Huge orange flashes were all that were lighting Gaza City Monday night as Israeli airstrikes pounded the coastal enclave, wounding eight Palestinians, including two children.
It seemed Gaza’s residents were either trying to capture the bombardments with their cellphones, or trying to calm their scared children as apartments shook from nearby bombings on several empty buildings associated with Hamas, and dozens of rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel.
Israeli jets fired two missiles on a commercial building in the upscale Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City, which housed the offices of Ismail Haniya, the political leader of Hamas movement. This attack wounded two Palestinians, and caused excessive damage to the property and surrounding homes.
Despite reports that militant factions in Gaza have announced that Gaza and Israel had reached an Egypt-brokered ceasefire, both sides appeared to have breached the truce.
Haneen Basel, 30, mother of three sisters said that she was afraid to send two of her daughters to the school next morning “as the truce could be breached in any minute.”
“The elementary school is so close to a large Hamas training camp in western Gaza, that could be bombed without a prior warning,” Basel said, “I barely convinced them to go back to sleep due to the bombings after they were screaming hysterically all night long.”
Moving to the southern part of the city, long spontaneous queues of people were waiting out of Gaza’s biggest bakery to buy bread at midnight, a scene usually occurring during escalations.
Muzaffar Batniji, 27, shoemaker, said that his family urged him to buy 200 loaves of pita bread, “just in case of this escalation might continue for a week or more.”
“Lining up in such queues worryingly recalls the last wars on Gaza, where my family lost three cousins… every frightful thing that may come up in one’s imagination… bakeries might run out of bread for days as happened before,” Batniji told Mondoweiss.
Earlier Monday, the Israeli military said it was deploying an additional infantry brigades and an armored brigade to bolster forces around the Palestinian coastal territory, and was calling up a limited number of reservists from specialized units.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said that he was cutting short his visit to Washington, with the rocket attack posing a new challenge to his bid for re-election just two weeks before Israelis go to the polls.
The rocket attack came less than two weeks after Israel and Hamas worked to de-escalate tensions after two rockets from Gaza were fired at Tel Aviv. One struck open ground near the suburb of Holon. The other may have exploded in midair or fallen into the sea.
The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that rockets fired from Gaza overnight into the Israeli town of Sderot after the reported ceasefire went into effect and added that one home was hit causing damage but no injuries.
Gaza’s factions said that they would “adhere to the ceasefire if Israel does.”
The military escalation came after a rocket fired from Gaza struck a home in central Israel on early Monday, wounding seven.
It was the first time a rocket struck deep inside of Israel since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.
Israel has also waged three offensives on Gaza since December 2008, a year after Hamas took power in the besieged enclave.
The last war of 2014 severely damaged Gaza’s already weak infrastructure, prompting the UN to warn that the strip would be “uninhabitable” by 2020.
Tensions have been escalating for the past year along the Israel-Gaza fence since Palestinians began their weekly protests, during which more than 260 Palestinians have been killed. Gaza’s living conditions have grown worse because of chronic fuel and electricity shortages, compounded by an ongoing 12-year Israeli blockade, as residents have had as little as four hours a day of power for much of the last few years.
Protesters have demanded the right to return to their homes and villages in historic Palestine, and demanded an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.