Israel Bombs Gaza After Rocket Fire Follows UAE, Bahrain Deals

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Smoke rises after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City. (File Photo: AFP)

GAZA- The Israeli military carried out a series of air raids on the besieged Gaza Strip on Wednesday after rockets were fired into Israel during a “normalisation” of ties signing ceremony with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in the United States.

According to Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, Israeli warplanes fired missiles at a site in Beit Lahiya in the northern strip. They also targeted areas in Deir al-Balah, a city in central Gaza, as well as parts of Khan Younis in southern Gaza. No casualties were reported.

By Wednesday morning, 15 rockets had been fired into Israel wounding two people, according to the military.

Hamas, the group that governs the Gaza Strip, warned Israel it “will pay the price for any aggression against our people or resistance sites and the response will be direct”.

“We will increase and expand our response to the extent that the occupation persists in its aggression,” it said in a statement.

Without naming specific factions, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group in Gaza said in response to the Israeli air raids, the “resistance” fired rocket salvoes at Israel.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Israeli army in a statement said it carried out 10 air strikes against positions belonging to Hamas in response to rockets being fired into Israel.

The rockets were fired at the same time as Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain signed agreements at the White House in Washington to establish diplomatic relations.

Palestinians, who seek an independent state that includes the illegally occupied West Bank and Gaza, view the US-brokered deals as a betrayal of their cause.

The latest rocket fire from Gaza came after a month of armed groups in the strip stepping up incendiary balloon attacks against Israel, which responded with nighttime air raids against Hamas.

Since 2008, Israel has waged three wars on the Gaza Strip. Israel has long said it holds Hamas responsible for all violence from Gaza, while Hamas says Israel is responsible for the state of anger and pressure inflicted on Gaza’s residents because of the continued siege.

Since 2007 Israel has imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza’s two million residents. The Gaza Strip has a population of two million, more than half of whom live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

Anti-normalisation rallies

While many Israelis welcomed the Gulf state accords, in Sderot’s main square, resident Yehuda Ben Loulou said Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “should first solve the main problem in Gaza”.

Netanyahu “goes to easy countries with whom we have no problems. They sign agreements. But what about Gaza?” said Ben Loulou, 59.

The normalisation moves by the UAE and Bahrain with Israel prompted demonstrations in the Palestinian territories on Tuesday.

Clutching Palestinian flags and wearing blue face masks for protection against the coronavirus, demonstrators rallied in the West Bank cities of Nablus and Hebron, and in Gaza.

Hundreds also took part in a demonstration in Ramallah, home of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on the de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem.

Arab countries have long called for Israel’s withdrawal from already illegally occupied land, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and a settlement that leads to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state in exchange for establishing ties with it.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned on Tuesday the Gulf deals will “not achieve peace in the region” until the US and Israel acknowledge his people’s right to a state.

Abbas warned “attempts to bypass the Palestinian people and its leadership, represented by the Palestine Liberation Organization, will have dangerous consequences”.

In Gaza, protesters trampled on and set fire to placards bearing images of the leaders of Israel, the UAE and Bahrain.

Hamas and Israel last month reached a Qatari-mediated ceasefire deal and revived a fragile 18-month truce. The group has joined the PA in condemning the UAE and Bahraini accords as a “betrayal” of their cause.

 

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