JERUSALEM—The Israeli military hit the Gaza Strip with a series of airstrikes Thursday night, rattling a shaky month-old cease-fire between the two sides that mediators are trying to keep from falling apart.
Soon after, for the first time in nearly a month, air raid sirens sounded the alarm in southern Israel when Gaza militants used heavy machine guns to fire across the border, the Israeli military said.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths, but the escalating violence threatens to unravel the tenuous May 21 truce that brought an end to 11 days of fighting that killed more than 250 people in Gaza and 13 others in Israel.
Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the Israeli military’s chief of staff, directed the nation’s forces to prepare for the possibility the truce could crumble.
Gen. Kochavi told his forces to prepare “for a variety of scenarios including a resumption of hostilities, in the face of continuing terror activities from the Gaza Strip,” the Israeli military said.
The surge in violence poses a serious challenge for newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who succeeded
as the nation’s leader on Sunday. Mr. Bennett, an ardent Israeli settlements supporter, heads a fragile coalition government that includes an independent Arab party for the first time.
Palestinians painted and planted trees on Thursday in an area recently hit by Israeli air strikes in Gaza City. Israel launched new strikes on Thursday night.
The cease-fire began to fray on Tuesday when Gaza militants used incendiary balloons to spark a series of wildfires in southern Israel. The Gaza moves came hours after right-wing Israeli marchers, some chanting “death to Arabs,” held a confrontational march through East Jerusalem to celebrate Israel’s annexation of the eastern part of the city in 1967.
Israel quickly responded with a limited series of airstrikes in Gaza meant to telegraph to Palestinian militant groups that the new government would respond with force to any kind of attack. Israeli officials hoped the strikes early Wednesday would deter Gaza militants from escalating.
But Gaza militants launched another series of balloons that set more wildfires in southern Israel on Wednesday. Israel then responded on Thursday with the broader series of airstrikes.
a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, dismissed the Israeli attacks as symbolic strikes by an insecure new Israeli government trying to demonstrate its toughness.
Israel’s military carried out airstrikes in Gaza after Hamas militants launched incendiary balloons into Israel on Tuesday in response to a right-wing nationalist march in Jerusalem. WSJ’s Felicia Schwartz reports as the flare-up tests Israel’s new government. Photo: Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
The new round of fighting comes as Gen. Kochavi prepares to fly to the U.S. this weekend for a series of meetings with American military and political leaders. The Biden administration worked intensively with Israel, Egypt, Qatar and other Middle East leaders to broker a truce to end last month’s conflict.
The U.S. had hoped to build upon the truce and begin talking about rebuilding Gaza. But that will prove to be impossible if mediators are unable to keep the cease-fire from crumbling.
—Anas Baba in Gaza City contributed to this article.
Write to Dion Nissenbaum at email@example.com
Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8
Appeared in the June 18, 2021, print edition as ‘Israeli Airstrikes Hit Targets in Gaza.’
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.