The sirens sounded around 8:30 p.m. local time on Monday evening April 18, sending residents of the Israeli kibbutz of Kissoufim, on the border with Gaza, back to their shelters and their bad memories. A rocket, intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile shield, had just been fired from Palestinian territory, after four months of calm, raising fears of an immediate response from the Israeli army in the form of a repeat of the May 2021 war , in which 260 Palestinians and 13 people in Israel were killed.
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But each side played the moderation card. According to the Israeli press, exchanges took place between the Israeli authorities and Hamas, the Islamic movement which controls Gaza hastening to indicate that it was not at the origin of the shooting.
The Israeli response came in the middle of the night from Monday to Tuesday: fighter jets destroyed Hamas structures in the town of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, without causing any casualties. Rarely for Hamas’ almost non-existent air defense, a surface-to-air missile was fired in vain at the Israeli planes.
Hamas and Israel caught in the crossfire
Hamas has no interest in throwing oil on the fire. The military capabilities of the Islamic movement are indeed far from being replenished since last year’s armed confrontation, from which the people of Gaza are still suffering. But his role as self-proclaimed protector of Jerusalem forces him to react to the recent violence on the esplanade of the two mosques. More than 150 Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli forces on Friday and Sunday at the Jerusalem Mosque compound, which hosts tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers daily for the month of Ramadan.
For its part, the Israeli government is weakened. The motley coalition in power has been politically weakened by the defection of one of its MPs, depriving it of a majority, and the temporary withdrawal of the Islamist party Ra’am, in response to the violence in Jerusalem. Under pressure from the right-wing opposition, led by a vindictive and vengeful Benyamin Netanyahu, the coalition led by Naftali Benett must display its firmness.
Provocations by the Israeli far right
This context has allowed Hamas to make demands, via Qatar and Egypt, which play a crucial role in proxy talks with Israel. According to local media, Hamas leaders have made several demands: the cessation of military operations in Jenin in the West Bank, freedom of worship for Muslims at Al-Aqsa Mosque and the release of all those detained since the violent confrontations. on the Esplanade of the two mosques at the end of last week.
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The events of the past 24 hours prove that the situation remains very volatile, and that it could quickly get out of hand. The number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank by a feverish Israeli army continues to increase (already 18 killed since the beginning of April). At the same time, the Israeli nationalist religious extreme right, led by parliamentarians who have become indispensable to Benyamin Netanyahu, is increasing its provocations. Tuesday, April 19, it gathered thousands of people, under military protection, at the outpost of Homesh, near Nablus (West Bank). Next week, she plans to lead a “flag march” in Jerusalem, amid the sensitive end of Ramadan.