Death toll rises overnight in Israel and Gaza from rocket attacks
All the UK papers report on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. The BBC and Telegraph focus on the state of emergency declared by Israeli authorities in the central city of Lod after rioting by Israeli Arabs, as conflict between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants intensified. Cars were set alight and a father and daughter -both Israeli Arabs – died when a rocket hit their car. The Telegraph and The Times report on the large-scale rocket attacks by Hamas on the tourist centre of Israel, Tel Aviv. Palestinian militants Hamas said on Wednesday that they had fired more than 200 rockets into Israel, in retaliation for strikes on a tower block in the Israeli-blockaded enclave of Gaza, which they control. The armed branch of Hamas said in a statement that it was “in the process of firing 110 rockets towards the city of Tel Aviv” and 100 rockets towards the town of Beersheva “as reprisal for the restarting of strikes against civilian homes”. The Guardian and Independent quote the UN’s Middle East envoy who warned: “We’re escalating towards a full-scale war.” The Independent also looks at the rising death toll in Israel and Gaza, with video footage of the destruction from the exchange of rocket attacks.
Roland Oliphant writes in the Telegraph that the new cycle of violence between Israel and Hamas will be hard to stop, arguing that diplomatic pressure is unlikely to have much effect as the death toll rises in Gaza and Israel.
Writing in The Times, Roger Boyes says Israel’s Jerusalem blunders will only benefit Iran as “the so-called Abraham accords that seek to build partnerships between Israel and some Arab states will die before it has blossomed. No Arab government wants to be associated with a country that allows its police to storm into a mosque compound towards the end of the Ramadan fasting month. The Arab street is furious.”
Richard Spencer in The Times provides a Q&A analysis on how conflict between Israel and Palestinians escalated. He writes: “The immediate spark in this round of fighting was a plan to evict Arab families from homes in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah that they have occupied since the 1950s.”
The Financial Times’s David Gardner writes that “the riot police inside the holy sanctuary this week cross a dangerous line. A conflict ostensibly over land is acquiring menacing religious overtones that encourage a collision of irreducible identities in a region with no shortage of fanatics”. He concludes, “In Jerusalem, Israel is risking its second wave of detente with the Arabs.”
The Guardian looks at the US role in the latest escalation between Israel and Hamas. It says, “The White House is playing for time and needs to decide quickly how to deal with Trump’s legacy of unwavering support for Netanyahu. Faced with calls for a united UN security council statement on Tuesday, the US balked and played for time. But trying to duck the traditional US mediating role is no longer looking like a viable option.” In an editorial, The Guardian says the new outbreak is “the predictable result both of recent grievances and accumulated injustices,” adding: “The unrest seen in Arab towns in Israel on Monday demonstrates the breadth as well as depth of the rage at the kind of accumulated injustice that recently led Human Rights Watch to accuse Israeli officials of committing apartheid, to the angry denial of the government.”
In the Israeli media, the news is heavily focused on the fighting and rocket attacks from Gaza. Kan Radio reports that 1 million school children will not attend school or kindergartens in the southern and central areas of Israel today. IDF Home Front Command ordered educational institutions from Netanya south to close. Council heads in the Jerusalem corridor region said there would be no school in Bet Shemesh, the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council and Mevasseret Zion. All regions will hold remote learning with a stress on talking with students about their feelings.
Yediot Ahronot’s military affairs correspondent, Alex Fishman, writes this morning: “This is war. It isn’t a ‘round’ and it isn’t ‘days of fighting.’ The paralysed airport, the strike on the strategic Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, the massive shelling of population centres — this is war between Israel and Hamas.” Fishman adds: “The decision, at least within the military echelon, is: unless the IDF’s achievements significantly outpace Hamas’s achievements, the fighting will only worsen. That is also the military echelon’s recommendation to the political echelon. It is clear to top military officials that it isn’t only Hamas that is looking at the IDF’s performance, but Hezbollah, the Syrians and the Iranians as well. Scoring a significant achievement isn’t merely a matter of national pride; it is a strategic necessity.”
Also in Yediot Ahronot, Sima Kadmon writes, “Perhaps certain things could have been done differently, but it wasn’t Netanyahu who created this situation. During his 12 years as prime minister he never advocated a clear strategy on Gaza. It seemed that his preferred choice up until now was to keep the conflict ongoing: a small incident once every few weeks; a larger incident once every few months, and an operation once every few years that we would come out of in the exact same place we were in when we began.” Kadmon adds: “Netanyahu doesn’t want to change the situation. He doesn’t want to conquer the Gaza Strip; he isn’t interested in strengthening Abu Mazen [Mahoud Abbas] and engaging in dialogue with him; and he isn’t prepared to treat the Gaza Strip as a state that is governed by a regime that we don’t like, but one with which our conflict is never going to going to end unless we reach an accommodation with it. Netanyahu prefers this situation, because then he doesn’t have to pay Hamas anything — except for the funds that he transfers to it every month. But money isn’t a political agreement, which is something Netanyahu eschews; and money isn’t territory that needs to be given by one side to the other and who knows what else.”
In Maariv, Ben Caspit writes, “For the last decade Israel has pursued a policy of “containment” vis-à-vis Hamas. Israel has nurtured Hamas, allowed it to grow, to gain strength, to improve its abilities and to garner experience. Israel has pushed aside and humiliated the Palestinian Authority, its strategic partner with whom it has signed a long list of agreements, the [partner who has worked together to] maintain long-standing, stable security cooperation. At the same time, Israel has collaborated with Hamas, and Netanyahu has completely ignored his repeated promise to “topple the terror leadership. Yesterday, Israel discovered that its friendly Gaza pet had grown into a monster. You go to sleep with Hamas, you wake up with Hezbollah. If you don’t wake up in time, you soon find out that our balance of deterrence vis-à-vis Hamas is terrible, and also that we have lost the ability to act freely. Seems to me that we can’t really afford that luxury.
Maariv also quotes IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman who said: “An exceptionally large attack was carried out in the northern Gaza Strip area. A large group of some 80 planes bombed 150 targets, including 50-70 launching pits that Hamas installed in the ground. Eight of the planes were F-35s.” Brig. Gen. Zilberman went on to say: “The operative meaning of that attack is the complete neutralisation of three Hamas battalions’ rocket capabilities in the northern Gaza Strip, which have lost their firepower.”
In Israel Hayom, Jalal Bana comments about the rising Jewish-Arab violence in mixed cities. “Regardless of the reasons behind the protest, however, what transpired overnight Tuesday in the Arab towns and villages and in the mixed Jewish-Arab cities is dangerous, and exactly now is when the Arab leadership must notice the flashing red alarms. It is not only unacceptable for a protest, any protest, to lead to vandalism and wanton destruction, because everything has a limit, but Arab society must also reach conclusions regarding the role its leaders are playing and the forces penetrating and influencing Arab public opinion, sometimes without any oversight or control.”
An Haaretz editorial says that replacing Prime Minister Netanyahu is more urgent now than ever before. Referring to the growing escalation over the last few weeks, Haaretz says, “A responsible prime minister would have reined in the police, conducted a real dialogue with the Arab leadership, observed the status quo on the Temple Mount, not viewed mixed cities as places that need to be Judaized, announced a plan to invest in Arab society but most of all, would have stopped inciting. Netanyahu isn’t capable of this, which is why replacing him is more urgent than ever.”