The Israeli military has announced that it has imposed a maritime blockade on Gaza “until further notice” after airborne firebombs were launched at Israeli border communities near the coastal enclave, igniting fires which destroyed swathes of agricultural territory until firefighters were able to bring them under control by late Wednesday.
Hours later, a rocket was launched from Gaza towards Israel but was intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system. Early Thursday morning, several retaliatory Israeli military air-strikes were carried out over Gaza.
The new outbreak of violence was only a matter of time according to Israeli and Palestinian analysts despite a ceasefire in early May following serious clashes at the end of March, beginning of April.
The ceasefire was meant to involve Israel easing its blockade on the strip which has aggravated an already dire humanitarian situation there. In return, Hamas and other resistance groups in Gaza would cease their rocket attacks on Israel and stop the weekly border protests.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) stated in an April report that the Gaza Strip faced an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, impacting the livelihoods and access to essential services by its two million residents.
“This crisis has been driven by over 11 years of an Israeli blockade and an unsolved internal Palestinian divide, exacerbated since March 2018 by the massive increase in Palestinian casualties in the context of demonstrations taking place near Israel’s perimeter fence, as well as limited escalations in hostilities,” said Ocha.
The World Bank further warned in its April Economic Monitoring report: “The recent deterioration has clearly exposed Gaza’s fragile state with its economic buffers almost fully depleted, following its long-term isolation.”
However, Gaza’s Hamas leaders recently warned that, according to them, Israel has not stuck to its side of the bargain to significantly ease the blockade and as a result burning kites would once again be launched at Israel as well as other “resistance measures”.
But the Israelis countered saying they had increased the number of nautical miles off Gaza’s coast that Palestinian fishermen could fish in, in addition to other relief measures.
Israeli military intelligence has stated on several occasions that should the humanitarian situation in Gaza continue to deteriorate, there would be another war between the two sides.
Another such conflagration was narrowly avoided at the end of March when the first anniversary of the March of Return was marked by mass protests on the Gaza-Israel border.
The protests, which involved weekly Friday marches on the border to protest the conditions in Gaza, had begun a year earlier and included one incident in which dozens of protesters, most of them unarmed, were shot dead by Israeli snipers.
– African News Agency