By Atlas of Wars (East/AGR)

The escalation of violence in the Middle East continues. Numerous rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel followed air raids conducted by the Israeli army against the Palestinian territories and at least five Palestinians were killed in the last few hours and another was seriously injured.

The Israeli air raids hit several locations in the besieged Gaza enclave, including the south and north, and a number of sites linked to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) movement. Local media reported that at least one more Palestinian was injured east of Khan Yunis, in the south of the Gaza Strip. The PIJ did not confirm that the victims were members of its group.

In a report from Gaza City, Al Jazeera’s Youmna El Sayed said locals are on “high alert”, schools and public and private facilities have closed and people are trying to stay indoors following the series of attacks that have killed at least 15 people, including several civilians, since Tuesday. “There is a very high sense of tension and concern among Gaza residents after yesterday’s Israeli attacks. Everything in Gaza is closed and people have remained in their homes,” he added.

Arab media reported that Hamas claimed that the rockets fired from Gaza were a response to the ‘massacre committed by the Israeli occupation’, and Palestinian media reported that the retaliatory rockets were fired ‘under the name of [Gaza ]’ thus not only by Hamas, but also by other Gaza-based armed groups.

On the Israeli side, authorities told citizens living in towns along the border with the Gaza Strip to evacuate or remain in shelters. In a report from Ashkelon, southern Israel, Al Jazeera’s Willem Marx said the Israeli army is on high alert and the Israeli Iron Dome air defence system has intercepted several rockets.

The Palestinian bombing attempt comes a day after Israeli forces attacked Gaza City and its surroundings, killing 15 people, including four children, in what they called an operation against three PIJ commanders. In an overnight attack, Israeli forces killed two more people in the occupied West Bank city of Qabatiya, south of Jenin. The Ministry of Health identified them as 19-year-old Ahmad Jamal Assaf and 24-year-old Warani Walid Qatanat. Another 17-year-old Palestinian was shot in the chest and taken to hospital.

The international community condemned the killing of civilians by Israel. “This is unacceptable,” said UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland, “I am deeply alarmed by the developments in Gaza and urge all parties concerned to exercise utmost restraint and avoid escalation,” he added. But as always, Israel seems deaf to any kind of condemnation, and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu does not quell the tension, rather he increases the dose by speaking to the mayors of municipalities in southern Israel: “Israel is ready to expand the current operation and inflict and inflict heavy blows on Gaza now and in the future. The mission has been named ‘Operation Shield and Arrow’.


Cover image: Missiles fired from Gaza – (® Anas-Mohammed/