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A series of very unfortunate events... four young boys of both Jewish/Israel and Arab/Palestinian origin brutally murdered... sparking simmering tempers on both sides of a very thin and tempestuous figurative and literal line between Israel and Gaza. While the region has enjoyed a relatively quiet period since 2012, tensions escalated again last week leading up to the intense and catastrophic recent events.
In response to reinvigorated efforts at shooting longer-range missiles into Israel, Israel has responded by sending their own assault. As civilians on both sides tensely followed news reports, families fled to bomb shelters and left their home towns in order to protect themselves and survive. The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) warned 100,000 Palestinians of impending military strikes and urged them to leave the area with their families. Hamas responded by telling the Gazan citizens to ignore the IDF warning and to stay put.
Last Friday, after multiple long-range rockets fired deep into Israel, a gas station was blown up by a Palestinian missile in the town of Ashdod. Read the Washington Post coverage of this explosion (there is a video clip to watch as well). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Says He Feels No Pressure to Quit Bombing Gaza (New York Times). He stated, "We Use Missiles to Defend Civilians, Hamas Uses Civilians to Defend Missiles".
Over the weekend, Israel continued to respond to the hundreds of air missiles fired from Hamas by bombing within the Gaza Strip region. Read the Los Angeles Times article about the most recent explosions as Israel pounds northern Gaza Strip after warning Residents to Flee.
The IDF dropped thousands of leaflets in areas where impending strikes would occur urging citizens to evacuate. Despite their resistance, over the weekend, many hundreds of civilians finally fled to safety. Read the New York Times' report, Palestinians Flee Northern Gaza as a Cease-Fire Appears Elusive. (Look closely at the graphic showing air strikes thus far). Click and watch the video clip on the Washington Post's article Thousands of Gazans flee homes as Israel promises to press the fight.
The United Nations, as well as the United States, have urged both sides to negotiate a cease-fire. UN Secretary General Ben Ki-moon emphasized last week that an Israeli ground operation in the Gaza Strip is still preventable if Hamas stops rocket fire. Hamas had no interest in ceasing the launching of rockets and Israel thus continued with their response. Israel has stressed their objective of ending the continuing threat of Hamas to Israel.
In the interim, the U.N. has set up a number of refugee centers for fleeing citizens. The Wall Street Journal reports, More than 15,000 Flee Homes in Northern Gaza. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas requested that the United Nations Put Palestine under international protection.
Read this BBC article, Gaza-Israel Conflict: What can Israel and Hamas Gain? to recap the catalyst of this latest bloody struggle. Scroll up and click the tab, 'It's not worth living' and read two eye-witness accounts from citizens living within the combat areas. Continue with 'Conflict Q & A' which answers the seemingly obvious question of why in the world civilians are under attack. To bring a very stark awareness of just how dangerous this region has become, click and read 'Rival Arsenals'. Follow with the New York Times' explanation of the threat of Hamas towards Israel, The Growing Reach of Hamas's Rockets.
“No international pressure will prevent us from operating with full force against a terrorist organization that calls for our destruction,” - Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
As of today, the chances of a cease-fire are bleak. Both the Israeli and Palestinian side of this fight stand firmly in the resolve to support their objectives. Israel certainly has a right to defend its borders. Hamas is a significant force in the Gaza territory and the Palestinians residing in those towns continue to suffer the brunt of the tragic rocket and missile fires.