Thursday, October 18th, 2018

Pregnant woman and her toddler killed in Gaza, Israel shelling

The Gaza Health Ministry said a 30-year-old man was killed in that strike. At least nine Palestinians, including Khammash’s husband, were reported to have been injured in the series of airstrikes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with his defence minister and military chiefs for an emergency session after midnight.

Israeli security at the site where a missile from Gaza Strip hit the town of Sderot on Wednesday.

Israeli security at the site where a missile from Gaza Strip hit the town of Sderot on Wednesday.

Photo: AP

The Israeli airstrikes did not immediately appear as intense as some previous rounds over the past few weeks, and the Palestinian fire was mostly calibrated to hit border areas rather than population centres. There were reports of hurried efforts by Egyptian mediators to restore the shaky cease-fire.

But there was also a danger the hostilities could turn into a broader conflict. Israel is seeking to end the rocket fire and the flaming kites and balloons flown by Gaza militants across the border fence.

Hamas, the Islamic militant group that has ruled Gaza for 11 years, has been trying to change the balance of deterrence in the area, responding to every Israeli strike against Gaza.

“The Qassam Brigades are ready and well prepared to confront the aggression and defend their people,” Issam Daalees, a Hamas leader, said in a statement, referring to Hamas’ armed wing. “The enemy must understand that it cannot unilaterally impose the rules of confrontation and it must bear the consequences of its stupidity.”

In Sderot, a piece of a rocket penetrated the roof of a house and crashed into the living room.

Albert Hofi, the owner of the house, told an Israeli television reporter that moments before it was hit he had moved his disabled wife, Shula, to the safety of the basement. The rocket shard left a round hole in the ceiling and broke floor tiles, but the rest of the living room was intact.

“Unfortunately we have gotten used to the situation,” Hofi told the reporter, explaining his calm demeanor. A rocket alert sounded as they spoke, and Hofi and the television crew headed to the basement.

The week began with a rare sense of possible progress. A high-level delegation of Hamas officials, including some living in exile, convened in Gaza to discuss Egyptian and United Nations proposals to stabilize the ceasefire with Israel in return for an easing of the Israeli and Egyptian-imposed blockade of Gaza.

Netanyahu postponed a visit to Colombia and met with his security cabinet last Sunday for a strategic discussion about the situation.

Yet there were no signs that a broad deal was imminent. At the end of the hourslong cabinet meeting, Israel released a terse statement saying the military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, had “updated the security cabinet on the situation regarding Gaza” and that the military was “prepared for any scenario.”

A senior Hamas official, Khalil al-Hayya, suggested earlier Wednesday that Hamas was open to a deal, but he accused Israel of violating the cease-fire agreement and added that Hamas would not allow Israel “to impose new equations or rules of engagement on the ground.”

By nightfall even the prospect of a limited deal — involving emergency humanitarian assistance for Gaza in return for quiet along the border — seemed uncertain.

“For months I have been warning that the humanitarian, security and political crisis in Gaza risks a devastating conflict that nobody wants,” Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special envoy to the region, said in a sharply worded statement early Thursday.

NY Times, DPA