Israel Launches Airstrikes On Gaza As Cease-Fire Crumbles

The Israeli military confirmed it attacked the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, marking the definitive end of a cease-fire that followed 11 days of violence last month in which over 250 people were killed, most of them Palestinians.

In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces said it had attacked Hamas’ armed compounds in Gaza City in response to the reported launching of incendiary balloons from the territory, which the Israeli fire brigade said caused 20 fires in open fields near the Gaza border but apparently no casualties. HuffPost has not been able to confirm whether Hamas militants were responsible for the balloons.

The IDF said it was “ready for all scenarios, including renewed fighting in the face of continued terrorist attacks emanating from Gaza.”

The Israeli military now operates under a new government coalition different from the one that agreed to the cease-fire. While the coalition is the most diverse in Israeli history, it is spearheaded by a far-right leader with a history of incendiary anti-Palestinian remarks and past goals to annex the occupied West Bank.

It is not immediately clear if the Israeli bombings resulted in any casualties. Palestinian sources told the AFP that the raids targeted at least one site east of the southern city of Khan Younes.

A Hamas spokesperson, confirming the Israeli attacks, told Reuters that Palestinians would continue to pursue their “brave resistance and defend their rights and sacred sites” in Jerusalem.

A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

The attack comes weeks after Israeli airstrikes destroyed Gaza in May, killing hundreds of civilians, destroying homes and institutions, and displacing families. Israel’s airstrikes killed 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, according to Gaza authorities. Hamas’ rockets ― most of which were intercepted by Israel’s state-of-the-art “Iron Dome” missile defense system ― killed 12 Israelis.

After 11 days of nonstop violence, Egypt brokered a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. The attacks first began partially due to Israeli settlers trying to force Palestinians out of their homes in neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem, such as Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.

Tuesday’s strikes are the first on Gaza since a new Israeli coalition government formed, headed by far-right ultranationalist Naftali Bennett. Bennett took over as Israel’s prime minister, ending Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year reign.

On Monday, the new coalition approved a “provocative” march by Israeli ultranationalists and pro-settler groups through occupied East Jerusalem ― an event that was originally scheduled for May 10 in the same area but was diverted at the last minute from the Damascus Gate and the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.

Ahead of the march, Israeli police forcibly removed dozens of Palestinians from outside the Damascus Gate. Police arrested at least 17 Palestinians and wounded 33 others as officers fired stun grenades in the surrounding areas, according to Al Jazeera and The Associated Press.

During the march, hundreds of Jewish ultranationalists ― many of whom were youth ― were heard chanting “Death to Arabs” in Hebrew. In another anti-Palestinian chant, they said, “May your village burn.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who is part of the new coalition government, tweeted on Tuesday that those shouting racist slogans were “a disgrace to the Israeli people.”

“The fact that there are radicals for whom the Israeli flag represents hatred and racism is abominable and unforgivable,” he said.

Mansour Abbas, whose Raam party is the first Arab faction to join the Israeli coalition, said the march was “an attempt to set the region on fire for political aims” with the intention of undermining the new government, according to the AP.

Abbas said the police and public security minister should have canceled the event, though doing so would have opened Bennett and other right-wing coalition members to intense criticism from constituents who would see it as a capitulation to Hamas.

“Bombing Gaza is an outrageous action by the new Israeli government that is just a few days old. Tonight’s airstrikes follow today’s other Israeli escalation: violently shutting down parts of East Jerusalem in order to allow nationalists to march,” IfNotNow, a Jewish organization against Israeli occupation, said in a statement. “New government ― same apartheid.”

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