JERUSALEM – The Israeli military struck the Gaza Strip with a series of airstrikes Thursday night, shaking up a fragile month-long ceasefire between the two sides that mediators are trying to prevent from collapsing.
Shortly thereafter, for the first time in nearly a month, air raid sirens sounded the alarm bells in southern Israel when militants from Gaza used heavy machine guns to cross the border, he said. Israeli army.
Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, chief of staff of the IDF, ordered national forces to prepare for the possibility of the truce collapsing.
General Kochavi told his forces to prepare “for various scenarios, including a resumption of hostilities, in the face of continued terrorist activities from the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said.
Rising violence poses a serious challenge for newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who succeeded Benjamin Netanyahu as head of the country on Sunday. Mr. Bennett, a strong supporter of Israeli settlements, heads a fragile coalition government that for the first time includes an independent Arab party.
The ceasefire began to crumble on Tuesday when militants in Gaza used incendiary balloons to start a series of wildfires in southern Israel. The Gaza movements came hours after right-wing Israeli protesters, some chanting “Death to the Arabs,” staged a confrontational march through East Jerusalem to celebrate Israel’s annexation of the eastern part of the city in 1967.
Israel quickly responded with a limited series of airstrikes in Gaza intended to telegraph to Palestinian militant groups that the new government would respond forcefully to any type of attack. Israeli officials hoped the strikes early Wednesday would deter Gaza militants from escalating.
But activists in Gaza launched another round of balloons on Wednesday that sparked further forest fires in southern Israel. Israel then responded on Thursday with a broader round of airstrikes.
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, called the Israeli attacks symbolic strikes by an insecure new Israeli government trying to demonstrate its tenacity.
The new round of fighting comes as General Kochavi prepares to travel to the United States this weekend for a series of meetings with US military and political leaders. The Biden administration has worked intensely with Israel, Egypt, Qatar and other Middle Eastern leaders to negotiate a truce to end last month’s conflict.
The United States had hoped to take advantage of the truce and start talking about rebuilding Gaza. But that will prove impossible if mediators fail to prevent the ceasefire from collapsing.
—Anas Baba from Gaza City contributed to this article.
Write to Dion Nissenbaum at [email protected]
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