The relentless fighting between the Israeli military and the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas is another byproduct of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the past week, air strikes and bombings from the Israeli military in response to rocket assaults from Hamas into Israel has become the focus of international discussion.

Last Tuesday, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) launched “Operation Protective Edge,” an offensive launched towards the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip in Palestine. The long-brewing tensions between the IDF and Hamas may have been sparked by the abduction and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank this past June. IDF forces suspect that Hamas carried out the crime but hasn’t offered proof.

Israeli soldiers killed 10 Palestinians and arrested hundreds more in a search for the teenagers, which angered Hamas and prompted them to fire a barrage of long-range rockets into Israel. The attack disrupted a ceasefire agreement in the region in place since November 2012, and Hamas said it will only call off the attack if prisoners from their side are released.

Thus far over 172 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,250 wounded according to Palestinian health officials. Israel said it forewarned residents of their coming offensive via phone calls to known targets and other means such as leaflets. However, the United Nations says that 70 percent of the Palestinians killed were civilians and 30 percent of that group were children. Israel has been accused of targeting civilian outposts that allegedly hide Hamas members, and mosques doubling as weapons storage for the group.

Fatah, the largest political faction of the multi-party Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has condemned Israel for continuing the assault and says a ceasefire could happen with American intervention. Fatah claims that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reluctant to negotiate with Palestine and does not want a Palestinian state next to Israel.

Experts say that Hamas is well-stocked to continue its assault, although it has yet to result in any casualties against the Israelis. Only 21 soldiers on the Israeli side have been wounded, including around seven civilians.

For Israel to complete its mission, experts say the IDF would need to launch a risky and costly ground offensive to crush the hidden network of weapons stockpiles and entrenched Hamas soldiers. Hamas is seemingly welcoming such an impending battle as pleas to stop the fighting have been dismissed pridefully by both sides.

Photo: AP

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