Sporadic clashes already broke out between the Israeli military and Palestinians in the West Bank, days after the truce and may ignite an escalating conflict at any time, reports Asian Lite Newsdesk
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland has described a cease-fire in Gaza and Israel as fragile, and called for talks toward a two-state solution to end the cycles of violence.
The past days witnessed a deeply worrying escalation in the Gaza Strip between Israeli military forces and Palestinian armed groups, primarily the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Wennesland told a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East.
On Sunday night, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office announced in separate statements that a cease-fire had been agreed, he said, noting that cease-fire remains in place so far.
Citing the crucial role played by Egypt in securing the cease-fire alongside the United Nations, as well as support by related parties, Wennesland said the de-escalation of the situation helped prevent the outbreak of a full-scale war and allowed for the delivery of much-needed humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza starting earlier Monday.
But he pointed out that the most recent escalation had its roots in deeper tensions.
“I want to make the Council aware of the following: the cease-fire is fragile. Any resumption of hostilities will only have devastating consequences for Palestinians and Israelis and make any political progress elusive,” he said in his briefing to the Security Council.
Wennesland reiterated calls to the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, along with the international community, to strengthen diplomatic efforts to return to meaningful negotiations toward a viable two-state solution.
“Ultimately, the underlying drivers of this and previous escalations remain. These cycles of violence will only cease when we achieve a political resolution of the conflict that brings an end to the occupation and the realization of a two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 lines, in line with UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements,” he said.
How long will it last?
A ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip appears to be holding since Sunday evening, ending a rare preemptive strike by Israel at the besieged enclave.
Israel’s three-day attacks, which came when the Gaza-based Jihad vowed to retaliate for the arrest of a senior Jihad member in the West Bank, are regarded by analysts as a muscle-flexing by Israel’s ruling Yesh Atid party to win a broader base in the run-up to the parliamentary elections.
It’s feared that a new round of clashes might break the truce any time, given the deep-seated grudge between Israel and Palestinian factions, especially the Gaza-ruling Hamas, and the lack of effective truce monitoring.
Key Jihad military facilities were bombed, and 44 people including two high-ranking commanders, were killed in Gaza during the three-day airstrikes by Israel.
Caretaker Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid claimed that the Israeli operation has achieved all goals and that Jihad’s “entire military high command was killed.”
It was unusual for Israel to make a preemptive strike on the Palestinian territory. Ibrahim Abrash, a political science professor from Gaza, told Xinhua that Lapid and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz were motivated by their election interests to launch the attacks with an aim to gain reputation and support.
Israel will hold parliamentary elections in November, the 5th in less than four years. Now polls show the centrist Yesh Atid party led by Lapid could win fewer seats than the right-wing Likud bloc led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Through the latest confrontation, the Israeli government also intended to divert attention from its crackdown on Palestinians in the West Bank, including the endless arrests and land confiscation, and expansion of Jewish settlements, said Abrash, also a former official in the Palestinian Authority.
An easier target
In this round of conflict with Gaza, the Israeli military set their target very clearly: only the Jihad, not the Gaza-ruling Hamas, which is much more influential in the enclave with stronger military prowess.
Israel did not want to play “overtime” in the conflict, considering that prolonged conflict could drive Hamas to join.
“There might be unnecessary failures and losses, no matter in terms of economic or military, and “therefore it sought to end the operations as soon as possible,” Palestinian political commentator Ismat Mansour said.
On the other hand, the Jihad was believed to also want to reach a truce to stop the massive hemorrhage of members, as several commanders were killed and no signal of the release of its senior leader Bassam al-Saadi, whose arrest triggered off the recent conflict.
On Hamas’ inaction on the Israel-Jihad conflict, Palestinian political analyst Nur Oda believed that it was probably because that Hamas has yet fully recovered from the bloody 21-day military conflict with Israel in May 2021.
Experts also hold that this time Israel may further divide the Palestinian armed groups in the coastal enclave and weaken their internal cohesion.