GAZA, Nov. 5 – A new wave of violence in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday may be out of Israel’s intention to undermine an upcoming Egypt-sponsored Palestinian dialogue aimed to patch up rifts among Palestinian fractions, politicians and analysts said. Israeli air strikes on central Gaza Strip earlier Wednesday morning killed six Islamic Hamas militants, which Hamas responded by renewing dozes of home-made rockets and mortar shells into southern Israeli territories and Israeli army posts near Gaza.
Israeli security establishment immediately ordered a full closure of all goods crossings between Israel and Gaza. Palestinian attacks began to lessen around noon and completely stopped on Wednesday afternoon.
It is the first armed confrontation since an Egyptian-brokered six-month ceasefire was declared effective in Gaza on June 19 between Israel and Palestinian militant groups led by Hamas.
HEAVY BLOW TO CEASEFIRE
The fresh violence between Gaza militants and Israel deals a heavy blow to the fragile four and a half-month-old ceasefire in Gaza, which was aimed at easing of Israeli sieges on Gaza in exchange for end of violence.
The two sides have largely observed the truce despite Hamas’ criticism that Israel did not commit itself to the unwritten agreement by not allowing sufficient flow of cargo into Gaza.
The Jewish state has periodically closed the cargo crossings in response to sporadic Palestinian rocket fire that violated the truce.
Talal Awkal, a Palestinian analyst, warned that this quick surge and wane of violence indicate that the ceasefire was on tightrope.
He said that Israel attacked Gaza “following the promising statements by Hamas” that it was going to reconcile with Fatah movement “and end the internal Palestinian rift.”
Sources close to Hamas said the Islamic movement asked ceasefire intermediary Egypt to intervene, adding that Hamas told the Egyptians that “it was ready to restrain if the Israeli aggression stops at this point.”
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the Israeli attack was a major violation of the truce and proved that the Jewish state was not interested in observing the lull any more, without disclosing what Hamas would do in response.
INTENTION TO DISABLE PALESTINIAN DIALOGUE
Following Israel’s airstrikes, Hamas spokesman in Gaza Fawzi Barhoum accused Israel of disabling the Palestinian reconciliation dialogue due to start in Cairo next week.
In June last year, Hamas routed Fatah-dominated security forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and took control of Gaza, while Abbas consolidated his power in the West Bank.
Awkal said, “Israel is interested in the Palestinian rift and when it feels that the ceasefire will help ending the schism, it would end the ceasefire in advance.”
Senior Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat echoed Awkal by saying “this aggressions aims at breaking the lull which should be observed, in order to strike Egypt’s efforts to end the Palestinian crisis.”
Mohammed Shawaf, a 23-year-old university student, shared the same opinion, saying that the Israeli operation in central Gaza “was planned in advance and its carefully-estimated time proves that it aims at making the Palestinians busy and prevent them from heading for reconciliation.”
“Why Israel remained committed to the calmness and only violated it without any reason just now, because (Palestinian) factions were going for dialogue,” he added.
But his friend Shuaib Abu Jahal believes that Israel would respect the ceasefire “until seeing how the things will be going in Cairo.”
If the factions agree on reconciliation, “Israel will get rid of the ceasefire,” he said.