By: Ryan Gregory Thiele
On March 25, a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip leveled a home in Misheret, Israel, north of Tel Aviv. Luckily, no one was killed, though at least six people were injured, including a child. Israel then retaliated by launching airstrikes across the Strip, demolishing the offices of Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ political leader, while Hamas fired rockets back into Israel. With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu winning a fifth term as Prime Minister with claims he will annex parts of the West Bank and Palestinian authorities refusing to negotiate, have tensions rose to the point where another war is inevitable?
Though the conflict between Israel and Hamas has remained close to the border, the rocket launches late March are the latest in growing hostilities which have worried Egypt and United Nations diplomats in the Middle East. Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Envoy for the Middle East, encouraged caution by both parties as he worked with Egypt to negotiate a truce between the factions the Tuesday following the rocket attack.
“I am concerned that we may once again be facing another very dangerous escalation of violence in Gaza with potentially catastrophic consequences,” Mladenov said, “the UN has been working intensely with Egypt and all concerned to ensure that the situation does not spiral out of control.”
Tensions have been boiling since the beginning of border protests on the Gaza-Israel border, protests exacerbated by President Trump’s moving of the American embassy to Jerusalem and the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Almost 200 Palestinians have died since the protests began as a result of Israeli retaliation. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, a senior Hamas official, admitted on MEMRI-TV that “when we talk about ‘peaceful resistance’, we are deceiving the public. This is a peaceful resistance bolstered by a military force and by security agencies, and enjoying tremendous popular support.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut his visit to the United States short to deal with the now open hostilities, warning that Israel would “not tolerate” rockets fired from Gaza. This isn’t the first time that the Prime Minister has overseen military operations against Gaza: the last major war took place five years ago during his third term as Prime Minister.
It now seems as if the Israeli government has been provoked by the violence coming out of Gaza and is debating its current “mow the grass” policy on Gaza — expressing restraint and using just enough military force to keep Hamas subdued. Netanyahu declared his support for retaliation with ground troops if necessary, but has continued to bow to international pressure in holding back any large scale military procedures and hoping that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip will halt their rocket launches.
If the temporary peace moderated by Egypt breaks down again, open hostilities continue, and the death toll rises, it will be no surprise if Prime Minister Netanyahu sends ground troops into Gaza in a similar fashion to the war in 2014. This war started when three Israelis were kidnapped and killed by Hamas members using secret tunnels into Israel and Hamas refused to halt rocket launches. The conflict killed over 2,000 Gazans and dozens of Israelis.
How long can this last? Rocket firings, border clashes, and airstrikes are significant events but are still minuscule in relation to the potential for a greater conflict between Hamas and Israel. Eventually, Israel will likely either resort to moving troops over the border and establishing perimeters, or going farther in and combating Hamas troops in the streets. Some Westerners, such as Josh Hammer at The Daily Wire, have advocated for Israel’s Defense Forces to completely wipe out Hamas bases and personnel. In advocacy of the aforementioned “mowing the grass” policy, Efraim Inbar and Eitan Shamir at the Jerusalem Post noted that Western thinking is solution oriented, and unfortunately, there is no easy solution to settling the Hamas-Israeli conflict. The best Israel can do is provide a strong defense for its people, retaliate when necessary, and attempt to find common ground with the Palestinian leaders, especially in the West Bank.
Will there be another war between Hamas’ Gaza and Israel? With the growing hostilities over the last two years, it seems inevitable that airstrikes won’t be enough for Israel, nor rockets for Hamas. It surely will not be the last armed conflict to be had between the two, and it will be a long time before there is a decrease in tensions.