YOUSEF ALHELOU, TRNN CORRESPONDENT, GAZA: Israeli warplanes bombed the Gaza Strip early on Wednesday, causing damage but no injuries, in the first airstrike on the seaside territory since a November ceasefire. The two air raids were the first since Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire on November 21 under Egyptian mediation to end an eight-day war on the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military said the two attacks were in response to rocket fire from the tiny enclave.
On Tuesday, Gaza militants fired a number of retaliatory projectiles into southern Israel after the death of a Palestinian political prisoner who suffered from cancer and died in Israeli custody.
Haidar Eid, a political analyst, told The Real News that through the latest Israeli escalation, Israel is trying the shift the attention on the death of Maisara Abu Hamdeyyah, whose death sparked outrage across the occupied Palestinian territories.
HIDAR EID, AL-AQSA UNIVERSITY: Israel has been violating the ceasefire since November 2012, and Israel wants to shift the attention of the international community from the plight of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails to the military escalation on the borders with Gaza.
ALHELOU: Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket fire, the Israeli military said it holds Hamas-ruled Gaza responsible for any attack against the Jewish state.
For its part, Hamas issued a statement saying that Israel’s airstrikes were a clear violation of the ceasefire and called on Egypt, which brokered the ceasefire, to intervene immediately to end the Israeli escalation and the violations against the Palestinian prisoners.
The Real News talked to the spokesperson of Al-Ahrar movement, which is known to be close to Hamas, who said that his movement is coordinating with other resistance groups in Gaza to decide their response in case the situation escalates
ABU MOHAMMAD, AL-ANSAR BRIGADES, ARMED WING OF AL-AHRAR MOVEMENT (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): The death of Abu Hamdeyyah, and Israeli violations and attacks against our people and our prisoners, are new crimes added to the long list of crimes committed by the Israeli enemy against the Palestinian people. And if these violations continue, then we will retaliate and the enemy should bear the consequences.
ALHELOU: This military escalation occurred as Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza were protesting following the death of 64-year-old Maisara Abu Hamdeyyah, a political prisoner from the West Bank city of Hebron, who had been suffering from throat cancer and was serving a life sentence.
NASHAT AL-WAHIDI, POPULAR COMMITTEE TO SUPPORT THE PRISONERS (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): People from all walks of life participated in this demonstration that took place in front of the UN office in Gaza City to demand the United Nations and all international human rights organizations to hold their responsibilities, to ensure that our Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails get the needed medical care, and to work immediately to free all the detainees and prisoners who suffer from chronic diseases.
ALHELOU: Maisara Abu Hamdeyyah was the second Palestinian political prisoner to have died in Israeli captivity so far this year.
In February, Arafat Jaradat, a 30-year-old Palestinian prisoner, died in Megiddo Prison. His inmates said his death was the result of torture while in prison at the hands of Israeli security forces.
Some Palestinian officials say that the latest developments following Abu Hamdeyya’s death could spur further unrest across the occupied territories, particularly in light of the fact that it occurred less than two weeks before Palestinian Prisoners Day, which has become an annual event that is marked on April 17.
HAMDI SHAQQOURA, PALESTINIAN CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: Palestinian prisoners are subjected to ill treatment. They are subjected to all illegal methods including torture. They are subjected to deteriorating health conditions. Abu Hamdeyyah is not the only case. A few weeks ago another Palestinian prisoner died, and we have great concerns that he died as a result of torture. In the case of Abu Hamdeyya he died as a result of cancer, but for many months we have been demanding Israeli authorities to release Abu Hamdeyyah on a humanitarian background to offer him proper medical treatment.
According to previous and former experiences with the current truce and with the truce system in particular, I’m afraid that this is a beginning of a new round of escalations against Gaza Strip. This is not new for Israel. They start by a few strikes here and there, then provocation will start again, and then we will end up with major large-scale attack on the Gaza strip.
ALHELOU: Last year, 1,200 Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons declared a hunger strike to protest the poor imprisonment conditions and administrative detention, a military procedure which allows detainees to be held without trial or charge.
After decades of conflict with Israel, the issue of Palestinian prisoners is emotionally charged in Palestinian society. And with the latest military escalation, it seems the fragile truce will hold for some time before it collapses.
Yousef Alhelou reporting for The Real News, Gaza.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.