De-escalation of tensions in Gaza

Following urgent appeals from the international community and tireless mediation efforts of Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) have reached a truce. The two sides pledged to stop targeting civilians and destroying homes. The agreement helps to temporarily de-escalate tensions, but the Israeli-Palestinian conflict still requires a comprehensive solution.
Smoke rises after Israel conducted an air strike in the Gaza Strip on May 10. (Photo: AFP/
Smoke rises after Israel conducted an air strike in the Gaza Strip on May 10. (Photo: AFP/

Fierce fighting between Israel and PIJ in the Gaza Strip broke out on May 9. According to the Gaza-based Palestinian health agency, Israel’s air strikes have left at least 33 Palestinians dead and 150 injured. Meanwhile, the Israeli military said out of 1,469 rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, 1,139 hit Israeli territory. Israel's Magen Ambulance Service confirmed two Israelis were killed. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once affirmed that the Israeli army is ready to expand the military Operation Shield and Arrow against Gaza.

Concerned about the dangerous escalation of conflict in the Gaza Strip, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that the situation of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip is unacceptable while calling on all relevant parties to exercise restraint. The UN Secretary-General also called on Israel to abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law, including the proportional use of force and taking all feasible precautions to spare civilians and civilian objects in the conduct of hostilities. The Arab League (AL) voiced its opposition to Israel's air strikes against the Palestinian territory. The AL called on the UN Security Council to take measures to maintain peace and security in Gaza and pressure Israel to stop its air strikes.

From the US, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had a phone talk with his Israeli his counterpart, Tzachi Hanegbi, to discuss the ongoing conflict in Gaza and efforts in the region to negotiate a ceasefire. Sullivan reaffirmed the US administration's unwavering support for the security of its ally Israel and called for efforts in the region to mediate a ceasefire. Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, reiterated the EU's call to Israel to cease any unilateral actions that could blow up tensions that have been already severe. The EU condemned the attacks on Israelis, but also expresses concern about the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Violence between Israel and armed groups in Gaza threatens to explode into a major conflict as the annual Jewish flag parade is about to take place and is said to incite Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, causing tensions to escalate. Egypt has claimed responsibility for mediating the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. This is the second time that Egypt has acted as a mediator between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip over the past month.

Immediately after the ceasefire was reached, Israel announced its reopening of border crossings with the Gaza Strip. The Ministry of Defence of Israel announced the lifting of the blockade order at the Kerem Shalom intersection for cargo trucks and the Erez intersection, the only pedestrian crossing between Gaza and Israel, after six days of closure. Israeli authorities said that border crossings and maritime areas controlled by Israel will gradually be reopened and all gateways with the Gaza Strip will soon be restored.

Tensions between Israel and Palestine stem from hostility and persistent unresolved conflicts, especially after the Middle East peace process stalled and fell on an impasse. Small sparks of smouldering contradictions could erupt into conflict anytime. The most important issue is still a diplomatic solution to help resolve differences through dialogue and make stronger efforts to restart the Middle East peace process, towards achieving sustainable and fair peace based on a two-state solution.