GAZA — With the staggering accounts of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, it is difficult for many to understand the reason for Israel’s choice of a ground invasion. However, statements from Israeli spokespeople and investigation from reporters currently inside Israel may be able to shed some light on the situation.
Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, explained the two objectives behind the ground invasion: “To strike Hamas as a terrorist organisation, which is globally labelled, so that they do not have the motivation to continue this aggression against Israel…And second of all to strike the terrorist infrastructure, the rockets, the tunnels, the mechanisms that they are using to strike and attack Israel.”
Hamas has built a system of tunnels leading into Israel, and on July 17 the organization launched an attack on the Israeli people. Israel responded by sending a large military force to destroy the tunnels in hopes of protecting its people from at least one method of the terrorists’ attack.
“This is the second time in three days that militants have come through tunnels into Israel, and that was the basic reason that the ground operation was begun,” explained Jodi Rudoren, the New York Times bureau chief in Jerusalem. “The Israeli military and political leaders…talk about that if Gazans got through they could kidnap Israeli civilians from the kibbutzim that are located there go [sic], or go on a killing spree.
But with such a large death toll and the number of refugees in Gaza, people around the world are insisting on a ceasefire. According to Rudoren, the number of refugees are likely much higher than the official report because many citizens are not going to the shelters.
The United Nations recently proposed a ceasefire to allow citizens to visit the markets, banks and grocers. Attacks on both sides did stop for the five hours of the ceasefire. However, Hamas continued to fire missiles as soon as the ceasefire ended.
Accustomed to attacks by its neighbors, Israel has a sophisticated missile defense system that protected its citizens from more than 100 projectiles that were fired after the ceasefire. Unfortunately, the people of Gaza are not so lucky. Though the Israeli military drops leaflets and leaves phone messages warning Gaza citizens to leave the area that they will soon bomb, given the refugee situation, it is not clear where exactly the people of Gaza can go.
Israeli military officials say that they simply want the attacks on their country to stop. They do not want to reoccupy Gaza or even overthrow the Hamas government. But in light of the ground invasion, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhom threatened that Israel has taken a “dangerous step,” and that the Israelis would “pay a high price.”
Still, it is clear that Israel wants Hamas to be weak. NPR explains that, with Israel constantly “squeezing Gaza,” Hamas has not been able to run the area well, and the group is continually struggling. Many believe that Israel’s pressure on the terrorist organization is vital to protecting the West as well.
“I think this is a clear case of self-defense for Israel,” said Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom Director Nile Gardiner on a Bloomberg program. “Israel has every right to defend itself and by no means has Israel been targeting civilians. In contrast, Hamas has been deliberately targeting Israeli civilians, indiscriminate acts of violence, and you have to draw a distinction between on the one hand, a nation state defending itself against a brutal terrorist organization that is backed by Tehran… It is a brutal terrorist organization, and I think that the West, the free world, has an interest in ensuring that Hamas is defeated.”
In the past, Israel’s invasions and missiles have never been able to permanently stop attacks on their country. Many neighboring countries believe that Israel does not have the right to exist. And with outcry over the suffering of innocent civilians in Gaza, it is difficult to see an end to the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
– Kimmi Ligh
Sources: Bloomberg, Al Jazeera, The Jerusalem Post, Foreign Policy, NPR, The Washington Post, PBS
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