Released fire: Hamas attacks Israel with incendiary balloons

At least let’s get the sequencing straight. Most media outlets report the latest conflict in Gaza similarly to Today by reporting on the response rather than the instigation. After Hamas sent incendiary balloons into Israel that started numerous fires, the IDF responded by targeting more Hamas operations within Gaza:

Savannah Guthrie frames this as “Israel says” that Hamas sent the balloons, but NBC has it on camera. But least most American media mention the Hamas attacks in the same breath, even if out of order. Al Jazeera didn’t even mention the provocation in its headline:

Ahem. Shouldn’t the big story be that Hamas is violating that cease fire — literally by sending fire — not that Israel is responding to the violation? The Washington Post does a little better, but it’s still the counterpunch that gets the lead:

Israeli airstrikes struck Gaza in the early hours of Wednesday in retaliation for incendiary balloons that crossed into the country from Hamas-controlled territory — an exchange that highlights the fragility of a cease-fire in the region and poses a first test for Israel’s new government.

Israeli jets struck military compounds allegedly belonging to Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, according to an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) statement.

Hamas “is responsible for all events transpiring in the Gaza Strip, and will bear the consequences for its actions,” the IDF said. It said Israel was “prepared for any scenario, including a resumption of hostilities.”

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the airstrike. Israeli authorities reported that the incendiary balloons had sparked 20 fires near the Gaza border, according to Reuters.

A cease fire that doesn’t cover actual fire isn’t much of an agreement, after all. If an industrialized nation used incendiary bombs in a war against civilian population centers even with precision against military targets, the outcry would be enormous, and legitimately so. And the media’s coverage in that case wouldn’t be the reaction to that kind of war-crime attack.

Nevertheless, as the New York Times reports, mediators are stepping up efforts to restore the cease-fire after the IDF’s response, rather than holding Hamas accountable for violating it in the first place:

International mediators stepped up efforts Wednesday to broker a longer-term truce between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that dominates the Gaza Strip, after the first armed exchange between the two sides since the end of an 11-day air war in May.

Egyptian and United Nations diplomats were mediating between both sides, two diplomats involved in the talks said. The effort followed a day of escalating tensions on Tuesday after the new Israeli government permitted far-right Jews to march through Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem. In response, militants in Gaza sent several incendiary balloons into Israel, causing 26 fires, and Israeli aircraft fired missiles at several military posts in Gaza in the early hours of Wednesday morning. No casualties were reported.

The escalation was the first major test for the fragile new Israeli government that on Sunday replaced Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving leader, after winning a confidence measure in Parliament by just one vote. Its first major decision was to allow the provocative far-right parade, a decision that angered Arab and left-wing members of the coalition.

Double ahem. Hamas doesn’t attack Israel because of parade permits. That’s an absurd construct. Hamas attacks Israel because they want Israel annihilated, and they use whatever they can to justify those attacks. The first step in “mediating” this conflict is to recognize it for what it is — an attack on Israel’s existence using any asymmetrical means necessary.

The IDF’s quick response does tell us something about the new coalition government in Jerusalem, though. At least for now, it’s Bibi without Bibi — hard line on Hamas, with potentially slightly more willingness to entertain a two-state solution once the Palestinians stop demanding “from the river to the sea.” So far, it’s not looking good on the Palestinian side. Perhaps the UN and Egypt should start working on that.