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Israel and Gaza in the New Middle East

Samara Greenberg

Israel’s south found some respite from rocket fire this week after four days of unrelenting attacks from Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip. All is not quiet, however, as Gaza’s militants continue to launch rockets sporadically at Israeli towns, forcing Israel to counterattack, despite the Egyptian-brokered truce that unofficially ended the fighting on Tuesday.

The short-lived conflict was the first surge of violence on the Gaza-Israel border since Arab populations began rising up against their dictators over one year ago. It was also the first since Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah tried to reconcile in response to those uprisings. Although Hamas and Fatah remain far from united, the impact from last year’s regional changes were felt in the recent conflict.

Israel’s Iron Dome has a 90% success rate in hitting rockets launched from Gaza midair.

Over the course of the fighting, Hamas officials reportedly kept their members from entering the crisis with rocket launches of their own while Hamas worked on a truce — an action publicly criticized by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed militant group in Gaza. As AFP reports, according to one source Hamas sat on the sidelines as a message “to Israel and to the international community…that Hamas is not the aggressor and is not seeking a war.”

Since the Arab uprising began, Hamas has made a concerted effort to distance itself from Iran and Syria and move toward the more internationally accepted Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, from which Hamas was born. Tellingly, although Israel repeatedly states that it holds Hamas responsible for violence emanating from the Strip, this time Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also blamed Tehran for the violence, calling Gaza Iran’s “advance post.”

Another noticeable change during the fighting was the lack of an international outcry in comparison to previous Israel-Gaza conflicts. Aside from a few words by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Syrian Foreign Ministry, the international community was unusually quiet. This is likely another result of the Arab uprising, as it is difficult to condemn Israel for specifically targeting militants planning attacks when a number of Arab governments over the last year have publicly murdered innocent protesters by the hundreds.

The impacts of the Arab uprising on Israel, its neighbors, and all world powers involved in the region will be numerous. This time, for Israel, the new regional dynamics seemed to have softened what could have been an all-out war on the Gaza border.