports that the Israeli Air Force is conducting strikes in the northern Gaza Strip, including in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City.
The IDF says it will release more information about its strikes shortly.

Tuesday morning’s barrages of mortar shells and rockets into southern Israel were quickly rumored in Gaza to be the work of the Islamic Jihad terror group. And hours after more than two dozen mortar shells hit Israel, the IDF carried out retaliatory strikes that were mainly directed at Islamic Jihad’s military wing.
Islamic Jihad’s role indicates we are witnessing an attempt by Iran to spark a war on the southern border. And if the deterioration of the situation is not halted in the very near future, the attempt may prove successful. Already we have seen an attack on Israeli targets unprecedented since 2014’s Protective Edge conflict, with a consequent Israeli response against targets in Gaza.
The Islamic Jihad barrages were ostensibly aimed at avenging Israel’s reported killing of three of its operatives, who were attempting an attack, earlier this week in the Rafah area. That was the immediate pretext. But the nature and scale of the Islamic Jihad response — heavy fire at civilian targets in Israel — indicates that revenge was not the only motivation. It is possible that this is at root an Iranian move, seeking to have Israel pay a price in the south for targeting Iran in the north — across the border in Syria.

After all, it is hard to believe that Islamic Jihad, a smaller ally-rival of Hamas which is financed and trained primarily by the Iranians, would have initiated this kind of action, with its dramatic consequences for Gaza, without Tehran’s approval.
Israel has been making clear of late that it operates freely in Syria against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps there; it may well be that there are those in Tehran who want to counter that via the Gaza Strip, or at least to stir up Israel’s southern border and therefore distract Israel’s attention from the north.
Where does Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza, fit into this? Hamas was quick to welcome the barrages fired at Israel. And the IDF has also targeted several Hamas facilities. Yet the fact remains that Hamas’s activities in recent months indicate that it is not particularly interested in an escalation, and Israel recognizes this.
Hamas has put the brakes on a potential deterioration into all-out conflict more than once of late, even after its forces were hit. The most obvious recent example of this was on May 14, the day the US inaugurated its embassy in Jerusalem, Nakba Day, when more than 60 Gazans were killed in violent clashes with Israel at the Gaza border. Hamas later acknowledged that almost all of the fatalities were its members. Yet it ordered the dispersal of the protests at the border that evening, to avoid a potential descent into war.

Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar and Ismael Haniyeh have been engaged in various secretive contacts of late — intermittently involving Egypt and, separately Qatar — intended to yield understandings for a long-term Hamas-Israel ceasefire. Evidently, however, there are other players — Islamic Jihad and Iran — who want to heat things up.
Islamic Jihad’s attacks on Israel are also embarrassing Hamas in the eyes of the Gaza public. Hamas knows that if its forces do not prevent a continuation of Islamic Jihad fire — whether through the use of force, or threats, or both — there is a considerable likelihood that Gaza will once again find itself at war with Israel. But if Hamas does intervene against Islamic Jihad, its image as the “resistance” against Israel will be undermined. It would risk becoming perceived as another kind of “Palestinian Authority,” collaborating with the Zionist enemy in return for quiet and/or economic benefit.

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