Israel’s security cabinet late Monday has reportedly given approval to military forces to escalate their attacks against Gaza.
A large-scale military operation against the Palestinian enclave is off the table for now, but the cabinet has ordered the Israeli army to significantly expand its operations, senior officials told Israeli daily Haaretz.
“The blows will be harder,” one of the senior officials told Haaretz. “We will escalate the attacks to make it clear to [Hamas] that it is in their interest to stop the rocket fire. We are prepared to broaden the operation in case the rocket fire does not stop.”
An Israeli officer told the newspaper that the army is preparing to call up 1,500 reservists for the escalation.
Tensions with Gaza have increased since mid-June, after Israel launched a major series of searches and arrests in the occupied West Bank after the disappearance of three Israeli teenagers, whose bodies were found last week.
The announcement of Israeli’s escalation on Gaza follows a week of increased rocket fire from both sides as tensions have flared first in East Jerusalem and then in the West Bank following the suspected revenge killing of a 16-year-old Palestinian on Wednesday.
Earlier Monday, three Israeli suspects arrested the day before for the killing of a Palestinian teenager confessed to the kidnapping and killing the teen, Mohammed Abu Khdeir.
An autopsy report released on Saturday concluded that Abu Khdeir was burned alive before his charred body was found in Jerusalem Forest on Wednesday morning.
The three who confessed performed a re-enactment of the crime, a source told AFP, requesting anonymity.
Following the suspects’ arrest on Sunday, officials indicated on their suspicion that the crime was “nationalistic”, but further details have not been released, nor have the identities of the suspects.
Authorities have placed a gag order on most aspects of the investigation into Abu Khdeir’s murder.
But Honenu, a legal organization which often defends right-wing ultra-nationalists, said it was representing six people – three of them minors – whose remand was extended by the Petah Tikva magistrates court, just outside Tel Aviv, on Sunday.
Honenu attorneys told Arutz Sheva 7, an Israeli television station, that their clients have been subjected to hours of intensive interrogation and have been denied sleep, food, water “and the opportunity to relieve themselves in a dignified way.”
The attorneys also said they plan to appeal their clients’ remand extension.
An official told the Associated Press on Sunday that evidence points towards the perpetrators being “Jewish extremists”, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
(Middle East Eye – www.middleeasteye.net)