Israeli military retaliated within hours of a rocket attack that injured seven Israeli civilians and destroyed a home in Mishmeret, about 20 miles north of Tel Aviv.
The Israel Defence Force (IDF) said on Twitter that Hamas, the de facto ruler of Gaza, was responsible for the attack on March 25, but the group has denied responsibility.
Israeli airstrikes injured seven Gazans that evening, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said.
The Israeli military said it targeted Hamas buildings, including Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s office – which was used for many military meetings – and an alleged Hamas intelligence headquarters.
Three residential buildings were also struck.
Sameh al-Ghazali, a Gaza resident whose home was levelled by the airstrike, told Al Jazeera that the Israeli military called him shortly before the attack, saying that he and his family needed to evacuate within seconds.
What happened is the summary of our lives in Gaza, he said. You could lose anything or anyone in the blink of an eye.
In addition to the retaliatory bombings, Israel drafted thousands of reservists, mobilized dozens of tanks, closed major Israel-Gaza border checkpoints – which are important for the transfer of goods and medical supplies into Gaza – and curbed the already limited mobility of Gazan fishermen on the coastal waters.
By 10pm, a cease-fire was reached with the help of Egyptian mediators – but the truce did not last.
Israel and Hamas exchanged rocket fire for the next two days, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would continue – if not ramp up – its attacks, if necessary.
[W]e are prepared to do a lot more . We will do what is necessary to defend our people and to defend our state, Netanyahu said at the time.
Interrupted politicking, escalated tension
Netanyahu was in the United States during the Mishmeret attack and had plans to deliver a speech to the annual American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference the next day.
However, the rocket attack and subsequent Israeli military strikes compelled him to leave Washington early.
The US visit was an important one for the Israeli prime minister. His speech to AIPAC, the popular face of the US’s pro-Israel lobby, could have helped boost his image for the upcoming Israeli election, which is on April 9.
Netanyahu faces a difficult re-election campaign against former IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz, who has said that he is not tough enough on Hamas.
At the time of the Mishmeret attack and ensuing strikes, it seemed that Israel was gearing up for a level of violence not seen since 2014 when the IDF conducted a 52-day operation in Gaza called Operation Protective Edge.
The Israeli military killed 1,462 civilians and razed 18,000 homes in Gaza over the seven-week foray, according to a United Nations independent commission of inquiry.
Questions remain about whether Israel and Hamas are on the brink of an inevitable war.
Gaza is one of the most densely populated regions in the world, and its 2.2 million residents – half of whom are children – have not been able to leave since 2007, when Israel implemented a blockade of the coastal territory. Some critics call Gaza the world’s largest open-air prison.
Israel has been the target of numerous probes and inquests since the blockade started.
The UN has repeatedly condemned the blockade, calling it collective punishment, which is illegal under international law.
It has also said there are reasonable grounds to conclude that Israel is guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Source: Palestine Monitor