WEST BANK -ISRAEL ISSUES

  • Israel’s Defence Minister signalled on Friday that the military would stop its air strikes if Palestinian militant groups halted rocket attacks, a day after the deadliest Israeli raid in decades raised the prospect of a major flare-up in fighting.
  • The limited exchange of fire between Gaza militants and the Israeli armed forces has so far followed a familiar pattern that allows both sides to respond without leading to a major escalation.
  • Defence Minister Yoav Gallant’s instruction to the military to prepare for new strikes in the Gaza Strip “if necessary” also appeared to leave open the possibility that the violence would subside.

Relative calm

  • Midday prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, often a catalyst for clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police, passed in relative calm, despite a heavy police presence. Still, residents of the holy city and the occupied West Bank remained on edge.
  • The bombardments followed an Israeli raid in the flashpoint Jenin refugee camp that turned into a gun battle, which killed at least nine people, including seven militants and a 61-year-old woman.
  • The raid also sparked clashes elsewhere during which Israeli forces killed a 22-year-old in al-Ram, a Palestinian town north of Jerusalem.
  • At the funeral in al-Ram, crowds of Palestinians carried the young man’s body aloft and waved the flags of both Fatah, the party that controls the Palestinian Authority, and militant Hamas, which rules Gaza.
  • The escalation in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict created an early test for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new far-right government, which came to office as tensions with the Palestinians soared and has vowed to take a hard line

Deep concern

  • The raid also prompted the Palestinian Authority to halt security coordination with Israel and drew “deep concern” from the State Department just days before U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was expected to visit the region.
  • So far, both the Palestinian rockets and Israeli air strikes seemed limited so as to prevent escalation into a full-blown war.
  • Palestinian militants fired rockets from Gaza toward the south of Israel. Israel retaliated with non-lethal air strikes on militant targets in Gaza, such as training camps and an underground rocket manufacturing site.

SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB

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