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67 injured in rockets, airstrikes between Israel and Gaza

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  • Clashes between Israel and Gaza escalated on Tuesday to levels not seen since 2014. 
  • Israel targeted Bahaa Abu al-Atta, the leader of the Gaza militant group known as Palestinian Islamic Jihad on Tuesday morning, prompting a retaliation of rocket attacks. 
  • Over 190 rockets rained down on Israeli cities, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
  • In total, 45 Palestinians were said to have been injured in Gaza, while 22 Israelis were said to have been injured in cities in the southern and central parts of Israel. Ten Palestinians, including Abu al-Atta, were also said to have been killed in Israeli airstrikes. 
  • The timing of the strike may not be a coincidence. 
  • Neither Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his political rival Benny Gantz were able to secure a majority in September’s election, plunging the country into political chaos. 
  • Some Israeli politicians believe that Netanyahu’s ordering of Abu al-Atta’s killing was “a desperate attempt to remain in office.” 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Clashes between Israel and Gaza escalated on Tuesday, with over 190 rockets raining down on Israeli cities, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), in response to airstrikes in Gaza, which the IDF said successfully targeted Bahaa Abu al-Atta, the leader of the Gaza militant group known as Palestinian Islamic Jihad. 

The IDF said that it “surgically targeted” Abu al-Atta early morning on Tuesday, claiming that he was “directly responsible for hundreds of terror attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers,” and that his next attack was “imminent.” According to the IDF, the location of the airstrike was in Shejaiya, one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip that was devastated in clashes with Israel in 2014. 

Aviv Kohavi, the IDF Chief of General Staff, referred to Abu-al-Atta as a “ticking time bomb.”

A barrage of rockets were fired at Israel in response to strikes, with sirens sounding in cities across southern and central Israel, including in Tel Aviv. The IDF said it launched additional strikes at militant targets in Gaza as rockets began to rain down. 

shejaiya map gaza tel aviv

A map shows the distance between Shejaiya and Tel Aviv.
Business Insider/Google Maps


The Ministry of Health in Gaza claimed that Abu al-Atta, along with nine other citizens, were killed in Israeli airstrikes. It claimed that 45 others were injured. 

Israel’s Magen David Adom national emergency service said 22 citizens were lightly injured, including two men who were injured by shrapnel. 

According to The Washington Post, at least 60 projectiles were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system, which may explain the injury differences between Israel and Gaza. The Post added that at least one residence and one office were hit by the rockets. 

The timing of the incident comes amid political turmoil — and may benefit Netanyahu 

netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu.
Screenshot/Prime Minister of Israel


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the IDF for their “precise operation.” In a live broadcast, Netanyahu called Abu al-Atta the “chief terrorist in Gaza” and vowed to continue to strike down militants.  

“We have proven that it is possible to attack murderers with minimal harm to innocent lives,” Netanyahu said. “Whoever hurts us — we will hurt them.” 

Netanyahu suggested that Israel was not interested in escalating the conflict in Gaza but hinted that Israel would continue to use a long-term strategy in order to defend its borders. 

“Israel is not interested in escalation, but will do everything necessary to defend ourselves,” he said. “And I say in advance: This could take time.” 

“Patience and composure are required,” he said. “The IDF must be allowed to do its work.” 

And a long-term strategy is exactly what Netanyahu needs as the country tumbles into political turmoil.

Israel voted on September 17, in an election that put Netanyahu’s political future at stake. Neither Netanyahu, nor his political rival Benny Gantz, a former IDF chief, won an outright majority. Additionally, neither Netanyahu, nor Gantz, were successful in forming a coalition government, which could mean that Israel may see new elections for the third time this year. 

In addition to his political career being at stake, Netanyahu’s future now hangs in the balance, as he’s currently embroiled in several corruption scandals that could see him face criminal charges in the near future. If Netanyahu can figure out a way to remain in power, he would not be required by Israeli law to step down even in the event of an indictment.

Some Israeli politicians believe that Netanyahu’s ordering of Abu al-Atta’s killing was a ploy to drum up political support from his right-wing base.

Ayman Odeh, the head of the Israeli-Arab Joint List party, wrote that Netanyahu was engaging in “a desperate attempt to remain in office.” 

“A cynical man who lost two consecutive elections will leave only scorched earth in a desperate attempt to remain in office,” the Arab lawmaker wrote on Twitter. 

Omar Bar Lev, a senior Labor party lawmaker, called into question the timing of the airstrikes in relation to Netanyahu’s political deadlock. 

“In the past year and a half, there have been numerous opportunities to eliminate [Abu al-Atta] … Why did Netanyahu change his position now?” he wrote.  

Netanyahu has found that military power is his political strength 

Israeli army golan heights

Israeli Defense Forces practice drills in the Golan Heights near the border with Syria in March 2016. Israel has maintained a heavy security presence in the Heights throughout the course of the Syrian Civil War.

Lior Mizrahi/Stringer via Getty Images


Netanyahu’s last decade in power has seen several major clashes in Gaza, including large-scale operations in 2009, 2012, and 2014.

Jason Pearlman, a former political aide to several right-wing Israeli politicians, told The Wall Street Journal before the election in September that right-wing voters see Netanyahu’s security record as his game-winning trait. 

“It’s not just an image. It is his record,” Pearlman said. 

And amplifying Israel’s strength has been an election-winning strategy since the country’s founding. CNBC’s Jason Gewirtz wrote in April that security has consistently ranked as Israel’s top election issue since the end of the British Mandate in 1948.

Netanyahu might be able to continue to push the limits of Israel’s military might in order to win favor with the Israeli public. According to a study conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute in April, 66% of the Israeli public thought that Israel was acting “too moderately” in its response to clashes along the Gaza Strip. 

In August, the Israeli Voice Index conducted by the Guttman Center at the Israel Democracy Institute, 56% of Israelis thought Netanyahu was doing a good job at enhancing Israel’s military power. 

It appears Netanyahu has found success in shaping the Israeli public’s perceptions of national security issues in line with his own policies. 

Dr. Lior Lehrs, Director of the Program on Israeli-Palestinian Peacemaking at Israeli foreign policy think tank Mitvim wrote in the 2019 Israeli Foreign Policy Index that the Israeli public “has adopted the positions promoted by Netanyahu in recent years on the Palestinian issue.”

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