TPS Explains: The Israel-Hamas Standoff



By: The TPS News Team

In Israel this past week, rockets from the Gaza Strip were met with bombardments and raids by the Defense Forces in an upward escalation which climaxed this past weekend with the first Israeli ground incursion into the Gaza Strip since late 2012, fueling fears of yet another deadly conflagration in a part of the world already reeling from conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

The root of the issue is the standoff between Hamas, a fundamentalist Islamic group which serves as the government of the Gaza Strip and which has consistently refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist as an independent Jewish State, and the Israelis who respond to threats and actions of Hamas with threats and actions of their own. Just weeks ago, Hamas had formed a unity government with their longtime rivals in the Fatah group, who govern the other Palestinian territory of the West Bank and have struck a considerably more conciliatory tone towards Israel, leading to concerns that Hamas’ newfound prominence in yet another area of Palestinian rule could jeopardize the little that was left of the peace talks which U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had championed earlier in the year.

The spark which lit the fuse, however, was not political drama but murder, as three Israeli teens were kidnapped while hitchhiking in the West Bank, in response to which Israeli forces arrested hundreds in an unsuccessful attempt to recover the boys, who they suspected Hamas had kidnapped, alive. When the boys were found dead near the city of Hebron, tensions boiled into violence, with Israeli extremists burning a Palestinian boy to death in a revenge killing and even upperscale Israeli Arab neighborhoods turning into the scenes of massive demonstrations against what was perceived as Israeli heavy-handedness. Before long, rockets were reaching ever closer to the center of Israel from the Gaza Strip, and Israeli forces were bombarding Gaza in retaliation, eventually making their first ground incursion into the Gaza Strip this past weekend.

While it remains to be seen how long this particular episode in the decades-long conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians lasts, it appears doubtful to even the most optimistic of observers that even in the best case scenario, peace talks would restart in earnest anytime soon.