From Michael Brown’s funeral and a cease fire in Gaza, to swarms of locusts in Madagascar and the US Open Tennis Championships, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.
Rebel groups, including an al-Qaeda affiliate, are clashing with the Syrian military at the border between Israel and Syria.
The United Nations said Thursday that 43 UN peacekeepers are being detained by “an armed group” at the border between Syria and Israel where Islamist militants are clashing with the Syrian military. Another 81 UN peacekeepers in the area of separation were trapped at their positions, the UN said.
Rebel forces, including the al-Qaeda affiliate known as the Nusra Front, have reportedly advanced on Syrian forces and seized the Quneitra border crossing near where the UN peacekeepers were detained.
Some 1,200 peacekeepers with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force monitor the demilitarized zone in the Golan Heights, comprising servicemen from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands and the Philippines.
“The United Nations is making every effort to secure the release of the detained peacekeepers, and to restore the full freedom of movement of the Force throughout its area of operation,” the UN said in a statement.
UN peacekeepers have been apprehended in Syria in the past and released, including last year when a group of Filipino UN peacekeepers were released.
JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that Israel achieved a “great military and political” victory over Hamas in the latest round of fighting in the Gaza Strip has met with skepticism from many Israelis, according to a poll published Thursday.
The poll, published in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, shows that 54 percent of those surveyed believe there was no clear winner in the 50 days of war. The fighting killed 2,143 Palestinians, most of them civilians, according to Palestinian health officials and U.N. officials. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers, five civilians and a Thai worker were killed.
The poll underscores the unease pervading Israeli society after the third round of fighting between Israel and Gaza-based Islamic militants in the seven years since Hamas took control of the densely populated coastal strip.
Some of Netanyahu’s detractors, including ministers in his own government like veteran security hawk Uzi Landau, believe that the prime minister and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon did not go far enough in pursuing the war, insisting that they should not have stopped until Hamas was destroyed or pleaded for peace.
Others, particularly residents of hard-hit agricultural communities abutting the Gaza border, fear that without a clear political roadmap for the Palestinian territory’s future, a resumption of the rocket and mortar fire that caused such considerable disruption to their lives for most of the summer is not so much a question of if, but rather of when.
Still, calm has prevailed since the two sides agreed on Tuesday to an open-ended truce, settling for an ambiguous interim agreement in exchange.
Hamas, though badly battered, remains in control of Gaza with part of its military arsenal intact. Israel and Egypt are to continue to control access to the blockaded coastal strip despite Hamas’ long-running demand that the border closures imposed in 2007 be lifted.
A former director of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, Yuval Diskin, said the war’s results “were disappointing and were accompanied by what some have described as a sense of sourness.”
“The cease-fire that was achieved with Hamas has left the Israeli public frustrated,” Diskin wrote in a commentary published in the popular Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper on Thursday.
The Haaretz poll questioned 464 Israelis on Wednesday and had a margin of error of 4.6 percent. While 54 percent said there was no clear-cut winner, some 25 percent of respondents said Israel had won the war, while 16 percent believed Hamas had prevailed. The remaining 5 percent of those surveyed were undecided. The paper did not say how the survey was conducted.
Later that night in a nationally televised speech, Netanyahu said that Israel had dealt Hamas “a heavy blow.”
“With the implementation of the cease-fire, I can say that there is a great military and political achievement here for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “Hamas was hit hard and it received not one of the demands it set forth for a cease-fire, not one.”
Netanyahu also said Israel “will not tolerate” any more of the Hamas rocket fire that started the war on July 8, and would respond “even harder” if attacks resume.
A bloody war is followed by a public-relations fight
Israeli and Palestinian leaders set out Wednesday to sell their constituents on what was achieved during the latest fighting between the two sides, a day into a cease-fire that ended 50 days of war.
Senior officials on both sides of the conflict declared victory, albeit in very different ways, and laid out the war’s purported achievements. But some found themselves questioning what was really accomplished — and at what price.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced severe criticism from both ends of the political spectrum — from left-wingers who think the war could have been avoided had he not squandered a recent round of peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and from right-wingers who say he didn’t go far enough in the latest Gaza war. Netanyahu resisted hawkish calls to have the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) attempt an overthrow of Hamas and a reoccupation of the Gaza, and he shelved his insistence on the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, which he had been promoting last month as a solution to the conflict.
Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu’s own Foreign Minister and among the most prominent critics in his cabinet, slammed the cease-fire deal.
“We object to the cease-fire which offers Hamas the ability to continue to grow strong and fight future battles with Israel whenever it feels like,” Lieberman wrote on Facebook.
Unlike other key national decisions, Netanyahu did not bring the cease-fire deal to his cabinet for a discussion or a vote. After coming under fire for not addressing the nation Tuesday evening when the cease-fire deal was signed, Netanyahu held a news conference Wednesday alongside his Defense Minister and the IDF Chief of Staff, aimed at touting what he said was a mission accomplished, one that will provide “a lasting quiet” for Israel.
“Hamas did not get one of its demands to end Operation Protective Edge,” Netanyahu said, using the name of the Israeli military operation. “It demanded a seaport, it didn’t get it. It demanded an airport, it didn’t get it. It wanted mediation from Qatar and Turkey, it didn’t get it.”
He listed other Palestinian demands — the release of prisoners, the opening of Hamas offices in the West Bank that Israel closed, money — and boasted that Israel refused all of these. Rather, he said, what Israel essentially agreed to was the rehabilitation of Gaza by allowing humanitarian goods to enter.
“A thousand Hamas terrorists were killed, many of them commanders,” he said. “Thousands of rocket arsenals, launch sites and weapons caches were destroyed along with hundreds of command centers.”
Those figures highlight the disparity in Palestinian and Israeli casualties and even how each side measures them: while Palestinians say that at least 70% of the approximately 2,100 Palestinians killed were civilians, Israel says about 50% were Hamas fighters. Seventy Israelis were killed, 64 of them soldiers.
While Israelis debated the war’s outcome and whether it was worth it — more than half say there was no winner, according to a new poll — the mood was more jubilant and less analytical in Gaza City. Palestinians went out to shop, to the bank, to the beach, and in many cases, to see if their homes were still standing. “People are happy that they survived more than anything else,” said Gazan journalist Abeer Ayyoub. “I’m just glad to be alive and that my house wasn’t demolished.”
Hamas rallied its supporters Wednesday afternoon, and many top officials not seen during the past seven weeks of war emerged to speak. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the blood spilled in the war was “the fuel of this victory.” Wearing a black-and-white kaffiyeh-patterned scarf over his business suit, he counted Hamas’ gains. “This battle is a war that lacks a precedent in the history of conflict with the enemy,” he said, adding that the group was preparing for the “ultimate battle” for Palestinian liberation.
“The war began with fire on Haifa and ended with fire on Haifa,” Haniyeh said, referring to the longer-range rockets Hamas used to target one of the main cities along Israel’s northern coast.
Mkhaimar Abusada, a political analyst at al-Azhar University in Gaza, said many Palestinians view Hamas as victorious simply because of its resilience and its survival.
“If you look at the numbers, we had about 30 times the number of Palestinians killed as in Israel … From this point of view, we didn’t win,” Abusada tells TIME. “But the Palestinians look at it from a different perspective. With limited capability, the Palestinian resistance was able to withstand the Israeli aggression and continue to fight to the last minute. Let’s face it, Israel didn’t reach its goals, because Israel could not stop the launching of missiles, and I’m not really sure they succeeded in deterring the Palestinians.”
(JERUSALEM) — Israel’s prime minister has declared victory in the Gaza war against Hamas, saying a cease-fire deal gave nothing to the Islamic militant group.
In a news conference broadcast on national TV, Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that “Hamas was hit hard” during the seven weeks of fighting.
He said that under the cease-fire deal, which took effect on Tuesday, Israel didn’t accept any of Hamas’ demands.
More than 2,000 Palestinians were killed in the fighting, and Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire destroyed thousands of buildings.
Netanyahu’s address appeared to be aimed at countering critics who have complained that the cease-fire failed to oust Hamas or stop its rocket attacks out of Gaza.
Hamas also has declared victory.
There were some fine vintages 3,000 years ago, and a new study reveals how ancient mixologists made them finer still
It’s hardly news that the ancients drank wine — the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians all imbibed, as did pretty much any other civilization in which alcohol wasn’t prohibited for religious reasons. “We have written records,” says Brandeis University archaeologist Andrew Koh. “We’ve found jars marked ‘wine.’ We’ve found wine residues. It’s pictured everywhere.”
That being the case, you might think a cache of 40 wine jars unearthed from a room in the Bronze Age Canaanite palace at Tel Kabri, which stood more than 3,600 years ago in what’s now modern Israel, would be no big deal.
But you’d be wrong. “In the past,” says Koh, lead author of a paper describing the discovery in the latest issue of the journal PLOS One, “we wouldn’t have been able to say much more than ‘this is a bunch of containers that held wine.’”
Thanks to an unprecedentedly sophisticated analysis of the deposits inside those containers, however, Koh, who has a joint appointment in Brandeis’ Classical Studies and Chemistry Departments, along with two colleagues, can conclude much more, specifically that the wine was flavored with — deep breath, now — honey, storax resin, terebinth resin, cedar oil, cyperus, juniper and possibly mint, myrtle and cinnamon as well.
Not only that: on one side of the room, the wine was mostly unflavored; in the middle, it contained about half that long list of ingredients; and in a small adjoining room it contained them all. In fact, Koh and his colleagues think this wasn’t really a storage facility at all. It was a sort of kitchen, where wine was brought in from the surrounding area — the jars were made from local clay — and a brewmaster of some sort subtly flavored them before they were served in the banquet hall next door.
“We’ve known about the existence of these complex wines for a long time,” says Koh, “and we’ve even got recipes. But to find examples of the actual wines, that’s what makes the science so compelling.”
The additives aside, the wine itself was the same from jar to jar. That, plus the fact that wine was generally not saved from one season to the next, led Koh and his co-authors to conclude that it was all from a single year’s vintage. And that particular vintage clearly never made it into the banquet hall — almost certainly because an earthquake collapsed the walls, breaking the jars and spilling what was inside.
Although this palace stood — and perhaps fell — on what is now Israeli soil, it wasn’t an Israelite palace. Biblical chronology suggests that the Jews were slaves in Egypt at the time. During the Exodus, when Moses led his people to the Promised Land of milk and honey, it was people like these winemakers they ended up conquering.
The excavations at Tel Kabri aren’t over. Koh and his team will return next year, and, he says, “We’re confident we’ll find other rooms, maybe with jars of olive oil. We might also find statues, jewelry, the kind of stuff the public likes.”
That’s not what the archaeologists care about, however. “We’re more interested,” Koh says, “in knowing how people lived.”
The latest attack on AIPAC is seriously flawed
AIPAC—the American Israel Public Affairs Committee—is a lobby created by American Jews and devoted to improving relations between the United States and Israel. Every 5 or 6 years a book or major article is published, containing an “exposé” on how AIPAC operates. The latest version, a 12,000-word article written by Connie Bruck and entitled “Friends of Israel,” appears in the September 1 edition of “The New Yorker.”
The problem with this most recent effort, like the ones that precede it, is that it tells us very little we don’t already know. The workings of AIPAC are not a secret. The organization was founded 50 years ago with a small office in Washington, D.C., but now has a hundred thousand members and a grassroots presence in every state and congressional district. It does not endorse candidates or raise funds for campaigns, but many in the Jewish community will donate or not depending on whether a politician backs AIPAC positions.
AIPAC is committed to the proposition that Israel is a vital ally of the United States, and it supports military aid and political backing for the Jewish state. It operates by initiating email campaigns, offering trips to Israel for politicians and community leaders, developing constituency groups that will contact their Senators and Congressmen, and providing educational programs. In short, it does what all lobbies do, and while it lacks the clout of the banking or oil lobby, it is enormously effective for the simple reason that the American people are supportive of Israel. In addition, AIPAC is very good at its job.
If this sounds admirable, it is. In America’s vibrant democracy, a group of citizens has come together to defend another democracy, a tiny state surrounded by enemies in the radicalized Middle East. What then is there to “expose”?
Bruck offers more or less the same far-fetched answers that we heard from the last major “exposé,” written by Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in 2007. AIPAC, she suggests, basically controls American foreign policy in the Middle East. Members of Congress are victims of the AIPAC machine, forced by its political pressure to put the interests of Israel before the interests of America. Furthermore, as Israel has moved to the right, AIPAC has allowed itself to become a tool of rightwing Republicans who want to use Israel as a wedge issue to undermine President Obama. But, Bruck concludes, things are looking up. The American public, members of Congress, and even American Jews are fed up with the increasing extremism of both AIPAC and the Netanyahu government, and AIPAC’s support is declining.
The Bruck article does offer a few interesting insights, but its hostility to AIPAC and Israel is so intense that it is impossible to take seriously. Bruck professes to see AIPAC as a terrible bully, but the kind of arm-twisting that she describes happens every day in Washington. Since lobbying and tough talk on every issue imaginable are the very lifeblood of our political system, why exactly is advocacy for Israel any less legitimate than advocacy for any of the other matters, foreign and domestic, that come before Congress?
Furthermore, Bruck’s portrayal of Israel as the villain in Gaza is the best gauge of how she really feels about the Jewish state. Since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, more than 15,000 rockets have been fired at Israel’s civilian centers, traumatizing the population and bringing ordinary life in large parts of Israel to a halt. While the civilian casualties in Gaza are tragic, Israel is the victim of Hamas, and not the other way around.
And finally, the picture that she presents of members of Congress borders on the absurd. They do pay attention to AIPAC—and to other lobbying groups, their own sense of duty, and most important, what they see, rightly, as the pro-Israel sentiments of their constituents. Even an American public that does not hold Senators and Congresspersons in high regard is not prepared to accept as credible that they are mindless automatons, disregarding principle and blindly accepting AIPAC’s dictates.
Bruck gets some things right. While the danger of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is a serious issue and a legitimate concern of Congress, we see from Bruck’s account that AIPAC bungled its handling of the matter. And she is right that despite its claim of bipartisanship, it has not always done well in that regard. As an example of AIPAC’s professed intentions, she quotes a statement by the AIPAC spokesman: “Our position in support of the Oslo process and the two-state solution have generated criticism from some on the right, just as our stand for strong prospective Iran sanctions has spurred criticism from on the left.” Fair enough. But while AIPAC leaders frequently talk about Iran sanctions, they hardly ever mention the two-state solution—or the settlements that may prevent such a solution from happening. These subjects are virtually absent from their educational materials and their annual conferences. If AIPAC is serious about bipartisanship and about bringing more Democrats, liberals, and young people into the AIPAC tent, it will need to advocate for the two-state solution that it already supports.
These virtues notwithstanding, the Bruck article is seriously flawed. AIPAC is one of American Jewry’s proudest accomplishments, and is invaluable for the survival of Israel—America’s most devoted Middle Eastern ally. An honest and thoughtful analysis of the organization would have been welcome. Sadly, what Ms. Bruck provides is a biased exposé, filled more with fantasy than with fact.
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, a writer and lecturer, was President of the Union for Reform Judaism from 1996 to 2012. His writings are collected at ericyoffie.com.
Truce ends the seven-week war, but it's an open question whether longer-term political talks will resume
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced Tuesday that Israel and various Palestinian militant factions including Hamas and Islamic Jihad had reached a cease-fire deal to end seven weeks of devastating war, and to postpone negotiations over several remaining issues for one month.
The news follows weeks of intense efforts on the part of the Egyptian government to broker a truce between the sides, both of whom were keen to emerge looking victorious, or at least successful, from a bruising war that resulted in the death of nearly 2,200 Palestinians and 70 Israelis.
Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev told the BBC that the cease-fire would meet Israel’s primary goals of keeping its citizens safe. The deal, he said, “commits Hamas to ending all hostile activity against Israel from Gaza. Now if that in fact does happen, and we hope it does, that is, for us, victory.”
Abbas’ role in announcing the deal from his Ramallah headquarters in the West Bank was evidence of the more prominent role that Egyptian, Israeli and other officials have sought in Gaza for the Palestinian President, whose Fatah party and security forces were ousted from the coastal strip in a Hamas coup in 2007.
In an evening speech making the deal official, Abbas said that he would soon present a detailed plan aimed at establishing a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines, a reference to Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories Israel occupied in the Six-Day War. He also indicated that he would not return to another round of negotiations with Israel amid what seems like such a discouraging prognosis for progress; the last round of talks ended in failure in April.
“The question now is, What’s next?” Abbas said. “Gaza suffered three wars and are we expecting another one? We will consult friends and the international community, and we can’t continue with cloudy negotiations.”
What’s in the Deal
The deal calls for an “open-ended” cease-fire and an Israeli agreement to ease its strict closure policy on Gaza, which Palestinians consider a siege. In theory, this means Israel should ease access at five crossings into Gaza that it controls, opening them up for a better flow of commercial goods and humanitarian needs, and most importantly, for building materials at the Kerem Shalom Crossing.
This latter aspect, according to a Palestinian source close to Hamas, has held up a deal in recent weeks as Hamas thought it necessary to hold out for the free flow of materials such as cement and steel as part of the reconstruction of Gaza. Also included in the deal is an Israeli agreement to allow Gazan fisherman to fish in waters up to 12 nautical miles off the coast by the end of the year — more than doubling the distance they were able to travel offshore in recent years, leading to overfishing.
What Hamas did not get, but had demanded throughout the past month, are three other things that the sides have agreed to postpone discussing for one month. These include the creation of a Gaza seaport, an airport and the release of approximately 50 Hamas activists who were rearrested by Israel in June. After having let them go in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in October 2011, Israeli forces arrested them in West Bank raids following the kidnap-murder of three Israeli teenagers in mid-June. A senior Hamas official last week took responsibility for that attack.
Also postponed for a month is the demand by Hamas for Egypt to open the border crossing at Rafah. Egypt said it would work that out in a separate, bilateral agreement, with sources suggesting that that Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi wanted to take a wait-and-see approach before agreeing to ease Egypt’s own closure of the Hamas-run territory. Abbas’ Palestinian Authority forces are expected to take over responsibility for administering Gaza’s borders from Hamas, Reuters reports.
The agreement seems to lack exact details as to what precisely it would mean for Israel to “ease” its blockade of Gaza, leaving room for disagreements as in past years. Moreover, the deal largely mirrored the November 2012 cease-fire agreement that ended a week of war known as Operation Pillar of Defense. Exactly how “open-ended” this cease-fire ends up being thus remains to be seen.
Hamas Declares Victory
Hamas proclaimed itself victorious on Tuesday night, as details of the deal leaked out. Gazans gathered in several places throughout the strip and shot celebratory gunfire into the air.
“We are here today to declare the victory of the resistance, the victory of Gaza, with the help of God, and the steadfastness of our people and the noble resistance,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said at a news conference at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital.
The deal fulfilled what the Palestinian group had hoped for during the weeks of negotiations, said Gershon Baskin, an Israeli academic who has acted as a go-between Israel and Hamas on several occasions, including in the lead-up to the Shalit prisoner exchange deal almost three years ago. “Hamas has been ready for an agreement for two weeks, and has made it clear its achievements would not be military but political. What was important to them was to get building materials into Gaza,” he said.
Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior member of the Hamas political wing who has not been seen in public in some time, was one of several top Hamas officials to speak to the crowd of thousands gathered in Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood Tuesday.
“We’re going to build our port and our airport, and if they attack the port, they attack the port. But anyone who attacks the airport will have their airport attacked again,” al-Zahar said, according to an Agence France-Presse report, in a reference to the numerous rockets launched at Israel’s Ben Gurion International airport. Though none of these succeeded, a Hamas rocket that targeted a town near the airstrip caused the Federal Aviation Administration to suspend the landing of several U.S. airlines there for several days in July.
Netanyahu Faces Hard Sell
Israel seems less in the mood for celebrating. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who informed his cabinet of the cease-fire deal Tuesday evening, has a more complicated job of selling the war’s achievements to Israelis. While the vast majority of Israelis believed he was justified in going to war, according to polls, not all of them are ready to end Operation Protective Edge with Hamas seemingly undeterred — and many are fearful that a cease-fire is simply a time-out until the next round. Whereas 82% of Israelis supported Netanyahu in mid-July, when he first sent in ground troops, a new poll showed his approval rating sunk to 32%.
Three of Netanyahu’s most prominent right-wing coalition partners — Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Minister of Internal Security Yitzhak Aharonovich — announced their opposition to the cease-fire deal. The heads of local councils in southern Israel also announced Tuesday night that they flatly rejected the cease-fire agreement.
Itamar Shimoni, the mayor of Ashkelon, one of the cities hardest hit by the rocket fire, called the deal a “surrender to terrorism” and added: “We wanted to see Hamas defeated and begging for its life, but instead we’re seeing Israel running to the negotiation table every opportunity that presents itself.”
The upper echelons of Netanyahu’s team and senior Israel Defense Forces officials, however, will present it much differently. “The Israeli spin will be that Hamas shot most of their rockets and that won’t easily be replenished, and that most of the tunnels were destroyed and can’t be rebuilt,” Baskin tells TIME. “The big question is whether the regional political process will restart, as it should.”
A senior Hamas official says a cease-fire has been reached with Israel to end a seven-week war that has killed more than 2,000 people.
The official said the deal calls for an “open-ended” cease-fire, and an Israeli agreement to ease its blockade of Gaza to allow relief supplies and construction materials into the war-battered territory.
Talks on deeper issues, such as Hamas’ demand to reopen Gaza’s airport and seaport, would begin in a month.
The official said Egypt planned an announcement later Tuesday. He spoke on condition of anonymity pending the announcement.
There was no immediate Israeli comment.
(GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip) — Israel bombed two Gaza City high-rises with dozens of homes and shops Tuesday, collapsing one building and severely damaging the other in a further escalation of seven weeks of cross-border fighting with Hamas.
In the past, the military has hit targets in high-rises in pinpoint strikes, but left the buildings standing. However, since Saturday, it has toppled or destroyed five towers and shopping complexes in an apparent new tactic aimed at increasing pressure on Hamas.
The objects of the latest strikes contain apartments inhabited almost exclusively by middle-class Gazans, who up until now have been largely spared the considerable dislocation that has affected tens of thousands of other residents in densely populated neighborhoods of the coastal strip, like Shijaiyah.
That has raised the possibility that the Israeli military is trying to use better-off Gazans, like professionals and Palestinian authority employees, to put pressure on Hamas to end the fighting on Israel’s terms.
Tuesday’s strikes leveled the 15-story Basha Tower with apartments and offices and severely damaged the Italian Complex, built in the 1990s by an Italian businessman, with dozens of shops and offices.
Both buildings were evacuated after receiving warnings of impending strikes. Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said 25 people were wounded in the attack on the Italian Complex.
One resident of the Italian Complex, 38-year-old engineer Nael Mousa, said that he, his four children and 70-year-old mother had managed to flee the building late Monday night after a guard had alerted them of an impending strike, and that he was in his car some 300 meters (yards) away when it was bombed by an Israeli F-16 fighter jet.
Within two hours, he said, it had been completely levelled by at least five additional bombs.
“I have become homeless, my children’s fear will never be soothed, and something new has now been added to our feelings toward Israel and all the world, which has been looking on without doing anything,” he said.
The Israeli military said it targeted sites linked to militants Tuesday, but made no specific reference to the two buildings. Israel alleges Hamas often operates from civilian locations. The military has not said why it has begun collapsing large buildings, rather than carrying out pinpointed strikes against suspected militant targets located there.
In an email message to The Associated Press, military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the strikes were “a direct result to Hamas’ decision to situate their terrorist infrastructure within the civilian sphere including schools, hospitals and high-rise buildings.”
He said Israel will not “enable Hamas to continue to kill Israelis, target our towns and cities and expect to operate without consequence to their facilities, militant operatives and the leadership of their heinous attacks against Israel.”
Political scientist Mkhaimar Abu Sada from Gaza’s Al Azhar University said he believed the Israeli tactic was a deliberate attempt to pressure Hamas by targeting middle class structures in neighborhoods like Rimal and Tel al-Hawa, which have so far been spared the worst of the fighting.
He said the tactic will end up creating even greater antipathy toward Israel, but might also result in some tough questions being asked about Hamas’ conduct of the war.
“Some people will now be wondering why Hamas did not accept a cease-fire proposal during the first week of the fighting, when the damage here was still relatively small,” he said.
Retired Israeli air force brigadier general Shlomo Brom, now a fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said he was doubtful that the high-rise structures had been targeted solely because of their middle-class makeups.
“I have no doubt that these buildings were hit primarily because they contained offices or other facilities that belonged to Hamas,” he said.
Also on Tuesday, two people were killed in an airstrike on a house in Gaza City, police said, and the Red Crescent reported that two others died and three were wounded when Israeli tanks opened fire on Shijaiyah, east of Gaza City.
Israel’s military said it carried out 15 air strikes in Gaza on Tuesday.
It said eight rockets were launched from the coastal strip at Israeli territory, including one that caused extensive damage to a home in the southern city of Ashkelon and lightly injured more than a dozen people there.
The latest strikes came as Egypt urged Israel and Hamas to resume indirect talks on a permanent cease-fire, based on an Egyptian proposal for a new border deal for blockaded Gaza.
The Egyptian offer calls for a gradual easing of restrictions on trade and movement in and out of Gaza and would give Hamas’ Palestinian rival, President Mahmoud Abbas, a foothold in the strip.
Hamas seized Gaza from Abbas in 2007, triggering the blockade that has been enforced to varying degrees since then.
Israel and Hamas have not responded to Egypt’s latest call.
Gaza’s war has so far killed at least 2,133 Palestinians and wounded more than 11,000, according to Palestinian health officials and the United Nations. The U.N. estimates more than 17,000 homes have been destroyed, leaving 100,000 people homeless.
On the Israeli side, 68 people have been killed, all but four of them soldiers.