Israel massively attacks Gaza tunnels, death toll rises

Israel fired artillery and carried out numerous aerial bombardments against a network of tunnels by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Friday (14), in the largest attack on a specific target since the escalation of the new phase conflict. Meanwhile, rockets continue to be fired from Gaza over Israeli towns.

It is the fifth day of the most serious escalation of violence in the region since 2014, with rocket and missile exchanges between the IDF and the Islamic group Hamas beginning earlier this week. This Thursday, Israel launched a ground offensive, on the edge of the enclave

As of Friday morning, the death toll in Gaza rose to 119, including 31 children and 19 women, in addition to 830 injured, according to the Palestinian health ministry. In Israel, 500 were injured and eight killed: a soldier and six civilians, including two children and an Indian worker, according to the country’s authorities.

Operation against the tunnel network included 160 aerial bombardments, the use of tanks and artillery fire on the border with the Gaza Strip, according to IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus .

Rockets fired at southern Israel were intercepted after the Israeli offensive, which took place just before dawn.

A woman and her three young children were killed in Gaza, according to health officials in the enclave, and their bodies were covered with debris from their home. On the other side, an elderly woman in Israel died on her way to a shelter to protect herself from rocket attacks.

The last invasion of Gaza took place in 2014 and resulted in the deaths of over 2,000 Palestinians.

In recent days, Israeli officials have said they will take action against the leaders of Hamas, a group that controls the Gaza Strip and is considered a terrorist by Israel and the United States.

Hamas has commanded the Gaza Strip region since 2007 and competes with Fatah, which controls the West Bank and the PNA – traditionally recognized by the international community as the official representative of the Palestinians.

Between the 1960s and the early 1990s, Fatah was considered the main Palestinian group and repeatedly clashed with Israel. Over the past 30 years, however, the balance of power has shifted and Hamas has begun to lead offensives against the neighboring country, with the PNA reducing its participation in violent actions.

Despite the history of wars between the State of Israel and Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the two communities have traditionally lived relatively peacefully in Israel, without major episodes of violence in recent decades.

This time, however, the situation is different. Several Israeli cities like Haifa, Jaffa, Beersheva and Lod – which ordered a curfew from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Thursday – have been the scene of actions by the Arab population in favor of the Palestinian cause. Synagogues have been attacked and conflicts have erupted in the streets of some communities, prompting mayors and even the president to warn of the danger of civil war.

Jewish groups also damaged shops, hotels and cars by Arab residents. In Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv, Jewish extremists staged a march in which, according to Israeli television footage, a mob attacked a Palestinian.

The new phase of hostilities was sparked by clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The city, sacred to Jews, Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, has been in a state of tension since the start of Ramadan, the most important month in Islamic religious tradition.

At the center of the current conflicts are freedom of worship in parts of the Jerusalem area known as the ancient city – which Palestinians say is hampered – and a court ruling that provides for the expulsion of Palestinian families. of the district of Sheikh Jarrah which, by verdict of a regional court, must return the land to the Jews.

Palestinian activists in Israel say they face police harassment and that security forces violently crack down on Arab protests, despite allowing protests by Jewish groups.

The UN Security Council has scheduled a meeting on Sunday (16) to discuss the escalation of violence. The original plan proposed by China, Tunisia and Norway was to hold the meeting this Friday (14), but the idea was opposed by the United States.

One of Israel’s main allies, the US government also opposed during the week a proposed joint Council statement calling for an end to the clashes, deeming it “counterproductive” and “inappropriate” for the time being. . The motion for a resolution called on, inter alia, Israel to respect international law, stop the construction of settlements in the occupied territories and commit not to deport Palestinians living in East Jerusalem – the subject at the center. of the current wave of violence.

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