Late last night on Twitter, the Israel Defense Forces’ official account claimed that in recent hours, more than 100 rockets were launched by Hamas at Israeli civilians. The tweet also added, “No nation would accept this threat, neither will we ItMustStop” According to Hamas, Israel has launched as many as 60 airstrikes in recent days, and if their tweet is any indication, the Israeli military’s new operation against Hamas likely won’t end soon.
As recently as last month, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres met together with Pope Francis, and took turns praying for peace in the region. The pope went as far as calling the meeting a “great sign of brotherhood which you offer as children of Abraham.”
So, how did the current situation escalate so quickly? The tensions in Israel are extremely complex, and have longed been fueled by political disagreements, rocket attacks and airstrikes, but the most recent spikes in violence stem from the murder of three Israeli teens and subsequent revenge attacks.
Three Isreali teenagers were abducted while hitchhiking. Israel claimed that Hamas—an organization the U.S. State Department has labeled as a terrorists group—was responsible. Hamas denied involvement but praised the captors. Israel launched a controversial search effort to find the teens, initially arresting 350 Palestinians.
The bodies of the three Israeli teens who were abducted three weeks earlier were found murdered in an open field in the West Bank.
On July 2, the body of a murdered Palestinian teen is found. Investigators say he had was burned alive. Shortly after, Israeli forces arrested six suspects, calling the killing a “nationalistic incident,” indicating it may have been a revenge killing.
The cousin of the murdered Palestinian, a Palestinian-American teen who lives in Florida and was visiting his family in Jerusalem, was badly beaten and arrested by Israeli police. The circumstances of his arrest and detainment have been disputed, but a U.S. State Department official said, “We are profoundly troubled by reports that he was severely beaten while in police custody and strongly condemn any excessive use of force.” The incident is being investigated.
Though the recent aggression seems to be rooted in response to the violence against the teenagers, the conflict is layered in questions about the idea of collective punishment, terrorism, political affiliations, justice and long-standing regional tension. In the March/April issue of RELEVANT, we took an in-depth look at the conflict, and the complex history of the Holy Land.
The political situation in the region remains complicated, as Hamas—who is said to have an arsenal of more than 10,000 rockets that they’ve shown they are willing to fire into Israel—maintains ties with Abbas’ government. The number of casualties from the most recent Israeli airstrikes, which target the sources of the rocket attacks, are still unclear at this point, but a Palestinian medical source told CNN that 10 people—two of which were children—were killed Tuesday. The Israeli military, in response, shared a photo underscoring Hamas’ tactic of using “human shields” by firing rockets from populated areas.
This morning, Israel announced that it was calling up 40,000 reserve troops that may be used in a ground offensive within Gaza. In a statement, the military officials said, their goal is to “retrieve stability to the residents of southern Israel, eliminate Hamas’ capabilities and destroy terror infrastructure operating against the State of Israel and its civilians.”