As Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's legal prospects grow dimmer by the day in his corruption trial, he's walked away from the day-to-day management of Israel is order to save his own skin, and the neglect and dereliction means the worst possible instincts are being used to try to control the latest situation in Gaza with brutal force that threatens to create a much bigger problem for the entire Middle East.
Airstrikes left neighborhoods in Gaza trembling, killing at least two dozen people, and rockets rained on cities in Israel, including Tel Aviv, as some of the worst fighting between Israelis and Palestinians in years showed no signs of abating on Tuesday.
The immediate trigger was a police raid on an Islamic holy site in Jerusalem the day before, but by Tuesday the conflict had grown far broader, with civilians on both sides of the border paying a heavy cost.
In Gaza, at least 26 Palestinians, including nine children, were killed in at least 130 Israeli strikes on Monday and Tuesday, and 122 others were wounded, according to health officials.
In Israel, two people were killed in strikes on the seaside city of Ashkelon on Tuesday, and at least 56 Israelis have received hospital treatment, according to medical officials. As multiple salvos of rockets streaked out of Gaza in rapid succession, one hit a school in the city, just 13 miles up the coast from Gaza. And a giant fire raged on the outskirts of Ashkelon where an oil facility was hit.
The school was empty at the time because the Israeli authorities had ordered all schools within a 25-mile radius of Gaza closed in anticipation of rockets.
Several more slammed into the port city of Ashdod, a little farther up the coast, where at least one hit a house. The emergency services reported several people wounded slightly.
Shortly after 9 p.m., militants fired another barrage toward Tel Aviv, Israel’s second-largest city, with one rocket hitting an empty bus south of the city, wounding at least three people, including a 5-year-old girl. One person was killed by the barrage, the authorities said, and 11 people were injured, according to early media reports.
Palestinian militants said the barrage was revenge for an airstrike that toppled a tower that houses the offices of several Hamas officials.
In a late-night address to Israelis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Hamas and Islamic Jihad have paid, and will pay, a very heavy price for their aggression.” But he warned, that “this campaign will take time.”
The Israeli military, prepared for the latest eruption of cross-border fighting with militant groups in Gaza, designated a code name for its operation just hours after the deadly violence began: Guardians of the Walls, a reference to the ancient ramparts of the Old City of Jerusalem. The militant groups had their own code name for their campaign: Sword of Jerusalem.
By early Tuesday morning, barely 12 hours after Hamas, the Islamist militant group that holds sway in Gaza, had launched a surprise volley of rockets toward Jerusalem, Israel had carried out at least 130 retaliatory airstrikes in the Palestinian coastal territory, according to an Israeli military spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus. Militant groups had fired nearly 500 rockets into Israel by the afternoon, according to military officials.
Things are rapidly spiraling out of control in Gaza, and while I don't think Netanyahu wants a third Intifada, he's going to take advantage of it if it comes to stay in power with a breathtakingly horrid crackdown where thousands may die.
Like Trump, Netanyahu has set the stage for being rid of these troublesome Palestinians, and it looks like Israel's hardliners in the military are going to push this as far as they can.
I'm hoping President Biden can step in and calm things down, but I'm not holding out hope.