Israel arrests 120 militants amid Hamas shelling

The military wing of Hamas has continued to shell Israeli territory, launching 12 more rockets more on Sunday, while the Israeli authorities reported the arrest of 120 Palestinian activists in the southern West Bank last night.

The Israeli operation met insignificant resistance with Palestinian teenagers throwing stones at soldiers who returned fire with rubber bullets.

Tensions on the ground are intensifying swiftly, bringing fears of an escalation to a full-scale armed conflict.

There are concerns around the region that the conflict is escalating and will only continue to intensify.

Tensions on the ground are mounting rapidly. At least 15 Palestinians have been killed in the past few days and dozens have been injured, while today alone some 70 Grad and Qassam rockets rained down on southern Israel, with dozens of Israelis injured.

It was the heaviest salvo of rockets from Gaza since Israel staged an all-out ground and air operation in Gaza to stop daily rocket attacks in early 2009.

Palestinian missiles have been reaching as far as 40 kilometers into Israel’s territory, one of them making a direct hit on a private house, killing one and seriously injuring three people. Dozens more were injured at other locations.

Some of the missiles have been intercepted by the Israeli anti-missile system known as Iron Dome.

In response, the Israeli army has shelled militant targets in Gaza killing seven people on Friday alone.

At least two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip landed in the Egyptian border town of Rafah but there were no reports of casualties.

On Sunday, at least 12 rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel, no information about casualties arrived.

The violence began when unnamed terrorists ambushed vehicles in southern Israel on Thursday, killing eight people. Israel carried out multiple air strikes on militant targets in Gaza over the weekend, killing 15 people.

Palestinians now fear that the Israeli government will use this latest round of violence to argue that there should not be recognition of a Palestinian state at a special UN session scheduled to discuss the issue in New York next month.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has already said that the violence is proof that Palestinians are not serious about peace. Palestinian leaders declared in response that Israel’s position is “madness.” They say that Israel is trying to gather international support in order to prevent Palestinians from declaring their own state come September.

­Israel and Egypt on the verge of conflict

The ongoing violence between Israel and the Palestinians has led international mediators from the Mideast Quartet – the UN, US, EU and Russia – to call on Egypt to help its neighbors establish a ceasefire.

The Mideast Quartet issued a statement condemning the attack on Thursday that killed eight Israelis and sparked the spiralling violence. The diplomats also called on Israel to stop its attack on Gaza. Arab leaders are to meet on Sunday to discuss the situation.

Israel finds itself facing both security and diplomatic challenges, with Cairo declaring that it will withdraw the head of its mission in Tel Aviv, putting at risk already faltering relations between the two countries.

Cairo had been insisting on a formal apology from Israel for the inadvertent killing of five Egyptian policemen on the border, demanding not only an expression of regret but a commitment from Israel that such would not happen again.

On Saturday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he regrets the deaths of the five Egyptian border guards who were killed. He had also said that he had ordered an immediate investigation.

Egypt is considering withdrawing its ambassador from Israel.

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