2021 Gaza Conflict
IS : Operation Guardian of the Walls
PA : Operation Sword of Jerusalem
The May 2021 escalation was the most intense since the seven-week 2014 Israeli war on Gaza. Protests and scuffles between Palestinians, Israeli settlers and Israeli police had steadily increased since the end of April. In Gaza, the Muslim Brotherhood organization Hamas worked with the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards, while Paliltinian Islamic Jihad workd for the IRGC. Hamas saw the tensions in Jerusalem as an opportunity to return to the fore. Claiming to be the people who can resist Israel is the card Hamas plays to win Palestinian support - the codename for the operation: Sword of Jerusalem. By playing this card, Hamas presented themselves as potential saviours of a Jerusalem shaken by clashes over threats of eviction of Palestinian families in a kind of new episode of Israeli colonization.
Hamas took advantage of a political vacuum created by the Palestinian Authority’s weakness. President Mahmoud Abbas created a huge space for Hamas to occupy. He had little political standing for a long time, then he inflicted a kind of coup de grace on himself by cancelling impending elections he was likely to lose. The elections had been announced in early January as part of a “reconciliation” process between Abbas’s secular Fatah party and the Islamists Hamas, and would have been the first elections in the Palestinian Territories for fifteen years. But Abbas announced their postponement in April, blaming Israel for uncertainty over whether voting could take place in East Jerusalem. This in turn prompted a sense of dismay among the Palestinian population that was ripe for Hamas to exploit.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad had previously mounted numerous attempts to spark new confrontations with Israel, in contradiction to the position of Hamas. In February 2019 Gaza’s ruling Hamas terrorist organization arrested dozens of Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives in the enclave over several days. Hamas foiled a rocket attack by PIJ aimed at Ashdod. PIJ aims to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to create an Islamic state. PIJ had challenged the authority of Hamas over the enclave, particularly since the September 2018 election of Ziyad Nakhla to head Islamic Jihad.
Palestinian factions use violence to gain prestige and influence public opinion within the community. The Second Palestinian Intifada was been characterized not only by the intensity of violence between the Palestinians and Israel, but also by the struggle between the different Palestinian factions for supremacy within the Palestinian community.
PIJ's overall leadership is based in Beirut, but its local military commanders live in Gaza. PIJ elements inside the Strip have exploited the fact that they have no governmental responsibilities to position themselves as the "authentic resistance" organization. PIJ leader Ziad Nakhaleh had been close to Iran for years, even before being voted in as secretary-general by PIJ's ruling council in October 2018. PIJ has played a double game, according to which some of its people in the Gaza military wing are behind attacks, not the political wing of the organization in Beirut headed by the secretary-general of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ziyad al-Nakhaleh.
The vexed state of Israeli politics was hobbled by four inconclusive elections since 2019 as opposition parties repeatedly fail to dislodge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In this context, the beleaguered prime minister also saw a political opportunity in the burgeoning Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The escalation has given Netanyahu the chance to regain his standing amid his long struggle to form a new government.
The Israeli army did not expect such an escalation with HAMAS, which had controlled a blockaded Gaza Strip since 2007, or with PIJ. The clashes started proliferating in early May in East Jerusalem – the Palestinian area of the city occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War when Mohammed Deif, the head of Hamas’s military wing, made a rare public statement on May 5, saying that Israel would “pay a heavy price” if it evicted Palestinian residents from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood Sheikh Jarrah. Deif said he was issuing a “clear, final warning” that Hamas would “not stand by helplessly”.
Until May 10, Israeli “defence officials thought Hamas had no intention of entering into another round of fighting with Israel”, Haaretz reported. Unlike the Jewish state’s intelligence agencies, senior officers in the Israeli Defence Force were convinced that Hamas would not provoke an escalation during the Muslim festival of Ramadan. But it seems that Israeli military officials also underestimated the symbolic importance for Hamas of the Temple Mount, or the al-Asqa Compound as it is known to Muslims.
Anger had been growing over the forced expulsion of Palestinian families from the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, who have been facing multiple court cases filed against them by several pro-settler organisations since 1972. These organisations claim that land the families live on was originally under Jewish ownership, but Palestinians see this as an extension of an official Israeli policy to displace as many Palestinians from Jerusalem in order to retain a majority Jewish identity in the city. The United Nations has warned the planned expulsions could amount to “war crimes”.
The Israeli court in October 2020 ruled that four Palestinian families should vacate their homes, and gave May 2 as the date for their forcible eviction. However, the court date haf since been postponed twice. There had been confrontations as Palestinians gathered for iftar meals – the breaking of Ramadan fasts – at the homes of those being evicted. The families had since appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court.
On Friday 07 May 2021, tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers filled the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound – Islam’s third holiest site – to pray on the final Friday of Ramadan, with many staying on to protest against the expulsions. Heavily equiped police fired rubber-coated bullets and stun grenades at protesters who responded by throwing stones. Some 205 Palestinians and 17 Israeli officers were wounded.
After a violent weekend, Israeli security forces on Monday 10 May 2021 conducted a flash raid on Al-Aqsa compound, again firing rubber-coated bullets, tear gas and sound bombs at gathered worshippers, stoking international outrage and wounding more than 300 Palestinians. About 20 Israeli officers were also injured. Hamas later announced it had given an ultimatum for Israel to remove its security forces from Al-Aqsa compound and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood by 6pm local time (15:00 GMT).
By early Tuesday morning 11 May 2021, Hamas had fired some 200 rockets towards Israel, according to the Israeli military, including several targeted at Jerusalem, with many intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defence system. At least two Israelis were killed. Israeli aerial attacks, which hit apartment buildings as well as other targets, killed at least 26 Palestinians, including children, health authorities in Gaza said on Tuesday.
Despite international calls to de-escalate, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday “both the might of the attacks and the frequency of the attacks will be increased” on Gaza. Hamas leader Ismail Haniya told mediators the group is “ready” if Israel increases its attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip, saying: “If they (Israel) want to escalate, the resistance is ready; and if they want to stop, the resistance is ready.” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland, meanwhile, has warned the situation is escalating towards “a full-scale war”.
Days of heavy bombardment on the Gaza Strip intensified on 12 May 2021, with Israeli fighter jets bombing sites belonging to Palestinian armed groups, as well as police buildings and apartment blocks. A night of heavy bombardment on the Gaza Strip continued into the morning as Israeli forces launched intensive raids on various locations across the besieged coastal territory. Since the offensive began late on 10 May 2021, Gaza’s health ministry said at least 53 people have been killed, including 14 children. More than 300 others have been wounded.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will use “an iron fist if needed” to stop protests by its Palestinian citizens. “We are continuing our efforts to stop the anarchy and restore governance to the cities of Israel, with an iron fist if needed, with all forces needed and all authorities required,” he said, speaking in Acre along Israel’s northern coastline. The Israeli army and intelligence said they have carried out air strikes that killed senior members of the al-Qassam Brigades in Gaza City and Khan Younis that were close to Hamas’s elusive commander Mohammad Deif. Deif, whose whereabouts and presence is shrouded in secrecy, had survived five assassination attempts by Israel over the years and is their most wanted man.
Israeli air raids in the Gaza Strip have destroyed all police buildings in the coastal territory, according to Gaza’s Hamas-led Interior Ministry. “Israeli occupation planes launched successive raids that resulted in the destruction of all police headquarters buildings in Gaza City,” Eyad al-Bozom, a ministry spokesman said. The Israeli army said it had shelled a building during the night that housed senior members of Hamas’s military intelligence service. The homes of key Hamas representatives were also attacked, the Israeli military said. Shin Bet identified 4 senior Hamas commanders killed in targeted killings, including the head of the group’s Cyber Network and missile improvement project Jamaa Tahla. According to the Shin Bet, Tahla was the right-hand man of Muhammad Dief.
Israel struck three tower blocks in the heart of Gaza City in 24 hours, flattening two and destroying parts of another. For days, Israeli fighter jets have targeted several landmark buildings in the heart of Gaza City, completely flattening at least two high-rise blocks. The towers host most of local and international media outlets working in Gaza. Israel said the buildings are being targeted because they are being used in part by fighting factions in Gaza, arguing that this makes them “legitimate” targets. These are not only buildings, but these are places that constitute landmarks of Gaza City.
Fresh strikes completely destroyed the 16-story Al Shorouk Tower in central Gaza. Located on Omar al-Mukhtar Street in the heart of Gaza City, the Shorouq building is one of the oldest tower blocks in the coastal strip and one of its most famous landmarks. Built in 1995, it houses multiple TV channels and media offices, and a popular saying is that every journalist in Gaza has spent time in the building at one point. Previously, residents were warned to get to safety. The tower was significant enough to have its only 3D CAD model in Google Earth. At roughly 200 feet in height, the Al Shorouk Tower was the fourth tallest building in the entire Gaza strip.
Hanadi, a tower with a mix of residential apartments and commercial offices, was another one of them. According to local sources, unmanned Israeli surveillance planes targeted Hanadi with several warning missiles before its destruction by fighter jets that caused severe material damage in the upscale Rimal neighborhood. The building’s guard received a phone call from the Israeli side, telling him to evacuate the building within two hours.
Another building located just two kilometres (1.2 miles) away from the site of rubble where Hanadi once stood was also targeted by Israeli fighter jets. Al-Johara building on Jalaa Street was hit by a quick succession of missiles which caused extensive damage but not the collapse of the nine-storey tower. The building, which mainly houses a number of media and production companies in addition to a few residential apartments, had earlier been targeted by warning missiles. The nearby structure that houses Al Jazeera Media Network, located a street behind al-Johara, also suffered some damages.
Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said he expected the fighting to intensify and, when asked about unconfirmed reports that Hamas might seek a ceasefire, said: “I don’t think my commanders are aware, or particularly interested.” Israel's Defence Minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday vowed more attacks on Palestinian militant groups in Gaza to bring "total, long-term quiet" before considering a ceasefire. "The army will continue to attack to bring a total, long-term quiet. Only when we reach that goal will we be able to speak about a truce," Gantz said in the southern city of Ashkelon which has been hit by Palestinian rocket fire.
Hamas head Ismail Haniya said he had told mediators the problem is not with Gaza but with Israel, adding that the group Hamas is “ready” if Israel increases its attacks. “If (Israel) wants to escalate, we are ready for it, and if it wants to stop, we’re also ready,” Haniya, who currently lives outside the Strip, said in a televised address.
The latest outbreak of fighting, the worst since 2014, killed at least 83 people by 13 May 2021, including 17 children and six women, and injured 487 in Gaza, according to local health authorities. Seven Israelis, including three women and two children, have been killed since fighting began. Israel killed 16 senior Hamas figures in air strikes on Wednesday, according to the Shin Bet security service. Hamas confirmed the killing of its senior Gaza City commander “along with a few of his fellow brothers of leaders and holy fighters”.
Jewish-Arab violence and riots erupted in several Israeli cities and towns as night fell after a day of heavy fighting. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of emergency in the city of Lod after rioting by Israeli Arab citizens, where a synagogue and other Jewish property were set on fire and an Arab resident was shot dead. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz responded to the "shocking violence" seen in several Israeli cities, saying it is a threat, according to the Times of Israel. An Arab-Israeli man, who was beaten by a group of Israeli far-right nationalists, was "seriously injured but stable," the Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv said. Images of the beating were broadcast by an Israeli public broadcaster. In the northern city of Acre, a Jewish motorist was reportedly beaten by Arab residents. In the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam, Jewish youths reportedly ransacked stores and beat an Arab man, Israeli media reported. An Arab man was also beaten by a mob in Haifa.
Israel's defense minister Benny Gantz said he had signed off on the mobilization of 9,000 more reservist troops as the fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas continued. Gantz said it was an "exceptional call-up", but refused to be drawn on when a possible ground intervention might come about. Israel prepared ground combat troops along the Gaza border on Thursday. The country was in "various stages of preparing ground operations," a military spokesman said. The move recalls similar incursions during the Israel-Gaza wars in 2014 and 2008-2009.
Hamas said 13 May 2021 it launched a 250 kilo (500 lb.) rocket targeting Ramon Airport near Eilat. Flights had been diverted there — 200 km (125 mi) south of Tel Aviv — due repeated rocket attacks at Ben Gurion, the country's main airport. Hamas demanded international carriers immediately halt all flights to Israel.
Hamas continued to launch rockets at Israel overnight while Israel carried out airstrikes. Most of the rockets fired by Hamas were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), around 25 rockets fell short, landing in the Gaza Strip. A total of five people received minor injuries in Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv, in the rocket attacks. Israel fighter jets hit Hamas' main bank and one of its naval force squads. They completely destroyed the Internal Security Agency in the North Gaza governate.
Israel unleashed tank fire and air strikes on the Gaza Strip on Friday 14 May 2021 in an attempt to destroy a vast network of underground militant tunnels, the military said, with Hamas militants returning fire in a barrage of rocket attacks. Israel has massed troops along the border and called up 9,000 reservists following days of fighting with the Islamic militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza. Palestinians militants have fired some 1,800 rockets, including more than 400 that fell short or misfired. The rockets have brought life in parts of southern Israel to a standstill, and several barrages have targeted the seaside metropolis of Tel Aviv, some 70 kilometers (45 miles) from Gaza.
Hamas showed no signs of backing down. It fired its most powerful rocket, the Ayyash, nearly 200 kilometres (120 miles) into southern Israel. The rocket landed in the open desert but briefly disrupted flight traffic at the southern Ramon airport. Hamas also launched two drones that Israel said it quickly shot down.
The Gaza health ministry says the death toll had risen to more than 120 killed, including more than 30 children, and hundreds more wounded. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, though Israel says that number is much higher. Seven people have been killed in Israel, including a 6-year-old boy and a soldier. The Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank said that the Israeli forces had killed 11 Palestinians and wounded about 600, some of them seriously injured, during violent confrontations that erupted in many cities and villages.
The Israeli military had launched more than 600 air strikes. Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said tanks stationed near the border fired 50 rounds. It was part of a large operation that also involved air strikes and was aimed at destroying tunnels beneath Gaza City used by militants to evade surveillance and air strikes that the military refers to as “the Metro". “As always, the aim is to strike military targets and to minimise collateral damage and civilian casualties,” he said. “Unlike our very elaborate efforts to clear civilian areas before we strike high-rise or large buildings inside Gaza, that wasn’t feasible this time.”
The stepped-up fighting came as communal violence in Israel erupted for a fourth night, with Jewish and Arab mobs clashing in the flashpoint town of Lod. The fighting took place despite a bolstered police presence. Tthe development is deeply worrying, the thing that will linger even after this particular round with Hamas is over. There was a series of clashes – there was an enormous police presence but it didn’t make a difference – with buses of people who were coming into the flashpoint towns from other places to take part. They were turned away, but nevertheless, a synagogue was burned in the town of Lod. People who took a wrong turn found their cars coming under fire. It was not just rocks, and not just crowds, there are actually people shooting at each other with live fire in Israeli cities, and the mayor of Lod said he thought Israel was on the brink of civil war. And nothing in the night made anybody change their minds.
Note the forceful ejection of the cylindrical fire column which is the result of bombs detonating inside a void (underground area) after successful penetration of same. Resulting overpressure inside forced a fire column through the narrow bomb entry hole. Explosive and shockwaves destroy the particular part, the soil above collapses. Remaining portion is full of dust and smoke, maybe even water from the collapsed water lines.
On 14 May 2021 the media was used as part of an elaborate ruse to lure Hamas militants into a deadly trap that may have killed dozens of fighters. Israel began scrambling forces along the border in what appeared to be final preparations for an invasion. Then came the announcement to the media, issued simultaneously in Hebrew and Arabic on Twitter. There followed alerts in major outlets that the invasion was under way. The Israeli moves sent Hamas fighters rushing into defensive positions in an underground network of tunnels known as the Metro, according to Heller and other Israeli reports. Israel called in 160 warplanes and bombarded the tunnels for 40 minutes, the military said. The misleading statement further strained what has often been a rocky relationship between the IDF and the foreign media.
The Israel Air Force’s massive bombardment of Hamas’s internal Gaza tunnel network overnight Thursday-Friday 13-14 May 2021 destroyed miles of tunnels. In 2014, the tunnel network was described as a threat that necessitated a ground incursion in order to destroy, with dozens of troops killed during the operation, including two soldiers whose bodies are still being held by Hamas. The strikes killed what the IDF believes to be dozens of Hamas terrorists, in what it hopes will be a decisive phase of the current conflict, an Israeli TV report said 14 May 2021. Some 160 aircraft flying simultaneously conducted the massive attack on the network of tunnels, dug by the Hamas terror group under the northern Gaza Strip, the army said. According to the IDF, in this air campaign, which lasted nearly 40 minutes, some 450 missiles were dropped on 150 targets in northern Gaza, particularly around the city of Beit Lahiya. In all, 80 tons of explosives were used.
On 14 May 2021 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “Over the last day, we attacked targets underground.” Netanyahu said “Hamas thought it could hide there. It could not hide there. Senior Hamas officials think they can escape our grasp. They cannot escape.” But according to the 15 May 2021 Ma’ariv report Hamas didn’t really “buy” the deception, since it calculated that an Israeli ground offensive would have necessitated cabinet discussion and different preparations by the IDF than those it was witnessing, and therefore Hamas gunmen did not descend en masse into the tunnels. Ma’ariv quoted unnamed IDF sources saying the onslaught had been less successful than hoped, with no indication that many Hamas operatives had been killed.
The Israeli army fired 450 missiles within 40 minutes overnight at 150 “targets” in Gaza, spokesman Avichay Adraee said 14 May 2021. The airstrikes had continuously pounded apartments, blown up cars and toppled buildings, with Israel officials claiming to be targeting militants in the area. “These raids were to deal a heavy blow to the underground interests, the Hamas metro located under the northern and eastern neighborhoods in the vicinity of Gaza City,” Adraee said. “We enter the fifth day of the process and continue working aggressively.” He also said 160 planes and six air bases were uses during the raid overnight.
An Israeli airstrike flattened the 11-storey Al Jalaa building, a high-rise building housing residential apartments, the Associated Press, Al Jazeera, and other media offices in Gaza City. The owner of the building said he had received a call from the Israeli military that the building would be targeted. Jawwad Mahdi said he was told to go into the building to make sure all residents have evacuated. He was told he had an hour to make sure everyone has left the building. The IDF said that the building was bombed because it was used by Hamas’ intelligence units. The army said Hamas was using the civilian media outlets as "human shields."
The IDF reported "IDF fighter jets struck a multi-story building which contained military assets belonging to the intelligence offices of the Hamas terror organization. The building contained civilian media offices, which the Hamas terror organization hides behind and uses as human shields. The Hamas terror organization deliberately places military targets at the heart of densely populated civilian areas in the Gaza Strip. Prior to the strike, the IDF provided advance warning to civilians in the building and allowed sufficient time for them to evacuate the site."
Rashida Tlaib, the US Congress’s only Palestinian-American member commenting on Israel’s attack on the al-Jalaa building wrote on Twitter that Israel is “targeting media sources is so the world can’t see Israel’s war crimes led by the apartheid-in-chief Netanyahu. It’s so the world can’t see Palestinians being massacred.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement saying the U.S. "communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility."
At least 140 Palestinians, including 39 children, had been killed in the Gaza Strip since 10 May 2021. Some 950 others had been wounded. Palestinians gathered in parts of the occupied West Bank to protest against continued Israeli occupation and the ongoing bombardment of Gaza. Solidarity rallies were also being held around the world to mark Nakba Day or “The Catastrophe”, when the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians by Zionist militias took place to create the state of Israel.
IDF fighter jets and aircraft struck a large number of rocket launch sites and underground rocket launchers, among them a multi-barreled rocket launcher, from which rockets were fired at Jerusalem on the first day of Operation "Guardian of the Walls". A number of terrorist squads on their way to launch rockets into Israeli territory were also struck, along with a Hamas post which included an Anti-Tank missile launcher in Jabalia.
In addition, the shaft of a Hamas terror tunnel located underneath a hotel beach in the northern Gaza Strip was struck. This serves as an additional example as to how Hamas deliberately places its military assets and operates in civilian areas. In addition, operational apartments belonging to Hamas naval force operatives were struck, as well as two apartments belonging to Hamas commanders in Sabra Tel al-Hawa and Beit Lahiya. All of the apartments served as terror infrastructure and command and control centers for recent hostilities.
In addition, a large number of rocket launch sites and underground rocket launchers were struck, among them a multi-barreled rocket launcher, from which rockets were fired at Jerusalem a few days ago. A number of terrorist squads on their way to launch rockets into Israeli territory were also struck, along with a Hamas post which included an Anti-Tank missile launcher in Jabalia.
An Israeli man was killed after a barrage of rocket fire targeted Tel Aviv and central Israel, shattering two days of calm in the region. Buildings and infrastructure has been damaged in several cities in central Israel. Gazan militants have fired more than a 2300 rockets at central and southern Israel since Monday.
As of 19:00 on 15 May 2021, since the beginning of operation "Guardians of the Walls", over 2000 rockets had been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, of which approximately 350 failed launches fell in the Gaza Strip. The Iron Dome Air Defense System intercepted close to 1000 rockets.
Amos Harel writing in Haaretz on 16 May 2021 reported that "military intelligence managed to crack open Hamas’s secret and systematically map the network of tunnels and underground headquarters which were built at great cost. However, the army was only able to reap limited benefit.,,, The original plan called for the destruction of tunnels serving hundreds of Hamas fighters who would take shelter there during a war. The idea was that after such a blow, if inflicted, Hamas would have to desist from further combat.... The current casualty toll seems modest and a far cry from the numbers that were circulating in Israel about mass deaths in the tunnels." Evidently, large numbers of Hamas fighters were not inside the tunnels that were bombed.
Israeli air strikes killed at least 42 people on 16 May 2021 in the worst daily toll since the start of clashes. Israeli forces continued to pound the Gaza Strip and Hamas militants fired a barrage of rockets from the Palestinian enclave, a day after Israel's destruction of a tower block that housed news media organisations sparked international outcry. Palestinian officials said 190 people have been killed over the past week, including 47 children, and another 1,100 have been wounded. Israel has reported 10 dead, including a child and a soldier. At least 560 Israelis have also been wounded. Three convoys carrying 263 wounded Palestinians from Gaza were taken across the Rafah border crossing into Egypt for medical treatment as Israeli strikes continued to pummel the enclave, medical and border.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups had fired around 3,000 rockets from Gaza, the Israeli military said. It said around half were intercepted by missile defences and hundreds more fell into the Gaza Strip. Israel had launched more than 1,000 air and artillery strikes into the densely populated coastal strip, saying they were aimed at Hamas and other militant targets.
China puts forward a four-point proposal regarding escalating Palestine-Israel conflict, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on 16 May 2021. Wang made the remarks when chairing the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) open debate on "The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question" via video link. First, ceasefire and cessation of violence is the top priority. Second, humanitarian assistance is an urgent need. Second, humanitarian assistance is an urgent need. Fourth, a "two-state solution" is the fundamental way out. Israeli air strikes hammered the Gaza Strip 17 May 2021 causing widespread power cuts and damaging hundreds of buildings. The overnight bombardment also included a third round of strikes on what the army calls the "Metro," its term for a Hamas underground tunnel network. Fifty-four fighter jets pounded 15 kilometers (nine miles) of tunnels, which the army has previously acknowledged runs in part through civilian areas. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told Israelis in a televised address Sunday that Israel “wants to levy a heavy price” on Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers. That will “take time,” Netanyahu said, signaling the war would rage on for now. The Israel Defense Forces estimated that it had destroyed about 100 kilometers of underground passageways that it says are used to move weapons and fighters across Gaza.
Tel Aviv has shared “smoking gun” proof with Washington showing that Hamas was working inside Jala Tower, The Jerusalem Post has reported, citing an anonymous diplomatic source. “I understand they found the explanation satisfactory,” the source added. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US media on 16 May 2021 that Israel had “shared” intelligence “with our American friends,” and suggested that Jala Tower was a “perfectly legit target” used by Hamas to 'plot and organise' “terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.” He added that the Israeli attack caused “no death whatsoever” because Israel warned its occupants to get out of the building before the strike were carried out.
Despite Netanyahu’s assurances, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on 17 May 2021 that President Biden had requested “additional details” about the airstrike on the building – the fourth multi-story building attacked by Israel during its weeklong campaign – in his telephone conversation with Netanyahu. Blinken also indicated that he had seen “no evidence” that Hamas was operating inside the tower.
Israel pummeled Gaza City with airstrikes 17 May 2021 as violence in the region entered its second week. The Israeli military said targets included tunnels used by Hamas and homes belonging to several commanders of the militant group that rules Gaza. IDF fighter jets struck the main operations center of the Hamas internal security forces in the Rimal neighborhood, in the northern Gaza Strip. The operations center was a central part of Hamas terror infrastructure. It served as a base for military intelligence operatives.Prior to the strike, the IDF provided advance warning to the occupants of the building and allowed sufficient time for them to evacuate the site.
Israeli naval troops spotted suspicious activity in the Northern Gaza Strip, nearby assets of the Hamas' naval forces, and tracked the movements of a number of suspect enemy combatants. Using IAF aircraft surveillance and naval capabilities, several of the suspects were spotted with a vessel, suspected of being a Hamas submergible naval weapon. The vessel was being taken to the shore and appeared to be on its way to carry out a terror attack in Israeli waters. An IDF naval vessel and an aircraft targeted the operators and the weapon in order to remove the threat.
The IDF and ISA targeted Hasam Abu Harbid, Commander of the Northern Division in the Islamic Jihad terror organization, The ISA and IDF fighter jets thwarted Hasam Abu Harbid, Commander of the Northern Division of the Islamic Jihad. Abu Harbid was a commander in the organization for over 15 years and was behind several anti-tank missile terror attacks against Israeli civilians, including the attack from the first day of the Operation, in which a civilian was injured. Additionally, he has consistently led rocket launches against Israel, as well as shooting attacks at IDF soldiers.
As of 7:00 AM 17 May 2021, since the beginning of operation "Guardian of the Walls", approximately 3,150 rockets had been fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory, of which approximately 460 failed launches fell in the Gaza Strip. The Iron Dome Air Defense System has an intercept rate of approximately 90%.
Israeli fighter jets continued to pummel the Gaza Strip in the early hours of 19 May 2021, flattening residential buildings and killing at least four Palestinians, including a journalist. The Israeli military dropped 122 bombs on Gaza in 25 minutes on the night of 18 May 2021, the Times of Israel reported. The raids, which began at 10pm local time, targeted an underground Hamas tunnel network in Gaza, the website said, quoting military spokesman, Hidai Zilberman. At least 219 Palestinians, including 63 children, had been killed in Gaza since the latest violence flared on May 10. About 1,500 Palestinians had been wounded. Twelve people in Israel have died, including two children, while at least 300 Israelis have been wounded.
Karine Jean-Pierre, White House principal deputy press secretary, said US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke again in the morning. “The two had a detailed discussion on the state of events in Gaza, Israel’s progress in degrading the capabilities of Hamas and other terrorist elements, and ongoing diplomatic efforts by regional governments and the United States,” she said. “The president conveyed to the prime minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he is “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met,” despite US President Joe Biden’s call for a de-escalation of hostilities in Gaza. In a statement from the his office, Netanyahu said that he “greatly appreciates the support of the American president”, but said Israel will push ahead “to return the calm and security to you, citizens of Israel”.
In response to Biden’s de-escalation call, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassam said those who sought to restore calm must “compel Israel to end its aggression in Jerusalem and its bombardment of Gaza”. Once that happened, Qassam said, “there can be room to talk about arrangements to restore calm”. The leader of Islamic Jihad, another Gaza group, said political talks “remain at a standstill”. “The only path towards freedom (is) to protect Jerusalem and people,” said Islamic Jihad chief Ziad Al-Nakhala.
In a stinging rebuke to the country's leadership, the editor in chief of Haaretz, Israel's most respected newspaper, called the country's ongoing war in Gaza as the "most failed and pointless Gaza operation ever." The war has exposed "serious military and diplomatic failure[s]" in the country. Aluf Benn went on to say that the Israeli assault on Gaza has also "exposed major deficiencies in the army's preparations" as well as a "confused" leadership and a "helpless government." The analysis by Benn laid bare the twin crises afflicting Israel, which is a political vacuum and a military strategy that is increasingly bereft of objectives. "[The] military has no idea how to paralyze Hamas' forces and throw it off balance," added Benn.
Yair Lapid accused Netanyahu of fanning the flames of war, no matter the cost, in a bid to salvage his political fortunes. "The fire always breaks out precisely when it's most convenient," Lapid said to Israeli news outlets suggesting that Netanyahu stood most to benefit from the latest war. Lapid was attempting to form a coalition government after Netanyahu failed.
The Government Media Office in Gaza said 20 May 2021 the material losses the Gaza Strip has suffered during Israel’s current offensive amounts to more than $322m. At least 184 residential towers, houses, and 33 media centers have been completely demolished, with a loss value of $92 million. Additionally, more than 1,335 housing units were completely or severely demolished, and about 13,000 were partially damaged.
Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire on 20 May 2021 to halt 11 days of fighting in the Gaza Strip. A statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the security cabinet had “unanimously accepted the recommendations to accept an Egyptian initiative for an unconditional … ceasefire.” Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad then confirmed the ceasefire in a statement, saying it would come into force at 2:00am on Friday (23:00 GMT on Thursday). Netanyahu’s office said the two sides were still negotiating exactly when it would take effect.
Hamas got what it wanted: to cast itself as the protector of Jerusalem, when it had so far been confined to the Gaza Strip. Hamas, in contrast to long-time Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was able to present itself as the guardian of Palestinian interests in the West Bank and in the intra-Palestinian dispute. At the same time, Hamas knew very well that the vehemence of Israel’s riposte meant it had no choice but to accept a truce. Israel has carried out several operations to eliminate the military capabilities of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Despite inflicting massive damage, each time they come back. Israel cannot make Hamas disappear, because the problem is not a military one – it’s political.
One thing was very clear: Abbas, who postponed the first Palestinian elections in over 15 years in late April this year, came out weaker than before from this military operation. Several Arab media outlets, as well as Israeli newspapers, described Abbas as the "biggest loser." They claim that he has lost the attention even of the Palestinians and that many in the international community no longer see him as a player of influence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Iran declared during the war on the Gaza Strip that it would stand by the Palestinian people "firmly". Regarding “the Sword of Jerusalem” operation, Brigadier General Ismail Qaani, commander of the Quds Force, said in a letter to Muhammad al-Deif, commander of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, “This battle opened a new time in the struggle with the enemy,” noting that it “brought the nation back with its pulse to its sanctities and sanctities,” And it showed that the participants in the sale of Palestine represent only themselves, and that they will regret their betrayals. "
The commander of the Quds Force told him, "By your steadfastness with the various resistance factions, you wrote a great epic that proved the weakness of the enemy," stressing that "we are on the covenant that the martyr of Jerusalem, Leader Hajj Qassem Soleimani, made for you." The Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, stressed the importance of the solidarity of the Palestinian sectors and their cohesion in the face of the Israeli attacks. Dozens of Iranians demonstrated in the capital, Tehran, in solidarity with Palestine and support for Jerusalem and Gaza. The historic Palestinian victory took place in the various Palestinian regions, due to the amplifications and celebrations, after the entry into force of the cease-fire at exactly two o'clock in the morning on Friday, about 11 days after the start of the conflict.
Brigadier General Ismail Qaani, commander of the "Quds Force", affirmed that "Jerusalem is the compass of the axis of resistance and the kiss of its jihad, " pledging that "we will not leave Palestine alone, no matter how much pressure increases and the siege intensifies." In a letter to Muhammad al-Deif, the commander of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Qaani said, “Oh, living martyr, who spent his life in the first ranks of the jihad squares, I was confident of victory.” I am addressing you on my own behalf and on behalf of the leadership of the Islamic Republic in all of Iran, ”noting,“ You promised victory for Jerusalem and you died, and you tasted the usurping enemy a taste of terror, defeat and humiliation.”
"The Palestinian people have proven to the world that they are alive, and years cannot forget their rights as the delusions have imagined," Qaani affirmed, adding, "We are living with you the details of the great battle of the Sword of Jerusalem, which you are fighting with all your brigades, companies and brigades."
Regarding the "sword of Jerusalem," Qaani said, "This battle opened a new epoch in the struggle with the enemy," noting that it "brought the nation back with its pulse to its sanctity and sanctities, and that it showed that the participants in the sale of Palestine represent only themselves, and they will regret their betrayals."
Qaani stressed that "your resistance writes with blood and fire an equation that the enemy cannot be alone in Jerusalem without a deterrent response. And the leader of the Islamic revolution, Imam Khamenei, confirmed that the downward line of the enemy's demise has begun and will not stop." The commander of the Quds Force stressed, "By your steadfastness with the various resistance factions, you wrote a great epic that proved the weakness of the enemy," stressing that "we are on the covenant that the martyr of Jerusalem, Leader Hajj Qassem Soleimani, made for you."
"We are in the era of Commander Soleimani, and we will not leave Palestine alone, no matter how great the pressure and the siege intensifies," as he put it. "The enemy knows that Palestine today is not alone, but with it a resistance axis that is getting wider, stronger and more coherent," he added, stressing that "Jerusalem is the compass of the axis of resistance and the kiss of its jihad."
Qaani concluded, "I kiss your hands that carry the weapon of jihad, and defend Jerusalem and the holy sites. Our pledge is firm that we are with you," stressing that "we will not be happy, nor will a decision be approved for us until the usurper entity is gone and every little bit of dirt is liberated from the soil of Palestine." Brigadier General Qaani Haniyeh affirmed that "Iran stands by the Palestinian right, in light of the Israeli violations and crimes committed by Israel in Jerusalem and Gaza, and supports Palestinian steadfastness and valor."
Israel had concluded from the previous three Gaza offensives that it could no longer accept a “strategic tie” with Hamas; that its military victory must be quick, real and resounding; that Palestinians and other regional nemeses must learn that they cannot achieve by force what they failed to achieve through diplomacy; and that Israel will do what it must to win, regardless of how long or how much the world whines. Forensic Architecture concluded on 21 May 2021 from data of Israeli attacks on public buildings in Gaza municipality: "In 11-days the occupation forces have bombed the center of Gaza City harder than the 53-days military operation of 2014".
The truce brokered by Egypt brought a tentative end to the fourth war between Israel and the Islamist militant group since 2008. Like the three previous conflicts, the latest bloodshed ended with both sides landing blows but failing to secure a knockout. Israel claimed to have inflicted “unprecedented” damage on Hamas with hundreds of bruising airstrikes, though it was once again unable to halt rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. Hamas and its smaller ally the Palestine Islamic Jihad also claimed victory, despite the horrific toll for families and businesses in the impoverished Palestinian enclave. Both sides tried to prove their points and strengths, but their vulnerabilities and weaknesses were also exposed.
Israeli strikes killed more than 200 militants including 25 senior commanders, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestine Islamic Jihad militant group and Hamas dispute that figure. The Gaza Health Ministry says at least 243 Palestinians have been killed, including 66 children; it does not distinguish militants from civilians. In Israel, 12 people were killed, 11 of them civilians including a 5-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl.
Only minutes after the cease-fire went into effect, US President Joe Biden tweeted: "I believe that Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live in safety and security and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and democracy." Despite the cease-fire, Gaza remains primed for another war.
The cease-fire after the 11-day conflict soon appeared in tatters. Hamas militants launched incendiary balloons into Israel, prompting the Israeli response 16 June 2021. Israel carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip late on 17 Jue 2021 "in response" to "arson balloons" launched by Hamas, the Israeli military said. It was the second time in as many days strikes have occurred with the region's cease-fire looking increasingly vulnerable.
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