The worst surge of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2014 happened this week. It started with a botched Israeli raid into Gaza on Sunday which left seven Palestinians and one Israeli dead. Gaza militants fired over 460 rockets into Israel while Israel hit 160 military targets before Egypt brokered a ceasefire.
A local Hamas commander and several other Palestinians were killed in an Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip. One Israeli soldier was killed and another wounded during the operation. A Hamas spokesman described the incident as a ‘cowardly Israeli attack.’ Palestinians said undercover Israeli forces infiltrated the area in a civilian vehicle.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed Israel identified a ‘secret atomic warehouse’ in Tehran, Iran which contains nuclear and radioactive materials. Netanyahu made his claim at the UN General Assembly on Thursday and called for new sanctions against Iran. Netanyahu used satellite images of the supposed nuclear warehouse to support his claims.
Talk of a long-term ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas rulers of Gaza was interrupted early Thursday when the Israeli military traded blows with Palestinian militants. A rocket was fired toward the southern Israeli city of Beersheba and Israel responded with an airstrike in western Gaza City. A ceasefire was set to begin Thursday night.
A report was released by the Pentagon on Friday which said US military actions killed 499 civilians last year in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Afghanistan. The report said there were ‘no credible reports’ of casualties due to US military operations last year in Somalia or Libya. The report covers US airstrikes and ground combat operations.
A sharp escalation in tensions occurred on Tuesday as Islamic militants in Gaza launched rockets and mortars into Israel, prompting an Israeli response of airstrikes. Hamas reported on Wednesday that military groups in Gaza have agreed to a ceasefire if Israel does the same. The US has called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting.
In a statement to the Israeli Parliament, Monday, Vice President Mike Pence announced a new United States Embassy will open in Jerusalem before 2019 ends. During Pence’s speech, Arab lawmakers protested, standing and holding signs reading, ‘Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.’ President Trump has said the embassy’s repositioning should not hamper peace talks.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas commented on the United States President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital calling it, ‘the slap of the century.’ Palestinian leaders are meeting in Ramallah, to form a concrete response to Trump’s action. Abbas said he will not accept any peace plan from the US after the Jerusalem decision.
The first world chess tournament hosted by Saudi Arabia is entangled in controversy after Israeli competitors were barred from playing, and Qatari players withdrew after being banned from showing their flag. A spokesman for the Israeli Chess Federation, Lior Aizenberg, said, ‘The relationships between countries should not be part of international events such as championships.’
Speaking in Rome for his annual Christmas address, Pope Francis called for Israel and Palestine to be separate, citing the need for a ‘negotiated solution…that would allow the peaceful co-existence of two states.’ Just hours before Guatemala became the first country to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital after the US. Pope Francis also compared the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem to the current migrations forcing millions to leave their homelands.