Israel‘s military and Palestinian militants traded mortar bombs and airstrikes on Monday in what was possibly the deadliest exchange of fire in four years, but experts say the confrontation is unlikely to escalate into a full-blown war.
The latest flare-up in violence was prompted by a botched Israeli undercover operation in Gaza, which led to fighting that killed a Hamas commander, six other Palestinian militants and an Israeli colonel.
Palestinians in Gaza reacted by firing rockets and mortar bombs into southern Israel, while Israel launched airstrikes in retaliation.
READ MORE: Rockets fly between Israel and Gaza after botched raid, Hamas TV station bombed
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2007, when the Islamist militant group seized control of Gaza from the internationally backed Palestinian Authority.
The most recent war, in 2014, resulted in the killing of over 2,200 Palestinians.
WATCH: UN official breaks down on TV while discussing 2014 Gaza crisis
Seventy-three people were killed on the Israeli side — that’s a price that Israel has no interest in paying again, says Hani Faris, adjunct professor of political science at the University of British Columbia and editor of the book The Failure of the Two-State Solution.
“The Israelis can — with the weaponry they have, the army they have and the technology they have — wipe Gaza off from the face of the earth. However, to do so, they would have to not just bomb it, they would have to invade it,” Faris said. “They tried it once a few years ago, they did try to invade Gaza [in 2014] and they paid a very heavy price.
“So yes, it’s feasible that [Israel] may invade but it’s not likely. Why? Because they don’t want to pay the price.”
WATCH: 8 killed in covert Israeli military operation in Gaza
Faris said it’s likely that any further Israeli strikes will continue to be carried out from arm’s length.
“They will use long-range artillery as well as rockets and their air force to penalize the Gazans for resisting Israeli policies,” he said.
As for Hamas, the militant group has made noise in recent months about wanting to avoid another war.
“It’s in no one’s interest. We cannot prevail in a confrontation against a nuclear power,” said Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’ leader in the Gaza strip, in an interview with Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth last month.
“I am not saying I won’t fight anymore, I’m saying I don’t want more wars. I want the siege to end.”
WATCH: Missile hits Israeli bus traveling near Gaza border
Sinwar’s comments were made weeks before Monday’s escalation.
However, Emanuel Adler, chair of Israeli studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs, points out that the latest fighting only broke out because an Israeli military operation that was intended to be carried out under the radar was botched and exposed.
“The military operation that Israel did last night is of the type that it does at times and the public does not know about. This time, something went wrong and high-level commanders of both Hamas and Israel were killed, which prompted the current crisis and missile ‘volleys,’” Adler told Global News.
“Israel and Hamas were — with Egyptian help — negotiating a long-term truce when this happened.”
READ MORE: Israel says Iranian forces in Syria linked to rocket attacks by Palestinian militants
Faris says Egypt’s efforts in helping to bring Israel and Hamas closer to an agreement are unlikely to be abandoned anytime soon.
“The Egyptians were mediating and supposedly they were about to come to some form of agreement that the Israelis would allow more fuel [into Gaza], more medication, more movement, a larger area for Palestinian fishermen to fish… and they were moving towards that. And Hamas and the others had agreed in that direction,” said Faris.
“Will the Egyptians continue with their mediation? Yes they will, because they don’t have any interest in having the Israelis attack or invade Gaza.
“Also, the Egyptian government is answerable to its own population, which could put [President Abdel Fattah] el-Sisi and his government in a very serious situation domestically.”
WATCH: Firefighters in Israel respond to scene of alleged rocket attack
On Monday, Egyptian state TV quoted sources saying that Egypt had separately encouraged both Israel and the Palestinians to commit to de-escalating the conflict in the Gaza strip.
“Egypt will interfere to try and get a ceasefire and continue with its attempt at rapprochement, and I think we’ll see that happening in the next day or two,” Faris said.
“I think things will cool down a bit, and then the Egyptians will step in and so will the Qataris, probably.”
Qatar has led a recent wave of financial relief efforts for Gaza, paying out a $15-million cash infusion to impoverished Palestinian civil servants in the Gaza Strip, with Israel’s agreement.
The cash infusion was paid out after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas’s political rival based in the West Bank, slashed Gaza budgets, leaving tens of thousands of government employees broke and desperate.
Israel’s Environment Minister Zeev Elkin, a member of right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM that the money would not reach Hamas’ hands, saying, “It is money that is going to the salaries of civil servants, in an orderly, organized manner.”
WATCH: Gaza youth march to Jerusalem in protest
According to the Jerusalem Post, Hamas has looked to project the delivery of Qatari funds — and the blowing of the Israeli special forces’ cover during their Sunday night operation in Gaza — as victories in their own right, and is uninterested in all-out war at this time.
“Despite the attacks, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip believe that Hamas is still not interested in a major military confrontation with Israel,” read the Jerusalem Post analysis. “The leaders of Hamas feel they have more to lose from such a confrontation, especially in wake of recent moves to ease restrictions on the Gaza Strip.”
Rex Brynen, a political science professor at McGill University, told Global News that the political climates in both Israel and Gaza mean that an
“Hamas wants to make a point: ‘You can’t do this, we’ll fire back.’ And Israel wants to make the point: ‘You can’t fire rockets at us,’” Brynen said, adding that while domestic politics may encourage a temporary spike in hostilities, the scales will eventually tilt in favour of de-escalation.
Costanza Musu, professor of public and international affairs at the University of Ottawa, added that the Israeli military is not in favour of a large-scale invasion of Gaza due to the risk of heavy civilian casualties in the densely-populated area.
READ MORE: Why the latest Israel-Gaza conflict is escalating
Aaron Miller, director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, said that Israel, Hamas and President Abbas are caught in limbo “between accommodation and conflict” due to the lack of a coherent strategy to end the conflict once and for all.
“Israel has no real strategy toward Palestinians. And it’s dealing with two highly dysfunctional actors – Abbas and Hamas who lack one too,” Miller said in a Twitter post. “It doesn’t want to make peace with former or war with latter. And so three drift caught between accommodation and conflict.”
Faris says Israel will also be aware that its relationship with key allies in the Middle East would be hurt by a fresh Gazan war.
“They have to think about their relationship with the Egyptians, Jordanians and other Arab countries, and what might happen on the northern borders of Israel, namely the Lebanese-Syrian border,” he said.
He suggested that Israel will also want to avoid attacks from non-Hamas elements who support the Palestinian cause.
“There will be other elements who might come to the defence of Gazans.”
READ MORE: Jordan says it won’t renew 25-year land peace deal with Israel
Adler agreed that a full-scale war is unlikely because it’s not in the interests of either Israel or Hamas, but he refused to categorically rule it out.
“Rationally, war should not take place because neither side wants it,” said Adler. “Thus, from a rational perspective, perhaps also because of Egyptian mediation, war should be averted.
“But in these cases, rationality only plays a small role.”
— With files from Reuters and Global News reporter Eric Stober
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali
Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.
In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.
“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.
“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”
“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.
Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”
Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”
“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.
He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”
As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our
country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.
The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”
On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.
Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA
Harris accepts VP nomination
Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”
Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”
“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”
“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.
That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”
Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”
Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself
The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.
In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.
“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m
The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.
The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.
But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.
West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.
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