Gaza-Fired Rocket Lands in Israel, First Since Truce
After a nearly four month-long cease-fire, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in southern Israel on Tuesday, Feb. 26. CNN reports that Israeli police said no one was injured in the incident, although a road was damaged. A Gaza militant group, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, immediately claimed responsibility for the attack and emailed media to report their rocket launch.
It is widely believed that the rocket was in retaliation for the death of a prisoner in Israel. That prisoner was Arafat Jaradat, a 30-year-old Palestinian being held by the Israelis. Palestinian officials immediately made an uproar, calling out poor Israeli prison conditions. While the official Palestinian statements on the matter were enraged, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades actually tried to strike back at Israel, ending a cease-fire that had lasted longer than most between Israel and the Palestinians ever do. Worse yet, the group called the rocket launch their “first response” to Jaradat’s death.
Israel responded by closing the Kerem Shalom border crossing between their land and the Gaza strip, and it is feared that, if retaliations by radical militant groups like this rocket attack continue, another bout of major conflict could break out. The truce between Israel and the Palestinians on Nov. 21 finally put an end to a skirmish that resulted in eight dead Israelis and 175 dead Palestinians (Reuters), though CNN puts the numbers lower at six Israeli deaths and 160 Palestinian fatalities. The deal was brokered by Egypt, and if it continues to be violated so clearly, in addition to mass protests and overall regional unrest, many more casualties for both sides could come as a result.
Robert Serry of the United Nations called the rocket launch “totally unacceptable,” but also wanted Jaradat’s death to be looked into, as thousands of Palestinian protestors have been claiming that Jaradat, along with other prisoners of the Israelis, was being tortured. One protest following Jaradat’s funeral resulted in Palestinians throwing hand-made grenades at Israeli police and a Jewish holy site. Some of the police force opened fire and five of the Palestinians were injured, according to Reuters.
While Israel, the United States and the UN all cry for calm, the Palestinian Authority has a message for President Barack Obama, who is planning to make his first trip to Israel as Commander-in-Chief soon: “If President Obama wants to visit the region peacefully, he should exert pressure on Israel to release the prisoners — especially the ones who are on hunger strike [in response to Jaradat’s death and alleged torture]” (CNN).