A Gazan knot: 9 things to know for July 15
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A Gazan knot: 9 things to know for July 15

After another day of heavy fighting, there's little consensus over how to deal with the Strip and if kites are worth going to war over

Members of the Palestinian civil defense search for survivors in a building that was hit by Israeli airstrikes (AFP/MAHMUD HAMS)
Members of the Palestinian civil defense search for survivors in a building that was hit by Israeli airstrikes (AFP/MAHMUD HAMS)

1. A day of rocket strikes and Israeli reprisal raids ended with a shaky ceasefire Saturday, but nobody is convinced the last projectile has been fired and the feeling that war is in the offing is stronger than ever.

  • The ceasefire was coming under heavy attack from politicians on the right Sunday, reflecting popular anger that sees the deal as giving in to Hamas and to the flaming kites and balloons that have been sent over the border daily.
  • “Hamas is running our lives,” writes reporter Matan Tzuri in Yedioth Ahronoth, putting on his “southern resident” cap. He quotes a senior official as telling him (before the flareup) that “Every deterrence has an expiration date,” referring to Israel policy of staving off Gaza rockets by making sure those who launch them know the consequences.
  • The front page of the popular tabloid, listing the time and places of rocket alerts throughout Saturday against a stark black background, illustrated the political pressure Israeli authorities are facing to do something to stop the cycle of violence, and from the tenor of local voices and pundits, that thing is not a peace deal.
  • “It’s hard to see why Hamas would stop and retreat after what seem like achievements, mostly in terms of what is being perceived, against Israel,” writes Eyal Zisser in Israel Hayom.
  • Even the leftists are sick of it: “This is a very leftist kibbutz, but we all agree that this has to stop,” Haaretz quotes a resident of Nahal Oz near the Gaza border saying. Writer Almog Ben Zikri adds that the residents believe the government “should declare either that’s it’s going toward an agreement or toward a military operation, but it needs to decide.”

2. If hawkish Israel Hayom is any indication, it’s the latter of the two.

  • “Hamas will be sorry,” reads the tabloid’s top headline, and inside are a number of opinion pieces trying to return that deterrence with the power of the pen.
  • “We are ready for every security scenario, and will be girded for anything,” Yair Firgun, head of the Hof Ashkelon regional council, writes in Yedioth Ahronoth. “We are at a point where we need to change once and for all the balance of power between us and Gaza. It will only change if the Gazan leadership understands it has something to lose.”

3. Yet many see the sides practicing restraint.

  • Haaretz’s Amos Harel says the Gazans used only smaller rockets, and Israel didn’t really hit anything of value from Hamas, a sign neither side wants the escalation in violence to snowball further.
  • “The fact that so far there have been relatively few casualties in Israeli strikes on Gaza, and that Hamas has directed most of its rocket fire on Gaza-area communities, shows that the two sides are still setting limits on themselves,” he writes.
  • “At this point, there’s no intention to actually hit Hamas people, which would be gasoline for a wider conflict,” Alex Fishman writes in Yedioth.

4. It seemingly all goes back to the kites and balloons that were Israel’s main beef with Gaza before the rocket flareup.

  • On Sunday morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells his cabinet that he “heard it being said that Israel has agreed to a ceasefire that would allow the continuation of terrorism by incendiary kites and balloons; this is incorrect. We are not prepared to accept any attacks against us and we will respond appropriately.”
  • Indeed, a couple hours later, Israeli aircraft fired warning shots near “Hamas members launching incendiary balloons,” according to the IDF.
  • But not everyone is buying it. A cartoon on the op-ed page of Yedioth shows Netanyahu complaining that he won’t stand for the rockets getting in the way of the kite attacks, a sign of the popular view that the government was fine with those and thus did nothing about them.
  • “It’s reasonable for Israel to not put its foot down over one kite, but it can’t make peace with the phased return of the reality of the last few weeks in the south,” Israel Hayom’s Yoav Limor writes. “Those who claim you don’t go to war over kites and don’t send soldiers to be killed over burnt fields are correct, but until Israel decides what it wants from Gaza, the residents of south deserve to enjoy a quiet summer, even if it means going through a few days of war.”

5. Others are also taking issue with what seems to be a lack of strategy for dealing with Gaza.

  • “There were those in Israel and in the IDF who believed that bombing empty Hamas facilities would cause the organization to panic and order its members to stop flying incendiary devices over the border that have burned thousands of acres of forests and agricultural fields in recent months. In addition, Israel hoped the strikes would appease residents of southern Israel and right-wing politicians who have been demanding a heavier response to the increasing arson attacks,” ToI’s Avi Issacharoff writes. “It’s doubtful the arson kite phenomenon will be stemmed, and thus the demands for action will only intensify.”
  • Haaretz’s Zvi Bar’el puts it in even more blunt terms: “Hamas has strategy, Israel only has tactics.”
  • While Issacharoff places the Gazan balloons as the third or fourth biggest threat to Israel, Haaretz places the flying devices way further down the list in its lead editorial: “The eighth most powerful country in the world refuses to recognize that the confrontations in Gaza aren’t a campaign against an organization or children making incendiary kites; it’s not a campaign against people who intend to conquer Israel or threaten its existence. Rather, the fighting is the product of despair, distress, horrific poverty and a lack of an economic or diplomatic horizon.”

6. News sources were quick to make sure the IDF was not to blame for a blast in central Gaza Sunday morning that claimed the life of a father and son.

  • According to Ma’an News, the man killed in the so-called work accident was none other than the chief rocket maker for something called the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades-Ayman Jawdeh Group.
  • The name may sound familiar, but ToI Arab affairs correspondent Adam Rasgon notes that the group has little in common with the Fatah-linked terror group that wreaked havoc during the Second Intifada.
  • Talal Okal, an analyst in the Gaza Strip, tells ToI that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades-Ayman Jawdeh Group does not operate under the Ramallah-based Fatah leadership’s command.

7. Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy is under fire for a column in which he shows solidarity with Gaza, including actions of the Hamas terror group.

  • “Anyone who does not want to forever live in an evil country must respect the embers that the young people of the Gaza Strip are still trying to stoke. Were it not for the kites, the fires, the Qassam rockets, the Palestinians would have entirely exited the awareness of everyone in Israel,” he writes.
  • Former MK Yinon Magal calls for investigation into whether the paper gets state funding, and calls on publisher Amos Schocken to be “ashamed,” in a series of tweets.
  • Other people online call him a psychopath and worse.
  • Schocken responds to Magal by pointing out that Levy is only noting that without their methods, Israelis would not care what happens to Gazans.

8. It takes only a look at Syria and Israel’s willingness to make peace with Bashar Assad continuing to rule despite being a bloodthirsty dictator to understand that realpolitik often trumps human considerations.

  • On Sunday, Netanyahu says he spoke to US President Donald Trump a day earlier to discuss Syria and Iran ahead of the summit with Putin in Helsinki.
  • The conservative National Interest looks at an upcoming Israeli arms sale to Finland and wonders if Russia will also put its weight on Israel over that.
  • “Jerusalem and Moscow are in a delicate dance right now, with Russia seeking to keep Israel from intervening in the Syrian conflict, and Israel trying to persuade Russia to keep Iran and Hezbollah from entrenching along the Israel-Syria border. With Finland making noises about joining NATO, and Finnish missiles most likely to be used against Russia, it seems an odd time for Israel to be selling weapons to Finland.”

9. And for something completely different, the New York Daily News profiles another Israeli in the NBA (or at least the Summer League), writing that since Shawn Dawson is Jewish and black, he should feel right at home in Brooklyn, where he’s fighting for a roster spot on the Nets.

  • “I didn’t have too many incidents where I felt different or I faced racism or something like that. But I knew I was different in some ways,” the Eilat native says. “Growing up I barely saw black people around me or in my school. But I never felt too different. That’s a good thing about my friends and wherever I went.”
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