It is perhaps unique to this context that both sides of the current flare-up—the Israeli army and Hamas, the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip—can simultaneously escalate their attacks on each other while negotiating a delicate ceasefire.
Such has been the case in recent days, leaving many on both sides wondering if the heavier blows exchanged are the final ones before a truce, or the opening salvos of a new war.
On Thursday, Israeli fighter jets flattened a five-story building west of Gaza City, injuring 18 people according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. The army alleges that the building was used as a headquarters for Hamas’ internal security service. This, the army declared, was in response to a Hamas rocket attack on the southern Israeli city of Beersheba earlier in the day.
It was the first time since the 5-day conflict in 2014 that Beersheba, a major urban center about 25 miles from the enclave, was targeted by projectiles fired from Gaza.
Ronen Manelis, the Israeli military’s chief spokesman, said later Thursday that the bombing of the high-rise building in broad daylight was intended to send “a message to Hamas that as long as their choice of terror continues, the IDF’s [Israeli Defense Forces] responses will increase and become more powerful.”
Israeli authorities said that over 200 projectiles were launched at Israeli communities between Wednesday night and Thursday. Most of them hit open areas while the Iron Dome defense system destroyed about 25 rockets. Some projectiles, however, managed to penetrate defense systems and exploded in civilian areas, injuring several Israelis.