With tensions ratcheting up between the Israelis and the leaders of the Palestinian groups in the West Bank and Gaza, yet another wave of violence appears imminent.
Hamas officials have been vowing renewed violence for weeks as they have criticized Egyptian mediators who have been trying to hammer out a peace agreement.
“We are considering options for an escalation with Israel in light of the continued siege of Gaza and the delay in rehabilitating the Strip,” an unnamed source said earlier in December to Al Jazeera. “We will not allow the current situation to continue, and the next phase will prove the credibility of our words.” Now it appears to be happening again.
Israeli troops killed a Palestinian after he fired at them from a passing vehicle outside of Ramallah. Earlier last week, Israeli troops killed a man who attempted to carry out a car-ramming attack in the West Bank. Last week, a Palestinian gunman killed an Israeli man near the unauthorized West Bank settlement outpost of Homesh.
Clashes continue between Israeli soldiers and hundreds of Palestinian protesters who threw rocks, burned tires, and fired shots at troops in the West Bank area just outside of the contentious area of Homesh. One Israeli soldier was wounded, while the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) responded with live fire, tear gas, and stun grenades. Dozens were injured by the fire as well as from rubber bullets.
Now, the terror groups of the region Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) have announced that they had reached an agreement to “strengthen the resistance” against the Israelis and plan to increase coordination between the two terrorist groups.
As a result, the “military wings” of at least a dozen armed groups are conducting a joint exercise whose stated goal was to “raise military readiness” for a possible confrontation with Israel and increase coordination between the factions, according to the “Joint Room of the Palestinian Resistance Factions,”
The exercise is expected to last several days and will no doubt draw the attention of the Israeli military and its intelligence agencies. Hamas and the PIJ spoke in glowing terms of the newest attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and Jerusalem, saying they came in response to “settler terrorism and crimes of the Zionist occupation soldiers.”
Khaled Mashaal, the leader of Hamas and PIJ Secretary-General Ziyad al-Nakhalah, met in Beirut two weeks ago and issued a joint statement in which they agreed on the “importance of strengthening the resistance, especially in the West Bank. They emphasized their adherence to the option of resistance as the only way to confront the occupation, liberate the land, and restore Palestinian rights.” Any renewed violence was also bound to involve Hezbollah, the Iranian proxy in Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Iran, at the end of a large exercise, fired 16 surface-to-surface ballistic missiles using a simulated Israeli nuclear site as a target, followed by a fusillade of drone attacks on the site.
Major General Mohammad Bagheri, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, told the state television that “these exercises were designed to respond to threats made in recent days by the Zionist regime.”
“Sixteen missiles aimed and annihilated the chosen target. In this exercise, part of the hundreds of Iranian missiles capable of destroying a country that dared to attack Iran were deployed,” he added in a thinly veiled message to Israel.
“The military exercise (dubbed Payambar-e-Azam, or “Great Prophet”) … is a serious warning to Zionist regime officials,” said Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) chief Major General Hossein Salami. “Make the slightest mistake, and we will cut off their hand.”
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