Linda Gradstein – Voice of America
JERUSALEM - Israel continued Wednesday to strike targets in Gaza affiliated with Islamic Jihad, and Islamic Jihad continued to fire rockets into Israel — more than 300 over the past two days.
Islamic Jihad released a video, complete with music, showing its military capability. There were rocket launchers, rockets and video showing those rockets being fired. A spokesman for the group said it was not interested in a cease-fire and intended to continue fighting.
Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system shot down 90 percent of the 300-plus missiles headed for populated areas, but several rockets scored direct hits on houses and factories in southern Israel. Half the country has been shut down during the attacks.
Israel called up reserve forces and stationed artillery on the border with Gaza.
Speaking in parliament, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Islamic Jihad knew Israel would keep striking Islamic Jihad "with no mercy." Netanyahu also clashed with Arab parliament members, one of whom was forcibly removed from the room.
Netanyahu accused Islamic Jihad of war crimes because they were deliberately firing on civilians.
Notably absent from all these exchanges was Hamas, which controls Gaza and its 2 million people. In a statement, Hamas said its fighters were fighting alongside Islamic Jihad, but there was no evidence of that.
Public discontent with Hamas' control of Gaza already has been rising, along with the tough economic situation in Gaza, including high unemployment. At the same time, the situation had improved somewhat over the past few months. Thanks to money from Qatar, there is now electricity most hours of the day, and poor people get financial grants.
Hamas does not want to be dragged into a widespread confrontation with Israel similar to the conflict in 2014, which lasted seven weeks and left thousands of people, mostly Palestinians, dead.
But Hamas also cannot be seen as soft on Israel. Israel has sent messages to Hamas that it is prepared to calm the situation. Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza, also wants the fighting to stop.
Israeli officials say that as long as Israeli civilians are not killed, Israel has no reason to escalate the conflict. The longer the conflict continues, though, the greater the chance both sides can be dragged into a war that neither one wants.