By Amy Teibel
May 11, 2021, 6:16 PM – Updated on May 11, 2021, 8:19 PM
Word Count: 894
“The conclusion of the meeting is to further increase the force and pace of the attacks,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday after meeting top security officials. “Hamas will receive blows here that it did not expect.” More than two dozen Palestinians have also been killed since fighting escalated Monday evening.
The Israeli government had called up 3,000 reserve soldiers even before reports of the first fatalities on the Israeli side. Military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said troops were being sent to the border with the Palestinian coastal enclave in case militants tried to attack through underground tunnels.
They weren’t being dispatched for a ground invasion, but “for those of you hoping for a quick return to normal activity, that does not seem to be the case,” Conricus told reporters in a phone briefing. The Ynet news website reported that tanks were also on their way to the frontier with the isolated strip.
Gaza militants began firing hundreds of rockets at southern Israel on Monday evening, in a sharply escalated spillover from weeks of clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in contested Jerusalem. The holy city, home to Jewish, Muslim and Christian shrines, lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and competing claims to it have underpinned the latest confrontation.
Israeli aircraft have been pounding militant facilities, including infiltration tunnels and rocket production sites, and have assassinated several military commanders in Gaza since the bombardment began. On Tuesday evening, a high-rise residential building was bombed after residents were warned to evacuate, a pressure tactic the Israeli military has used in the past, along with assassinations, to try to force Hamas to cease fire.
Militants retaliated for that attack with dozens of rockets on the metropolitan Tel Aviv area, Israel’s commercial and cultural center, and a new barrage on the south. A bus in a Tel Aviv suburb was hit, Channel 13 TV reported.
Palestinian officials have said 28 people, including nine children, have been killed, in what Netanyahu characterized as hundreds of raids. Witnesses, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said nine were killed by a militant rocket that fell short and landed on a Gaza house.
Israel and Gaza have skirmished repeatedly since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, and have fought three wars, the last seven years ago. Egypt, which historically has been involved in efforts to defuse violence between the sides, said it has been contacting regional and international actors this time, too. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the organization was “working with all relevant parties to de-escalate the situation urgently.”
The unrest began at the beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in April. Israeli restrictions on gathering at a traditional Ramadan meeting place outside the Old City touched off the tensions, but after they were lifted, protests were rekindled by the threatened evictions of Palestinians from longtime homes in the eastern sector of the city that Israel captured in 1967.
Israel Coalition Talks Shaken by Clashes With Palestinians
The violence is flaring at a time when Netanyahu’s rivals are trying to piece together a government after the fourth election in two years, and it has already impeded those efforts.
Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamist United Arab List faction, froze negotiations to join a potential coalition headed by the Jewish nationalist Naftali Bennett and secular centrist Yair Lapid, citing the ongoing flareup. The fighting has sparked Israeli Arab protests against the conduct of Israeli security forces and several attacks on Jewish civilians.
The coalition could have been sworn in “in a few days,” Lapid said on Monday, as clashes raged in Jerusalem. But the lethal surge in violence has made it untenable for Abbas to join a Zionist-led government at this time.
The political turmoil has been closely intertwined with Netanyahu’s corruption trial because if he loses power, he also loses his opportunity to derail the legal proceedings through legislation shielding an incumbent leader from prosecution.
The Israeli operations have sparked a backlash in the United Arab Emirates, which late last year became the first Gulf Arab state to normalize relations with Israel. UAE diplomatic adviser Anwar Gargash said in a tweet Tuesday that his country had come under criticism for the recent accord, and voiced support for a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.
Arab foreign ministers met virtually Tuesday to discuss the clashes in Jerusalem. Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who led the meeting, called on Arab and Muslim countries and the international community “to confront the despicable racist approach that’s lasted decades against Muslim and Christian holy sites, and that starts with ending all support for Israeli forces.”
Netanyahu has said Israel has always and will continue to allow freedom of worship in Jerusalem, but won’t tolerate violent disturbances.
(Updates with details of fighting in sixth paragraph, UN working to de-escalate situation in eighth)