Worst Israel-Gaza clashes since 2009 war

The exchange of rockets and air strikes between Gaza and Israel the last few days is reminiscent of the buildup that escalated into the Israeli incursion into Gaza in 2009.

Oded Balilty/AP
Israeli citizens stand next to a house that was damaged after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip, landed in the southern Israeli town of Beersheba on Wednesday, March. 23.

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Escalating attacks between Israeli defense forces and Gaza militants mark some of the worst violence since the Gaza war, and resemble the pattern of violence that led to the 2009 conflict.

Israeli forces and Palestinian militants have been exchanging rockets and attacks since Saturday. In that time Hamas has fired at least 60 rockets, and Israeli forces have conducted numerous air strikes and artillery attacks in response. At least 10 Palestinians have died so far.

Although both sides appear to want a deescalation of violence, there are growing concerns that the tit-for-tat violence may lead to a war like the one that took place in Gaza two years ago, known to Israelis as Operation Cast Lead.

“We may have to consider a return to that operation,” said Israel’s Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom in The Jerusalem Post. “I say this despite the fact that I know such a thing would, of course, bring the region to a far more combustible situation.”

Israeli newspaper Haaretz writes that a small war has already started along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. What started as a series of small attacks has grown, as has the likelihood of a "broader conflict" – especially since the death of several Palestinian children was broadcast on television in Gaza and factions there vowed retaliation.

“The more time that passes and the larger the number of casualties, the harder it will be to stop the escalation,” the article notes.

On Tuesday, an Israeli mortar killed three youths playing soccer and the grandfather of one of them in the most high-profile civilian casualty incident in Gaza in some time. While a separate Israeli air strike later killed four militants preparing to launch rockets, the civilian deaths have garnered the most attention. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed regret, but blamed Hamas, reports The New York Times.

“It is regrettable that Hamas continues to intentionally rain down dozens of rockets on Israeli civilians even as it uses civilians as human shields,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said.

Gaza government officials declared Wednesday an official day of mourning for the four civilians and four militants killed Tuesday, reports Maan, a Palestinian newswire. Residents of Gaza City conducted a collective funeral for them.

As anger mounted on both sides because of the continued attacks, Hamas made a rare move and claimed responsibility for some of the rocket attacks against Israel. It was the first time in months that the organization admitted to involvement in rocket attacks, reports Sky News.

Hamas has said it is continuing enforcing the cease-fire, which was established at the end of the 2009 conflict, but Abu Obeida, the Hamas spokesman, said the recent attacks were in response to Israeli aggression. He added, however, that the group was still committed to maintaining the cease-fire provided Israel did not escalate the situation.

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