Attacks by Israel in the Gaza Strip killed at least 25 people, including children and two pregnant women, over the weekend, ahead of a tentative ceasefire reached between Israel and Hamas and the Islamic Jihad on Monday morning.
“I wrapped my arms around my daughter to protect her but the shrapnel injured my hand and penetrated her body,” Rasha Abu Arar said of her daughter Seba, according to Al-Jazeera. “My three-year-old daughter, Rafeef, was also wounded and is currently in the ICU…What is the sin of my children? Did they throw rockets at Israel?”
The fighting — the worst of its kind between Israel and Gaza since 2014 — appears to have begun on Friday, when two Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers during weekly protests along the Israel-Gaza fence, the Palestinian health ministry said. During those same protests, a Gaza sniper injured two Israeli soldiers. Israel retaliated by killing two Palestinians, identified as Hamas militants. Beginning on Saturday, militants in Gaza launched rockets into Israel, killing four Israelis over the course of the weekend.
According to news reports, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad fired more than 200 rockets toward southern Israel. In return, the Israeli military said it struck 350 militant targets and has denied accounts of the death of a pregnant woman and her infant niece, blaming the killings on attacks by Hamas.
“The campaign is not over, and it demands patience and sagacity,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Monday. “We are prepared to continue. The goal has been — and remains — ensuring quiet and security for the residents of the south.”
The ceasefire comes as Muslims begin observance of the holy month of Ramadan. Israeli commentators over the weekend said, according to the New York Times, that Israel was keen to reach a ceasefire ahead of Memorial Day and Independence Day celebrations this week, as Israel seeks to appear welcoming to tourists traveling to the country.
Gaza is often referred to as the largest “open-air prison” on earth, where nearly two million people are denied freedom of movement, thanks to Israel’s 12-year siege of the strip — which has also affected the import and export of basic goods, as well as infrastructure such as water, sewage, and electrical systems. More than 80% of Gazans live in poverty.
President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday evening in support of Israel’s military.
….To the Gazan people — these terrorist acts against Israel will bring you nothing but more misery. END the violence and work towards peace – it can happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 6, 2019
“Once again, Israel faces a barrage of deadly rocket attacks by terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. We support Israel 100% in its defense of its citizens,” he tweeted, adding a second tweet placing collective blame on the Gazan people for acts of terrorism.
“….To the Gazan people — these terrorist acts against Israel will bring you nothing but more misery. END the violence and work towards peace – it can happen!”
Despite the president’s appeal for peace, the Trump administration has worked counter to such goals, taking actions that have incited violence in the region, such as recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and moving the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv. Last year, weeks of protests against the Israeli occupation led to the deaths of more than 100 unarmed Palestinians and more than 3,000 injured.