The euphoria following Gaza resident Mohammad Assaf’s victory in Arab Idol, characterized by dancing in the street, fireworks, and gunfire, turned sour after at least six rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel overnight, prompting an Israeli response and endangering the six-month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
The prevailing narrative surrounding Assaf’s Arab Idol win was that it gave Palestinians a brief reprieve from the discordance among the ruling factions in Gaza and the West Bank.
Mr Assaf performed his final song before judges in Beirut on Friday. “Raise Your Keffiyeh” refers to the head scarf that is also a nationalist symbol. The song, which dates back to the 1990s honours prisoners in Israeli jails and those killed in the conflict with Israel.
Firas Iziyah, a barber, said Mr Assaf’s triumph meant so much to Palestinians because it was a bright moment within a bleak situation.
“It shows that a Palestinian can succeed in this world,” he said. “I think this shows we love peace and is a message of peace to the world.”
That’s an odd song choice for a message of peace and love, perhaps punctuated by the fact that while Gaza streets were alight with celebration, a subterranean feud between terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad boiled to the surface after a member of the latter was killed as Hamas police sought to haul him off to jail.
The Islamic Jihad militant who was killed, Raed Jundiyeh, was wanted by Hamas in connection with the kidnapping of a Gaza resident. He was also apparently wanted by Israel for his role in rocket attacks. Mr. Jundiyeh was shot in the head on Saturday after he apparently resisted arrest and he died on Sunday. Islamic Jihad militants then blamed Hamas militants for causing more tension at the funeral, raising the possibility that the rocket attacks against Israel were meant as some kind of payback.
None of the rockets caused injuries in Israel–two of them were reportedly struck down by Iron Dome–but Israeli forces fired back, targeting an Islamic Jihad installation and smuggling tunnels near the Egyptian border at Rafah. By some accounts, Hamas has been working to hold the Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hamas since last year’s conflagration. Nevertheless, it’s horrifying and surreal to consider that this spate of rocket fire against Israel was actually conducted with revenge against Hamas in mind.