Hamas’ armed wing said March 21 that it would commit to a truce if Israel stops bombarding the Gaza Strip. However, the al-Qassam Brigades vowed to resist if Israel continued to attack the enclave. Brigades spokesman Abu Obeida said the group had fired mortars into the Western Negev on March 19 in response to Israeli aggression. Three days earlier, two of its members were killed in an Israeli air strike. The call for a ceasefire came as Israeli warplanes struck garages by a mosque east of Ash-Shuja’iyeh near Gaza City. No injuries were reported, but residents said Israeli fighter jets were circling above the besieged strip.
On March 20, Israeli tanks shelled several targets in the central Gaza Strip, leaving one man injured by shrapnel. Two 17-year-old Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire the night before. The armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, the an-Nasser Brigades, issued a statement declaring its launches of projectile fire into Israel operation “Winds of Change.” The group said the campaign was “in response to the offensive on Gaza.” (Ma’an News Agency, March 21)
“Price tag” attacks in Galilee
There were meanwhile reports of Israeli vigilante “price tag” attacks spreading to the Galilee in response to the Itamar massacre on the West Bank. Two vehicles belonging to Arab students were set on fire in the northern city of Safed on March 16, and slurs reading “Death to Arabs”, “Kahane was right,” and “revenge” were sprayed on the walls of the city’s Zefat Academic College. Police launched an investigation, but no suspects have been arrested yet.
Some 250 Jewish and Arab students held a demonstration outside the college later that day calling for co-existence. Said student Walid Ghanim: “The college just held a conference on the issue of dialogue and co-existence between Arabs and Jews. Since the incitement against us began, we had to reiterate that we haven’t come to live here, but only to stay at the dorms during our studies. Unfortunately, since Safed’s Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu spoke out against Arab students living and studying here – we’ve have been feeling persecuted. It is reflected in threats, curses, and as we can see now – damage to property,” he said. (YNet, March 16)
On March 19, Alber Halul, a 22-year old Christian Arab from the Galilee town of Gush Halav, was hospitalized after being stabbed multiple times by a group of masked men he claims were haredim (ultra-orthdox Jews). Halul says he was at a gathering with friends in a wooded park outside the city when they were accosted. “They threw stun grenades and fired in the air. Then eight masked men got out of the car and began to attack us. The guys I was with ran away but I stayed to protect a girl who was with us. They stabbed me 10 times in my head, my leg, and my neck until they hit me hard and I fell to the ground.” (YNet, March 20)
See our last post on Israel/Palestine.