Why is there fighting in Gaza?
Between 12 June and 7 July, Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired over 300 rockets into Israel from Gaza. On 3 July, Israel offered “quiet for quiet” ie if Hamas stopped firing rockets there would be no need for Israeli defence. Hamas ignored this offer and continued firing rockets. The range of Hamas’ rockets puts over 5 million Israelis in danger, they can reach as far as Jerusalem and Haifa over a 100km north of Gaza. When a rocket is fired, Israelis have between 15 and 90 seconds to find shelter. According to the UN every single rocket that is fired indiscriminately at Israeli civilians constitutes a war crime.
On 8 July Israel commenced “Operation Protective Edge” to defend its citizens and to give them safety and security. Israel has a right and an obligation under the principles of international law to protect its citizens. Initially the Operation was conducted without ground forces and was designed to quell rocket fire by targeting the launch sites and munitions stores that Hamas deliberately located in civilian areas including in mosques, schools and hospitals.
On 17 July, Hamas terrorists emerged from a tunnel on a Kibbutz within Israel, with the intention of carrying out an attack on residents in the area. On July 18 Israel launched a ground operation with the purpose of destroying the tunnels. Over 30 tunnels have been found and destroyed.
Despite the media’s love affair with the numbers game, the number of deaths on each side is NOT a measure of the proportionality of a conflict, according to international law. Rather international law requires that the force used to achieve a military object (here the cessation of rocket fire from Gaza and the destruction of tunnels) must be no more than is necessary to achieve that object. Hence whilst death of civilians in close proximity to an arms cache or rocket launching site is regrettable the fact that civilians might be casualties of a strike designed to neutralise that site does not make that strike disproportionate or unlawful in International law.
Ok, but why are they still fighting?
Israel has unilaterally and unconditionally ceased fire on 2 occasions (July 15 and July 17). It has been a willing party to bilateral agreements for a ceasefire on 6 other occasions (July 20, July 26, August 1, August 4 and August 5-8, August 11-14, August 15-19). Each time it is Hamas and its fellow terror organisations in Gaza that has either refused the ceasefire outright or breached the agreement by shooting rockets into Israel. Israel has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to stop the fighting. Hamas has repeatedly demonstrated that it is not interested in stopping.
Israel and the Palestinians – Humanitarian relief
The only border crossing into Gaza that is open is from Israel. Israel continues to facilitate the delivery of food, fuel and medicines into Gaza notwithstanding that the Hamas rulers of Gaza are sworn to Israel’s destruction and the death of its civilians. Israel supplies Gaza with electricity and water. Israel has also set up a temporary field hospital for Palestinians on the Israeli side of the Erez border crossing and continues to permit Gazans to cross into Israel for medical treatment. Despite continued rocket fire, including mortars being fired directly at the border crossing, Israel facilitates aid for the residents of Gaza.
Hamas endangers Palestinian lives
Israel has gone to unprecedented lengths to warn civilians of an impending attack. It has dropped leaflets, sent text messages, made phone calls and carried out warning strikes. Hamas defies Israel’s efforts to protect Palestinian civilians and urges them to remain in targeted buildings and to act as human shields. Hamas is a terrorist organisation and is recognised as such by Australia, the US, Canada and the EU. Their genocidal Covenant calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews. Hamas, ISIS, Hezbollah, Boko Haram are all cut from the same cloth and desire the elimination of non-Muslims and the imposition of an Islamic caliphate across the world.
Hamas hides rockets in schools, mosques and hospitals. On 3 separate occasions UN officials have announced that rocket caches have been found in UNWRA schools. Hamas’ leaders are hiding out in the basement of the Shifa hospital and in tunnels.
Gaza… Blockade? Occupied?
In September 2005, Israel completely withdrew from Gaza and ended its occupation. Since that time, Israel has not exercised any governmental control or administrative authority in Gaza.
Gazans had the opportunity to create the foundations of a thriving State and Israel encouraged them to do so by leaving behind millions of dollars worth of infrastructure including housing, factories and greenhouses. There was NO blockade of Gaza between 2005 and 2007.
A partial security blockade was imposed on Gaza in 2007 after Hamas’ bloody takeover of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority and used Gaza as a base from which to continue its jihad against Israel. The rockets are not a response to the Gaza blockade, they are what brought the blockade into being in the first place to prevent Hamas and its terrorist allies from obtaining supplies that would allow them to manufacture weapons and infrastructure to attack Israel.
The blockade does NOT prevent Gaza from receiving food and medical supplies. As noted above Israel provides Gaza with electricity and water despite the fact that Hamas owes millions of dollars for those supplies and refuses to pay.
The 2011 Palmer Report found that the naval blockade “was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law”.
Where to from here?
If Hamas stopped firing rockets today there would be no more destruction and waste of life in Gaza. If Israel stopped defending itself from Hamas there would be no more Israel. Until Hamas ceases to influence events in Gaza or undergoes a fundamental change of direction the prospects of lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians remains remote if not unattainable.