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Increase in violent incidents on Gaza border

What happened: There was an increase in violent incidents on the Gaza border during the weekend that included:

  • Grenades and explosive devices thrown at Israeli soldiers and the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) described the Friday demonstrations as especially violent compared to recent weeks. Two Palestinians were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers during Friday’s incidents.
  • Five rockets were fired at the southern Israeli town of Sderot early Saturday morning, after which the IDF attacked several Hamas military positions.
  • A drone flew across the border into Israel and dropped an improvised explosive device on an IDF vehicle.
  • The IDF carried out airstrikes on Hamas naval assets and two military complexes deep inside Gaza early Sunday.
  • A rocket was launched last night from Gaza towards Israel but landed inside the Gaza Strip.

Context: The last major escalation between Hamas and Israel took place in May but since then it has been relatively quiet. A fragile ceasefire deal brokered by Egypt and the United Nations to end that round of fighting has begun to fray in recent weeks with renewed rocket fire, deadlier border clashes, and attempted cross-border terrorist attacks.

  • Despite several significant easing measures taken by Israel and the continued inflow of Qatari money to pay for electricity and humanitarian relief, Hamas is known to be unhappy with the pace and scale of the economic relief provided to Gaza.
  • Internally, Hamas has also faced difficulty controlling smaller extremist groups. Two suicide attacks by Salafist groups last month killed several Hamas security personnel, while renegade cells have launched independent attacks against Israeli forces sending fighters armed with weapons and explosives across the border.
  • The increase in violence from Gaza comes just days before the Israeli election on September 17 and amidst escalating tensions between Israel and Iranian proxies and military personnel in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.

Looking ahead: An Egyptian intelligence delegation entered the Gaza Strip yesterday to meet with Hamas officials in an effort to lower tensions. According to Palestinian media reports, Egypt conveyed a message that the Israeli government was willing to move forward more quickly on several additional easing measures related to electricity supply, fishing zone access, import of goods, and exit permits. Egypt, for its part, is reportedly considering expanding access and movement, including for commercial goods, through its own Rafah border crossing with Egypt. The level of violence emanating from Gaza will likely depend on whether these steps are in fact implemented.