On 19 June, a “state of calm” began between Israel and Hamas. The goal of this arrangement was to end Hamas’s rocket fire on Sderot and to gradually open up the border crossings into Gaza for civilian goods. You can see details of the arrangement in our previous post. This arrangement was due to last for 6 months, with possible renewal thereafter.
As you can see from the following graphs, while rocket and mortar fire from Gaza slowed during the “lull,” it never fully stopped. (The graphs are taken from a report published last month.)
In addition, rather than use the “state of calm” to promote peace and to build a civilian infrastructure in Gaza, Hamas took advantage of the situation to expand its terrorist capabilities. In addition to continuing to fire rockets and mortars, Hamas also smuggled weapons and other materiel from Egypt, and expanded its tunnel network, going so far as to dig a tunnel under Israeli territory to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
When Israeli forces acted on intelligence reports and went to investigate the tunnel on 04 November, they came under fire from “Palestinian gunmen” (see news item). The firefight resulted in the death of 1 gunman and the wounding of several others, and the wounding of 4 Israeli soldiers. During the following two days, Hamas launched 47 rockets and 10 mortar shells against civilian areas in Israel. Hamas declared that it had responded to Israel’s actions, and leaders of Israel and Hamas maintained their desire to prevent further escalation of the situation. However, Hamas continued to attack Israel–mostly by rocket and mortar fire–throughout the next few weeks. In order to protect its civilian population, Israel took occasional action against these Hamas terrorists (see the list of Palestinian casualties in November 2008 from B’Tselem–all were killed while carrying out hostilities).
In fact, as the “lull” was due to expire on 19 December, Israel still held out hope that Hamas would renew the agreement. Instead, Hamas declared its unwillingness to renew any agreement and commenced firing rockets and mortars at a higher rate than previously.
From today’s USA Today:
Israel has the inalienable right to defend itself and its citizens. While America and Europe are engaged in wars thousands of miles away from their soil, we are entrenched in the front lines of the West’s war on terror.
In 2005, Israel voluntarily disengaged from Gaza to create an opportunity for peace, giving Palestinians a chance at self governance and economic prosperity. We worked closely with the U.S. and the international community to prop up Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with economic and diplomatic support.
The rest of the article is online through USA Today.
According to Thomas Friedman’s analysis in today’s New York Times, Hamas doesn’t think so–and that’s one of the principle elements in the current conflict. As it happens, Friedman notes, Gaza is at the center of the three existential questions that plague the region today–only one of which involves Israel.
You’ll just have to read the article for the rest of the questions, though.
Bibi Netanyahu’s opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required) discusses the situation in Gaza and the nature of Israel’s repsonse to Hamas terrorism.
Imagine a siren that gives you 30 seconds to find shelter before a Kassam rocket falls from the sky and explodes, spraying its lethal shrapnel in all directions. Now imagine this happens day after day, month after month, year after year.
For the rest of the article, see the Wall Street Journal.