International attempts to quell border tensions

Palestinian demonstrators clash with Israeli security forces during protests along the Gaza border. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Sipa USA

INTERNATIONAL delegations are headed to Gaza to try to prevent an escalation after the IDF killed a Palestinian man and terrorists fired two rockets at Israel. 

The IDF fatally shot a Hamas operative last Thursday, and later said that the incident was under investigation because it seemed that soldiers “fired as a result of this misunderstanding”, having misidentified him as an armed terrorist.

The next day two rockets were fired from Gaza to Israel. Both landed in open areas. Soon afterwards an Egyptian delegation arrived in Gaza to talk about unofficial understandings with Israel to keep the border calm. Shortly afterwards Qatar and the United Nations prepared to send delegations. 

Tensions are being further stoked by anger in both Gaza and the West Bank over the death of the Palestinian security prisoner Nassar Taqatqa, 31, who was found dead in his cell in an Israeli jail on Tuesday. Israel has yet to determine the circumstances of death, but the Palestinian Authority has already issued accusations. It is blaming Israel and claiming that the death should prompt “an immediate action by the International Criminal Court and the opening of an official investigation into the crimes of the occupying power”.

The latest developments came amid growing anger in nearby Israeli communities. Alon Davidi, mayor of Sderot, said he believes Israel should “launch another operation like Protective Edge [of 2014] in order to restore deterrence”, saying that the current approach of small-scale operations “only adds to the residents’ frustration”. 

Davidi was speaking at a meeting of the Knesset’s Interim Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee held near the Gaza border, which included calls for Israel to take a more hard-line policy towards Gaza.

The committee’s chairman Avi Dichter said that he envisions a significant war to deal with Hamas. “The operational solution to Gaza will be a military one, not a diplomatic one,” said Dichter, who represents the Likud party. “It won’t take two weeks or two months. We will need a lot of patience. It will be the first Gaza war, and probably the last one. This is the solution I envision.”

Several residents attended the meeting, and said they feel that the authorities in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem don’t care enough about their vulnerability to Hamas’s rockets and terror balloons that cause open areas to burn. One resident, Alon Alsheikh of Kibbutz Nir Am, said: “We will not issue threats or block intersections, but enough is enough.” He then referenced the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem dealing codes, and told the politicians: “Look in the mirror. You’ve left your Zionism in area codes 02 and 03.”

NATHAN JEFFAY