The current operation in Gaza is not of Israel’s choosing. Time and again, Israel acted – and refrained from acting – in order to avoid a confrontation. In stark contrast to Israel’s restraint, Hamas has consistently taken actions designed to inflame the situation further and extend the hostilities.
Events leading up to Operation Defensive Edge
Unprovoked rocket fire at Israel
The current round of hostilities began on Thursday, 12 June, when terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip launched another round of rocket fire, directed primarily at communities in southern Israel. The rocket fire at Israel escalated sharply on Monday, 30 June and peaked a week later, on Monday, 7 July, when no fewer than 80 rockets were launched at Israeli cities.
Hamas bears responsibility for the current situation. Many of the rockets were fired directly by Hamas terrorists. This terrorist organization is also accountable for rockets launched by other terror groups by virtue of the fact that it has controlled Gaza since 2007.
In the 26 days between 12 June and 7 July, approximately 300 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip. Hamas directs its rockets at Israeli civilians. Each launch of these indiscriminate weapons that targets civilians is a war crime.
During this time, Israel demonstrated great restraint. Its measured responses were intended to restore calm, without the need for a major military action while Israel concentrated its main efforts on the diplomatic arena.
The operation was launched in response to rocket attacks, nothing more
Many Palestinian supporters have tried to portray Operation Defensive Edge (which began on 8 July) as a reaction to the tragic events in Israel and the West Bank in the prior weeks. That is a distortion of the facts and the timeline. The operation was launched solely as a defensive response to the increasing rocket attacks directed at Israeli territory from Gaza.
Moreover, while the rocket fire began on 12 June, the day that three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped (and later found to have been murdered), it started before Israel was aware that they had been taken and searches by Israel’s security forces did not begin until the next day. The 30 June rocket escalation began hours before the bodies of the three teens were found and days before the 2 July murder of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem.
The First Stage of Operation Defensive Edge
When the attacks reached over 80 rockets a day, Israel had no choice but to take action against the incessant launchings at its civilian population. On 8 July, Israel responded with Operation Protective Edge.
The objective of the operation is to restore stability and quiet to the residents of Israel, to damage Hamas’s capabilities and to destroy the terror infrastructures directed against Israel and its citizens.
The rocket threat
Millions of Israeli civilians are under rocket attack. Like all other nations, Israel has the right of self-defense and is obligated to act decisively when its citizens are being targeted.
From 8-17 July, prior to start of ground actions, more than 1,497 rockets were launched at Israel (bringing the total since 12 June to about 1,700). Approximately 301 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, but 1,093 hit Israeli territory.
The vast majority of Israel’s population is in range of these missiles, which have targeted villages, towns and major cities such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa as well as the southern cities of Be’er Sheva, Ashdod and Ashkelon.
Israel accepts the ceasefire, Hamas rejects it
As stated, Israel did not seek this conflict and repeatedly sought ways to allow for sustained quiet to be achieved diplomatically.
On 15 July, Israel accepted the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire and at 09:00 [Israel time] halted all its military activities in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas violently rejected the ceasefire, both in word and deed. It continued to launch sustained rocket barrages at Israel. Between 09:00-15:00, it fired approximately 50 rockets at Israeli towns and cities, from the north to the south of the country. Only at 15:00 – after six hours of continuous and indiscriminate fire at Israel – did the IDF respond.
Hamas bears responsibility for the consequences of its rejection of the ceasefire, which not only was proposed by Egypt but supported by the Palestinian Authority and much of the international community including the Arab League, Saudi Arabia and the UN. [Hamas also continued firing during several humanitarian lulls, including one proposed by the UN to allow Gazans to shop for supplies and receive humanitarian and medical aid.]
Stage Two: The Ground Operation
A response to the threat of terror tunnels
On 17 July, Israel began a ground phase of the operation. It followed Hamas terrorists infiltrating into Israel through a terror tunnel earlier that day to perpetrate a large-scale attack against Israeli citizens in a kibbutz near the Gaza border. The ground operation only came after ten days and Hamas’ repeated rejections of offers to de-escalate the situation, during which attacks on Israel did not abate but rather increased.
The ground operation was ordered to strike at the terrorist tunnels from the Gaza Strip that open up inside Israeli territory. Hamas built an extensive network of elaborate tunnels to carry out terrorist attacks on Israeli communities and bases near the Gaza Strip. Their intention is to murder and kidnap Israeli citizens as evidenced by the weapons, plastic handcuffs and anesthesia taken from terrorists that managed to infiltrate Israeli territory through these tunnels
Israel left Gaza in 2005 and does not want to return
Israel did not want to re-enter the Gaza Strip. It left Gaza completely in August 2005 in the hope of never returning. However, in light of Hamas’ criminal and relentless rocket attacks, as well as the dangerous attempts to infiltrate Israeli territory including by terror tunnels, Israel must defend its citizens and will continue to act as necessary until quiet is achieved.
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22 ×™×•×œ×™ 2014