Israel launched a series of airstrikes in southern Gaza early Tuesday while ground forces raided and took control of a hospital in northern Gaza. The raids come amid an escalation in violence between Israel and Palestinian militant groups that threatens to spiral into full-blown war.
Israel Bombs Gaza, Hits Islamic Jihad Targets
The Israeli military said it struck targets belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group in Gaza overnight Monday into Tuesday. The strikes were in response to rockets fired by militants toward Israeli communities near the Gaza border the night before.
At least four Islamic Jihad militants were killed in the airstrikes, including a commander, according to Palestinian officials. An Israeli military spokesman said the strikes targeted weapons production and storage facilities used by Islamic Jihad. Multiple rockets were said to have been launched by militants, but there were no reports of casualties or damage on the Israeli side.
The airstrikes mark Israel’s latest effort to stem rocket attacks from Gaza amid wider tensions following the arrest of a senior Islamic Jihad leader in the occupied West Bank last week. But experts warn the risk of further escalation remains high.
“We will continue to act with determination against attempts to attack Israeli civilians,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed, saying Israel “will not hesitate to launch a major campaign if necessary” to halt rocket fire.
Palestinian militants have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel since last week’s arrest raid. Most have either been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system or landed in open areas. Israel has responded with dozens of airstrikes targeting militant facilities and rocket launching sites.
At least 30 Palestinians, including both militants and civilians, have been killed in the latest fighting. Islamic Jihad has vowed to continue attacking Israel in retaliation for last week’s deadly raid. The militant group is backed by Israel’s archenemy Iran and has a stronghold in Gaza.
Israel Raids Gaza Hospital, Arrests Dozens
In a separate operation early Tuesday, Israeli ground forces raided the Kamal Adwan hospital in northern Gaza. Troops surrounded the hospital complex before entering the buildings to arrest suspects, according to Palestinian officials and eyewitness reports.
The hospital director, Ahmad Al-Khalot, admitted in an interrogation video released by Israel that the medical center was used as an operational base by Hamas militants. Israel said the hospital was housing Hamas military commanders and being used to store weapons.
”It turned from a medical facility into a military base for the Hamas leadership in hiding there,” said Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesman. Al-Khalot can be seen in the video identifying himself as a Hamas commander.
Israeli troops detained at least 45 Hamas militants during the overnight raid, according to the military. They also uncovered tunnels, weapons stockpiles and military command posts inside Kamal Adwan hospital. The militants put up little resistance before surrendering, the IDF said.
Surrounding homes were evacuated during the operation, which lasted approximately two hours. No civilian or medical staff casualties were reported. Israel released aerial footage showing militants fleeing the hospital complex with their hands raised as soldiers closed in. Troops were seen handling patients as they exited the building.
The raid drew immediate condemnation from Palestinian and international officials. The Palestinian Health Ministry strongly denied Hamas was using the hospital for military purposes, saying Israel was targeting medical facilities without justification.
“This is a war crime and crime against humanity. Where is the international community and why is it allowing this?” Health Minister May Al-Keela told reporters in Gaza City.
United Nations agencies urged Israel to avoid damaging vital health facilities in Gaza, which they said are already struggling to handle thousands of casualties amid dire shortages of medical supplies.
“The destruction of health facilities and services during armed conflict is prohibited under international humanitarian law,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement Tuesday morning.
Israel Vows to Keep Up Pressure; Gaza Faces Crisis
Israeli leaders signaled that military operations in Gaza would continue in the coming days despite growing international criticism over the hospital raid and Gaza’s deepening humanitarian plight. Israel insists its strikes are carefully targeted to avoid civilian casualties.
At his weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu said Israel “will continue to take action against elements that threaten our security, and will expand these actions as much as necessary.”
Israel said it holds Hamas responsible for all violence emanating from Gaza, where the militant group has ruled since it forcibly seized power in 2007. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and other Western countries.
Inside Gaza, nearly two years of Israeli restrictions have left hospitals overwhelmed with wounded people as medical supplies run desperately low. Gaza lacks enough clean water, food and fuel amid widespread poverty and devastation from years of conflict.
United Nations humanitarian coordinator Lynn Hastings warned the ongoing Israeli strikes coupled with internal Palestinian militant rocket fire have brought Gaza “dangerously close to the brink of collapse.”
The UN said nearly 300 civilians have been killed in Gaza since fighting erupted last spring. Israel says most deaths are militants or casualties from rockets misfired by Palestinian factions. But critics accuse Israel of using excessive force in densely populated areas.
With peace efforts stalled, an Egyptian delegation arrived in Gaza Tuesday in effort to negotiate a cease-fire. Previous truces have proven fragile, with tensions quickly boiling over into further bloodshed. The coming days could determine whether the sides can pull back or if they descend into another devastating war.
Table: Timeline of Recent Israel-Gaza Violence
|August 7, 2022
|Israel launches airstrikes in Gaza after militants fire rockets toward border towns
|August 12-15, 2022
|Israel and Islamic Jihad exchange fire during 3-day clash that leaves 49 Palestinians dead
|September 23-October 7, 2022
|Nearly daily rocket fire from Gaza met by Israeli airstrikes over 2-week stretch
|December 2, 2022
|Israel raids Jenin refugee camp, kills top Islamic Jihad commander
|December 9, 2022
|Islamic Jihad fires over 1,000 rockets toward Israel over 4 days prompting large-scale Israeli response
|December 17, 2022
|Israel raids Kamal Adwan hospital in northern Gaza, arrests dozens of Hamas militants
|December 19, 2022
|Israel launches new round of airstrikes targeting Islamic Jihad while Egypt tries to broker cease-fire
This timeline shows the series of cross-border clashes and Israeli military operations over the past 6 months that have brought the Israel-Gaza conflict to the brink of war. Egypt is currently trying to mediate a truce between the warring sides.
With both Israeli and Palestinian leaders threatening further action and the US voicing support for Israel’s right to self-defense, the risk remains high that the violence could spiral out of control despite diplomatic efforts.
Islamic Jihad has said it will keep up attacks until Israel ends raids in the West Bank and lifts its blockade on Gaza. With a network of rocket launchers and arsenals hidden around Gaza, militants retain the capacity to fire barrages toward Israeli border towns for months.
For its part, Israel appears determined to deliver a severe blow to militant capabilities in order to buy longer periods of calm for communities near Gaza. This likely means more targeted strikes on rocket production sites, attack tunnels and facilities linked to militant leaders. Broader ground operations cannot be ruled out either if rocket fire persists.
“Israel has only begun to implement its plans for Gaza,” a senior Israeli military official told reporters, signaling that the coastal enclave faces a turbulent period ahead.
Much will depend on whether Egypt can convince Islamic Jihad and Hamas to stand down rocket attacks, even temporarily, in exchange for economic concessions from Israel. Previous cease-fires have lasted from several weeks to a few months before violence reignites, continuing the cycle of clashes.
With both sides seemingly prepared for more confrontation in the short-term, the people of Gaza can expect further hardship while Israelis living near the territory must brace for more turbulent days ahead.
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