A short factual background to the present conflict between Israel and Hamas.

In 2005 Israel took unilateral action to withdraw completely from the Gaza Strip. We all saw the painful pictures of Israeli soldiers uprooting thousands of its own citizens from Gaza, a defacto recognition of the borders of Gaza. The Palestinians have no further territorial claims against Israel in Gaza. Hamas could, at that point have made use of the buildings left to them, including green houses for producing crops, to feed and house and school their people. Instead of working to improve the quality of life for its citizens, Hamas has focused on smuggling in and improving the range and accuracy of its Kassam missiles and mortars as well as longer range Katyushas and increasing its store of these and other weapons. The Palestinian rockets, therefore, can only be seen as aggression against Israel with no moral basis.

Hamas came to power in Gaza, not only through general and recognized elections but also through a violent coup against the Palestinian Authority government. Members of the Fatah party were murdered in the streets, thrown from buildings that once housed their government. Many sought refuge in the State of Israel feeling safer with old enemies than with new friends. The international community continues to recognize the PA, under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, as the legitimate Palestinian government in all of the Palestinian territories.

At the same time Israel is fighting terror, the government is deliberately and openly maintaining a political process with the Palestinian government headed by Abbas. Hamas on the other hand opposes these negotiations and any settlement with Israel or even Israel’s right to exist.

Hamas is at its core a terrorist organization that refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel’s very right to exist. Its clearly stated goals include the destruction of Israel. Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

Israel asks only two conditions for a meaningful peace. They require only a cessation of violence against Israeli civilians and the simple recognition that Israel has the right to survive and live in peace. Since its election and subsequent coup, Israel and the West have tried to force Hamas’s to forego its terrorist tendencies through economic pressure. That strategy seems to have had some small effect, producing an imperfect peace during the late lamented truce. But the rockets red glare were seen in the air and felt on the ground without cease, even during the ceasefire, since Hamas took over Gaza. Arms smuggling increased during the truce even while the bombs were bursting on a battered Sderot and other towns in southern Isreal. And then the truce lapsed.

Hamas violated the truce from day one and Israel did not respond. When the truce ended, Hamas refused to extend the truce and increased its attacks on the very day that the official truce ended firing against and targetting Israeli civilians. It speaks of humanitarian needs yet is investing all its resources in arming itself and gathering power and using its destructive power against civilians of Israel.

The truce brokered by Egypt was exploited by Hamas not only to employ terror against Israel’s citizens, but also to gain strength and massively arm itself with the intention of increasing their capacity for terror and expanding the range of the threat against Israeli citizens. Hamas men were being smuggled out and were being trained in Iran and Syria.

Terror groups continued to fire rockets throughout the lull with no outcry or even response from the world community other than to ask Israel to be patient. Nonetheless, top officials of Israel made it abundantly clear time and again that Israel was interested in extending the truce. Yet Hamas leaders clearly declared that the truce ended on December 19th, and proceeded to bombard southern Israeli communities with even more rockets, dozens of rockets daily. In short, it is no wonder that even the Egyptians are blaming Hamas this time.

The Palestinians have long cultivated an image of victimhood to win world sympathy and demand Israeli restraint in the face of Palestinian aggression. In reality, the Palestinians’ Kassam rockets have killed and wounded hundreds of Israeli civilians. The number of casualties would be even higher without Israeli security measures such as early-warning alarms in areas under rocket threat that allow Israelis to escape into bomb shelters. Hamas has also fired medium-range Grad-type Katyusha rockets, placing more than 250,000 Israeli civilians under direct threat of rocket fire.

Palestinians have fired more than 6,000 rockets and mortars into Israel since the Israeli withdrawal — all without provocation. Rocket fire continued unabated even during the six-month truce in the Gaza area that ended on December 19. Since then, Hamas stepped up rocket fire substantially, launching 170 rockets at Israel in an eight day period, an average of more than 20 rockets a day.

No country in the world would allow this type of onslaught against its citizens. As President-elect Barack Obama said during his visit to the rocket-battered town of Sderot five months ago, “If someone was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing.”

Sources include:
New York Times
Al Jazeera
Xtrian Science monitor
Israel Opinion
Washington Post