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Israel, Palestine exchange hostilities hours after Biden’s departure

Palestinian fundamentalist organisation Hamas had its facilities in southern Gaza struck by Israeli fighter jets on early Saturday morning, just hours after US President Joe Biden flew from Israel to Saudi Arabia on a Middle East trip aimed at deepening Israel’s integration into the region.

Israel, deeming Hamas a terrorist organisation, carries out military operations against its infrastructure and members. In the latest episode of such undertakings, the Israeli military said it hit the organisation’s two facilities, arguing that one of the targets had been an underground rocket-manufacturing plant.

Gaza witnesses claimed the targetted sites were Hamas training camps, Reuters reported, adding that there was no word of injuries.

Meanwhile, the southern Israel district of Ashqelon woke up on Saturday night to the sound of sirens launched to alert residents to incoming rocket fire. One missile was intercepted by the Iron Dome and three others landed in open spaces, the military said, adding that they were launched from the northern Gaza Strip.

🇮🇱 — VIDEO: Sirens and a successful Iron Dome interception over Ashqelon after 2 rockets were fired from Gaza moments ago. pic.twitter.com/KhlDT6kQuD

— Eretz Israel (@EretzIsrael) July 15, 2022

The Israeli military said the attack came shortly after midnight. The attack was not immediately claimed by any group.

It is difficult to establish which hostility was carried out first.

Back to ‘normal’

The exchange of fire between Israel and Palestine is bitter proof that the visit of the US President did not bring the much-needed Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation.

To recall, during his meeting with the head of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, President Biden offered no new solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum other than restating his support for a two-state model.

Instead, President Biden promised to continue meting out financial support to Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem. The sum of funds earmarked to that end is to amount to USD 100 million.

Hamas has been scathing about President Biden’s visit with the organisation’s spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum saying that the Israeli bombing “reflected US support and encouragement the Zionist entity had received to pursue its aggression and crimes”.

The likely purpose of President Biden’s Middle Eastern tour is to create a Middle Eastern market that would comprise Israel, but also Saudi Arabia, Gulf countries and Jordan. This was alluded to by Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who expressed his hope that such a move “will change the reality here from end to end, in both the fields of security and of economics. Therefore, I hope the emphasis during Biden’s visit will be on creating this new market in the Middle East.”

Insofar as Israel has been normalising diplomatic relations with Middle Eastern and North African Muslim countries, the case of Palestine and its rights remains important for Muslim communities across the region. Bringing about a common Middle Eastern market will be difficult also owning to the United Arab Emirate’s intention to rebuild its relations with Iran while shunning US gestures at improving Abu Dhabi’s ties with Washington.

We are in the process of sending an ambassador to Tehran. All these areas of rebuilding bridges are ongoing,” UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash told reporters ahead of a visit to Paris by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

Finally, the Saudis will have to state their take on the idea as President Biden visits the Kingdom on Saturday and Sunday.

But what really is at stake, is the help of OPEC giant Saudi Arabia at a time of high crude prices and other problems related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. President Biden has been encouraging efforts to end the Yemen war, where a temporary truce is in place. Moreover, Washington also wants to curb Iran’s sway in the region and China’s global influence.


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