The eight days of fighting in Gaza in October marks the latest event in a long history of violence and tension between Israel and the Hamas-controlled territory of the Gaza strip. The region has not seen peace in decades, and while there is currently a ceasefire between the two nations, every day is a reminder that peace is not assured, and any day could mark another volley of rockets, another neighborhood bombed, and more lives lost.
Palestinian militants in Gaza began firing large numbers of rockets into southern Israel toward the end of October, killing four Israeli civilians and one soldier. Israel’s response to the attack was the largest offensive in over four years, with an estimated 158 Palestinians killed, some military and many civilians. Much of the Western world has showed its support of Israel defending itself, with those not supporting the military action condemning Palestine’s attack.
Since Hamas took over control of Gaza in 2007, there has been perpetual fighting of some kind near the border of Israel, with regular threats from both sides of the fence.
With the ceasefire in place, many are wondering how long it will last and what, if anything, will come of the truce. Most involved in the situation do not expect the ceasefire to last long at all, and are questioning whether it will make any real difference. One man in a Gaza hospital was quoted as saying that “the Jewish people do not want a ceasefire and it won’t work with them at all. There won’t be a huge difference, with or without a truce.”
Many older families in Gaza and southern Israel are concerned that their children will not have a real future ahead of them. A young child in Gaza said that she dreamed of peace forever and a better life, and hoped to stop this war. Her parents were less optimistic, realizing that centuries of political, ideological, and religious tension do not evaporate because of a ceasefire.
Following the ceasefire, Israel has locked down its borders to prevent Gaza militants from obtaining more rockets and war materials. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, is concerned that any move to open the borders again would reawaken the conflict and cause further bloodshed.
Part of the underlying tension between Israel and Gaza lies in the fact that Hamas controls the province. Hamas, a militant organization, has been branded a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, and the European Union due to its failure to renounce violence as a legitimate means to achieve its political ends. In addition to being ideologically opposed to much of Western and Israeli beliefs, Hamas also refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of Israel as a nation and government.
In addition to ideological differences between the two states, Hamas was founded with the intention to destroy Israel as a nation. While the modern organization has downplayed that goal, it still functions as a considerable attraction to many terrorists with similar goals. Hamas has made little effort to eradicate the destruction of Israel from its charter, and in the process has lost a great deal of credibility in the eyes of the rest of the world. Any action by Hamas that directly targets of indirectly endangers civilians is seen as an act of terrorism.
Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 encouraged Hamas to redouble their efforts against Israel, because they had control of a border nation. They saw it as a major victory in their fight against Israel. It remains to be seen if sustainable peace will come to the region and what form that peace might take.