11/13/2018, 17.26
ISRAEL – PALESTINE
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Christian leader worried about the ‘sudden and inexplicable’ escalation in Gaza

Tensions between Israel and Hamas continue in the Gaza Strip. For Sobhy Makhoul, the violence caught everyone by surprise at a time of negotiations and calm with Egypt and Qatar mediating. US interests weight heavily in the area. The next few hours will be crucial.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The sudden escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza caught everyone by surprise. Public opinion was told about "ongoing negotiations, of the involvement of Qatar and of Egypt", which could lead to "more lasting calm,” said Sobhy Makhoul, of the Maronite Church in Jerusalem and director of the Christian Media Center, speaking to AsiaNews.

In light of this, it is hard to understand and explain the flare-up of the past few hours, which left several people dead and many wounded. "For the time being, Israeli media haves not provided any explanations," Sobhy Makhoul said.

"We need to wait for the situation to evolve in order to understand the developments over the coming hours, to see what happens in the next two days. The situation has become suddenly hot, and we don’t know who is behind this."

In Gaza, tensions continue to run high. Fighting broke out after Israeli special forces began a night operation last Sunday. This came in the wake of months of protests over the decision by US President Donald Trump to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

The commando was able to penetrate three kilometres into the Strip, with the aim – according to Palestinian sources – to kidnap Marwan Issa, the number two of Al-Qassam's Brigades.

So far, seven Palestinians and an Israeli soldier were killed in the fighting, which went on yesterday with the relentless launch of missiles from Gaza against Israel and a series of air strikes by Israeli planes.

In a statement, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “following closely the latest security developments in Gaza”, urging “all parties to exercise maximum restraint. At the same time, “The United Nations Special Coordinator, Nickolay Mladenov, is working closely with Egypt and all concerned parties to restore calm.”

For Sobhy Makhoul, "US moves in the Middle East are the problem; in particular, in our area. The attempt to isolate Hamas and Hezbollah, the attempt to block funding from Iran" have increased tensions. Negotiations were underway; so, there are no apparent reasons for blocking everything".

What’s happened today "is anomalous and different from past crises," he added. "No one has any reasons to exacerbate tensions. Things were getting progressively better in terms of the economy, work and pilgrimage.”

In the past month alone, "480,000 tourists arrived for pilgrimages or religious visits. If the situation heats up, it will be big problems for everyone and this applies also to Christians who follow closely the evolution of events.”

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