Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Intensifies with Rocket Fire and Troop Deployment
On July 8, 2014, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched Operation Protective Edge, a campaign including airstrikes throughout the Gaza Strip. This recent escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank.
The Israeli government blamed the murders on the political militant group Hamas, which has neither denied nor taken public responsibility for the deaths. Shortly after the bodies were found and a funeral held, Guardian reports that three Israelis kidnapped a Palestinian youth named Mohammed Abu Khdeir in West Jerusalem and burned him to death as revenge for the Israeli victims. Within days, militants in Gaza began launching rockets into southern Israel in response to the killing.
Over 100 rockets have struck Israel since July 7, with more being intercepted by the Iron Dome Missile defense system. The rockets have been aimed at population centers such as Tel Aviv, and have gone 100 km (62 miles) north of Gaza to Hadera, marking the farthest into Israel a rocket from Gaza has ever reached. Both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad have claimed responsibility for some portion of the rockets. A spokesperson for the Islamic Jihad said “our activity will expand in accordance with the expansion of Israeli aggression,” while Hamas has pledged to avenge the deaths of at least two of its members killed in the Israeli airstrikes thus far.
Israeli air raids into Gaza have targeted up to 400 sites in the first two days, including many locations associated with members of Hamas, according to CBC news. The Israeli government has also approved the mobilization of 40,000 reserve troops, mostly infantry, to be stationed along the border for a possible ground offensive. So far, 23 Gaza residents are reported dead with 122 injured, making this clash the most deadly since Operation Pillar of Defense against Hamas in Gaza in Nov. 2012. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the IDF to “take the gloves off” and “prepare for a thorough, long, continuous and strong campaign in Gaza.”
Leaders on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have expressed desire to end the violence. Israeli president Shimon Peres, quoted by Israel National News in a July 7th speech, stated: “We cannot come to terms with death, there is no compromise with mortar shells, and there is no compromise when we face constant danger falling on the heads of children and their mothers.” During the same speech, he also encouraged his audience “to separate the Palestinian Authority (PA) from Hamas…. Hamas is a terrorist organization that wants to kill, devastate, and hurt innocent people, while some Palestinians are moderates pushing for peace.” A statement from the office of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas demanded “Israel immediately stop its escalation and the raids on Gaza.” Abbas is also urging other world leaders “to immediately intervene to halt this dangerous escalation which would lead the region to more destruction and instability.”
Associated Press, “Israeli Rockets Strike at More than 400 Gaza Sites,” cbc.ca, July 9, 2014
Ornit Atzar and Tova Dvorin, “President Shimon Peres Insists Hamas, Fatah Separate,” israelnationalnews.com, July 8, 2014
Peter Beaumont, “Three Israelis ‘Confess to Killing Palestinian Teenager,'” theguardian.com, July 7, 2014
William Booth and Ruth Eglash, “Israel Presses Air Assault as Hamas Fires Salvo of Cross-Border Rockets,” washingtonpost.com, July 8, 2014
Steven Erlanger and Isabel Kershner, “Israel and Hamas Trade Attacks as Tension Rises,” nytimes.com, July 8, 2014
Y Net News, “Abbas Urges Israel to Stop Gaza Operation,” ynetnews.com, July 8, 2014