Although the past several days saw the most drastic flare-up between Israel and the Palestinians since 2014, the atmosphere in Gaza does not convey a sense of emergency or that the Strip is facing imminent all-out war.
The feeling is that the current hostilities will not escalate into a situation similar to 2014, when Hamas and its allies in Gaza fought a war against Israel that lasted much of the summer.
Gaza's Interior Ministry ordered Gazans on Tuesday not to approach sites that the Israel Air Force has bombed and to steer clear of other locations that might be the target of future Israeli aerial assaults as well as from unexploded bombs and ammunition.
School classes have been cancelled throughout the Strip. Government ministry offices and other institutions have also been shut down over concern that they might be bombed by Israel.
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Palestinian officials are following closely the reactions of Palestinian factions, who have chosen not to widen the range of rocket and missile fire and are refraining from taking so-called deal-breaking steps such as firing toward the Israeli cities of Ashdod, Be'er Sheva or even Tel Aviv; instead, the factions have made border communities their target for now.
A Hamas official who spoke to Haaretz said in reference to the infusion of cash that Hamas received from Qatar last week with Israel’s cooperation that, "You need to understand that Hamas scored several points last week, that the Strip has begun to breathe, including the payment of [government] salaries and an extension in the number of hours of electricity and an expansion of the fishing zone [off Gaza]."
The official said that despite the progress, "All of this could now go down the drain due to the escalation. So the question is whether the two sides will find a formula through which they can decide to restrain themselves and end this round" or to widen the conflict. "That’s something that, as the strong side of the equation, Israel decides."
The official accused Israel of starting the current round of violence, referring to the clash in the area of Khan Yunis with a special Israeli military force that took place on Sunday. A senior Israeli officer and seven Palestinians were killed in the clash.
The massive Israeli aerial attacks on Gaza over the past several days have caused major damage to buildings and other sites, some of which are known to be military-related sites belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Others, including the Al-Yaziji building, which is relatively new and is located in the prestigious Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City, is thought to be a civilian building. Along with other buildings, including the Al-Amal Hotel in the east of the city, it was attacked overnight between Monday and Tuesday.
Since the Israeli attacks began on Monday, seven people have been killed in Gaza, including two who died Tuesday morning in an attack on the northern Gaza Strip and east of Gaza City, Gaza's Health Ministry reported Tuesday. Another 25 people have reportedly been wounded, the ministry stated.
The Palestinian Authority's West Bank-based Health Ministry reported Monday evening that a convoy had been dispatched to provide medical equipment to hospitals in the Strip. Hamas officials criticized the decision and accused the Palestinian Authority of relating to Gaza as if it were a separate entity that was receiving foreign aid rather than treating it as part of a single Palestinian entity that deserves ongoing support.
Speaking from Gaza, the director of the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Amir Zaqout, told Haaretz that Israel was bombing residential buildings in an attempt to frighten Gaza residents. He said the Israel Air Force was destroying entire buildings for no reason and he included the bombing of Hamas’ Al-Aqsa television studios in Gaza in that category.
Reports from Gaza said the air force fired warning missiles before striking the building housing the studios and that it was evacuated prior to the attack. “The station broadcasts harsh incitement against Israel and its citizens, showing methods on how to carry out attacks against civilians and soldiers,” the Israeli army's spokesperson said in a statement.
Zaqout called the aerial bombing an effort to simply sow destruction in order to pressure Gazans, because Israel had not managed to reach Hamas’ military leaders, whom he said are in hiding underground.