Close to the Brink of War

United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed his concern that the latest escalation of violence in Gaza is a warning to everyone “how close to the brink of war the situation is.” He has therefore urged Israel and the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip to recommit to the cease-fire that ended Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Antonio Guterres speaking at the United NationsAntonio Guterres speaking at a United Nations meeting.

But he words are going unheeded as sirens have blared through the night in southern Israel, warning of incoming rockets. Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired as many as 45 rockets at neighbouring areas of Israel.

In response the Israeli air force mounted 3 separate strikes targeting about 25 terrorist targets.

Hamas praised the rocket attacks from Gaza but did not claim responsibility for them. As usual they blamed Israel for starting the latest round of violence, saying that it’s time to adopt new rules of engagement where bombing is met with bombing. They claim that:

“The resistance is not interested in a new war at all,
but we always want to defend the Palestinian people.”

The incident that prompted this retaliation was an Israeli air strike against Hamas infrastructure. But that strike by the Israelis was, in turn, carried out in response to continued use of Hamas’ latest terror tactic using incendiary kites and balloons.

In recent weeks hundreds of kites and helium balloons carrying flammable materials have been launched across the border from the Gaza Strip, causing near-daily fires in Israel that have burned hundreds of acres of land in southern Israel.

But another reason that Antonio Guterres’ warning looks set to come true is that the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is facing a major funding shortfall since the United States cut $250 million from its budget. The agency is just “weeks away from painful cuts to its emergency assistance for Gaza and elsewhere in the region.”

That can only increase the distress of Gaza’s population further and increase the chances of war.