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Israel, Gaza See Worst Fighting in Years

Michael Johnson

Renewed violence broke out between Israel and Hamas last week, with three Israelis and some 120 Palestinians being killed over the course of seven days from Gaza rocket attacks and targeted Israeli airstrikes, respectively.

The latest round of fighting broke out after Palestinian terrorists fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli jeep patrolling the Gaza-Israel border on November 10, wounding four soldiers. The IDF launched air strikes in retaliation, killing four Palestinians. Gazan militants began a wave of rocket attacks in response, and Israel answered with an airstrike on November 14, killing the head of Hamas’s military wing, Ahmed Jabari, and starting a new military operation, Pillar of Defense. Since then, attacks from both sides have escalated.

A rocket is launched from Gaza at Israel.

By the end of the operation’s sixth day, Monday, Hamas and Gaza terrorists had fired some 1,011 rockets toward Israel. Of those, the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted 347, and more than 100 landed short inside the Gaza Strip. Hamas has launched rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, cities previously immune from such attacks but now under threat as Hamas uses the longer-range rockets in its arsenal, likely smuggled into Gaza from Libya or Iran. Hamas has said it fired the Iranian-made Fajr-5 rocket, with a range of 75 km (46 miles), for the first time. In response, the Israeli government quickened the deployment of a fifth Iron Dome battery in southern Tel Aviv to protect the area’s residents.

By Tuesday, the Israeli military had hit more than 1,400 targets in Gaza, pinpointing specific terrorist infrastructure such as rocket launchers, weapons caches — especially of longer-range rockets, and Hamas administration buildings. The stated purpose of the operation is to reduce Gaza terrorists’ rocket-firing capabilities and to deter them from attacking Israel. The Israeli government has called up 16,000 reserves to support the operation if needed, with the Israeli Cabinet authorizing the mobilization of up to 75,000.

The last few days have seen the worst fighting between Gaza and Israel since the Arab uprisings swept the region, and the changes those revolutions brought have made their impact. Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi called Israeli airstrikes in Gaza “unacceptable” and withdrew Egypt’s ambassador to Israel. A delegation of Egyptian officials headed by the prime minister also visited Gaza; it was the first time an Egyptian prime minister visited the area. The Egyptian foreign minister plans to visit Gaza later this week along with a delegation of Arab ministers.

Indeed, that Israel lost its ability to deter rockets from Gaza is seemingly a result of the changing Middle East — and notably, a changing Egypt — that has only emboldened Gaza’s Islamists. For this reason, even if a ceasefire is struck between Hamas and Israel, it will likely only cover the short-term.