Emad Drimly, Osama Radi
July 20, 2011 - 12:00am

GAZA, July 19 (Xinhua) -- Palestinian observers believe that the Gaza Strip may witness more escalation of violence soon between Israel and Gaza militant groups following around one week of tit-for-tat escalation that the coastal enclave had witnessed between the two sides.

During this week, Israeli F-16 war jets carried out a series of intensive airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, which targeted smuggling tunnels underneath the borders between the enclave and Egypt, where three Palestinians were killed and 25 others, most of them civilians, were wounded.

The observers linked between the possibilities of more violent escalation and the developments in the other files of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, mainly the Israeli attempt to keep itself the strongest power in the region to guarantee its presence as well as the Palestinian decision to approach the UN in September.

Israel, meanwhile, believes that its airstrikes are not aiming at escalating violence with the Palestinians after seven homemade rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip and landed on southern Israel during the past five days. No injuries or harms were caused, according to an Israeli army spokesman.

The current developments came after a calm that lasted for two months between Israel and Gaza militant groups in the Gaza Strip, which has been ruled by Islamic Hamas movement since June 2007. Hamas seized control of the coastal enclave by force following weeks of fighting with Fatah party.

Despite the recent mounting wave of violence, the vast majority of the Gaza militant groups refrained from launching homemade rockets at Israel.

However, a radical al-Qaida-inspired Salafi militant group calling itself "Al-Jiahd and al-Tawhid" has claimed responsibility of launching 13 projectiles from the coastal enclave at southern Israel over the past two weeks.

The group, which the public knew very little, has vowed to keep launching homemade rockets from Gaza at Israel within the coming period of time. It said in a communique "all the calls to stop attacks won't obstruct us from carrying on."

The latest wave of violent escalation was in April when 20 Palestinians were killed in a wave of violence which lasted for three days. Following international intervention, Israel and Hamas agreed on a renewal of an old ceasefire according to which Gaza militants should stop launching rockets at Israel.

Following the increasing wave of violence in Gaza between Israel and the radical militants, the deposed government of Hamas movement redeployed security officers close to the borders between the salient and Israel in a bid to keep calm on the ground.

Various sources told Xinhua that the security apparatuses of Hamas government intensified its efforts to prevent militants belonging to extremist groups from firing more rockets at Israel, even if force is used. However, Hamas officials refused to comment.

Israeli Army Radio quoted Israeli army sources as saying that the coming days would witness more escalation. Israel has accused Hamas of not exerting efforts to prevent activists from launching rockets from Gaza at southern Israel. But Hamas held Israel responsible for the current escalation.

Dawood Shihab, Islamic Jihad movement's spokesman in Gaza, told Xinhua that Israel is seeking to escalate violence in Gaza "in order to escape from any international pressure and to escape from its crisis," adding that his movement and other factions' commitments is linked to the extent Israel is committed to.

Hani Habib, a Gaza-based political analyst, told Xinhua that the recent escalation "is a message from Israel that it would retaliate in case the security situation deteriorates further," adding "Currently, Israel is not as interested as the Gaza factions in escalating violence in the Gaza Strip."

"The current security situation will continue in a shape of a tit-for-tat without any kind of large escalation between the two sides in the coming future," Habib said, adding "Militants are firing rockets, Israel threats a large-scale war on Gaza, but then another ceasefire deal will be reached."

Talal Oukal, another Gaza-based analyst, didn't agree with Habib, saying the file of the security situation between Gaza Strip and Israel "will be linked to the military actions and developments on the ground as well as the political situation."

"I don't rule out the possibility that the current situation would keep heating up before the Palestinians approach the United Nations and apply for an international recognition of an independent Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967," said Oukal.


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