Hamas Defies Israel With Rocket Attack: What This Means For The Ongoing Conflict

By Javier Sanchez | Monday, 27 May 2024 05:15 AM
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Image Credit : JCPA (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

In a display of defiance, Hamas launched a rocket attack from Gaza on Sunday, triggering air raid sirens in Tel Aviv for the first time in several months.

This comes amid Israel's extensive air, sea, and ground offensive that has been ongoing for over seven months.

No immediate reports of casualties or damage were received, marking this as the first long-range rocket attack from Gaza since January. The military wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. Palestinian militants have intermittently fired rockets and mortar rounds at communities along the Gaza border, and the military arm of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group later announced that it had fired rockets at nearby communities on Sunday.

The Israeli military reported that eight projectiles had crossed into Israel, launched from the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where Israeli forces recently initiated an incursion. It stated that "a number" of these projectiles were intercepted.

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Earlier on Sunday, aid trucks entered Gaza from southern Israel under a new agreement to circumvent the Rafah crossing with Egypt, which Israeli forces had seized the Palestinian side of earlier this month. However, it remained unclear whether humanitarian groups could access the aid due to the ongoing conflict.

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Egypt has refused to reopen its side of the Rafah crossing until control of the Gaza side is returned to the Palestinians. Following a conversation between U.S. President Joe Biden and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Egypt agreed to temporarily reroute traffic through Israel's Kerem Shalom crossing, Gaza's primary cargo terminal.

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However, access to the Kerem Shalom crossing has been largely obstructed due to Israel's offensive in Rafah. While Israel claims to have allowed hundreds of trucks to enter, United Nations agencies report that it is typically too dangerous to retrieve the aid.

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The conflict between Israel and Hamas has resulted in the deaths of nearly 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza's Health Ministry. The Ministry does not differentiate between civilians and fighters in its count. It reported that the bodies of 81 individuals killed by Israeli strikes had been brought to hospitals in the past 24 hours.

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Approximately 80% of Gaza's 2.3 million inhabitants have been displaced from their homes, and severe hunger is widespread. U.N. officials have reported that parts of the territory are experiencing famine.

The war was instigated by Hamas' attack on Israel on October 7, during which Palestinian militants killed around 1,200 individuals, primarily civilians, and took approximately 250 hostages. Hamas continues to hold around 100 hostages and the remains of about 30 others, following the release of most of the rest during a cease-fire last year.

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Egypt's state-run Al-Qahera TV broadcast footage of what it claimed were trucks entering Gaza through Kerem Shalom. Khaled Zayed, head of the Egyptian Red Crescent in the Sinai Peninsula, which manages the delivery of aid from the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing, stated that 200 aid trucks and four fuel trucks were scheduled to be sent to Kerem Shalom on Sunday.

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Southern Gaza has been largely cut off from aid since Israel initiated what it termed a limited incursion into Rafah on May 6. Since then, over 1 million Palestinians have fled the city. Most had been displaced from other parts of besieged Gaza.

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Northern Gaza continues to receive aid through two land routes that Israel opened following global outrage after Israeli strikes killed seven aid workers in April.

A few dozen trucks enter Gaza daily through a U.S.-built floating pier, but its capacity remains far below the 150 trucks a day that officials had hoped for. Aid groups estimate that 600 trucks a day are required.

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Netanyahu has stated that Israel must take control of Rafah to eliminate Hamas' remaining battalions and achieve "total victory" over the militants, who have recently regrouped in other parts of Gaza where the military has been active.

Netanyahu is facing increasing pressure to negotiate a deal with Hamas to free the remaining hostages, a demand that Hamas has rejected without assurances for an end to the war and full withdrawal of Israeli troops. Netanyahu has dismissed this possibility.

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On Saturday, clashes erupted between police and protesters in Tel Aviv after thousands gathered once again to demand the return of the hostages. They called for Netanyahu's resignation and demanded new elections.

The war has also left Israel increasingly isolated internationally.

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Last week, three European countries announced their recognition of a Palestinian state, and the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Israel's defense minister, Yoav Gallant, along with three Hamas leaders.

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On Friday, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to end its military offensive in Rafah. The top U.N. court also demanded that Israel grant war crimes investigators access to Gaza.

Israel is unlikely to comply and has condemned the ICC's move toward arrest warrants. Israel maintains that it makes every effort to avoid harming civilians and attributes their deaths to Hamas because the militants operate in dense, residential areas.

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Hamas claimed to have captured an Israeli soldier during fighting in northern Gaza and released video late Saturday showing a wounded man being dragged through a tunnel. Israel's military denied any soldiers had been captured, and Hamas did not provide any other evidence to support its claim.

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In a separate development, Israel's military reported that it had detained a suspect over a widely circulated video in which a man dressed as a soldier threatens mutiny. In the video, the man claims that tens of thousands of soldiers were prepared to disobey the defense minister over his suggestion that Palestinians should govern Gaza after the war and pledged loyalty to Netanyahu alone.

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It was not clear if the man was on active duty, or when or where the video was made. Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, shared the video on social media, sparking criticism from political opponents. The prime minister’s office released a brief statement condemning all forms of military subordination.

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