On Wednesday night, Israel rejected a ceasefire offer from Hamas and approved a plan to intensify airstrikes in Gaza.
The truce offer from Hamas was made through the Russian foreign ministry. A Hamas official was quoted as saying that the group would halt attacks on a “mutual basis” with Israel.
According to Haaretz, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the ministers in the Israeli security cabinet agreed unanimously to reject the ceasefire and continue bombing Gaza. The cabinet then voted to escalate the attacks indefinitely.
“The campaign is still far from over,” a cabinet member said, according to YNet. “Whatever we don’t do now, we will have to do in six months or a year from now.”
Another cabinet member quoted by Ynet said: “This will not end in the next few days. Israel will not stop and has no interest in stopping. It is all moving in the right direction. We will act until they admit that opening fire was a mistake … When we have hit all our targets, and the other side has still not surrendered, we will launch a ground operation even though we do not seek it.”
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz made similar comments on Wednesday. “Israel is not preparing for a ceasefire. There is currently no end date for the operation. Only when we achieve complete quiet can we talk about calm,” he said.
Throughout Wednesday, Israeli airstrikes pounded Gaza, and rockets were launched into Israel. As of Thursday in Gaza, at least 83 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli airstrikes, including 17 children. Seven Israelis have been killed by Gaza rockets, including one child and one soldier.
The latest violence was sparked by planned evictions of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem. After days of Israeli violence against Palestinian protesters and Israeli police storming the al-Aqsa mosque, firing rubber bullets and tear gas, rockets were fired out of Gaza.
While Israelis have been killed this week due to rockets from Gaza, the first barrage did minimal damage and only “lightly injured” one Israeli. But as usual, the Israeli response was disproportionate. In the first round of Israeli airstrikes, 20 Palestinians were killed, including 10 children. According to eyewitnesses, the strikes targeted a crowded neighborhood in Gaza. Among the slain were two siblings, ages seven and eleven, who were killed while playing in the street.
The first round of Israeli strikes provoked more rocket attacks from Gaza and gave the Israelis the excuse they need to order a major offensive.
The US is standing behind Israel’s latest onslaught. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Wednesday reaffirmed the US’s “ironclad” commitment to Israel. President Biden spoke with Netanyahu and asserted Israel’s “right to defend itself.” At the UN Security Council, the US has twice blocked a statement calling condemning the violence and calling for a de-escalation.