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Are Israel, Hamas on verge of large-scale war in Gaza Strip?

Updated:2021-05-13 17:22:04

Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, May 12, 2021. (Photo by Rizek Abdeljawad/Xinhua)

After tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been escalated over the past few days, Palestinian analysts warn of a large-scale war in the Gasa Strip.

GAZA, May 12 (Xinhua) -- After more than a year of relative peace and stability in the besieged Gaza Strip, Israel and its bitter enemy Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) are again on the brink of a large-scale war, Palestinian analysts warned.

The Israeli military continued its bombardment in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, targeting buildings and apartments that led to heavy casualties, mainly among civilians, in the wake of hundreds of rockets fired from the Palestinian coastal enclave.

The current wave of violence between Israel and Gaza militant groups is the first of its kind since the last large-scale air and ground offensive that Israel waged on the Palestinian enclave for 50 days in 2014.

According to the Israeli military, two Hamas commanders and another two from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) have been killed in targeted strikes since Monday evening. Meanwhile, at least six Israelis were killed and more than 100 were wounded by the barrages of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas-run health ministry said three days of Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip left 48 Palestinians dead and 304 others wounded.

An Israeli man injured after a rocket from the Gaza strip landed is evacuated in central Israeli city of Holon, on May 11, 2021. (Nimrod Glikman/JINI via Xinhua)


Israel and Hamas leaders traded threats, regardless of the mediative efforts made by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations.

Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh said in a televised speech that his group had received calls from different mediating parties, asking Hamas to stop firing rockets at Israel.

"Our response was that the occupation is the one which should stop assaults and attacks on Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Gaza Strip," Haniyeh said.

"The one responsible for the current escalation is (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu," Haniyeh added.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu said Israel would intensify its strikes on the Gaza Strip, adding that the Israeli army has targeted hundreds of targets and facilities of the Hamas and the PIJ.

Hani al-Masri, founder and director-general of the Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Strategic Studies, told Xinhua that the latest escalation "threatens to drag the confrontation between Israel and Gaza militants into a large-scale war in the Gaza Strip."

"But the war is very costly," al-Masri said. "The coming hours are crucial."

A Palestinian inspects the damage of a house following Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, on May 11, 2021. (Photo by Rizek Abdeljawad/Xinhua)


Tension between Israel and the Palestinians have mounted recently when clashes broke out last week between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli police forces at Al-Aqsa Mosque and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

Mohammed Hijazi, a Gaza-based political analyst, told Xinhua that Hamas had positively responded to the appeal of the Palestinians to retaliate the Israeli practices in East Jerusalem.

"What Hamas did constitutes a positive incentive for all the Palestinians, who must unite before the issue of Jerusalem. Despite the continuing disagreements among Palestinian politicians, there is no disagreement on the issue of Jerusalem," he said.

However, Hijazi said that reaching calm or a truce with Israel is also an important option, "because Hamas doesn't want to go for an open war."

"Netanyahu is also in a crisis after he failed to form a government in Israel, so he is not interested in a large-scale war that would threaten his political position," he added.

Protesters burn tires during clashes with Israeli border police following an anti-Israel protest against the violence in Jerusalem, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, on May 11, 2021.(Photo by Luay Sababa/Xinhua)

The Gaza analyst expected Hamas and Israel would reach a truce within the coming two days.

"But this option is still uncertain as long as the tit-for-tat trade of fire goes on and escalate," he said.

Adnan Abu Aamer, a Gaza political science professor who is specialized in Israeli affairs, told Xinhua that since the beginning of tension in Jerusalem, "Israel tries to avoid involving the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in the tension."

"But the harsh and brutal Israeli policy of dealing with the Palestinians was the main reason behind the development of tension that has expanded to the entire Palestinian territories," Abu Aamer said.

Since 2008, Israel has waged three large-scale offensives on the Gaza Strip. The largest was in the summer of 2014, which ended when Egypt and other mediators brokered a cease-fire between Gaza militants and Israel.