After seven days of relative calm in Gaza, and of people being freed from captivity of various kinds, today it seemed like the truce agreement, reached after weeks of difficult mediation, was starting to pull at the seams.
Over the last week, in places where the truce was meant to quiet the aggression, there were some sporadic outbursts of violence: a brief confrontation in northern Gaza, and moments of gunfire and the sound of explosions at the Lebanon-Israel border. But today, during a 24-hour truce extension reached only at the last minute, both Gaza and the Lebanese border saw an uptick in violence in apparent disregard for the terms of the deal.
Violence at the border and in the Strip
Around noon Beirut time, an Iron Dome missile exploded in the sky over southern Lebanon. The Israeli army announced it had intercepted “a suspicious aerial target.” The situation did not escalate until later in the afternoon, when reports came in about Israeli artillery strikes just outside the town of Marwahine, Sour district. This was the first shelling since the truce began and although the agreement doesn’t explicitly include Lebanon, both Hezbollah and Israel stated they would cease hostilities in tandem with the truce in Gaza, so long as the other side did the same.
Around 8 p.m. Beirut time, reports came in saying missiles were launched from Gaza towards the Gaza envelope, the populated areas that run along the border of the Strip. Al Jazeera also reported a separate missile interception.
West Bank escalations
In the occupied West Bank, children are being shot and killed, hospitals besieged, houses bulldozed, and people of all ages detained without charges. Tensions are only mounting, as it seems this part of Palestine is carrying extra weight while Israel turns its attention, momentarily, from Gaza.
At 7:40 a.m. two gunmen pulled up to a busy bus stop in West Jerusalem, got out of the car and started shooting at the people gathered there, who scattered, fleeing the bullets. Three people were shot and later pronounced dead. Within moments, two off-duty soldiers and one armed civilian fired back at the two gunmen, who were quickly hit and killed. Shortly after, Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the two gunmen, brothers, were members of Hamas, and that the attack was in retaliation for the violence in Gaza.
Hamas called for an escalation throughout the “Axis of Resistance.” In the early afternoon, a car rammed into a checkpoint in the West Bank, in an apparent second attack. Two Israeli soldiers were injured, and the person in the car was killed, according to the Israeli army.
Diplomats at work
Amid these surges of violence, diplomats were flying around the region. Of today’s most significant visits, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed first in Israel and then in the West Bank. In the morning, he met with the Israeli war-time Cabinet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and President Isaac Herzog. Later, in Ramallah, he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Blinken condemned “extremist violence” against Palestinians by settlers in the West Bank, said the US hopes the cease-fire will become long-term, and that Israel has an “obligation” to protect citizens in Gaza.
Meanwhile in Doha, capital of Qatar, negotiations are underway with the aim of securing a third extension to the truce, but there was hardly any news regarding their progress today. The current cease-fire expires at 7 a.m. tomorrow (Friday) morning.
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