Daily life re-emerged Monday in Ashkelon after the rocket fire that sowed panic over the weekend in this coastal city of 135,000 inhabitants in southern Israel. Just 10 kilometers from the Gaza border, images of families fleeing on Sunday to air-raid shelters seemed to be forgotten after the students returned to schools. The fragile truce that Israel and Hamas have observed since the early hours of the morning does not hide, however, that the swords remain high after the greatest military escalation in five years, bloodied by the death of 25 Palestinians, half of them militants, and four Israeli civilians.
In the garden of the house of Moshe Agadi the grapefruits fallen from the tree by the fall of a Qasan rocket rot on the ground. The splinters that cut the life of this 58-year-old Jew of Iranian origin left scars open on the facade. Agadi became the first Israeli victim of a Palestinian missile on Sunday from the devastating war of 2014. A full day had not yet expired when at 4.30am on Monday (3.30am Spanish time, 1.30am GMT) a maximum fire put an end to the clashes. In less than two days, 690 bullets were fired at Israel and 350 targets were bombed in the Palestinian Strip. Reasons to save in the Middle East for an armed blast.
"The Golani infantry brigade, the seventh armored brigade and artillery reinforcements are still being deployed along with Gaza Division troops on the border," Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus explained to Ashkelon, one of the largest military gatherings around. in the coastal enclave from the land invasion Operation Margin Protector, in 2014. "We follow the events carefully; we have the order to maintain the mobilization", acknowledged the international spokesman for the Israeli army.
The mediation of Egypt, supported by the United Nations and Qatar, has favored the cessation of informally declared hostilities by Hamas shortly after midnight. The rockets left the launch pads and the fighters returned to their bases. The Israeli civil defense raised military restrictions on trafficking from seven in the morning, in a message that included that Israel had signed the truce.
This is not a good time for war. The fast of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan started right on Monday. The acts of the national holiday of Israel begin Wednesday at sunset. And next week the Eurovision festival will be held in Tel Aviv, which the Jewish government has promoted to project an image of modernity in the country.
"In the last two days we have beaten Hamas and Islamic Jihad with great force," the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, came out in response to criticism of the ceasefire in an official statement. "The campaign is not over: it requires patience, coldness and reflection". The leader of the opposition, the former general Benny Gantz, described as "the capitulation to the extortion of terrorist organizations" the cessation of hostilities with the Palestinian militias. The centrist Gantz was the chief of staff of the armed forces who led the last major war in the Palestinian enclave in 2014.
A chain of violent incidents on the border provoked the escalation of clashes on Friday. Two Israeli soldiers were injured by bullets in an attack attributed to the Al Quds brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad. In retaliation, two militants of the brigades of Ezedin Al Qasan, the armed wing of Hamas, died soon after in an Israeli military air strike. In the early hours of Saturday, the first waves of rockets fired at Israel, which responded with massive air raids. Last Sunday, the spiral of violence seemed out of control.
Military spokesmen say the precision bombing has avoided collateral casualties, but half of the Palestinians killed in the attacks are civilians. This is the case of the last two: a marriage that was on Tuesday in the rubble of his home in the northern Strip. Even two pregnant women, a child and a minor lost their lives due to armed operations. More than 75 houses have been destroyed in Gaza since the attacks and 420 have been damaged. Official offices, such as the Ministry of the Interior or intelligence services, have been razed to the ground, as have the offices of the Turkish state agency Anatolia.
The army is also happy to have been able to intercept, thanks to the Iron Dome anti-missile system, the 85% of the rockets that were directed towards populated areas. As recognized by the military sources themselves, three-quarters of the bullets fell into open fields, so that at least two dozen Qasams hit populated areas.
Rejection of the truce in the outskirts of the Strip
This margin of error seems unbearable for Alona Davidi, mayor of Sderot, a city of 28,000 inhabitants located just three kilometers from the Gaza border. "The truce will change nothing", says the assessor. "If the army does not start a strong ground operation, Israel will never be able to end the missile threat."
Only a few seconds are available in Sderot to reach the bomb shelters when the sirens of the alarm howl, which is why most houses have a safe area to protect the residents. The kindergarten special education Ella, located in the neighborhood of Neve Skoll in Sderot, had no shelter. Now he is pierced by the shards of a rocket that explodes on his patio. The students, between three and six years, stayed at home, like the more than 200,000 pupils in the south of the country. "We will rebuild it to turn it into a bunker," announced Deputy Mayor Elad Kanimi in the midst of repairs.
Israel does not seem willing to accept the death of four civilians without taking revenge on the Palestinian militias who fired continuous missile attacks on residential areas. Analysts in the Jewish press interpret that Netanyahu's message that maintains the offensive position despite the truce makes a new conflict desirable.
Re-impose armed dissuasion without completely weakening the current Islamist de facto government. It is the formula that Amos Harel, Haaretz's military analyst, undertakes. The Israeli prime minister is aware that if the army evicted Hamas from power in Gaza, it will be exposed to an emergency of an even more radical alternative to Israel. Hamas – which now requires economic aid to alleviate poverty (and the social response that persecutes it) in exchange for a ceasefire – represents a lesser (and known) evil in the face of the rise of Islamic Jihad, which is increasingly in line with Iran, and, above all, in the face of the threat of a resurgence of Salafist or jihadist groups that were launched in the past by Hamas militiamen.
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