• 38 hours
  • 1050+ rockets
  • across central and southern Israel

By Chaitali Bag

Larnaca, Cyprus. 12 May 2021. When Israeli Defence Forces tweeted, “ In response to 200+ rockets fired from Gaza toward Israel, we killed 15 Hamas terrorists and struck 130 Hamas & Islamic Jihad terror targets in Gaza overnight, including 2 attack tunnels, 1 Hamas military intelligence facility and weapons manufacturing and  storage  sites”, it was clear that this was the beginning of a developing story.  Israel is under attack and the Gaza strip is under retaliatory fire.  Operation Guardians of the Wall has been launched by the Israeli Defence Forces .

And  when Israel-Palestine get a cold the Mediterranean region sneezes is the dictum. European countries in the Mediterranean Sea  are Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, and Greece, Western Asian  or the Middle East nations Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and the Palestine Gaza Strip and Northern African countries like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt . And each of them has a leaning  towards either Israel or Palestine. And this latest conflict between the two has resulted into tremors in the silent blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin  Netanyahu tweeted today, “We are in the midst of a major campaign – Operation Guardian of the Walls. Yesterday and today, the IDF attacked hundreds of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip. Our fighter jets, with the ISA, neutralized key figures of Hamas’ intelligence: Hassan Kaogi, head of the Hamas military intelligence security department & his deputy Wail Issa, head of the military intelligence counterespionage department. Looks like our intel was better.”

Greece in an official statement   on the recent violence in Jerusalem  expressed its deepest concern over the violent incidents  and called  on all parties to refrain from any use of violence which could lead to further escalation. “The escalation of violence in both Jerusalem and Gaza must stop,” it said. Greece expresses its profound concern over the recent rocket attacks against civilians in Israel, which are condemned, and calls for their immediate end. In parallel, recognizing Israel’s right to self-defence, we reiterate the need for all parties to take action that will lead to immediate de-escalation. Furthermore, steps must also be taken to avoid further civilian casualties. Greece, as it has stressed in the past regarding the Middle East Peace Process, emphasizes that resolving the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians on the basis of a two-state solution is a prerequisite for overall peace and stability in the region.

It’s immediate neighbour Cyprus in a tweet expressed, “Deeply concerned by latest escalation of violence and by barrage of rockets fired indiscriminately from #Gaza against civilian population in #Israel. This is totally unacceptable and must end now. We urge restraint on all sides, calling on them to engage in de-escalatory efforts.”

French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement  said, “Once again France expresses its serious concern over the clashes and violence witnessed over the past several days in Jerusalem, which has left several hundred injured and could lead to a large-scale escalation. France strongly condemns last night’s rocket fire from the Gaza Strip targeting Israeli territory, in violation of international law. France calls on all actors to show maximum restraint and to refrain from any kind of provocation so that calm may be restored as quickly as possible. All actions contributing to escalation on the ground must end. In this regard, France is deeply concerned by the threat of forced evictions against residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, which are linked to the settlement policy – which is illegal under international law – and exacerbate tensions. France also reaffirms its commitment to preserving the historic status quo on the Temple Mount. All provocative statements and all calls for violence and hatred are unacceptable and must stop immediately.”

Meanwhile Italy issued a notice stating, “ Italy reiterates its concern about the escalation of attacks and violence, particularly in East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. It calls for an immediate end to it. Italy strongly condemns the rocket attacks from Gaza towards Israel’s territory. It believes that they cannot be justified under any circumstances. We appeal to all parties to immediately adopt de-escalation measures and show responsibility. Preventing further civilian casualties is a priority. All  violence, provocation, and incitement to hatred must cease, and the Holy Places’ status quo must be respected.”

And who but Turkey the common adversary of most of the Mediterranean nations  could have reacted so strongly in a government statement, by saying, “ We strongly condemn the air strikes launched by Israel on the Gaza Strip that resulted in death of many innocent people, including children, and we wish God’s mercy upon those who lost their lives in the strikes and a speedy recovery to the wounded. Israel, which tried to expel the Palestinian people from their lands in East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the holy month of Ramadan and held operations against the Palestinians who wanted to worship in al-Aqsa Mosque, has the main responsibility for the escalation of the events in the Palestinian territories. It is clear that Israel’s aggressive and provocative policies will not contribute to the efforts towards ending violence and prevailing dialogue and reconciliation in the Middle East. It must be ensured that the Israeli administration recognizes the fact that using indiscriminate and disproportionate force cannot suppress the legitimate rights and demands of the Palestinian people, and that Israel halts immediately such military methods that serve no other purpose than to further increase hostility and tension in the region.”  Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, is holding telephone conversations with the Secretary General of the OIC, as well as his counterparts in the countries of the region and various European countries, regarding the steps that can be taken at the UN, OIC and other international platforms in order to reduce the tension in the region and to ensure that Israel leaves its aggressive attitude.

Spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres in an official statement  reiterated ,” the Secretary-General is gravely concerned by the serious escalations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, including the latest escalation in Gaza, which add to the heightened tensions and violence in occupied East Jerusalem. He is deeply saddened to learn of increasingly large numbers of casualties, including children, from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, and of Israeli fatalities from rockets launched from Gaza. Israeli security forces must exercise maximum restraint and calibrate their use of force.  The indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars towards Israeli population centres is unacceptable. This spiralling escalation must cease immediately. The United Nations is working with all relevant parties to de-escalate the situation urgently.”

Palestinian Rights Committee of the United Nations  is gravely concerned about ‘this violence at Al-Aqsa Mosque, Escalation in Gaza, Calling for Efforts to ‘Salvage Prospects’ for Peace’. A  statement by the General Assembly Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, issued today  said, “The Bureau, on behalf of the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, expresses its deep alarm at the dramatic deterioration of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory that includes the escalation of violence and acts of provocation and incitement, particularly by Israeli extremists in occupied East Jerusalem.”

As the battle continues in Israel and Gaza, the  US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with  Israeli Prime Mnister  Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. The official spokesperson Ned Price stated, “ The Secretary expressed his concerns regarding rocket attacks on Israel and his condolences for the lives lost as a result.  The Secretary and the Foreign Minister also discussed the violence in Jerusalem, in particular on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and in Sheikh Jarrah.  The Secretary reiterated his call on all parties to deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence, which has claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children.  The Secretary emphasized the need for Israelis and Palestinians to be able to live in safety and security, as well as enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy.” The two leaders acknowledged the steadfast partnership between the United States and Israel, and stated that they were committed to working together on challenges ahead.

The geo-political windfall of the crisis on the Mediterranean nations is  evident and the region is in unison asking  the two  warring sides  to maintain restrain and peace while trying to solve their long standing issues . But Hamas led  Palestine  needs to  understand that Israel has the region’s support  in majority and if they are asked to take sides it will be in minority.

(Inputs from Gayatri Sahay, Reporter, International Relations)

The Story Contnues. Watch out this space  for regular updates on the Israel-Palestine crisis.

(Chaitali Bag is the Chief of Bureau of Aviation & Defence Universe for Europe & West Asia/Middle East stationed in Cyprus)