An ongoing exchange of missiles and rockets between Gaza militants and Israeli Defense Forces escalated over the course of the week, culminating in roughly 29 Israeli airstrikes overnight. IDF authorities say the airstrikes only targeted Hamas bases and Al-Quds Brigades forces, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, but critics have long criticized Israel of engaging in disproportionate response when it comes to comparing the homemade rockets of Gaza militants to its much more advanced weaponry. Critics have also charged that Israeli strikes purportedly only targeting "militants" is nearly impossible in densely populated Gaza.
According to the Ma'an news agency in Gaza:
[Israel's overnight] bombardment, which injured three Palestinians, came in response to the firing of dozens of rockets by Islamic Jihad on Wednesday, which themselves were a response by the group to Israel's killing of seven Palestinians -- including three of the groups' members -- in separate incidents earlier in the week.
By late Thursday, tensions seem to have subsided though many remained concerned that the latest Israeli incursion could lead to wider escalation.
"Even if this latest escalation doesn’t immediately break out into full-scale war, it’s one more step on the way towards that path," writes Alex Kane at Mondoweiss. "That’s because the Egyptian and U.S.-brokered ceasefire from 2012 between Palestinian militant groups—including Islamic Jihad and Hamas—has been threatened by repeated Israeli violations. And it’s those Israeli violations that have provoked rocket fire into Israel."
The escalation arose as UK Prime Minister David Cameron visited to the region for the first time since taking office in 2010. Following his visit, Cameron issued a "gloomy assessment of the state of the Middle East peace process after two days of talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders, saying a successful outcome was only possible, not probable," as the Guardian reports.
Leaders from Islamic Jihad said the two sides had reached a ceasfire on Thursday, a claim the Israeli Defense Forces denied.