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Spike in Violence Between Israel and Gaza

Violence between Israel and the Palestinians has increased along the Israel-Gaza border since Sunday. The increase in bombings and attacks follows a failed intelligence operation by the Israeli military that resulted in the deaths of several Palestinians, including Nour Baraka, the commander of Hamas’ Qassam Brigade. The latest attacks mark the greatest escalation in violence since 2014, with some officials expressing concern that Israel and Palestine may be on the brink of war.

Details regarding the operation on Sunday are limited. Israeli officials said the operation was not intended to be an attack, but a routine surveillance operation to amp up Israeli security. Giora Eiland, a retired major general and former national security adviser, commented on the perceived risk of the operation: “It’s not 100 percent, but it can be estimated that 99 percent of these operations are not revealed, and 99 percent is good enough to make a decision assuming that the force will enter, execute and go out without being detected.”

Israel carried out air strikes when the firefight erupted. BBC, Nov 13 2018

Israel carried out air strikes when the firefight erupted. BBC, Nov 13 2018

However, the undercover car containing Israeli soldiers was discovered and resulted in a firefight. Since Sunday, an estimated 460 rockets have been fired into Israel by Palestinian militants since Monday night. Among the targets was an Israeli bus carrying young soldiers, of which one 19-year-old was critically wounded.

Israel responded with aerial bombing attacks on militant targets, decimating a Palestinian television station.

A bus burns in Israel on Monday after it was hit in a rocket and mortar attack from the Gaza Strip, Tsafrir Abayov. New York Times, Nov 12, 2018

A bus burns in Israel on Monday after it was hit in a rocket and mortar attack from the Gaza Strip, Tsafrir Abayov. New York Times, Nov 12, 2018

The fighting on both sides has threatened to undermine talks of a ceasefire brokered by Egypt. The multilateral talks are in response to the uptick in violence in recent months, during which 170 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s forceful response to protests along the Gaza border. Negotiations have been successful, namely through compromises to increase electrical power and permit the influx of millions of dollars in aid to Gaza. Qatar in particular sent 15 million dollars in an attempt to ease tensions and alleviate the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Despite these successes, both sides have expressed an unwillingness to back down unless the other side concedes first. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Emanuel Nachshon, declared that Israel’s security takes priority over peace talks. “It’s a security challenge, a security threat to the southern part of the state of Israel. And before discussing the issue with any international organizations, we need to make sure that we can protect our citizens. This is why the priority now is to military action, in order to send across a very clear and strong message.”

As Israel takes a hardline stance to the violence, reports reveal Hamas is not nearly close to running out of ammunition. The rivalry between Hamas and Israel is not a new phenomenon. Following Hamas’ victory in elections in 2006, attempts to broker a lasting settlement to decades of tensions have faced new difficulties. The 2006 elections essentially ousted Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the umbrella organization Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) who had signed peace agreements with Israel. Hamas, in contrast, does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.

The unwillingness by either side to back down poses a major obstacle not only to the present ceasefire agreement but also a lasting settlement to decades of strife. The attacks of the past few days have resulted in the death of five Palestinians, as well as fifteen others wounded. On the Israeli side, one person has been killed, and an estimated sixteen wounded. Egypt has mediated a brief cease fire, but the escalation in violence still poses a major security risk along the Israel-Gaza border.