Israel Ramps UP Airstrike As Violence Continues in Gaza
Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, the IDF unleashed airstrikes on multiple buildings, and Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups fired rockets at Israel Tel Aviv and Beersheba.
Israel’s airstrikes targeted hundreds of buildings, including a 13-story residential building that collapsed after the strikes. The IDF has stated that its strikes and violence are targeted at Hamas members, but the death toll over the recent days includes 10 children, according to Palestinian health authorities.
After the apartment block was destroyed in Gaza, Palestinian militants responded with 130 missiles directed at Tel Aviv.
Evictions of Palestinians have spurred the renewed violence in Sheikh Jarrah and other neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Palestinians have resisted forced evictions caused by a controversial 1970 law used by pro-settler groups to evict Palestinian families and give the land to Israeli Jews.
Resistance against evictions and encroaching Israeli settlements have resulted in demonstrations in recent weeks. Several of these demonstrations have been met with force by the IDF and other Israeli security forces.
Israeli police stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque on May 7th as thousands of Palestinians worshipped during Ramadan and protested against Palestinian evictions. The police used stun grenades and injured hundreds of Palestinians during the raid.
That raid, amongst other violence, was the justification used by Hamas to fire its first rocket launches into Israel in years.
Israel Right-wing Nationalists
In combination with many Palestinians’ indignation at increased state violence, the neighborhoods where homeowners and protestors resist evictions have been sites for clashes between Palestinians and Israeli right-wing nationalists.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, set up a “parliamentary office” in Sheikh Jarrah that ignited tensions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the far-right member of the Knesset to leave the area or risk increased rocket attacks from Hamas.
Supporters and other far-right nationalist groups joined the politician to support Israeli settlers in their bid to remove Palestinians from their homes.
Ben-Gvir’s party was on the fringe of Israeli politics due to its ultranationalist stances, including the expulsion of Arabs from Israel deemed “disloyal” to Israel. But, Ben-Gvir and his party have profited from a rightward shift in Israeli politics, and the party currently has six seats in the legislature.
Clashes between Palestinians and far-right activists have not been contained to Sheikh Jarrah. Three weeks ago, there were explosive clashes between the groups as young Palestinians fired firecrackers, and ultra-nationalist Israelis chanted “Death to Arabs.”
Violence, rioting, and clashes between opposing groups have only continued, and now Prime Minister Netanyahu has declared a state of emergency in Lod after rioting from Israeli Arabs. Stores, cars, and most notably, a synagogue were set ablaze.
Netanyahu is facing increased internal pressure as, once again, he failed to form a coalition government. The prime minister’s center-right Likud Party has shifted right in recent years after electoral gains from parties more nationalist and right-wing.
Both the increasing violence and the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah have been widely condemned across the political spectrum.
The evictions and viral images of Israeli state violence have spurred many protests and statements from prominent athletes, entertainers, and politicians.
A slew of soccer players, including Premier League stars Paul Pogba and Riyad Mahrez, made statements in solidarity with Palestinians. Various famous singers, including The Weeknd, posted support on social media for Palestinians facing eviction in Sheikh Jarrah.
In the United States, Israel’s most important ally, the recent events have received a mixed response with reactions falling somewhat on ideological lines.
US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price defended Israel’s right to self-defense on Tuesday but balked when asked if that right extended to Palestinians. Democratic U.S. Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib blasted Price’s answers for failing to condemn the killing of Palestinian children.
President Biden has remained relatively vague on the issue with the White House expressing “serious concerns” on Monday. Biden has faced criticism from both sides of the aisle, and several analysts have argued the Biden presidency was unprepared for such escalation.
Controversy in America also extended to the New York mayoral race. Frontrunner Andrew Yang issued a forceful statement of support for Israel that received plaudits from conservative corners, including Republican Senator Ted Cruz and former Trump adviser Stephen Miller. Many New Yorkers, however, have pressed the mayoral hopeful and condemned his statements.
Palestine has been increasingly isolated in recent months as Arab allies have sought diplomatic rapprochement with Israel. The recent violence shows the growing rift in the Arab world as some nations seek normalization of relations with Israel and others forcefully condemn Israel’s violence. As some politicians see increased relations with Israel as an economic boon, leaders of Arab and Muslim nations have made statements against the violence with varying levels of condemnation