What is the situation right now? Is peace visible? Israeli military has reportedly struck “a number of significant terror targets” across Gaza in response to rocket attacks by the Hamas.
The Hamas militant group -- labelled by many countries as a terrorist organisation and which controls Gaza -- has said it is launching rockets at Tel Aviv and surrounding areas in response to “the enemy’s targeting of residential towers”.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has said the group is “ready” if Israel does not relent. “If [Israel] wants to escalate, we are ready for it, and if it wants to stop, we're also ready,” he said.
Meanwhile, Israel has cited its right to defend itself and Defence Minister Benny Gantz has said the country's strikes were “just the beginning”.
“Terror organisations have been hit hard and will continue to be hit because of their decision to hit Israel. We will return peace and quiet, for the long term,” Gantz added.
In view of the situation at hand, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared a state of emergency in Lod, a city 15 kilometres southeast of Tel Aviv. According to a report by The Times of Israel, this is for the first time since 1966 that emergency powers have been used over the country's Arab community.
The international community has been calling upon both sides to make efforts to stop the clashes from escalating into a full-scale war.
Israeli soldier arms artillery shells next to an artillery unit at the Israel-Gaza border on May 13, 2021. (Image: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Yaakov Finkelstein, the Israel's Mumbai Consul General, was in Jerusalem when the clashes began last week. On his return to Mumbai on May 12, he told Moneycontrol that he witnessed sirens announcing the rocket attacks.
“I was actually at the Machne Yehuda Market in Jerusalem when the sirens went on and heard the blasts of the interception of the rocket,” Finkelstein said.
Finkelstein reiterated that bowing to pressure from Hamas is not on the cards, even though “Israel is a peace-seeking country like all democracies”.
“We are resorting to military attacks not because we want to, but because we have to… Ideally, this could have been solved over a round table conference, but with terror outfits like Hamas attacking us, we have to defend our citizens and our sovereignty first… If we relent today, there will be more attacks tomorrow. This will fuel their ultimate agenda to wipe Israel off the maps,” Finkelstein suggested.
'Hamas vs Israel'
“Hamas is a murderous terrorist organisation that is responsible for the death and injury of thousands of Israeli and Palestinian civilians. The Hamas Charter is an antisemitic document that endorses the murder of Jews solely based on their religion. The outfit has been designated as a terrorist organization by many countries in the world -- including the United States and the European Union," the Israeli diplomat said.
Finkelstein claimed that Hamas and "other terror outfits " were committing a "double war crime" by indiscriminately firing at civilian population centres from within a civilian population.
“Hamas situated its facilities in the heart of the civilian population, including within multi-story buildings that contain several military targets. It uses the civilian population as a human shield. They are indiscriminately attacking population centres in Israel, killing children, foreigners (including Indian citizen Soumya Santosh), Muslim, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians themselves," Finkelstein claimed.
The diplomat said that the Hamas was working to seize control of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian narrative and is "presenting itself as the defender of Jerusalem and the holy sites". "These acts threaten to overthrow the Palestinian Authority, and strengthen the forces undermining stability in all countries of the region," Finkelstein said.
The Hamas is stoking the kind of Islamist extremism that West Asia previously experienced under ISIS, Finkelstein added.
On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority has condemned Israel's "military aggression" in a tweet, saying it was "traumatizing an already beleaguered population of 2 million people who have been imprisoned by Israel’s illegal blockade for 14 years, suffering its inhumane impact on all aspects of life."
A picture taken with a drone shows the remains of a tower building which was destroyed in Israeli air strikes in Gaza City May 12, 2021. (Image: Reuters/Mohammed Salem)