Israel has launched a series of war games throughout the occupied territories, including one in southern Israel that will reportedly simulate the capture of Gaza City.
The war games, which began on Sunday, are expected to continue until the end of the week, which will see “increased movement by security forces, vehicles and aircraft,” the Israeli military said.
According to Israel’s Walla news website, one of the war games led by the 162nd Armored Division will drill capturing Gaza City in the Gaza Strip.
The drills began a day after Tel Aviv launched its heaviest bombing of the Gaza Strip since 2014, prompting UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov to warn that Israel and Gaza were on the brink of war.
Israeli threats of a full-scale war on the Gaza Strip follow its efforts to stop incendiary kites and balloons being launched from the besieged territory, but to no avail. There have been hundreds of fires at Israeli farms caused by kites and balloons carrying firebombs.
A group of young Palestinians who have been launching the primitive devices into southern Israel threatened to step up their activities on Sunday.
The self-styled “Sons of Zouari” said they would conduct a “high-quality response” against Israel in light of its intensified attacks on the Gaza Strip.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh also said at a funeral that the Palestinians would challenge Israel with protests near the Gaza fence until an Israeli blockade on the impoverished enclave is lifted.
At a press conference on Sunday, Mladenov said the rapid deterioration of the situation in the coastal enclave has a humanitarian factor, where “the economy has collapsed” amid the crippling Israeli siege for more than a decade.
United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) media adviser Adnan Abu Hasna said Palestinians in the Gaza Strip “have nothing to lose” as he warned of a new Israeli war.
“We hear the attacks, the drones and the F-16s. The people are talking about an escalation and these kinds of things,” he said.
“The damage from the 2014 war has still not been repaired, but the central problem here in Gaza is that people have nothing to lose,” Abu Hasna told Israel’s Ynet news website.
Saturday saw dozens of Israeli airstrikes, killing two Palestinians. Some 200 rockets and mortars were fired from the enclave at Israel in response, leaving four Israelis injured.
The Israeli military announced that it will be deploying additional Iron Dome missile batteries in southern Israel and in the greater Tel Aviv area, following the escalation. It also called up reservists to provide additional manpower for these batteries.
‘Israel killing Palestinian children’
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, said on Sunday Israel was “deliberately targeting and killing Palestinian children.”
Her comments came after an Israeli missile hit a half-constructed high rise in Gaza, leaving two teenagers dead. Another teenager was shot and killed by Israeli forces as he attended protests along the Gaza fence on Friday.
“Israel is deliberately targeting and killing Palestinian children. Such a brutal and criminal campaign against the people of Gaza is allowed to persist by the international community’s inaction and American collusion with the military occupation,” Ashrawi said.
“The targeting of public places and playgrounds constitutes a war crime and violates international law and international humanitarian law,” she added.
Ashrawi said as long as the world remains silent, “Israel’s systematic campaign of brutalizing and terrorizing innocent Palestinians will only continue.”