Israel and Hamas: Conflict in Gaza (2008-2009) - Federation of ...

Jan 6, 2018 - actors in the region—like Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah. ..... 3 See “Security Cabinet: No Truce Until Shalit Is Freed,” Jewish Telegraphic ...... partially explained by geography and recent history linking the Gaza Strip with Egypt ...
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œ›ŠŽ•ȱŠ—ȱ Š–ŠœDZȱ˜—•’Œȱ’—ȱ Š£ŠȱǻŘŖŖŞȬŘŖŖşǼȱȱ ȱ

ž––Š›¢ȱ On December 27, 2008, Israel launched a major military campaign dubbed “Operation Cast Lead” against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli offensive came in response to markedly increased Palestinian rocket fire following the expiration of a six-month cease-fire on December 19. On January 3, 2009, Israel began a ground offensive into Gaza. Despite international pressure to halt the fighting (including the passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1860 on January 8), the conflict continued until January 18, when Israel unilaterally ceased fire and Hamas followed suit shortly thereafter. Israel’s technological superiority and reliance on heavy armor and firepower contributed to a wide disparity in casualties—approximately 1,440 Palestinians have died (with some organizations estimating that at least half of the dead are civilians), compared with 13 dead (including four civilians) on the Israeli side. The officially stated Israeli goal of Operation Cast Lead was to diminish the security threat to residents of southern Israel by steeply reducing rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, weakening Hamas, and restoring Israel’s deterrence. Hamas, however, has “spun” the survival of most of its leaders and fighters, and their control over Gaza, as victory. Nevertheless, by temporarily disabling Hamas’s military capacity, Israel might have decreased its vulnerability to future attacks by buying time to deploy new, more sophisticated anti-rocket defense systems. Greater U.S., European, and Egyptian openness to implementing tougher anti-smuggling measures both on land and at sea could hinder the rearmament capacity of Hamas and other Palestinian militants in Gaza. Nevertheless, the practicability of such measures, and whether they will be accompanied by an opening of Gaza border crossings to renewed commerce, remains uncertain. International attention has turned to brokering a sustainable cease-fire arrangement and to addressing the needs of the Gazan population—both in terms of continued humanitarian assistance and of reconstruction. The United States and others in the international community are concerned that, given Hamas’s continued control of Gaza, reconstruction assistance could be squandered or used for undesirable means. Yet, the Palestinian Authority and the international community might lose an opportunity to regain influence in Gaza if they do not involve themselves more quickly and decisively in the reconstruction effort. The conflict has exacerbated tensions between countries in the Middle East with a relatively proWestern orientation—like Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia—and other countries and non-state actors in the region—like Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah. The Saudis have taken the lead in seeking to mitigate intra-Arab tensions by reopening dialogue with Syrian officials and by taking a harder rhetorical line with Israel. Leadership transitions in both the United States and Israel and continued internal division among Palestinians have contributed to difficulties in analyzing prospects both for post-conflict stability and reconstruction and for the Arab-Israeli peace process. New U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell has been given broad negotiating authority by the Obama Administration. Yet, resumption of serious Israeli-Palestinian final-status negotiations might not occur unless and until stable leadership emerges from both sides. This re