The Israeli army has carried out airstrikes and a ground offensive against Gaza since July 8, 2014, leading to heavy fatalities. The death toll in Gaza is now over 800 people, and the number of victims is continuing to mount. In contrast, 32 Israeli soldiers and three residents of Israel (one of which a Thai migrant worker) have been killed (Hindustan Times 2014). Some people might call this a ‘ground offensive’, but considering the significant amount of fatalities among civilians, this indiscriminate killing can only be considered a ‘terrorist attack’.
The government of Israel justifies these attacks on residential areas in Gaza, because the Hamas is firing rockets from those residential areas. Israel, therefore, considers it unavoidable that Palestinian civilians including children and women are among the victims (Barnard and Rudoren 2014). But this seems to be a very cheap excuse, because there are only very few Israeli casualties. The United States, the main protector of Israel (also defending it against international sanctions), has paid $176 million in annual military aid to purchase the Iron Dome, or the missile defense shield, which has a successful interception rate of 84%, and keeping the civilian casualty rate close to zero, no matter how many rockets Hamas is firing at Israel (Tran 2014). Needless to say, many Palestinians do not enjoy the same luxury of a missile defense shield.
The superficial reader of the newspaper might think that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a two-sided match, whereby both sides are commencing with hostilities, and that no side can be more evil than the other. But I do not see any two-sidedness, because that would require that both sides are equally strong, which certainly is not the case. On the one hand, we have a relatively affluent country, which receives billions of dollars in annual military aid, weaponry and technology from the world superpower, and on the other hand, we have a very poor community, which does not even receive any recognition from the UN, and they receive some shipments of equipment and financial support from Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia (Wikipedia, “Hamas Funding”).
But even the Iranian and Egyptian support to the Hamas is not secure, which stands in stark contrast to the unequivocal US backing of Israel. Since the Hamas has supported the Sunni opposition in Syria, which opposes Assad’s Alawite regime, Iran has cut funding for Hamas in June 2013, which relied on the $20 million a year from Iran to run the government (Al-Arabiya 2013).
In Egypt, the pro-Hamas Muslim Brotherhood regime of Mohamed Morsi was toppled in the summer of 2013, leading to the military rule of Abdulfattah el-Sisi, who has been at odds with the Hamas, and seems to favor the Westbank-based Fatah (Toameh 2014). This condition exacerbates the precarious position of Gaza, because it has borders with Israel and Egypt. Under Morsi there were different supplies that were brought into Gaza, but Sisi has cracked down on these supply routes, having even shut the Gaza-Egyptian border to largely prevent the evacuation of Palestinian bombing victims (Alalam 2014). Sisi has also ordered the military to destroy the tunnel that supplied Gaza with basic supplies, and it was later rebuilt by the Palestinians (DailyMail 2014). It is true that the Hamas has also used the border crossing to receive arms supplies, mainly rockets to be fired against Israel (Trager 2014). But in addition to that, the tunnels were the main way to supply the Gaza residents with fuel, gas, building materials and medicine, though not enough to make up for the Israel imposed blockade that they suffer from. The tunnel trade used to provide the Hamas with $200 million in revenues, but that has been reduced to a trickle of a few million dollars at most, as of the beginning of 2014 (Kershner 2014).
The Hamas has every reason to demand the vital link between Egypt and Gaza, because Israel has severely restricted the imports of goods into Gaza. The amount of construction material, which are all essential to rebuild Gaza after the severe bombings, imported via Israel has declined drastically, especially since the end of last year. Gaza’s economy crumbled, not only due to the war. Its unemployment rate is 40%, and thousands of public employees are unpaid, because the Hamas government did not have any revenues (Casey, Solomon and Mitnick 2014). This kind of economic desperation is the perfect justification for radicalizing the population, and make them participate in terrorist activities.
Israel has blockaded the border crossing to Gaza at least since the Hamas takeover of government in June 2007. There are three border crossing points, Karni, Sufa and Kerem Shalom, and they are all controlled by Israel. As a result of the boycotts, 90% of the factories have closed down and many thousands of Palestinians have lost their jobs. Food and medicine have become scarce commodities. Israel has full air space control in Gaza, which it has frequently used to monitor Palestinian activities and to carry out their airstrikes. It also controls seas, and has prohibited Gaza from setting up a sea and airport to prevent it from trading with other countries. Keeping the country poor is definitely an inducement for more terrorist activity. Israel has full tax authority, and collects the revenues for the Palestinian authority (PA), and then transfers that amount to the PA, which gives Israel the power to deny the funds to the programs that they don’t like (BTselem 2014).
The crucial question is what the next steps should be, and how to bring about a peace process. I don’t find it likely that a solution will be found anytime soon. At some point, the Israelis get tired of the bombing, and will call for an end of the operation. Physically and economically, it should be feasible for them to keep the war going. The US senate has passed a unanimous resolution to give Israel full support for Israel’s actions (Haaretz 2014). With the hegemon, giving full support to Israel, the bombing can go on for a long time. Is Netanyahu expecting the full-scale collapse of Hamas? I doubt it, because as suffering in Gaza increases, the rallying behind Hamas will likely increase.
The moves are quite clearly controlled by Israel, and not by the Hamas. There might still be a moral appeal to violence happening on “both sides”, but the situation would calm dramatically if the shelling of Palestinian neighborhoods and civilians would stop.