In the first three days of its air offensive against the Palestinian militant group Hamas — to which Islamic Jihad is affiliated — the Israeli Defence Force struck more than 780 targets in Gaza, including leaders of the organisation, rocket-launchers and missiles which had been deliberately hidden among the territory’s civilian population.
Meanwhile, Hamas has been firing hundreds of its own rockets at Israel from shifting launch-sites in the Gaza Strip.
But what makes this latest outbreak so terrifying in the endless tragedy of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is the extraordinary intensity of both the provocation from Hamas, and the response from Israel.
Hamas, for the first time in years, has been targeting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. As a result, nearly three million people in these cities were forced into bomb-shelters during that very same World Cup semi-final.
In the past week, Hamas rockets have also been fired at targets as far away as Hadera and Haifa in northern Israel, and at the heavily-protected Dimona plant where Israel’s nuclear warheads are made.
Hamas’s military wing, the Army of Al-Qassam, has only been able to display such ambition because it has recently added a formidable new weapon to its armoury of more than 11,000 missiles — a clutch of Syrian-made M-302 rockets with a range of 100 miles.
Before now, the maximum range of their rockets had been in the region of 50 miles.
But with this dramatic escalation in Hamas’s ability to strike deep into Israel, the Israeli Defence Force is threatening a ground invasion of Gaza.
It is no understatement to say that the inevitable bloodshed and carnage that would follow such a development could inflame tensions throughout the Middle East, especially if Hamas manages to incite a general Palestinian uprising.
Given the horrific chaos that already exists in Syria and Iraq, it is little wonder that world leaders are deeply worried and calling for restraint on both sides.
Ever since the Israeli state was created in 1948, and carved out of land that used to be Palestine, there has always been a sense of grievance among Palestinian Arabs, many of whom were dispossessed when Jewish settlers moved in.
Although 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs still live in Israel, huge numbers left their land and moved to Gaza — a strip of territory 25 miles long by seven miles at its widest — which is now home to 1.5 million people and one of the most densely crowded areas on Earth.
Whatever the rights and wrongs — and there are wrongs on both sides — it is perhaps understandable that their descendants feel resentment towards Israelis who live on land they believe is rightfully theirs. See photos from the carnage below:
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