Jerusalem / Gaza (dpa) – Following sustained rocket attacks by militant Palestinians, the Israeli military has intensified its attacks on the Gaza Strip.
“Air and ground forces are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip,” the Israeli military said on Twitter. A spokeswoman could not explain whether there were ground troops in the coastal strip. Israeli television reported massive attacks by air force, artillery and armored forces on the coastal strip.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the attacks, “I said Hamas will pay a very high price.” The attacks will “continue with great intensity,” he said in a video message. “The last word has not yet been spoken and this operation will continue for as long as necessary.”
Israeli television reported that it was the most violent and widespread attack in the Gaza Strip since the escalation began. The army called on Israelis in border towns, who live up to four kilometers from the Gaza Strip, to go to shelters until further notice.
Defense Secretary Benny Gantz had previously agreed to mobilize an additional 9,000 reservists in view of the escalation. Two days ago, the army had mobilized 5,000 reservists. According to media reports, the military was preparing for a possible ground offensive.
Palestinian militants continue their violent missile attacks on Israeli population centers. Numerous cities were shelled again, including Ashkelon, Ashdod and Modiin. Missiles were also fired towards Tel Aviv International Airport. In a village in the south of the country, rescue workers say an 87-year-old was fatally injured while trying to escape to a shelter.
The Israeli army also continued its massive attacks on the coastal area. According to the Ministry of Health, 103 people have died in the Gaza Strip since the escalation of violence. According to official figures, eight people have been killed in rocket attacks in Israel so far. The Islamic Hamas ruling in the Gaza Strip is classified by Israel and the EU as a terrorist organization.
A spokesman for the Hamas military arm said an Israeli ground offensive “would be an opportunity to bring in more dead soldiers and prisoners of the enemy.” People are willing to “teach the enemy a hard lesson with God’s help.” More than 2,100 Palestinians and more than 70 Israelis were killed in the 50-day Gaza war in 2014, according to both sides. According to the UN emergency aid organization Ocha, 18,000 houses in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or damaged.
About 1,750 missiles have been fired at Israel since Monday night, the military said. According to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, nearly 1,000 targets of the militant Palestinians have been fired so far.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) told the “Bild”: “At least the most recent escalation was deliberately caused by Hamas by firing more than a thousand missiles at Israeli cities.” Germany is committed to ending the violence immediately. In this country, the police «must protect Jewish institutions with the greatest attention.
There were several anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli demonstrations in the Federal Republic of Germany. In Gelsenkirchen, the police stopped a demonstration on its way to the synagogue. In a video broadcast of the Central Jewish Council on Twitter, chants with anti-Semitic content can be heard. Police confirmed the video’s authenticity. In Hanover, too, the police had to intervene in an anti-Israeli demonstration. Israeli flags were also lit in several cities. Maas called for demos to be banned “if criminal offenses are expected”.
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier condemned the events in Germany. “Nothing justifies the threat to Jews in Germany or attacks on synagogues in German cities,” he said in an article for the newspaper “Bild”.
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron wants to help calm the conflict quickly. In a telephone conversation with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, the 43-year-old condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas and “other terrorist groups” on Israel, the Elysée Palace in Paris said. Macron also wants to call Netanyahu.
The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians had recently flared up again. It deteriorated during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and after the cancellation of the Palestinian parliamentary elections. Police barriers in the old city of Jerusalem, which many young Palestinians viewed as humiliation, are considered the trigger. Additionally, there were clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem over evictions and violent skirmishes on the Temple Mount (Al-Haram al-Sharif).
The Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque complex is the third holiest site in Islam. But it is also sacred to Jews because there used to be two Jewish temples. The conflict is increasingly spreading to places in the Israeli interior – with acts of violence by Arabs against Jews and vice versa.