Israel faced the largest rocket attack from Gaza in weeks on Tuesday, with over 50 projectiles fired into southern Israeli communities. The barrage came hours after Israeli troops pulled back from a days-long operation in northern Gaza.
Barrage Triggers Air Raid Sirens Across South
The rocket attack set off air raid sirens in towns and cities across southern Israel on Tuesday evening. While there were no initial reports of injuries, the projectiles struck buildings and roads, causing property damage. Several rockets narrowly missed populated areas.
The salvo represented the largest attack from the Palestinian enclave since late October when Palestinian militants launched over 300 rockets during a flaring of tensions.
Officials stated more than 50 rockets were fired in the Tuesday evening barrage, most striking the area around the southern town of Netivot. The border town Sderot was also targeted as well as the cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon.
Escalation Follows IDF Pullback
The rocket fire came just hours after Israeli troops pulled back from a days-long incursion into Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched ‘Operation Breaking Dawn’ last Tuesday in order to eliminate an imminent threat from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) militant group.
Over the week-long operation, over 60 Palestinian militants were killed, including PIJ Northern Brigade Commander Khaled Mansour and senior commander Tayseer Jabari. The clashes left Gaza City battered, with officials warning of widespread shortages of food, water, and medicine.
Critics charged the IDF with withdrawing prematurely from northern Gaza. Likud MK Gideon Saar, former Interior Minister, urged the security cabinet to reconvene following the rocket barrage that hit Netivot on Tuesday evening. Sa’ar stated that leaving northern Gaza had been a mistake that enabled militants to launch strikes on central Israeli cities only hours later.
Deal Reached to Provide Aid to Gaza
While no group immediately claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s rocket attack, it was presumed to have been launched by PIJ militants in retaliation for last week’s IDF strikes on their bases and tunnel networks.
Earlier on Tuesday, negotiations mediated by Egypt appeared to yield a breakthrough on enabling aid transfers into Gaza. According to officials, Israel committed to lifting restrictions on medical equipment and drugs entering the territory in exchange for Hamas releasing an IDF soldier they have held captive since 2014.
“We have reached an agreement on supplying necessary medicines and medical equipment to Gaza Strip hospitals and special needs,” stated Gaza Health Ministry Spokesman Ashraf Al Qedra.
However, hopes of deescalation were dampened by Tuesday evening’s large-scale rocket barrage. Officials have warned that vital infrastructure in Gaza, including hospitals and water treatment facilities, are on the brink of collapse after over 15 years of Israeli blockade.
Gaza Faces Humanitarian Crisis
The recent escalation comes amidst an increasingly dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. Years of conflict coupled with the Israeli-Egyptian blockade have left much of the territory in ruins with soaring poverty and unemployment.
|Access to Clean Water
Officials have warned that Gaza is becoming ‘unlivable’ after years of deterioration. The recent fighting has exacerbated electricity and water shortages.
While Gazans continue to suffer from the effects of 15 years of blockade, militants show no signs of backing down from confrontation with Israel. Groups like Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas remain committed to armed resistance and continue developing their rocket arsenals and attack tunnel networks.
With over 50 projectiles fired on Tuesday, many analysts warn that the risk of further escalation remains high despite ongoing ceasefire negotiation efforts.
International Community Calls for Restraint
The international community, including Gaza aid donors like Qatar and Egypt, have urged both sides to exercise restraint and pursue a ceasefire agreement.
However, with Palestinian militant groups rearming and preparing underground networks, and Israel facing increasing political pressure to respond firmly to rocket fire, a lasting ceasefire remains elusive.
Unless significant progress is made on lifting Israel’s blockade on Gaza, ceasefire deals are likely to only bring temporary reprieves in the recurring cycles of violence.
What Comes Next?
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s large-scale rocket attack and the IDF pullback from northern Gaza, several scenarios could unfold:
Further IDF Strikes
If rocket fire continues from Gaza, Israel may launch renewed airstrikes targeting militant bases, tunnels, and weapons caches. This could spark another round of retaliatory strikes from groups like PIJ and Hamas.
If rocket attacks persist, Israel may deploy ground forces for another incursion into Gaza to eliminate launch capabilities. This could mean IDF troops entering cities to root out militants in close-quarters urban warfare.
Israel could retaliate for rocket fire by tightening restrictions on goods allowed into Gaza, worsening shortages, and exacerbating tensions.
Egypt and Qatar may broker a ceasefire where militants halt rocket attacks in exchange for Israel easing blockade restrictions and allowing aid and reconstruction material into Gaza. Both sides could agree to avoid further escalation.
Shift to Diplomacy
International mediators could prevail upon Israeli and Palestinian leaders to give diplomacy a chance through negotiations towards a long-term political solution for Gaza. However, the deep divide makes this unlikely in the short term.
With over 15 years of recurring conflict and deteriorating conditions in Gaza, a durable ceasefire coupled with steps toward lifting the Israeli blockade provides the only sustainable path out of the current impasse. Absent this, analysts warn that further rounds of violence are inevitable.
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