Skip to main content


New tensions in an old conflict

My wife, six children and I have taken to huddling in our living room, says Refaat Alareer in The New York Times. We reckon that’s “the place least likely to take a stray hit from Israeli missiles”. Part of me wants to take the kids outside, so we’re not “sitting ducks” – but at least at home we would “die together”. This is life in Gaza, where Israeli missiles are raining down on us once again. Our children are being killed: 31 at the last count, along with 88 adults. Our homes and infrastructure are being destroyed. And with talk growing of an Israeli land invasion, the population is “living in constant dread”.

It’s much the same in Tel Aviv, says James Inverne in The Jewish Chronicle. You’re eating dinner and the air-raid siren goes off. A panicked run to the “missile-proof (we hope) safe room”. Uncertain smiles to reassure the kids. And all to the constant “thump, thump” of the Iron Dome defence system, which automatically launches projectiles to intercept Hamas rockets (see box below). Without it the Israeli death toll of eight would be much, much higher. As unsettling as they are, those thumps have become “the vital beating of a country’s heart”.

As usual, the conflict was “sparked by tensions old and new”, says Felicia Schwartz in The Wall Street Journal. Jerusalem saw its “worst violence in years” ahead of a looming Supreme Court decision – now delayed – about the eviction of Palestinians from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. That overlapped with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and an Israeli holiday celebrating the capture of the city in 1967. Eventually Hamas started firing rockets from Gaza into Israel – more than 1,600 have been launched since Monday. And Israel retaliated with airstrikes.

The fighting “serves political agendas on both sides”, says The Washington Post. Hamas was denied a chance to take over the Palestinian leadership last month when the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, postponed a promised election. By “deliberately crossing an Israeli red line”, the group hopes to “complete the discrediting” of Abbas and disrupt Israel’s newly friendly relations with several Sunni Arab states. Meanwhile, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has just “failed to form a new government” and faces being dumped out of office – leaving him open to prosecution on corruption charges. As is so often the case in these never-ending wars, “no one on either side stands to benefit from the fighting, other than the feuding political leaders”.

How the Iron Dome works

Israeli officials claim the Iron Dome is intercepting 90% of Palestinian rockets, says Adam Taylor in The Washington Post. Put into service in 2011, the missile defence system fires “interceptors” to take out rockets heading towards populated areas or infrastructure. Recent software improvements have made it much more capable: it is now so good, the US military has bought a couple of batteries. But Palestinian militants are adapting their approach, says Anshel Pfeffer in The Times. They have been “firing rockets at a lower trajectory to avoid interceptors”, and launched “three concentrated silos of dozens of rockets each” on Wednesday night in an effort to overwhelm the system. So far, though, the Iron Dome has largely stood firm.