The Israeli Defense Force has directed artillery fire and carried out at least 50 airstrikes on the Gaza Strip since Sunday, when a rocket was fired from Gaza toward the southern Israeli city of Sredot.
While the party responsible for the rocket attack on Sredot has not been verified, IDF spokesperson Peter Lerner has stated that the Israeli Air Force and armored corps have targeted two Hamas positions in the north of the coastal enclave. Israeli police and military personnel told Reuters that the attacks were carried out primarily on targets in the Gaza city of Beit Hanoun, while Gaza health officials note that at least 30 different Hamas sites have been shelled.
The airstrikes injured at least five people, according to a statement released by the Qassem Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. The Palestinian National Authority has reportedly deployed security forces to help civilians in the aftermath of the attacks, asserting that the bombardment has caused significant material damage. The strikes have drawn criticism from Turkey, who called Israel’s response “disproportionate” and disruptive to the peace process.
This is the largest military action in Gaza since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in 2014, which resulted in the deaths of over 2,000 Palestinians, 66 Israeli soldiers and 7 Israeli citizens. The 2014 conflict severely weakened Hamas and, according to the Guardian, left them unable to escalate tensions with Israel.
Israel’s military actions have often been considered asymmetrical, with critics arguing that they function as a form of collective punishment in line with the infamous Dahiya doctrine. This doctrine, developed by Israeli commander in chief Gadi Eizenkot during the 2006 Lebanon War, targets civilian infrastructure with the aim of deterring militants from using it.
The latest round of violence began as an Israeli delegation arrived in Cairo to discuss the Palestinian-Israeli peace initiative advanced by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. According to the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, the delegation is expected to meet several high-ranking officials to discuss the president’s initiative. In an interview with Al-Ahram, Sisi substantiated Egypt’s capacity to mediate in the conflict by pointing to the country’s historical ties with Israel and Palestine, while adding that he also supports all regional and international peace initiatives.
Egypt increasingly has played a role in the peace process, often attempting to broker cease-fires during times of conflict. In 2011, Egypt successfully negotiated a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas where the release of one Israeli soldier was secured in return for freeing more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Egypt also brokered the cease-fire that brought an end to a 2014 offensive in Gaza.