The Israeli military launched an airstrike campaign against the Gaza Strip Tuesday morning after the bodies of teenage Israeli settlers were found in the West Bank Monday night.
The Israeli Defence Forces also launched a military operation on the occupied West Bank in mid-June to search for the three settlers, who were missing for about three weeks.
There have been ongoing clashes between the Palestinians of the West Bank and Israeli settlers and soldiers. One Palestinian man was killed Tuesday morning and several were wounded, Reuters reported.
The three settlers, Naftali Frankel, Eyal Yifrah, and Gilad Shaer disappeared on 12 June, Reuters said. They went missing as they were hiking near the Jewish settlements in the West Bank city of Hebron, an area under the exclusive control of the Israeli military.
Over 500 Palestinians have been arrested from the West Bank since the beginning of the operation, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society.
Five Palestinians were killed in the West Bank as a result Israeli gunfire, Israeli-newspaper Haaretz reports said.
“Settlers have been attacking Palestinian villages and some even tried to kidnap a boy,” said Dr Hany Al-Basoos, a Political Science Professor at the Islamic University in Gaza, “Israel blamed Palestinians but none of the Palestinian factions have claimed responsibility. We don’t know exactly yet who killed them. All we can see now are statements made by Israeli officials and Israeli media.”
Israeli Defence Forces accused “Hamas terrorists”, particularly two Hebron-based Palestinians Marwan Qawasme and Amar Abu Aysha, of kidnapping the settlers. The two have previously spent time in Israeli jail. The IDF raided the homes of both their families.
“The situation in Gaza is very tense, there are bombings everywhere” said Professor Al-Basoos. “The occupation forces have been launching military strikes and bombings. I would say they may be trying to reoccupy Gaza.”
According to the Israeli military, there were 34 raids fired on Gaza and 20 rockets fired by Hamas on Israel.
“Israel may use this incident as an excuse to wipe out Hamas, and to eliminate them from Gaza,” Al-Basoos said.
Al-Basoos added that Khaled Meshaal, a leading figure in the Islamist group denied knowing anything about this situation.
Al-Basoos said he is expecting the situation to escalate in the next few days, adding that “Hamas and Islamic Jihad are preparing for this operation and how to handle it”.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza has seen excessive deterioration, especially as the Rafah crossing has been closed since July 2013. There is a shortage in infrastructure, electricity, water, and other basic human needs.
“As the situation gets more difficult, there is a general mood of fear in Gaza. Things remain uncertain, especially when it is in this month of Ramadan,” Al-Basoos said, “People are trying to stay home more often. They are afraid of the Israeli raids they may face if they go out.”