Palestinians Go on Strike as Hamas Bombards Southern Israel

YERUSHALAYIM -
An IDF artillery unit fires towards Gaza Strip near the Israel-Gaza border on Tuesday. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Palestinians across Israel went on strike in a rare collective action against Israel’s policies on Tuesday as terrorists fired dozens of rockets from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

With the war in Gaza showing no sign of abating and truce efforts apparently stalled, the general strike and expected protests could again widen the conflict.

A young Israeli man was moderately wounded Tuesday afternoon in heavy mortar fire from the Gaza Strip at the Erez crossing and was taken to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.

Residents of the Israeli communities within a 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) range of the Gaza border were ordered into bomb shelters on Tuesday afternoon until further notice.

The order came as Gaza terror groups resumed heavy rocket and mortar fire on the area following a six-hour lull.

Homes were damaged in the Eshkol Regional Council when rockets landed close by and an agricultural farm was also hit by rockets, killing some livestock.

The Kerem Shalom crossing also came under heavy fire from Gaza as it opened to allow medical, fuel and food supplies into the Strip.

The attacks from Gaza resumed at around midday Tuesday after a six-hour break, targeting communities near the border as well as the city of Ofakim, some 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) from the Strip.

On Tuesday, Israelis airstrikes included a six-story building in Gaza that housed libraries and educational centers belonging to the Islamic University, leaving behind a massive mound of rebar and concrete slabs.

Israel warned the building’s residents ahead of time, sending them fleeing into the predawn darkness, and there were no reports of casualties. Israel said it was targeting terrorists, their tunnels and rocket launchers across the territory.

The fighting is the most intense since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, but efforts to halt it have so far stalled. Egyptian mediators are trying to negotiate a ceasefire, but the U.S. has stopped short of demanding an immediate stop to the hostilities and Israel has so far vowed to press on.

The Palestinian strike was intended to protest the Gaza war. Israel blames the war on Hamas, the Islamic terror group that controls Gaza, and accuses it of inciting violence across the region.

Leaders of the Palestinian community in Israel called the strike, which was embraced by the internationally backed Palestinian Authority, where ministries and schools were closed.

The IDF said Tuesday it fired at 65 militant targets, including rocket launchers, a group of fighters and the homes of Hamas commanders that the army said were being used for military purposes. It said more than 60 fighter jets took part in the operation.

The IDF said it also shot down a drone approaching the Israeli border in the northeast, far from the Gaza fighting. It did not say where the unmanned aircraft originated, but it’s possible the drone came from Syria.

The IDF said Palestinian terrorists fired 90 rockets, 20 of which fell short into Gaza. Israel says its missile defenses have intercepted about 90% of the rockets.

Israel has vowed to press on with its operations, and the United States signaled it would not pressure the two sides for a ceasefire even as President Joe Biden said he supported one.

“We will continue to operate as long as necessary in order to return calm and security to all Israeli citizens,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said after meeting with top security officials on Monday night.

The Biden administration has declined so far to publicly criticize Israel’s part in the fighting or send a top-level envoy to the region. On Monday, the United States again blocked a proposed U.N. Security Council statement calling for an end to “the crisis related to Gaza” and the protection of civilians, especially children.