An Israeli lawmaker has told Al Jazeera that his party warned about events like Saturday’s Hamas attack on Israel if the country’s government continued its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.
Hamas launched a multipronged assault at dawn on Saturday with thousands of rockets fired at Israel, and the Gaza-based group’s fighters infiltrating Israeli towns and illegal settlements.
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The attack left at least 600 Israelis dead, including dozens of soldiers, with bodies strewn on roads. Meanwhile, at least 313 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,700 others wounded in Israeli bombardments of the besieged Gaza enclave.
Ofer Cassif, a member of the Knesset and leftist Hadash coalition, said he warned the situation would “erupt” if the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not change its policies towards Palestinians. Hadash has four seats in the 120-member Knesset.
“We condemn and oppose any assault on innocent civilians. But in contrast to the Israeli government that means that we oppose any assault on Palestinian civilians as well. We must analyse those terrible incidents [the attacks] in the right context – and that is the ongoing occupation,” Cassif said.
“We have been warning time and time again… everything is going to erupt and everybody is going to pay a price – mainly innocent civilians on both sides. And unfortunately, that is exactly what happened,” he said.
“The Israeli government, which is a fascist government, supports, encourages, and leads pogroms against the Palestinians. There is an ethnic cleansing going on. It was obvious the writing was on the wall, written in the blood of the Palestinians – and unfortunately now Israelis as well,” he added.
More than 20,000 Palestinians have left Gaza’s border region to head further inside the Hamas-controlled territory to seek refuge in UN schools, according to UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees.
Previously, conflicts between Israel and Hamas resulted in extensive devastation in Gaza and days of rocket attacks on Israeli towns. The current escalation appears to be even more precarious than normal, as Israel’s far-right government grapples with the unprecedented security breach, while Palestinians are mired in despair due to the ongoing occupation in the West Bank and the suffocating blockade in Gaza.
“The only thing Netanyahu cares about is not the well-being of the citizens of Israel, let alone of Palestinians in the occupied territories,” Cassif said. “He is interested in surviving. He just wants to stay out of prison. That is the only motivation and incentive that drives [him].”
Netanyahu is facing numerous legal troubles at home with the country’s attorney general filing several charges against him, including fraud, breach of trust, and corruption. The Israeli leader has strongly denied the charges.
The latest escalation raises the prospect of a broader regional conflict. On Sunday, Hezbollah, a powerful armed group backed by Iran, said it had launched guided rockets and artillery onto three posts in Shebaa Farms “in solidarity” with the Palestinian people.
Shebaa Farms, which is claimed by Lebanon, was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.
The Israeli military said on Sunday it fired artillery into an area of Lebanon from where cross-border mortar fire was launched. Israel’s military said one of its drones struck a Hezbollah post in the area of Har Dov, an area in Shebaa Farms.
“I’m afraid that some of the elements like Hezbollah are going to join this war. I hope not, of course. Indeed, for the sake of all people, of all civilians, Palestinians and Israelis alike, I hope that that this is going to end as soon as possible,” Cassif said, adding that “the only way to stop the bloodshed of both peoples is to put an end to the occupation”.
On Sunday, an Egyptian policeman opened fire on tourists in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, killing at least two Israeli nationals and one Egyptian, according to local media reports.
Extra News television channel, which has close ties to Egyptian security agencies, quoted an unidentified security official as saying that another person was wounded in the attack at an Israeli tour group in Pompey’s Pillar site in Alexandria.
“This morning during a visit of Israeli tourists in Alexandria, Egypt, a local opened fire at them, murdering two Israeli citizens and their Egyptian guide,” Israel’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
“In addition, there is a wounded Israeli in moderate condition,” the statement added.