Because the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has been broken after less than four weeks, Israel says it’s attacked Hamas armed compounds in the Gaza Strip after incendiary balloons were launched from the Palestinian territory on Tuesday. It’s the first test for Israel’s new government, which was sworn in on Sunday. Tom Bateman has more from Jerusalem.
Well, these airstrikes lasted around 10 minutes. Palestinians in Gaza reported hearing extremely powerful, loud explosions as they took place. The Israelis say they targeted Hamas militant sites, and that was in response to the sending over the perimeter fence during the day of so-called incendiary balloons. Now, these are small helium balloons that have flown over the fence with burning objects attached. And this had been a tactic used in the past by Hamas in Gaza that had set fire to some Israeli farmland around 20 or so fires, according to the fire service in Israel.
So that had been the context for this break of the cease fire, albeit not a return to the kind of intense hostilities we were seeing a few weeks ago. And no rockets fired, importantly, from Gaza towards Israel, which would have been a sign, I think, of another steep escalation if that response had taken place as well. Now, all of that came in the context of the events in Jerusalem, and that was an ultranationalist flag march that took place.
Israelis marching towards occupied east Jerusalem, towards the Old City and at Damascus Gate, which is a very important gathering area for Palestinians. It’s the main entrance to the Muslim call to the old city. The flag parade took place there. Now, that area had been cleared in a forceful way by the Israeli police. Palestinians describe it as being aggressive and discriminatory in the way that was done. There was video footage filmed of one man being violently beaten by Israeli police on the steps of Damascus Gate.
Witnesses there said that he was refusing to move. The police haven’t responded to a request for a statement about that incident itself. But there was certainly the feeling among Palestinians that this was forceful policing. They cleared the area of Palestinians. The Israelis were then allowed in. Some of the marchers chanted death to Arabs and also expressed a desire for some Palestinian neighborhoods to burn. That caused Israel’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid, to say that those marches were a disgrace.
He condemned what he said was racism and Israeli behavior. But at the same time, he congratulated the policing of the event and said that it passed in a way that certainly they seemed pleased with in terms of the way it had been managed. So what we were witnessing was a rise in tensions, again in Jerusalem and once again, some hostilities around the Gaza Strip, but certainly nothing like the hostilities, the the big rise in confrontation that we saw that led to the all out conflict of last month.