In the worst violence since the 2014 hostilities between Palestinians and Israelis, Israel on Sunday and Monday launched ferocious air attacks on Gaza, which responded with rocket fire.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Riyad Mansour, who represents the Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and not the Hamas party, told the media at U.N. headquarters in New York that Egyptian mediators were in Israel, hoping to get the government to agree on a ceasefire.
According to the Associated Press, Palestinians in Gaza on Tuesday night celebrated the potential ceasefire, which they would see as a victory. Israelis in the southern town of Sderot protested word of an impeding ceasefire, burning tires and shouting “disgrace” in response to what they see as Israeli submission to Hamas rocket fire.
This latest incident comes as both sides had agreed to a period of relative peace for a couple of weeks. An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire last month saw Israel loosening fuel blockades and electricity restrictions, making life a bit more easy for Gazans, upping their daily electric allowance from four hours to eight hours.
Israel also allowed a Qatari envoy to travel there with $15 million in hand to pay the wages of civil servants, whose pay had been cut or withheld, amplifying their everyday hardships.
What precipitated this latest round of fighting appears to be an Israeli raid gone wrong on Sunday, when undercover troops on a reconnaissance mission were discovered by Palestinians. A gunfight ensued, leaving seven Palestinian Hamas fighters and one Israeli officer dead.
This is in addition to the seven Palestinians killed in Israeli air strikes on Monday and early Tuesday. Another Palestinian man was killed via Hamas rocket fire in Israel, where he lived and worked.
Israeli jets bombed targets in Gaza to provide cover for the fleeing troops, setting off an exchange that prompted Gaza to fire 460 missiles into southern Israel, at least 70 of them intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system.
Israel defended the recon mission into Gaza, saying it “was not intended to kill or abduct terrorists, but to strengthen Israeli security.” It’s unclear what, exactly, they were looking for or how they were discovered as they carried out their undercover mission in an unmarked vehicle.
The chief spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces told Israeli radio that these operations are common.
“It is the sort of thing that takes place every night, and in most instances remains under the media’s radar,” said Ronen Manelis.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Tuesday said if Israel stops its aerial attacks, then the rockets into Israel would also stop. An unnamed Israeli official told Reuters that Hamas had to hold its fire first.
In an interview with YNet Internet TV, Yuval Steinitz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, said, “I would say that a more accurate definition is that the Israeli military landed a harsh and unprecedented blow on Hamas and the terrorist groups in Gaza, and we will see if that will suffice or whether further blows will be required.”
According to The Washington Post, after meeting with his security cabinet for six hours on Tuesday, Netanyahu did not confirm a ceasefire, even though Israeli news outlets are reporting that it has been agreed upon. The only statement out of the meeting was that the Israeli military is “instructed to continue its operations as necessary.”
So far, President Donald Trump hasn’t had much to say about this incident, which is unusual for him, given his usual full-throated, unquestioning support for anything Israel does.
His Twitter feed is filled mostly with tweets defending his decision to skip a ceremony honoring the fallen soldiers of WWI, as well as a few digs at French President Emmanuel Macron for his anti-nationalistic speech (a direct reference to President Trump’s new mantra of nationalism).
Current (and outgoing) U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who is also a vocal defender of Israel — going so far as to threaten member states who criticize it on the U.N. floor — has also been silent on the matter so far.