The February 9th air raid in the Gaza Strip carried out by the Israeli Air Force as retaliation for firing rockets into Israel wounded several Palestinian activists. But it is not the first time Israel has targeted Gaza. After nearly five months of stability facilitated by a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Gaza the parties have now returned to violence. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Israel carried out 34 air strikes last year that killed 7 people (including children) and injured dozens, in addition to the physical damages on homes, schools and farms. It is feared that the countries are again at an outbreak of a new war on the lines of what happened in 2008 and 2012. Beyond Violence here analyzes the causes of the violation of the ceasefire agreement.
Violation of the truce
On 21 November 2012 a ceasefire was reached between Gaza (the government in Gaza consists of Hamas followers) and Israel at the headquarters of the Egyptian Intelligence Service after the process of the military operation named Column Cloud (an Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip earlier in November 2012). The Guarantor Direct to the ceasefire is currently imprisoned, namely the Egyptian ex-President Mohamed Morsi. He is now subject to trial and hence the Egyptian authorities’ pledge to monitor the cease-fire is no longer practically feasible as internal affairs are taking up resources. 34 out of 37 air raids were carried out by Israel in 2013. There is no doubt that the absence of the main party in this agreement led to the deterioration of the situation.
Salafist jihadist groups
On the other side Israel suffered from 63 rocket attacks and 11 mortar shells from Gaza in 2013, according to a report published by the newspaper Yediot Aharonot Israeli officials acknowledge that Hamas is not the source of the rockets and accuses instead Salafist jihadist groups. Still, Israel assigns the responsibility to Hamas because of its control in the Gaza Strip since 2006. The question is: what is the reason for the revival of these Salafist jihadist groups? It is known that Hamas has put many members of the groups in prison and prevented them from firing rockets in previous periods. Though the groups of Salafist jihadists are described in general as “outlaws”, some of the Salafists were killed in an attack in May 2013, and even more in the violence that led to the killing of Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni in 2011.
It appears that Hamas‘s iron fist with the Salafist groups has been weakened as a result of poor economic conditions and current political instability. Especially as the financial losses from the demolition of Hamas tunnels on the borders to Egypt equal about 18% of its GDP in Gaza. In addition, the Gaza Strip is also suffering from political isolation and closure of its border crossings with Egypt after the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The suffering of civilians and children
The area of the Gaza Strip with its 365 square kilometers and a population of 1.7 million people is the most populous region of the world. Children under the age of 18 years in the Palestinian society make up 48.8 % of the total population according to Central Bureau of Palestinian Statistics. In the event of any military operation children and youth will most likely constitute the majority of victims, like the girl Hala Abu Sbejh that was killed as a result of the Israeli shelling of her home. It is rare that targeting sites or groups of armed resistance happens without also affecting civilians.
The attacks that hit the Gaza Strip during 2013 have killed seven people in addition to the destruction of dozens of homes, farms and water plants, 4 schools and not to mention the atmosphere of panic and fear that hit the citizens as a result of Israel's use of F-16 aircraft and Apache helicopters.
In the end the process has to be a warning signal to the UN special coordinator to the peace process, Robert Serry, that the cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas is likely to collapse – a warning that came ten months after acts of shelling between Israel and Gaza but is considered an important step to realize the deterioration of the situation. Therefore, the UN should restructure the agreement.
Upon the occurrence of any new war it will be difficult to foresee the extent of the violence that is going to happen not only to the parties of the conflict, but for the whole region.
Sameh Abumughessib is Civil Engineer currently residing in Gaza, Palestine. He has worked on a number of projects in Gaza for an international non-governmental organization as Consultant, Monitoring and Evaluation specialist, and has a particular interest in International Human Rights
Author of the picture Marius Arnesen
Written by Sameh Abumughessib and published on 27-March-2014