Ceasefire Still Intact as Worst Violence in Years Erupts Between Hamas and Israel

For months violence has been escalating on the border of Israel and the Gaza Strip between the terrorist group Hamas and Israeli forces.  After a Palestinian sniper killed an Israeli soldier patrolling the border, Israel responded by launching a large-scale bombing campaign throughout Gaza.  The bombings, carried out by Israeli warplanes, are the fiercest violence the area has seen in the last few years.  Isabel Kershner of The New York Times explained how the attacks engendered fears that the escalating violence might lead to an all-out war.  However, other expert analysts pointed out that neither Hamas or Israel is keen to engage in a large-scale conflict.

Ever since Israeli forces left the Gaza Strip in 2005, Hamas was quick to overwhelm the ruling Fatah faction of the larger Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), gaining control of the territory by 2007.  Since then, their tenure over Gaza and its people has been marked by continuous violence and oppression.  Hamas and its military wing, the Izz ad Din al Qassam Brigades, have launched numerous attacks using rockets and terrorist tactics against Israel and its people in an effort to destroy the state of Israel and return to the land they believe to be rightfully theirs.  Over the past few months, Hamas has opted for a strategy of engaging with Israeli forces directly at the border.  The terrorist group has used Gazan citizens moving them to the border with Israel and deploying its own men within the large mass of people armed with guns and explosives to swarm the border and kill as many as possible.

It now appears that violence began to escalate in the region with Friday’s skirmish that killed one Israeli soldier and prompted an intensive aerial bombing response from Israel that left three Hamas militants dead along with a fourth Palestinian who was killed by Israel’s security forces during a demonstration.

A tentative ceasefire has been brokered by United Nations and Egyptian officials between the two sides over the weekend, but this deal appears to be fragile.  On Sunday, July 22, Israel reported that its military fired towards a group of Palestinians who were launching flaming balloons towards Israel.  Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli Defense Minister, is quoted in an article from The Wall Street Journal saying, “Residents of Gaza must understand that as long as there are incendiary balloons and fires on our side, life on their side will not return to its normal routine.  The key is quiet and calm and zero incendiary balloons, zero friction on the border and zero rockets.”

If the fragile peace can be held until Tuesday, Israel said it would lift considerable restrictions it placed on Gaza earlier this month.  These sanctions were imposed to force Hamas to change its behavior and reduce violence carried out by the terrorist organization.  Since the restricitons were implemented, Israel has only allowed food and medicines to pass through to Gaza.

The violence that ultimately culminated in Friday’s killing of the Israeli soldier and Israel’s response using airstrikes in Gaza has been escalating since around March.  Since then, Palestinians have routinely protested and demonstrated at the border.  During those months of protest, roughly 140 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces who claim that many of them were Hamas militants or armed protestors.

While the fragile peace agreements that were struck over the weekend continue to hold, there is no saying how long this could last.  Tension and violence between Hamas and Israel has been a reoccurring theme over the years.  The violence appears to be cyclical, waxing and waning over the months.  Many scholars, analysts, and experts believe conflict will continue until the terrorist group Hamas disbands or gives up its use of violence and politicizes, opting to focus on Gaza’s economic recovery and negotiating with Israel.