Editor’s Note: Things have been heating up again in the Middle East. Should the U.S. be doing anything about it?
Israel’s military said Monday it downed a drone along its southern coastline, and fired two deadly airstrikes into the Gaza Strip, in its week-long campaign against Islamic militants.
The drone came from Gaza and was shot down by a Patriot surface-to-air missile near the southern city of Ashdod, the military said. It did not say what the drone was carrying and there was no immediate confirmation from Gaza on the use of unmanned aircraft.
Monday’s Israeli airstrikes killed four more Palestinians in the coastal strip, in the southern city of Khan Younis, according to officials from the city’s European Hospital.
The officials said Saddam Moamar, his wife Hanadai, and his father Mousa were killed by an airstrike that hit their house. Their neighbor, Maher Abu Mor, was killed in another airstrike while standing on the rooftop of his home, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media. It was not immediately clear why their homes were targeted.
Israel began its campaign against militants in the Hamas-controlled Gaza last Tuesday, saying it was responding to heavy rocket fire from the densely populated territory.
The fighting began after three teenaged Israeli boys were kidnapped and found dead in the West Bank on June 30. Hamas did not claim responsibility for the murders but praised them. Days later, a Palestinian teenager was found dead, sparking days of violent protests in Arab areas of Jerusalem and northern Israel.
Israel charged three Jews with the kidnapping and killing of the Palestinian teen Monday. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says the three appeared before a court and admitted to abducting 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir and setting him on fire. Rosenfeld says they also re-enacted the murder.
Abu Khdeir was taken on July 2 near his home in east Jerusalem and his charred body was later found in a forest. Israel’s Shin Bet security service says the suspects, whose names were not released, were motivated by revenge after the kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli teens.
Monday’s strike against Israel introduces the use of drones with an offensive capacity, which could potentially inflict significant casualties — something the rockets from Gaza have failed to do, largely because of the success of the Israeli military’s ‘Iron Dome’ air defense system shooting them down.
In addition to the drone, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) says that militants have launched at least 971 rockets at Israeli cities in the six days since Israel launched “Operation Protective Edge,” a bid to halt such attacks. No Israeli fatalities have been reported, though a teenage boy was seriously injured by rocket shrapnel in the town of Ashkelon on Sunday.
The military says that due to years of generous Iranian shipments, thousands of rockets remain in Gaza, and there is no quick way to eliminate the threat. The army says Hamas has an arsenal of some 10,000 rockets, including longer-range, foreign-made weapons capable of reaching virtually anywhere in Israel. The current round of fighting has seen air-raid sirens sound in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, Israel’s three largest cities.