/ 13 May 2021

Israel and Hamas head towards war

As tensions between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants intensify, the United Nations’ Middle East Peace Envoy Tor Wennesland yesterday warned that “We’re escalating towards a full-scale war.” He said the UN is working to restore calm, but he urged the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas to “take the responsibility of de-escalation. The cost of war in Gaza is devastating & is being paid by ordinary people,” he tweeted. Since Monday, the most intensive exchange of airstrikes since 2014 has left 53 Palestinians (including senior Hamas officials and 14 children) and 6 Israelis dead.

• To start with the basics – Israel and Hamas are life-long sworn enemies. Considered a terrorist organisation by the US, UK and Australia, Hamas wants to replace Israel with a Palestinian state. It governs Gaza (a strip of land that is surrounded by Israel and populated by Palestinians) independently of the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas. For extra points, Hamas and Abbas don’t get along – and he says the group’s actions against Israel are an attempt to marginalise him.

• Tensions have been rising in recent weeks as several events lined up to create this cluster disaster. That includes the Israeli election, a delay to the Palestinian vote, Ramadan, and legal action in Israel that could end with Palestinian families evicted from East Jerusalem homes claimed by Jewish settlers.

• Long story short, after weeks of clashes and demonstrations (including a nasty one on Monday), Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem for the first time in years. Israel responded with airstrikes and deployed its ‘Iron Dome’ air defence system (as seen in this incredible clip). And here we are…

“This was only the beginning. We will inflict blows on them that they have never dreamed of,” says Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. And Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said his group was “ready” to respond if Israel was to escalate tensions. Meanwhile, the international community urged calm. Overnight, the White House said it’s sending an envoy to broker talks. But experts say there’s no end in sight at this stage…

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