According to a statement released by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, participants in a trilateral Egyptian, Palestinian and Jordanian meeting on the situation in Gaza condemned “Israeli practices against the defenceless Palestinian people who are exercising their legitimate moral and legal right to defend their land”.
They also reaffirmed “the Palestinian people’s right to security and freedom and to establish an independent state with its capital in East Jerusalem within the borders of 4 June 1967, in accordance with international resolutions”.
Following a flurry of communications between Cairo and Hamas and Jihad in Gaza Khalil Al-Haya, a Hamas political bureau member, said Hamas had agreed to return to earlier ceasefire understandings “after numerous mediators intervened and after the resistance succeeded in repelling the aggression and preventing a change to the rules of engagement”.
Israel denies the existence of an official ceasefire. According to the Hebrew-language Reshet Kan news website, “there is no Egyptian-brokered ceasefire though there is an understanding with Hamas, reached very indirectly, that if no missiles are fired then there will be no response from the Israeli side.”
Hebrew media quoted Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett saying “the ceasefire was the product of understandings not agreements” and an Israeli security source warning “any future Israeli response against Hamas in Gaza will be more powerful than before”.
On Saturday the Qassam and Quds brigades announced joint responsibility for the missiles fired against Israeli military targets and other sites. “All options are open to the resistance. Missiles for missiles and blood for blood. We will stick to this equation regardless of the cost,” they said.
Palestinian resistance forces have fired several rounds of rockets and mortars against Israeli settlements near Gaza, wounding five Israelis. In response, the Israeli occupation authority launched raids against Gaza, targeting resistance forces and agricultural land. Israeli Security Minister Avigdor Lieberman said “any place from which missiles are fired against Israel is a legitimate target for us and we will not hesitate to attack it.”
Head of the Israeli Labour Party Avi Gabbay has said the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is responsible for the latest escalation with Gaza. According to the Walla news portal, Gabbay said “since the end of the 2014 war the Israeli government has taken no steps or measures to forestall the current round of escalation.”
As Israel’s military jets were bombarding Gaza, Netanyahu’s spokesman Ofir Gendelman tweeted an invocation in Arabic, praying that the strikes hit the “lairs of the terrorists in Gaza who attacked our people and their land today”.
In contrast Gideon Levi, deputy editor-in-chief of Haaretz, wrote on Tuesday: “We have to say it simply and honestly: they are right. They have no choice but to fight for their freedom with their bodies, their property, their weapons and their blood. They have no choice but the Qassam and the mortar.
There is no way open to them save violence or surrender. They have no way of breaching the fences that pen them in without using force, though their force is primitive and pathetic, almost touching.
A people fighting for its freedom with kites, tunnels, mirrors, tyres, scissors, incendiary devices, mortar shells and Qassam rockets against one of the most sophisticated war machines in the world is a people without hope. But the only way they can change their situation is with their pathetic weapons.
“When they are quiet Israel and the world take no interest in their fate... That’s why they have no choice but to shoot. That’s why their shooting is justified, even if it harms innocent civilians, instils fear and terror in the residents of the south and is intolerable to Israel.
“They don’t have more accurate weapons. Therefore we can’t blame them for harming civilians. Most of their missiles fall in open areas even if this is not their intent. It is hard to blame them for firing against a kindergarten.
They would certainly prefer more accurate weapons that could hit military targets… Israel, by the way, harms many children.”
Ahmed Bahr, first deputy speaker of the Palestinian legislature, said: “The occupation will not succeed in imposing new rules of engagement on the resistance in Gaza.
The resistance acts and practises resistance wisely and capably. It knows how to confront the occupying power, break its arrogance and force it to reassess its calculations in the face of our people and our resistance.”
Bahr cautioned the Israeli government against “the folly of escalating aggression against our people in Gaza.
“The Palestinian people will never facilitate Israeli bullying,” he said, adding the Palestinian resistance “in all its diverse shades and military formations remains determined to exercise its legitimate right to defend the Palestinian people against aggression, destruction, tyranny and military immorality”.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine insisted the Palestinian resistance had “deterred the occupation forces, broken their arrogance and military and technological superiority, forcing them to beat a retreat, reassess their calculations and rush to a ceasefire”.
Fatah’s central committee vowed “not to abandon our people in Gaza…”
“All efforts will be exerted to alleviate their ongoing suffering,” it said.
The Palestinian national accord government issued an appeal for urgent international intervention “to guarantee a halt to the aggression and the dangerous assaults by the Israeli occupation against Palestinians in Gaza”.
The Palestinian government said it held the occupation power “fully responsible for the grave deterioration in the conditions of our national land, especially in heroic Gaza”.
The call for urgent international intervention was echoed by Ahmed Tibi, a Knesset MP affiliated with the Joint Arab List. He called for the lifting of the siege, an end to the raids and action to keep civilians in Gaza outside of the range of Israeli fire.
The latest round of Israeli aggression against Gaza was, he said, “a continuation of the assaults, bombardment and siege of Gaza and its people”.
In the Security Council Kuwait submitted a modified version of a draft resolution calling for the creation of an international mission to protect the Palestinians. The reworded version succeeded in garnering votes from European powers but was vetoed by the US.
In response Washington called for an emergency Security Council session to discuss the attacks carried out by Hamas and other Palestinian factions against Israel. Its ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said the recent attacks from Gaza against Israel were “the largest since 2014”.
“Mortars fired by Palestinian militants hit civilian infrastructure, including a kindergarten,” Haley said in a statement. “The Security Council should be outraged and respond to this latest bout of violence directed at innocent Israeli civilians, and the Palestinian leadership needs to be held accountable for what they’re allowing to happen in Gaza.”
With the exception of the US’ lone vote the Security Council rejected Washington’s resolution which sought to condemn Hamas and other Palestinian factions.
Against the current febrile backdrop attention is now focused on the last Friday before the end of Ramadan when a large turnout is expected for the Right of Return demonstrations along the Gaza-Israeli border.
Israeli military expert and commentator Yoav Limor wrote on Monday: “Israel has repeatedly stated that it has no interest in a military campaign in the Gaza Strip but reality may still drag it there, perhaps even this week.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 7 June 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: All eyes on Gaza