Update: A spokesperson for Hamas said Monday that an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire had been reached with Israel.
Israel announced Monday that it began bombing Gaza again.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at a joint press conference at the White House alongside President Donald Trump, announced that his country was "responding forcefully" to a rocket fired earlier in the day from Gaza that injured seven people near Tel Aviv.
An unnamed senior Hamas official told Haaretz that the rocket may have been a mistake or a decision by an individual member of the group.
Given the blockaded territory's dense population, civilian casualties are likely.
Seeing numerous reports from Gaza now that Israeli airstrikes have destroyed a multistory building in a populated area in central Gaza belonging to an insurance company.— (((YousefMunayyer))) (@YousefMunayyer) March 25, 2019
Israeli warplanes are in the sky right now, bombing the Gaza Strip. Reports indicate Israel's air force has bombed an agricultural area east of Khan Younis in Gaza’s south and several buildings https://t.co/TrmduyBmHS pic.twitter.com/rNNmwfGJB9— The IMEU (@theIMEU) March 25, 2019
Israeli warplanes strikes and completely destroy a government building in the west of the Gaza City used by the Internal Security Services #GazaUnderAttack— Middle East Monitor (@MiddleEastMnt) March 25, 2019
LIVEBLOG => https://t.co/HjpgVUlJlm pic.twitter.com/iZnvj0FEpc
"With 15 days remaining until the general election," argued Israeli journalist Amos Harel, "Israel's military reaction is likely to be stronger than it has been in recent months."
"The steps already taken—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shortening his visit to the U.S., calling up the reserves to man the Iron Dome air defense system, sending forces to the south—show that Israel is preparing for a campaign likely to last several days, if not more," he added. Netanyahu was scheduled to deliver a keynote address at the annual AIPAC conference.
Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International's deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said early Monday—before Israeli bombs started dropping—that the potential for widespread civilian casualties in a conflict were high.
"Israel has repeatedly displayed a chilling disregard for civilian life and carried out wide-scale deadly attacks in densely-populated civilian areas of Gaza in violation of international humanitarian law," Higazi said.
"There must be no repeat of the unlawful attacks that killed and injured thousands of civilians in Gaza, destroyed homes, and devastated infrastructure during conflicts in previous years," he added.
Among those previous military campaigns was "Operation Cast Lead," which took place in 2008 and 2009 and killed an estimated 1,400 Palestinians.
Israel-based human rights organization B'Tselem decried the new military action as "sheer madness":
Another war in Gaza is sheer madness. More dead, wounded, rockets, bombs, devastation. And to what purpose? To find ourselves back at square one?— B'Tselem בצלם بتسيلم (@btselem) March 25, 2019
The dead – theirs and ours – will be gone forever.
It is a folly that will be paid for in blood, a crime to cover up a failed policy. pic.twitter.com/vltPf4BWBJ
During the joint press conference, Trump issued a proclamation declaring the Golan Heights to be part of Israel. The area has "important water sources," as Bloomberg noted, and, as Democracy Now! summed up last week:
The Golan Heights area covers less than 500 square miles along Israel's northeastern border with Syria. Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 after capturing the territory from Syria during the 1967 war, but the international community does not recognize its sovereignty. In November, the U.S. said it planned to vote against a U.N. resolution calling for Israel to end its occupation of the Golan Heights.
The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights also denounced the U.S. legitimacy of Israel's annexation of the territory:
No unilateral "proclamations"—whether about Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, or Palestinian refugees—can erase the Palestinian and Syrian identities of those places or the ongoing resistance of the Palestinian and Syrian peoples against oppression. pic.twitter.com/SHrj1P5NEO— US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (@USCPR_) March 25, 2019
Rebuking the new proclamation, Philippe Nassif, Middle East advocacy director at Amnesty International USA, called the "decision to recognize the Syrian Golan Heights as Israeli territory is irresponsible, reckless, and yet another example of the Trump administration violating international law and consensus by condoning Israel's illegal annexation."
"Such announcements—like the administration's decision to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel—will only make the human rights crisis in the region worse," he continued. "Trump must understand that a just and sustainable peace requires full respect for international law and human rights."
Those announcements were, however, warmly embraced by Netanyahu.
Speaking from the White House, he said of Trump, "Israel has never had a better friend than you."