War in Israel updates: Islamic Jihad commander eliminated; U.S. mediates

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, posted on May 12, 2021 via @SecBlinken Twitter. 

Islamic Jihad commander eliminated, as sirens wail on 

Meanwhile, the U.S states that it is working “around the clock” to mediate the conflict 

By Rachel Brooks

May 17, 2021 

The war in Israel continues, after a week of hostilities that followed the police of a heated Palestinian protest demonstration at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The week of hostilities saw a record number of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel.

Casualties ensued on both sides, though the accurate numbers of both side’s reports were debated in the chaos of the fighting. The highest recorded number of casualties are currently those of Gazans. 

It was reported that on the Gazan side, Islamic Jihad and Hamas were using civilians as human shields, which resulted in casualties as the Israel Defense Force proceeded with response to attacks. Civilian casualties were also the result of indirect aggression between Israel and the Palestinian Authority as riots between Jewish and Arab citizens ensued. An Israeli man in Lod was among the casualties, suffering a fatal blow to the head during the riots. His name was Yigal Yehoshua, age 56 at the time of his passing. Yehoshua was a plumber who worked with Israelis and Arabs during his career. He was reportedly killed by a blow from a brick to his skull. 

The IDF reported that it took advanced precautions to reduce the number of unintentional civilian casualties in the direct engagement between Israeli and Gazan forces. On May 17, the IDF showed footage of an advanced fire jet dropping a “roof knocker” device, which is a specialized non-explosive device that warns non-combatants if the building they occupy is a target and that they should evacuate. 

“IDF fighter jets struck the main operations center of the Hamas internal security forces in northern Gaza. The operations center was a central part of Hamas’ terror infrastructure. We provided advance warning to those inside & allowed sufficient time to evacuate,” tweeted the IDF on May 17. 

The Israeli Defense Force is one of the world’s most advanced militaries. They have publicly announced a strategy known as Operation Guardian of the Wall which seeks to eliminate the commanders and infrastructure that enables Hamas to pursue militant Islamism. Earlier on May 17, and in pursuit of this strategy, the IDF reported that it had eliminated an Islamic Jihad commander of 15 years. 

“This is the moment we targeted Islamic Jihad Northern Division Commander in Gaza, Hussam Abu Harbid. As an Islamic Jihad commander for 15 years, he was behind rocket launches, shootings, & anti-tank missile attacks on Israel. He won’t be committing any more terrorist attacks,” tweeted the IDF on May 17. 

Global response to the conflict continues to remain at an all-time high of rhetoric. The Jerusalem Post reported that the United States is “working extensively” to bring the hostilities to a halt. The U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that the United States was “working around the clock” to help put an end to the violence. Blinken rejected reports that the U.S. was blocking diplomacy at the United Nations. He also denied seeing evidence that Hamas had a stronghold in the Al Jalaa tower building, where Al Jazeera and the Associated Press likewise had Gaza bureau offices. Blinken said that he would leave it up to others to weigh in on intelligence matters.

Blinken stated via the official Secretary of State Twitter account that he has spoken on mediation efforts with the foreign ministries of Tunisia, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,  Egypt, and Jordan regarding Israel-Gaza conflict deescalation efforts. On May 12, Secretary Blinken likewise stated that he has spoken to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on matters of deescalation. Blinken has not shared any reports via his official Twitter account regarding speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or the Israeli Foreign Minister on the escalations of violence.

Also on May 17, Arab News reported that, as part of “intensive” mediation, the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates engaged in a telephone conference to discuss ways to mediate an end to the violence between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. This follows a statement from the Biden administration, delivered via the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, that the Biden administration is committed to engaging both sides to accept a conflict resolution mediation. 

The Biden administration continued to engage with Arab national leaders regarding the conflict. Also on May 17, President Biden stated that he would speak with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the continued escalations. 

The French President Emmanuel Macron approached the Egyptian president and the King of Jordan in his diplomatic efforts to develop a concrete ceasefire agreement between Gaza and Israel. The French president extended support to Israel, and spoke of commitment to peace.