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19
Feb
2018

The Gaza Escalation: A Message from Iran


Palestinian demonstrators with their flags along the border fence with Israel.

Palestinian demonstrators with their flags along the border fence with Israel. IDF vehicles stand opposite. (Arab press)

The weekend violence that began on February 17, 2018, on the border of the Gaza Strip is a very dangerous escalation, the most dangerous one since the end of the war in Gaza in the summer of 2014. The latest flare-up was a violation of the ceasefire agreement with Hamas. Four Israeli soldiers were injured, one of them seriously, as a result of an ambush on the border of Gaza. While hundreds of Gaza demonstrators gathered at the border fence, an organization called the “Committee of the Popular Resistance” put a booby-trapped flag on the border fence. When the soldiers came to remove it – it exploded.

Of course, Hamas is behind this incident, because no other organization in the Gaza Strip can initiate such an attack without a green light from Hamas since they are the ones in control of Gaza and therefore bear responsibility. As a result, Israel retaliated; they attacked 18 targets of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Air Force also destroyed a tunnel discovered in the Gaza Strip that was infiltrating into Israeli territory.

Now things are calm mainly because the Egyptians put pressure on a Hamas delegation (headed by Ismail Haniyeh), that was visiting Cairo, to calm things down.

Is Iran Involved in the Recent Clash with Gaza?

Because Iran is behind this escalation, things might deteriorate in the future. What we know is that the Iranians, actually General Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who is in charge of the terror activities of Iran in the Middle East, is in direct contact with the leaders of the military wing of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. He is trying to escalate the situation in order to send a message to Israel not to carry out any further attacks on Syria.

Palestinian flag placed along the Gaza-Israel border

Palestinian flag placed along the Gaza-Israel border during a demonstration. The pole was allegedly packed with explosives. (Al Buss Camp News, Lebanon)

Hamas cartoon

Hamas celebrated “the Ambush” in its publications.
(Downloaded by the author)

Is This a Severe Escalation with Gaza or Simply a Temporary Threat?

The message Iran is sending is that if Israel continues to hit Syrian targets, it will find itself fighting on a new front, in Gaza. This way, Israel will find itself fighting on two fronts at the same time, in both Gaza and Syria. This is the message of the Iranians, and their intention is to continue and escalate the situation, especially because President Trump is planning in the future to publish his new peace plan for the Middle East. The Iranians, together with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, are working together to sabotage this peace plan by terror activities from the borders of Gaza and Syria. So, Israel has to watch the borders very carefully and be ready to retaliate whenever a new attack is planned because the intention is to escalate and not to calm things down.

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Yoni Ben Menachem was interviewed by Tamara Elashvili.

About Yoni Ben Menachem

Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as Director General and Chief Editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
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