Israel and Hamas’ massive overnight rocket battle threatens to become a major war

An explosion is seen during an Israeli air strike on Hamas's television station in Gaza City on Monday.

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An explosion is seen during an Israeli air strike on Hamas’s television station in Gaza City on Monday.
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REUTERS/Ahmed Zako

  • An escalating battle between Israel and Hamas threatens to become a major war.
  • Hamas responded to a botched Israeli undercover operation which killed seven Palestinians fighters with hundreds of rockets fired at Israel.
  • Israel responded with air strikes and tank fire, making the fighting between Gaza and Israel the heaviest since their 2014 war.
  • The UN special envoy for the Middle East peace process warned on Monday that Gaza needed to step “back from the brink” – “The escalation in the past 24hrs is EXTREMELY dangerous and reckless. Rockets must STOP, restraint must be shown by all!”

An overnight rocket battle between Israel and Hamas is the latest in a conflict escalation that threatens a major war and worries those working for peace in the region.

Simmering tensions were brought to a head and fighting to a level not seen since 2014 after a botched intelligence mission by undercover Israeli commando raid killed seven Palestinian fighters, including a Hamas commander, on Sunday. Hamas said it was retaliating when it and other armed groups launched more than 400 rockets or mortar bombs across the border into, killing one civilian, and carried out a surprise missile attack on a bus that wounded an Israeli soldier, Israel’s military said, according to Reuters.

“In response to yesterday’s crime, the joint command of Palestinian factions announce the beginning of bombardment of the enemy’s settlements with scores of rockets,” Hamas said in a statement on Monday.

Videos taken overnight showed Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system knocking out ballistic missiles in flight while other rockets completed their run in explosions within Israel.

Israel retaliated with airstrikes and tank fire in attacks that continued into Tuesday.

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It hit military posts, a Hamas television station, radio station, and office building, and a Hamas military intelligence headquarters, The New York Times reported. Israel’s pre-warned of its strike on the Hamas broadcasting station.

Father of Palestinian Khaled Sultan, who was killed in an Israeli air strike, mourns at a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday.

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Father of Palestinian Khaled Sultan, who was killed in an Israeli air strike, mourns at a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday.
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REUTERS/Ahmed Zakot

Ilan Goldenberg, Middle East security director at security and defense policy nonprofit Center for a New American Security, tweeted on Tuesday that “alarm bells need to be going off.”

“This is on the precipice of becoming the next major Israel-Hamas war.”

Goldenberg was echoing an earlier warning from Nickolay Mladenob, the UN special envoy for the Middle East peace process, who warned on Monday that he was working with Egypt and other concerned countries to ensure that Gaza “steps back from the brink.” “The escalation in the past 24hrs is EXTREMELY dangerous and reckless. Rockets must STOP, restraint must be shown by all! No effort must be spared to reverse the spiral of violence.”

Egypt has been mediating peace talks that have aimed to prevent violence at the Israel-Gaza border, where at least 170 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more injured by Israel forces in protests.