Violence flared along the border of Israel and Gaza as an Israeli air strike on a Hamas training camp killed one civilian and injured 13 others on Friday, say Palestinian medics. The air raid was carried out in response to a retaliatory rocket attack from Gaza after an Israeli bombing yesterday killed two Palestinian militants, who Israel said were plotting attacks on the Israel-Egypt border.
While tit-for-tat violence like this has been a part of the Arab-Israeli conflict for decades, speculation is growing that both sides may be gauging how Arab nations would respond in the event of another war between Gaza and Israel.
Hamas officials, who called the air strike an “unjustified escalation against Gaza,” appealed to Egypt to intervene. In an article by the BBC, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the bombing was meant to “test the response of the Arab world ... to a future war against Gaza and the Palestinians in general.”
Today's Israeli strike hit a family home, killing a man named Bahjat al-Zaalan and injuring 13 of his family members, seven of whom were children, reports the Maan News Agency, a Palestinian news wire. On Thursday, Egypt’s ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Othman, told the news agency that his nation was working to stop Israeli attacks and revive a truce between Israeli and Palestinian officials. Mr. Othman added that Israel’s actions had “reversed” the cease-fire.
For their part, Israeli officials contend that the civilians deaths were the fault of Hamas, which controls the densely populated Gaza Strip. In a statement, Israeli military officials blamed Hamas for choosing “to operate in the heart of civilian population centers and uses human shields,” reports the Jerusalem Post. Israelis officials added that the bombs were on target and civilian casualties were the result of explosives and other weapons stored at the targeted site.
Violence in Gaza and Israel had recently quieted, but ignited again on Wednesday when Israeli officials killed one Palestinian gunman and wounded another in a cross-border attack.
Israeli intelligence officials say that they had information that Issam Al-Batish and Sobhi Al-Batish, the two men killed in an air strike on Thursday, were planning attacks along the Israel-Egypt border.
“[They] were affiliated with a terrorist squad that intended to attack Israeli civilians and soldiers via the western border,” said an army statement quoted by Al Jazeera.
The situation along the Israeli-Egyptian border has been particularly tense since August, when militants crossed into Israeli from the Sinai and conducted a series of multiple attacks in the Israeli city of Eilat that left eight Israelis dead and another 30 wounded, reports The New York Times. Security has been tight there in recent days because Israeli intelligence officials say they have intelligence warning of an imminent attack in the area.
Since an aggressive Israeli military offensive on Gaza nearly three years ago, Hamas militants have largely abided by an unofficial cease-fire agreement. But Israel has accused Hamas of abetting other militant groups based there. According to the Associated Press, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said today that Egypt was trying to "mediate an end to the latest round of fighting."