The conflict between Israel and Palestine continued into its sixth day with Hamas firing rockets into Israel and Israeli planes conducting airstrikes in Gaza.
One of the major inciting events occurred on Friday, May 7, when Palestinian rioters clashed with Israeli police around the Masjid al-Aqsa Mosque, a compound that Muslims revere as the Noble Sanctuary and the Jews consider holy as the Temple Mount.
Tensions escalated when Hamas declared a 6 pm deadline on May 10 for removing Israeli forces from Al Aqsa Mosque, and just minutes after the deadline, fired 150 rockets into Israel from Gaza. While Israel’s Iron Dome missile system intercepted around 90 percent of the rockets fired by Palestinian militants, the remaining fell into populated areas, resulted in casualties, and forced businesses and schools to shut down.
“Extremist Palestinians planned well in advance to carry out riots today on the #TempleMount. What we see now is the result of that,” Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a tweet.
“We guarantee the freedom to pray, not the freedom to riot and attack innocent people. The police is working to restore calm,” he continued. In another tweet containing video footage of the riot scene, Gendelman said that the rioters had stored rocks and firecrackers at Temple Mount as preparation for the riot.
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The Israeli military attacked four apartments that belonged to senior Hamas commanders as well as the organization’s intelligence headquarters, according to a Reuters report. The military is also attacking the militants’ rocket production and launching sites. However, Brigadier-General Hidai Zilberman, the Israeli military’s chief spokesman, said that the attacks were not enough to stop the barrage of rockets.
Why Gazan casualties are high
In Israel, eight people have been killed in the attacks, including civilians, according to a report by CNBC. In Gaza, 119 people have died due to the conflict, including 31 children. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tweeted that the rockets fired by militants have injured more than 523 people in the country and have hit a school, bus, hospital, and several homes. The IDF has struck more than 650 terror targets in Gaza.
In another tweet, the IDF gave three reasons explaining why there are more casualties in Gaza than in Israel. First, 300 rockets fired from Gaza misfired and exploded inside the region, killing and injuring several Gazans. The Gateway Pundit agreed, reporting that “Terrorist organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad have fired over 2000 missiles at Israel since Monday, 300 of which landed on their own people.”
Second, Hamas and Islamic militants deliberately placed rocket launchers and set up military sites in densely populated civilian areas of the Gaza strip. Third, although the Israeli military gives advance notice to Gazan civilians to evacuate, Hamas encourages the people to stay instead.
In a Twitter video uploaded on May 14, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to restore “quiet and security” in the country while adding that the military operation will continue “as long as necessary.” Internal conflict in Israel between Arab and Jewish mobs led to the arrest of dozens of people. Netanyahu warned in a TV speech that participants in the mob fights would be “punished severely.”
A US envoy has arrived in Israel for de-escalation talks, according to a BBC report. The envoy, a mid-level diplomat Hady Amr, will attempt to set up a ceasefire agreement by talking to Palestinian, Israeli, and UN officials.
On May 14, U.S. President Joe Biden stated that his administration will work to establish “sustainable calm” in the region. “Palestinians—including in Gaza—and Israelis equally deserve to live in dignity, safety, and security,” Biden said in the statement.
“No family should have to fear for their safety within their own home or place of worship. We think most about the children in these societies who face trauma from a conflict far beyond their control,” he continued.
Joel B Pollack, a conservative political commentator, said in a Breitbart article that the Biden administration’s push for a ceasefire between Palestinian Hamas terrorists and Israel is a “foolish and dangerous” move.
“A ceasefire would not save lives; on the contrary, it would cost more lives in the long run, because it will ensure that Hamas attacks again, putting Israeli civilians — and Palestinian civilians — in danger. A ceasefire would also embolden Iran to continue supporting terrorist proxies throughout the region,” Pollack writes.
According to Israeli officials, Palestinian militants have fired around 2,000 rockets and have around 30,000 rockets and mortar projectiles that have been stashed in Gaza by Hamas and other jihadist militant groups.
A New York Times article highlights Iran’s support for Hamas, quoting the organization’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, who in May 2019 declared to a large gathering that if not for the support provided by Iran, “we would not have had these capabilities.” Pollack says that the only “reasonable” way forward is to ensure that Israel removes Hamas from Gaza and is sufficiently armed to fight Iran if Tehran enters the war.
Opposing stances in the US
Meanwhile, many leftists and Democrats are taking a hard anti-Israel stance on the matter. Democrat Andrew Yang, who tweeted that he stands with the people of Israel and condemned Hamas terrorists, was forced to backtrack on the issue after several pro-Palestinian activists in his party criticized him.
At Harvard University, a campaign is underway to force the university to condemn Israel’s “excessive use of force.” A petition on the issue accused Israel of committing “systematic oppression and ethnic cleansing.” Democrat Representative Ilhan Omar said in a tweet that the Israeli airstrikes killing civilians in Gaza is an “act of terrorism.”
Republican Representative Brian Mast refuted Omar’s claim on the House floor by saying that 600 rockets had been launched on Israel by Palestinian terrorists. The Iranian-made Fajr-5 rockets are 21 feet long and contain warheads with around 200 pounds of explosives.
In a statement published on his site, former President Donald Trump said that the world is becoming more violent because of Biden’s weak foreign policy and lack of support for Israel. “America must always stand with Israel and make clear that the Palestinians must end the violence, terror, and rocket attacks, and make clear that the U.S. will always strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself,” the statement said.
Previously, President Trump withdrew US funding to Palestinians in 2018 and began facilitating a peace process for which Trump was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAB) were created for the first time, and the UAE even offered congratulations for Israeli Independence Day.
The Trump administration dedicated 250 million dollars in investment aid to Palestinians in the Dec. 2020 coronavirus relief bill, with the purpose of “encouraging Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.” The funds were prohibited from being given to any groups involved with or encouraging terrorist activities.
In contrast, just over one month before Hamas launched thousands of rockets at Israel, the Biden administration announced 235 million dollars in aid to the Palestinians from the US for “humanitarian assistance,” which was a reversal of Trump’s Middle East policy. Investigative reporter Sara Carter criticized the “total lack of transparency of where these funds go.”
With reporting by Steven Li.