Gaza Escalation: Israel Strikes Hamas Targets in Strip, Withholds Qatari Cash

The Israel Air Force struck targets in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, the Israeli army said in statement. According to the statement, Israeli fighter jets bombed several targets at a Hamas training camp.

"The strike was executed following earlier strikes during the day and in response to the shooting incidents against our forces," said the statement.

The strikes came hours after an Israeli official said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided not to allow a Qatari money transfer into the Strip following Tuesday’s escalation along the Gaza border, which saw one Israeli soldier lightly wounded and one Palestinian killed. 

>> Hamas could cause an escalation on the Israeli border. Abbas could start a greater conflict | Analysis 

File Photo: A group of Palestinian women hold Qatar flags and banners in front of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Sani Mosque during a demonstration in support of Qatar, in Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, June 14Ali Jadallah / Anadolu Agency

Israel’s security cabinet is expected to convene Wednesday morning to discuss the deterioration on the border with the coastal enclave.

Two fire exchanges took place along the border after a period of relative calm. In the afternoon, the Israeli military said it shelled a Hamas observation post after an Israeli officer was injured by a bullet that penetrated the helmet he was wearing.  

The Israeli military retaliated by striking a Hamas post in Gaza, an attack that injured four and claimed the life of a 24-year-old Palestinian. 

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Earlier in the day, the Israel Defense Forces struck a Hamas post in the northern Strip in response to Palestinian fire.

Apparently, those behind the two shooting incidents along the border are Islamic Jihad activists. The flare-up can also be linked to an internal conflict between the different Palestinian factions; Islamic 
Jihad and other groups disagree with Hamas, who believe that it is better to maintain a relative calm on the border with Israel so that the cash flow from Qatar of $15 will not stop. 

The Palestinian fire is also related to tensions in the West Bank, which were sparked recently when inmates at the Ofer Prison announced a hunger strike after Israel Prison Service conducted a search 
for cellphones that were smuggled into the prison and found them in the possession of inmates affiliated with Islamic Jihad. 

Halting Qatari cash

The third Qatari cash donation for impoverished Gaza civil servants was slated to take place on Wednesday, after it was held back by Israel in protest of Palestinian border violence.

Former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman praised Netanyahu later Tuesday evening for his reported decision to halt the money transfer. "I congratulate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his decision to stop the Qatari money transfer to Hamas."

Lieberman did note that "a temporary halt of the money [transfer] is not sufficient. We must completely stop the funding of terror against us. Today has made it clear beyond a doubt that an altercation with Hamas is inevitable."

According to several diplomats, Netanyahu may be mulling walking back on understandings reached with Hamas, given the political price of photographs depicting suitcases of money arriving in Gaza. Netanyahu, a Hamas senior official told Haaretz recently, is measuring any step he takes right now in terms of electoral loss or gain. "The transfer of the Qatari money does not serve him well at the moment."

Qatar in November began a six-month, $150 million program to fund civil servant wages and shipments of fuel for power generation in Gaza, offering a measure of reprieve to the blockaded enclave under the control of Islamist militant group Hamas.

Qatar hopes the aid will ease conditions and restore stability, part of efforts to bolster its international standing amid a diplomatic dispute with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf neighbors.