Nov 13, 2019

Israel-Gaza conflict spills into second day after death of Iran-linked militant commander

Photo: ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance/Getty Images

The Israeli military and militants in the Gaza Strip exchanged fire on Wednesday, beginning a second day of fighting after an Israeli airstrike killed a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander on Tuesday, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: The death of Bahaa Abu el-Atta has set off the heaviest fighting in months — and Israel's targeting of the Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed group, comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to paint Iran as Israel's primary nemesis in the region.

  • The Israeli military previously set its sight on Hamas, which governs Gaza. "In this cycle, the army appears to be targeting Islamic Jihad’s infrastructure...delivering a blow to the militant group that is the second-largest in the strip," per the Post.
  • "Islamic Jihad is much smaller than Hamas. But with the strong support of Iran, it has become much more aggressive in its confrontations with Israel. It often acts without Hamas’ support," according to Politico.
  • GZERO notes that Hamas is left stuck in the middle — wary of the Islamic Jihad starting a full-blown conflict, but not wanting to be seen as pandering to Israel by cracking down.

The state of play: At least 19 Palestinians have died since the conflict started, of whom at least six were militants, per the Post. Israel has reported no fatalities but dozens of minor injuries.

  • The Israeli military says it has detected about 220 missile launches from Gaza into Israel. Its sophisticated defense system, the Iron Dome, has successfully stopped dozens of the projectiles.
  • Gaza has essentially shut down, with almost 300,000 students staying at home. Many schools in southern Israel are closed as well, Reuters reports.

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Israel-Gaza ceasefire begins

An Israeli soldier stands on top of a tank near the border with Gaza in Southern Israel on Wednesday. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images)

Israeli and Palestinian officials reached a ceasefire on Thursday following days of deadly cross-border fighting that began after Israel killed a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander in an airstrike.

The latest: An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman confirmed the ceasefire in Gaza had come into effect. Israeli officials said earlier that forces had "achieved all the goals of its military operation."

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 14, 2019

U.S. gave Benny Gantz a heads-up on settlements announcement

Gantz. Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images

Before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's announcement yesterday on the legality of Israeli settlements, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman notified Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political rival, Israeli and U.S. officials tell me.

Why it matters: Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White party, effectively tied with Netanyahu in Israel's election two months ago. Gantz was asked to form a government after Netanyahu failed to do so, but his mandate expires on Wednesday. There was speculation that the U.S. announcement was timed to help Netanyahu politically.

Go deeperArrowNov 19, 2019

Trump's settlements announcement underscores partisan divide on Israel

Netanyahu in Congress in 2018. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement today on Israeli settlements was a major shift in U.S. policy and gives the settlements project diplomatic backing, but otherwise has few practical implications.

Why it matters: What the decision will do is deepen the divide between Democrats and Republicans on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The shift on the legal status of the settlements will continue to erode bipartisan support for Israel — especially with the U.S. entering an election year.

Go deeperArrowNov 19, 2019