Both Israel and Palestine had respected the terms of the ceasefire brokered by Egypt in late August of 2014—until now. This past Wednesday, Israel conducted airstrikes in response to mortar rounds fired by Hamas militants at Israeli Defense Forces, breaking the temporary peace that has been marred only by intermittent guerrilla warfare.
Though its specific motive is unclear, Hamas likely violated the ceasefire in response to Israel’s recent excavation campaign in Palestinian land. Of late, Israeli Defense Forces have sought to uproot and destroy an elaborate system of tunnels that Hamas has used for everything from the transport of supplies to a strategic asset for suicide attacks and have successfully located at least two tunnels in the last month. The tunnels pose a threat to the security of Israel’s citizens, for they are difficult to find, easy to move, and allow Hamas to effectively circumvent checkpoints and other Israeli defense measures put in place.
Some fear that the renewal of these kinds of attacks might breathe new life into tensions that have been mounting since the Al-Aqsa Mosque debacle that ensued this past fall. Both sides hope that the recent up-kick in organized violence will be put to a swift and definitive end before it takes on a life of its own. Israel’s Defense Minister has vowed to “continue to respond with force to every provocation by Hamas so that escalation does not occur.” He has also made clear that IDF will work ceaselessly to “find and expose the last of the tunnels.” That being said, a Hamas political activist affirmed that “In Gaza there is no atmosphere of escalation on the horizon or any change in the conduct of its civilians.”
All this comes in the shadow of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to participate in peace talks organized by France to be held later this month.