Israeli forces Sunday attacked the Occupied Gaza Strip using an artillery missile and a barrage of gunfire, an offensive that came as representatives from more than 70 countries met in Paris for a peace conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Witnesses told the Palestinian state agency WAFA that Israeli tanks patrolling the border area bombed with one missile and opened fired with machine guns toward a location east of Rafah. The attack did not cause any injuries but destroyed local infrastructure.
The agency said Israeli military claimed that the attack was in retaliation to its troops coming under fire from Gaza.
Meanwhile, in Paris diplomats from key European nations and members of the U.N. Security Council as well as many Arab countries, met for a one-day international Middle East peace conference where they warned of either side taking “unilateral” decisions without negotiations.
The participants "call on each side ... to refrain from unilateral steps that prejudge the outcome of negotiations on final-status issues, including ... on Jerusalem, borders, security, refugees and which they will not recognize," the conference's final statement said.
French diplomats said the statement made a veiled threat to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and his plans to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and declaring the city Israel’s capital.
A French diplomatic source told Reuters that there had been tough negotiations on that paragraph. "It's a tortuous and complicated paragraph to pass a subliminal message to the Trump administration."
While the Palestinian leadership welcomed the conference, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had rejected participating first when the talks were proposed, called the Paris meeting “useless.”
"I must say that this conference is among the last twitches of yesterday's world. Tomorrow's world will be different — and it is very near,” the Israeli prime minister declared in his weekly address.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who warned Saturday that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem would kill off the peace process, said the Paris meeting would help stop "settlement activities and destroying the two-state solution through dictations and the use of force."
But Palestinian resistance groups and factions criticized the conference as participants failed to bring Israel to the table and warned that Netanyahu would simply turn to Trump to challenge any positive outcomes from the Paris talks.
Kayid al-Ghoul, a senior leader in the Gaza Strip for the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine told Palestinian news agency Ma'an Sunday the conference would suggest “bypassing the right of return and self-determination" for Palestinians by pushing for the mere U.S.-backed two-state solution.
Talal Abu Tharifa, a Gaza-based leader within the left-wing Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, echoed the same concern saying that such a conference would create "low standards" regarding Palestinian rights, according to Ma’an.
Daoud Shihab, a senior Islamic Jihad official in Gaza, told the agency that the conference was just another attempt to resume a peace process “that Israel has already killed and buried, while the international community still refuses to admit that Israel is the main source" of the crisis.