PALESTINIAN political factions have denounced Sunday’s Israeli air raids on the besieged Gaza Strip.
The Israeli army fired missiles into the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun on Sunday afternoon and evening, injuring at least five Palestinians, after a rocket fired from Gaza fell inside the southern Israeli city of Sderot, causing no injuries or material damage.
Israeli army spokesman Peter Lerner said in a statement that military aircraft targeted alleged Hamas positions in the northern Gaza Strip following the rocket in Sderot and ‘operated in order to bring quiet to the people of southern Israel.’
The statement claimed that 14 rockets had been fired at Israel from Gaza since the beginning of the year. Palestinian Legislative Council member Jamal al-Khudari, who heads the Popular Committee Against the Siege of Gaza, also condemned the Israeli raids, saying they constituted a serious escalation two years after the devastating Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, which killed more than 2,100 Palestinians.
Al-Khudari said that Israeli violence in Gaza showed a ‘clear picture’ of the broader escalation of Israeli violence across the occupied Palestinian territory. He added: ‘This reality needs a quick Palestinian decision to unify Palestinians and use Palestinian, Arab and international efforts to gain Palestinians’ rights.’
On Monday the Fatah movement’s military wing expressed its willingness to defend Gaza against Israeli attacks. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades spokesman Abu Jihad said: ‘We were very surprised by the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip yesterday which terrified Palestinians in Gaza, but our fighters are ready to face any folly that Israel commits against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.’
Meanwhile, a spokesperson from the National Resistance Brigades, the armed wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), said in a statement on Monday that Israeli attacks are a violation of peace agreements and that their fighters have the right to defend the Palestinian people against any ‘Israeli crimes’.
The DFLP spokesperson called for an emergency meeting of all resistance brigades in the Gaza Strip to determine how to resist Israeli attacks and the formation of a brigades committee. They also called upon the Palestinian people to remain united in facing Israeli violations and attacks.
The spokesman added: ‘We will continue resisting the Israeli occupation till we gain our freedom and independence.’ Most recently, on July 1st, Israeli forces launched airstrikes on several sites allegedly used by Palestinian political factions in the besieged coastal enclave in response to a rocket shell that landed in Sderot.
In May, a Palestinian woman was killed during several consecutive days of sustained airstrikes and tank shelling from Israeli forces, allegedly in response to cross-border mortar shelling and a rocket being fired from the Gaza Strip. Israeli authorities hold Gaza’s de facto leaders Hamas responsible for all attacks against Israeli targets coming from the Gaza Strip.
However, Hamas has not claimed responsibility for any rocket attacks since Israel’s devastating war in Gaza in 2014, and the movement has attempted to clamp down on armed activity by smaller political groups in the territory.
Meanwhile, The family of Palestinian prisoner Muhammad Abd al-Majid Omaireh, who Israel accused of being an accomplice in a shooting attack last month which left one Israeli settler dead, said on Monday that an Israeli court decided to demolish their family home in the village of Dura in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron.
Members of the Omaireh family said that Israeli human rights group Hamoked submitted an appeal on behalf of the family after they were issued with a punitive demolition order one month ago, but the Israeli court rejected the appeal.
The appeal, they said, explained to the court that Omaireh’s family and his children who live in the house did not know he was planning to carry out an attack, and should therefore not be subjected to having their home destroyed.
Israel accused Omaireh of carrying out a drive-by shooting on July 1st along with Muhammad al-Faqih – who was later killed by Israeli forces when they bombarded the house he was hiding in – on Route 60 between the illegal Israeli settlements of Beit Hagai and Otniel south of Hebron.
According to the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal intelligence agency, Omaireh, 38, admitted to driving the car from which Faqih shot at the Israeli family’s car. The attack resulted in the death of Otniel resident Michael Marc, and critically injured his wife Chava, with two of their children, Pdaya, 15, and Tehila, 14, also being injured.
After the deadly attack, which came hours after Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian woman in Hebron’s Old City for an alleged stabbing attempt on Israeli soldiers, and a day after a stabbing in the Hebron-area settlement of Kiryat Arba that left a 13-year-old Israeli girl dead, Israeli forces launched a widespread manhunt for Faqih and Omaireh.
A gunman for a separate shooting attack in Hebron on July 9th also remained at large during the manhunt, with the suspect reportedly having fled into the Hebron area village of Sair. The closures that were imposed across the district of Hebron amounted to the most extensive lockdown on the occupied West Bank since 2014, disrupting the access of hundreds of thousands of residents to services and livelihoods, according to the UN, who said the measures amount to collective punishment on innocent Palestinians.
Villages in Hebron which had been completely sealed over the month of July included Sair, Yatta, and Bani Naim. Some 2,700 Palestinian residents of Bani Naim have had their travel permits revoked. Scores of Palestinians were also detained in overnight raids in Hebron, and dozens of others injured during clashes between locals and Israeli forces.
According to the UN, 50 Palestinians, including 14 children, were injured by Israeli forces during clashes in the West Bank between July 5th and 11 – almost all during detention raids, the largest of which took place in Omaireh’s hometown of Dura, which resulted in 38 injuries. In the same week, Israeli forces conducted 98 search and detention operations and arrested 95 Palestinians, with Hebron accounting for the highest number of operations and arrests.
Israel’s response to attacks – such as punitive home demolitions, the sealing of entire villages, mass detention campaigns, and withholding the bodies of Palestinians killed while committing attacks – has been condemned by rights groups, who have said the measures amount to ‘collective punishment’ and ‘court-sanctioned revenge’ and represent a clear violation of international law.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu fast-tracked punitive home demolitions in an effort to ‘deter’ attacks carried out by Palestinian individuals in the wake of a wave of violence that has swept across the West Bank since October, leaving 218 Palestinians dead.
While families, like the Omairehs, who receive demolition orders are given the opportunity to appeal the measures, Israel’s High Court of Justice typically rejects such appeals, according to Hamoked. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has condemned the practice as ‘court-sanctioned revenge’ carried out on family members who have not committed crimes, amounting to collective punishment and illegal under international law.
Elsewhere, Palestinians on Sunday commemorated the 47th anniversary of an arson attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as Palestinian officials stressed that the Muslim holy site is still under threat today. On August 21, 1969, an Australian Christian fundamentalist set fire to a pulpit in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, aiming to ‘bring about the second coming of Jesus Christ.’
In a press conference, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, said that Israeli violations, which include detaining and killing Palestinians in the Al-Aqsa compound, allowing Israeli extremists to storm Al-Aqsa, and demolishing Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem are ‘another type of fire which keeps burning the Al-Aqsa mosque and the city of Jerusalem, and has been burning for 47 years.’
Meanwhile, Palestinian governor of Jerusalem Adnan al-Husseini said that ‘the inability to solve the Palestinian issue until now hints at the dereliction towards the Palestinian cause and the lack of awareness of the dangers faced by the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the entire Palestinian cause.’
In the besieged Gaza Strip, the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements organised a sit-in to mark the anniversary, during which Islamic Jihad leader Ahmad al-Mudalal said that Palestinian ‘resistance will always be in an open battle against Israeli occupation until the liberation of the al-Aqsa Mosque.’
Al-Mudalal continued that diplomatic efforts and agreements with Israel are ‘false options’ which cannot be taken seriously so long as Israeli authorities carry out violations at the Al-Aqsa compound. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zahra also said that ‘security cooperation with the Israeli occupation and the persecution of resistance parties are the biggest crimes against the liberation of Palestine and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.’
The third holiest site in Islam, Al-Aqsa is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. While Jewish visitation is permitted to the Al-Aqsa compound, non-Muslim worship is prohibited according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.
Despite this agreement, Israeli authorities regularly allow Jewish visitors to enter the site – often under armed guard. Such visits are typically made by right-wingers attempting to unsettle the status quo at the site, and coincide with restrictions on Palestinian access, including bans on entrance and detentions.
In past weeks, Israeli authorities have also repeatedly cracked down on Al-Aqsa employees, detaining, summoning, and banning 21 Palestinian employees in the space of 10 days earlier this month.
• Turkish police detained at least five Turkish protesters who attempted to break into the Israeli consulate in Istanbul during a protest on Monday against the recent Israeli attack on the besieged Gaza Strip. Consulate security guards prevented the protesters from entering the premises, before Turkish police detained them at the scene.
The demonstrators were denouncing Israeli military air raids into the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday which injured at least five Palestinians, after a rocket fired from Gaza fell inside the southern Israeli city of Sderot, causing no injuries or material damage.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned Israel’s ‘hostile attitude’ on Monday, saying in a statement that the aerial offensives are ‘not acceptable regardless of their grounds.’ The ministry further added that Turkey’s recent resumption of diplomatic ties with Israel does ‘not mean that we will keep silent in the face of attacks against the Palestinian people.’