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“Israel Delivers ‘Total Blockade’ of Gaza; Conflict with Hamas Drags On

Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has issued a stern warning as the conflict between the Israeli military and Hamas militant group entered its third day: a complete siege of Gaza. The explosive events that unfolded in Gaza over the weekend began with the targeted killing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Bahaa Abu el-Atta. Since then, the already highly volatile region has experienced waves of air strikes and rockets from both sides, with 100 Palestinians reported dead and 10 Israelis injured. In his statement, Defense Minister Bennett declared Israel’s intention to shut off all movement in and out of the Gaza Strip, blocking both supplies and people. Israel is already in the process of preparing for a large-scale operation in the Gaza Strip, the likes of which have not been seen in decades. International observers worry that the looming siege could lead to a further humanitarian disaster for the already struggling citizens of Gaza, whom have endured a crippling Israeli-imposed blockade since 2007. The current wave of conflict has put the divided Israeli government in a tough spot. With November’s elections fast approaching, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must decide whether to launch a full ground invasion in Gaza, thereby risking the international criticism such a move would attract, or pursuing a more focused military campaign. Meanwhile, the international community is divided on how to address the current crisis. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that while the US condemns all acts of violence, it supports Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket fire. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, however, has called on the UN Security Council to act on what he calls Israel’s “crimes”. Whatever the outcome, it is clear that Gaza is once again being thrust into a cycle of destruction and despair, with no end in sight. All parties involved must make an effort to de-escalate the situation before it spirals out of control.