Arab normalization deals: Gaza, Israel exchange fire
Palestinian resistance fighters in the Gaza Strip have traded strikes with the Israeli military as the signing of contentious normalization treaties between Tel Aviv and two Arab regimes provokes another flare-up in the blockaded territory.
Palestinian Arabic-language Ma’an news agency, citing local sources, reported that Israeli fighter jets and helicopters bombed a training base run by the Hamas resistance movement northwest of Beit Lahiya town early on Wednesday.
Eyewitnesses confirmed that huge explosions were heard in the northern Gaza Strip before the site caught fire.
The sources noted that Israeli warplanes carried out four air raids against the site, while three others were launched by choppers.
Later, Israeli jets targeted another Hamas-run site in an area located between Deir al-Balah city in the central Gaza Strip and Khan Yunis in the southern sector of the Palestinian enclave.
There were no immediate reports of casualties in either attack.
The raids came shortly after Palestinian resistance fighters in the Gaza Strip fired a barrage of rockets into the Israeli-occupied territories.
Reacting to the news of the fresh flareup, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that the overnight rocket fire was meant to undermine Israel's deals with Arab states.
"They want to prevent peace, they won't. We will hit everyone who tries to harm us, and we will extend a hand of peace to all who reach out to us to make peace," Netanyahu said in a statement
‘A message of resistance’
Following the Israeli warplanes’ latest bombardment of the enclave, Hamas issued a warning to the Tel Aviv regime.
"The occupation (Israel) will pay the price for any aggression against our people or resistance sites and the response will be direct," said the resistance group in a statement.
"We will increase and expand our response to the extent that the occupation persists in its aggression," Hamas added on Wednesday.
The Palestinian rockets triggered sirens in the cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod, potentially sending hundreds of thousands of Israelis rushing to bomb shelters just as Netanyahu was signing agreements at the White House with Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani.
Two people were reportedly injured and several more treated for shock after a rocket slammed into a street in Ashdod, according to Israeli media.
Palestinians, who seek an independent state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, view the US-brokered deals as a betrayal of their cause.
Mohammad al-Hindi, a senior official with the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad resistance movement, said “the Gaza rockets are a message that this great vanity of the United States and Israel will be shattered by the Palestinians and that the final word is for those in the right.”
Hamas also said in a statement that the Palestinian nation “insists on continuing its struggle until it secures the return of all of its rights.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also protested the normalization deals with Israel, stating they will not foster peace in the Middle East as long as the United States and the Israeli regime do not recognize the rights of the Palestinian nation to establish an independent and sovereign state based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.
The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli land, air and sea blockade since June 2007, after Hamas, which has vowed to resist Israeli occupation, won the elections and rose to power in the enclave.
Since imposing the siege, Israel has also waged three wholesale wars against Gaza, killing and wounding thousands of Palestinians in each.
The crippling blockade has caused a sharp decline in the standard of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty in the strip.