Homeless in Gaza

Israel started the current escalation in violence. The rockets from Gaza came later
AK Pasha Delhi

The present crises involving Israel and Hamas originated with Israeli airstrikes on November 14, 2012 in Gaza which killed Ahmed Al Jaabri, Deputy Commanding General of Qassam Brigades, his bodyguard and a cameraman. This assassination was not a spontaneous act but based on elaborate surveillance over a long time and obviously well planned in advance. Jaabari was in contact with Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, seeking to explore prospects for a long-term ceasefire that was reported to Israeli leaders. The ceasefire was being worked out with Egypt’s good offices and Jaabari was acting on behalf of Hamas. He was assassinated a few hours after he received the final draft proposal for the truce that he was committed to.

The killing of this high ranking Hamas military commander in central Gaza was a major Israeli provocation which took the conflict to new heights.  Incidentally, he had successfully negotiated the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. It was Jaabari who produced the soldier, captured during the 2008-09 Israeli invasion of Gaza. Israel had accused him of kidnapping Gilad and blamed him for masterminding rocket attacks.

Undoubtedly, Israel started the current escalation in violence. The rockets from Gaza came later.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called for fresh elections to the Knesset on January 22, 2013, wants to ‘look tough’ ahead of the polls. The Likud leader clearly aimed to use the Gaza offensive as propaganda since he could not start a war with Iran under US President Barack Obama’s pressure. Since Netanyahu favored Obama’s rival Mitt Romney, the Israeli leader wanted to show his defiance, that he still calls the shots, at the first available opportunity. Thus, Obama was forced to say: “Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory.”  Obama also cautioned Israel against sending ground troops to Gaza saying they “are much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded”. 

He promptly sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Cairo and Israel to negotiate peace at the earliest. Netanyahu had vowed not to talk to Hamas and had   promised to overthrow it; instead, he had to talk, and agree for a ceasefire, although indirectly.

There was no doubt about the Hamas rocket barrage from Gaza during this period.  But most military observers see these rockets as wildly inaccurate and generally harmless. This is obvious by the low number of Israeli casualties and minor damage caused which has to be seen in the overall context of massive violence inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians in Gaza.

This time around, Hamas rockets and missiles reached the heart of major Israeli cities like Ashdod, Ashkelon, Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem; Netanyahu had to hide inside shelters

For eight days, Israeli air force launched more than 2,000 air strikes which attacked major centers of the Hamas government and media offices in Gaza. It also led to destruction of many civilian houses and casualties among women and children. More than 170 Palestinians were killed and over 2,000 injured in the air strikes.