On Tuesday, Israel increased the tempo of offensive operations against Hamas targets on the Gaza Strip. In response, heavy militant rocket fire was directed against parts of Israel for much of the day. This has been the heaviest fighting between Israel and Hamas since 2014 and shows no signs of letting up in the near future. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to expand the offensive in the face of the militant rocket attacks.
This round of Israel-Hamas hostilities has escalated rapidly. Jerusalem was the flashpoint this time, with religious tensions serving as the fuse. Confrontations broke out last weekend at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third-holiest site in Islam and the holiest site in Judaism. Through four days, Israeli police fired tear gas rubber bullets at Palestinians in the compound who hurled stones and chairs at the police. At times, police fired stun grenades into the carpeted mosque. On Monday evening, Hamas started firing rockets from Gaza. From that point forward, escalation was swift and inevitable.
Diplomats moved on the crisis immediately. Qatar, Egypt and the United Nations are working to bring about a cease-fire. All three act as mediators between Israel and Hamas. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres demanded end to the violence. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to the Israeli foreign minister to condemn the Hamas attacks and “reiterate the important message of de-escalation,” the State Department said. The interesting exclusion in Blinken’s message is any form of support by the Biden administration. So far, it appears that the White House wants the US to be seen as a potential peacemaker or mediator and not an ally of Israel.