Israeli army recommends mitigation measures in Gaza to maintain ceasefire
A death of an Israeli army soldier bordering the Gaza Strip, for the first time in four years; Bombing of the outposts of Hamas and the headquarters of the battalions; and threatening announcements by politicians in current television sections – all this seems like the first signs of a large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip. But the operation is not yet on us. One fact that proves this is the speed with which the Palestinians accepted the ceasefire offers of Egypt and the UN at midnight on Friday.
Israel and the Palestinians Really Understand ̵
Evidence that an operation is imminent was also evident in the nature of military action on both sides. Israel bombed the headquarters of the Hamas battalions, but was careful not to attack high-ranking Hamas officials. Hamas refrained from firing rockets into Israel even though they were under attack. The result is a turnaround on the abyss – war was avoided, perhaps only temporarily.
The incident at the border fence seems to be related to events the day before: On Thursday, the Israeli army fired on a group of Palestinians who incited arsonists near a Hamas position on the southern Gaza border. A Hamas military wing member was killed. The military wing threatened revenge. On Friday, at protests east of Khan Younis, a Palestinian sniper shot an IDF soldier near the border. The soldier died of his wounds (his name still needs to be published).
And yet, there were unusual circumstances that could indicate a local Palestinian initiative that did not necessarily receive the green light from above. The shooting took place while Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh participated in one of the protests near the fence. Usually Hamas leaders try to stay away from such incidents. Hamas positions surveying the site were not evacuated, and when the IDF responded to tanker shells at eight Hamas posts, four military wing members were killed.
The Israeli soldier is the first Israeli to be killed at the Gaza border since the end of the 2014 Gaza war. After the incident, an unusually strong response was adopted in consultations with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense and senior IDF and Shin Bet officials. The Israeli Air Force destroyed three headquarters of the Hamas military wing battalion. This time it was not a limited, selective bombardment, and Hamas commanders could not just move an office – the entire headquarters was wiped out.
And yet, the time between the shootings and IDF reaction allowed Hamas to leave its headquarters. Israel also failed to escalate further – targeted assassinations of high-ranking Hamas officials.
After the first Israeli attacks, one of the Palestinian factions (called "rogues" by the IDF) fired several mortar shells at Israeli communities along the border. Hamas withheld its people and the Palestinians completely abstained from shooting at Israel.
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Meanwhile, Egypt and the UN exerted considerable pressure. Nickolay Mladenov, UN envoy to the Middle East, said: "Everyone in Gaza must step back, not next week, not tomorrow. At midnight, the Palestinians announced a truce. Mladenov and the Egyptian secret service are now leading the talks. Qatar plays a rather marginal role.
The death of the soldier was a terrible reminder that the conflict in Gaza does not begin and end with arson and balloons. But these could ignite the flames today or tomorrow. Hamas has told the mediators that they will take action to reduce these launches, but claims that it will take time as some aerial bombs are launched by "popular" groups that are not taking orders from Hamas.
Tensions on the border with Gaza are increasing. And despite the relative reluctance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Chief Avigdor Lieberman, and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (the Cabinet has not been convened for consultations again), it is clear that more Israeli victims would accelerate the outbreak of another conflict. Almost every round of violence, such as a Friday, starts with a heavier incident than the previous round – and at the same time, the countdown begins until the next round.
On Saturday morning, the Homefront Order announced "a return to routine" for Israeli communities near the Gaza border. This is the most important sign that Israel believes that the present escalation is behind us.
Meanwhile, the Trump government's Mideast team released an article in the Washington Post calling on Hamas to stop the terror in exchange for economic aid to the Gaza Strip. Hamas rejected the offer, accusing Trump adviser Jared Kushner of being the Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and US Ambassador David Friedman, "spokesman for the Israeli occupation."
Since neither Hamas nor the Palestinian Authority sabotaged any reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip) or Israel are trying to find a solution to the humanitarian problems in Gaza, tensions along the border remain. Sooner or later they will break out again. If the number of victims in the next round is higher, the efforts of Mladenov and Egypt may not be enough to restore calm.