With the beginning of 2022, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is about to witness a new round of violence.
As of January 3, tensions continue to grow in the Gaza Strip, where a confrontation may break out soon, while the situation in the western bank remains unstable.
The escalation in Gaza began on January 1, when Palestinian gunmen fired two rockets at the Israeli capital, Tel Aviv. One of the rockets fell near Tel Aviv while the other landed near the kibbutz of Palmahim, south of the city. No casualties or material losses were reported.
The rocket attack was reportedly carried out in support of Palestinian detainee Hisham Abu Hawash, who has been on a hunger strike for more than 140 days. Abu Hawash, who is currently in a critical health condition, is protesting against his administrative detention.
Israeli authorities claim that Abu Hawash is an activist of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and poses danger to security, but have not given conclusive proof.
No faction has claimed responsibility for the rocket attack so far. Despite this, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) held the Hamas Movement, the de-facto ruler of the Gaza Strip, responsible for the attack. Some observers believe that it was in fact, the PIJ that carried out the attack.
On January 2, the IDF responded to the rocket shelling on Tel Aviv by attacking several targets of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli fighter jets, attack helicopters and battle tanks struck two observation posts located to the north of Beit Lahia, the third observation post located to the east of Beit Hanoun and the Al-Qādisiyyah military site that is located to the west of Khan Yunis. Palestinian sources didn’t report any casualties.
During the strikes, Palestinian fighters targeted Israeli helicopters with two Soviet-made 9K32 Strela-2 MANPADs [man-portable air-defense system] and heavy machine guns. However, no hits were reported.
Later Palestinian fighters fired several rockets over the sea as a part of a live-fire test that was apparently meant as a warning to the IDF.
The situation in Gaza may escalate further in the upcoming days as the issue of Abu Hawash is yet to be resolved. Egypt is currently making diplomatic efforts to prevent a full-blown confrontation between the IDF and Palestinian factions in the enclave.
The situation in the Western Bank is not much better. On January 1, 88 Palestinians were wounded during clashes with Israeli security forces during protests in the town of Burqa in the province of Nablus.
The locals were protesting against recent attacks by Israel settlers on their town. The settlers, who were evacuated from the nearby settlement of Homesh, have been attacking the Arab town since December 23.
The protests in Burqa will likely spread to other parts of the Western Bank in the upcoming few weeks. The actions of Israeli security forces against the town’s Arab locals could also provoke a response from Palestinian factions in Gaza, leading to more escalation there.