No winners in Israel-Hamas conflict

Violence between Israel and Hamas has been escalating in recent weeks. Nearly 200 lives have been lost, over a thousand hurt, tens of thousands forced to flee their homes, and fear and uncertainty spreading among both Israeli and Palestinian populations. There is no end in sight to the expanding confrontation as Israel seeks to rid the Gaza Strip of the rockets that threaten the Jewish state. A human rights catastrophe is in the making — again.

The latest bout of hostilities began with the kidnapping last month of three Israeli teenagers, all of whom were later found dead. Israeli security forces responded by rounding up hundreds of Hamas activists. A Palestinian youth was also seized, allegedly by Israeli nationalists in revenge, and killed; the autopsy results reveal that he was burned alive. Palestinian militants responded to the killing and the roundup with rocket salvoes against Israeli territory from within the Gaza Strip. Israeli sources report as many as 800 launches since the violence began, including rockets launched in an attempt to strike a nuclear reactor located near the city of Dimona in the Negev dessert.

Predictably, those rocket attacks prompted an Israeli escalation. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has launched over 1,300 air strikes in retaliation and sent military commandos into the Gaza Strip on a lightning raid. The rocket salvoes continue unabated and Israel has been warning residents of Palestinian villages near Israel’s border to leave their homes, sending some 10,000 people fleeing south.

The human toll mounts. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that when it completed its report on casualties, 138 Palestinians were killed since the start of Operation Protective Edge on July 8, 36 were children, and 1,361 Palestinians were injured. Nearly 80 percent of those killed were civilians. In addition, Palestinians claim that Israel is engaged in psychological warfare to demoralize and destabilize their citizens.

Netanyahu has countered that he is only defending his country and its citizens, a responsibility that he has pledged to uphold by “any means necessary.” He, along with other Israeli officials, charge that Hamas militants are to blame for the destruction being rained upon Gaza, as they hide their “rocket infrastructure” in civilian territory. Military sources say that they have struck 32 “Hamas leadership facilities,” 29 communications infrastructures and additional sites used for terrorist activities. Netanyahu has apologized for civilian casualties but blames Hamas for using human shields. As one Israeli defense official complained, the enemy “wants to trap me into an attack and into hurting civilians.” If it is a trap, Israel has fallen right into it.

On Tuesday one Israeli man was killed in a Hamas mortar attack but as of Wednesday no Israelis had been killed by Hamas missiles. The guidance systems for Hamas missiles are unreliable, and Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system has proven extremely effective. In addition, Israel has spent heavily on civil defense and since several years past new houses have to include a safe room protected against such attacks.

Still, Hamas seeks to ratchet up the psychological pressure. Its military wing announced last week in Hebrew that it would launch a barrage on Tel Aviv an hour later with a new rocket, a move that got the attention of the Israeli authorities and media. On the same day as the announcement, Hamas debuted a Hebrew-language website to make its threats more easily accessible to the Israeli population.

After reports that Israel has called up 40,000 reservists, Palestinians fear that a ground invasion could be forthcoming. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked the United Nations for protection as the conditions for Gaza’s 1.7 million people “have become unbearable.”

The best protection would be a ceasefire, but that appears unlikely. Despite denunciations and calls for restraint from capitals around the world, neither side seems ready to lay down their weapons. Israel wants to destroy Hamas’ ability to threaten Israel, and Hamas feels it can still hurt Israel, build up its credibility as a force within Middle Eastern politics and prevail in the war for public opinion. That logic torpedoed an Egyptian ceasefire proposal: Israel accepted the terms; Hamas did not.

Just as worrying is the lack of a credible interlocutor. Hamas considers the United States to be too close to Israel and Abbas, with whom it competes for Palestinian support. Since Hamas has been branded a terrorist group by Washington, the European Union and Israel, the U.S. cannot meet its leaders to negotiate. Egypt mediated the last ceasefire in 2012, but the head of the Egyptian government at the time was Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who has since been deposed. His successor, President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, is hostile to Hamas and like-minded Islamic groups; Israel is hoping that he will tighten the noose around Hamas and prevent it from acquiring the weapons that it uses to threaten Israelis. That hostility was evident in the brusque rejection by Hamas of this week’s ceasefire proposal from Cairo.

As ever, the bottom line is the zero-sum mentality of Israel and Hamas. Both refuse to acknowledge the other’s legitimacy or existence, except as an entity to be extinguished. That may meet political needs, but it is unrealistic and unfeasible. Sadly, more deaths and destruction will occur before either side will feel that it can settle for a ceasefire. And that will likely preserve an uncomfortable status quo until the next acts of violence and the cycle begins anew.

  • Boris

    The only winners are the arm dealers.
    The only way peace can be achieved is if both sets of people want it.
    It doesn’t seem likely, especially with the actions taken but the Israeli government (building new and extending current settlements, confiscation of land which are then handed to settlers, etc.).

    • Roppi

      @ Boris – did you read this part of the article: Israel accepted the terms; Hamas did not.

      • Boris

        I’ve reach my story limit as a non-registered user.

        So which terms were they and when?

        If you are talking about the recent ceasefire, the one Egypt brokered (when there was a lull in the fighting), then they probably should have spoken to Hamas in the first place instead of ignoring them. It’s hard for someone to accept something if you don’t ask or talk to them about it.

        There will be a ceasefire, then there will be a period of calm.But during that period of calm when hopefully people are not being murdered, there will still be Palestinians who are being shot by the Israeli forces, they will still be beaten up, there will still be child detentions, that to the Israelis is peace. When someone is not firing a rocket at Israel, that is peace.

      • Roppi

        you’re asking me?? Sorry – you were the one so very quick to blame Israel -^ you had all the answers and now your points are: 1. you didn’t know the terms of the cease fire which infers that they were somehow in favour of Israel – of course
        2. that someone (Egypt?) probably should have spoken to Hamas..as opposed to say Fatah…oh that’s right those two pillars of Islamic harmony hate each other and use their own people to push their own selfish political/religious agendas..irrespective of the death toll…

  • Roppi

    @Boris – finally your true attitudes emerge – but unfortunately your entire response is an incoherent gabble of well worm anti Israeli propaganda..
    i suggest you register as a user on JT..that way you can read carefully the contents of their articles before you let loose with your thoughts on the subject…

    • Boris

      So you didn’t answer my question. I take it you couldn’t answer it. And because you couldn’t, in true typical pro-Israeli poster response is to claim my response is gabble. If it really is gabble to you, you better sharpen up on your reading comprehension.

      Also, I don’t often come to Japan Times website to justify paying for it. If the article wasn’t linked to what else I was reading, I probably would not have been on Japan Times anyway.

      • Roppi

        Boris – what was your important question that I couldn’t answer?? Let me guess: “So, unless you can tell me clearly which ceasefire you are talking about (the one mentioned in the JT article – Boris) the terms that Israel accepted but Hamas rejected, we cannot take this discussion forward, can we?”
        Is that your question??
        Answer I have no idea – do you Boris?

        My comments remain the same and most people reading this exchange might be agree..
        As for your comment about not ‘coming to JT enough to justify paying for it….:))…well enough said..

        Others may consider you a troll – but not me Boris – I take your insightful words with the gravitas they deserve..:))

      • Boris

        You responded to my original post, that was 6 days old, as:
        ‘did you read this part of the article: Israel accepted the terms; Hamas did not.’

        It’s been six days. I can’t remember this article (which I cannot re-read) word for word.

        I posed a question to you. You had not answered my question. And now you post:
        “Answer I have no idea”

        So, you don’t know the terms to the ceasefire and have no idea which ceasefire the article is talking about.

        Just to repeat a point. As I no longer have access to the article, I can not re-read it. I asked you to tell me the terms and to which ceasefire they referred to. You just say:
        “the one mentioned in the JT article”
        Which is a redundant point as I had already mentioned I no longer have access to the article. And as we see, you have no idea about it yourself (and you call me a troll).

        I have already shown a news clip that has shown that the latest ceasefire was not discussed with Hamas. How can they reject it?

        The only thing that can be taken from this is that this article relied on the initial reports that Hamas rejected it before other news sources has shown this to be incorrect (if they were talking about the lastest ceasefire).

        So, what are we doing here? I get it, you support Israel. You couldn’t answer my points and started insulting or belittling me. Trust me, these tactics aren’t new. I’ve had them before from Israeli supporters. And I expect the same sort of response from you.

        Others will actually see you for what you really are.

      • Roppi

        Boris – it’s not my issue that you can’t access the article – perhaps try paying for a JT subscription..

        As to your obsession about the details of the ‘terms of the ceasefire’ Boris the article didn’t provide the details – so how do you expect me to know what they were?

        In any event your point is a total furphy – you make no sense and I suspect by now you know that…you just ramble about nothing – try re-reading what you have wrote and ask yourself it any of it makes sense…

        My original point was simple in response to your diatribe: Israel accepted the terms; Hamas did not. Egypt brokered the deal and your point was that they are a friend of Israel – seriously Boris – that’s your trump card in this exchange of opinions…?? Time to move on friend..

      • Boris

        The most time I’ve spent at this site is replying to you.

        So, the subscription is not worth paying for. If it was a site I regularly visit, then yes, I would pay for it.

        ‘Israel accepted the terms; Hamas did not’ – to which I provided a link to show that isn’t true. The very ceasefire that Hamas were not talked to about by the very party who ‘brokered’ it. It is simple enough to understand, yet you keep failing to do so.

        So what are the terms? You don’t know, I don’t know and Hamas doesn’t even know – only tidbits of it in the media, such as disarmament of Gaza (This term does favour Israel). The only ones who know are Israel and Egypt. Israel agreeing to it is redundant as only one side was talked to about it. If both sides were talked to about it, and Hamas actually did reject, then knowing the terms would have been of importance.

        And Egypt?

        http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=9109

        “In practice, Saturday night’s threat teaches us that Hamas wants a truce. The threat, followed by a salvo, sounds like a grand finale. But the potential mediators — chiefly Egypt — are in no hurry. They are pleased that Israel is pummeling Hamas. “

        Yes, Egypt look like a “fair partner”.

        But you are right. It is time to move on.

      • Roppi

        No Boris – your psycho babble still doesn’t cut it – sorry friend.

        Subscribe to JT or leave the forums – given that you can’t even access the article you’ve been obsessing about for the last two days. Your ‘arguments’ are totally without foundation – lacking in logic and so obvious to the rest of us that they are grotesquely wrong…

        ‘Israel accepted the terms; Hamas did not’ – to which I provided a link to show that isn’t true. The very ceasefire that Hamas were not talked to about by the very party who ‘brokered’ it. It is simple enough to understand, yet you keep failing to do so.”

        Hehe – you can’t be serious Boris – that is total schlock and you know it or are just unable to understand the sheer folly your ‘informed’ point of view!!

        And this quote is my favourite:
        “In practice, Saturday night’s threat teaches us that Hamas wants a truce. The threat, followed by a salvo, sounds like a grand finale. But the potential mediators — chiefly Egypt — are in no hurry. They are pleased that Israel is pummeling Hamas. “

        WHAT DRIBBLE ..do you just make this stuff up or search the net to find a sound bite that suits your argument??

        Boris – perhaps on second thought -don’t subscribe to JT….move on buddy…:)

      • Boris

        “Subscribe to JT or leave the forums” – The forum is runned by Disqus. My comment was 6 days old when you replied to it. I responded to you. This is why there has been this back and forth. Calling that obsessing over the article clearly shows you have no understanding of what is going on. Here is a hint – I would have forgotten about this article if someone didn’t respond to my comment. I have only responded to replies to my comments.

        You based your whole argument of “Israel accepted the terms; Hamas did not.” on this article while other reports have shown this to be false and I posted at least one link to show that.

        It’s easy to throw insults then to actually discuss things – psycho babble, schlock, dribble, etc. are in the latest post. Even after posting links, which you have had the chance to look at yourself (Channel 4 News [UK] and Israel Hayom), you added nothing to the discussion. Nothing at all.

        And I’m obsessed? Yeah, right.

      • Roppi

        Yes – you are obsessed Boris and worse than that you’re visually impaired my friend..

        At this point – I really have no idea what your argument is – you’re totally too random in what you bring to the discussion – grabbing on to any random factoid that you think will win you the day…:))

        As for the forums, JT – Discus – whatever – you seem obsessed with all that as well – given that you have raised these totally irrelevant points EVERY TIME – as if this is the prefect excuse for ignorance..

        So psycho babble – schlock, dribble are well chosen adjectives to describe a point of view and a so called argument that is so way off course..

        Your responses seem to have the same thread which is so common with certain kind of people – and that is reverse the criticism back to your opponent – never mind trying to logically – factually argue a case – no the easy – low level response is always to turn the argument around – a little like a child in their formative years..:))

        I look forward to your next instalment of insight…:))

      • Boris

        You do have reading comprehension problems.

        I’m going to go from my first response to your post, so thing might make sense.

        My first response to you:

        “I’ve reach my story limit as a non-registered user.

        So which terms were they and when?

        If you are talking about the recent ceasefire, the one Egypt brokered (when there was a lull in the fighting), then they probably should have spoken to Hamas in the first place instead of ignoring them. It’s hard for someone to accept something if you don’t ask or talk to them about it.”

        To which you respond:

        “you’re asking me?? Sorry – you were the one so very quick to blame Israel -^ you had all the answers and now your points are: 1. you didn’t know the terms of the cease fire which infers that they were somehow in favour of Israel – of course

        2. that someone (Egypt?) probably should have spoken to Hamas..as opposed to say Fatah…oh that’s right those two pillars of Islamic harmony hate each other and use their own people to push their own selfish political/religious agendas..irrespective of the death toll…”

        1. No one but Egypt and Israel knows the terms. There has been leaks here and there in the media. This article may have mentioned that Hamas rejected the ceasefire, though this has since been proven to be false. I didn’t infer anything at that point of my posting, but I am now since it came to light that disarmament of Gaza was in the ceasefire but nothing mentioning what Hamas or Gaza would get in return. Then again, we don’t have the full details so we can only go what is out there right now.

        2. Fatah aren’t the one Israel is attacking. It is Gaza and Hamas. Hamas should have been spoken to by the broker (in this case Egypt) or other partners, but were completely ignored. So why ask a stupid question saying Fatah should have been spoken to? And since you mentioned that Fatah and Hamas hate each other, I mentioned that Fatah and Hamas made efforts to reconcile and Israel didn’t like that.

        Can you follow that?

        I have addressed your points. Either counter them if they are incorrect or STFU.

        Here comes more insults!

      • Roppi

        Boris, Boris, Boris – you’re loosing it friend..LOL

        STFU??? – ohhh – (JT must not know what your acronym means) such a high level adult response – I’m shattered with that insult – LMAO..hehe

        As I wrote previously – hint – school children in their formative years…perhaps you were bullied as a student and perhaps that why you loose it when you can’t win an argument – whatever that argument might be…I still can’t figure out what/why you’re frothing from the mouth..

        Time to put your slippers on – turn on Arab TV and have a hot cup of tea to settle your nerves…

        Until next time – I wait with bated breath…LMAO…

      • Boris

        Last two comments have been deleted.
        My response to the above and your response to mine.
        I am going to assume it is the mod.
        With that done, I’m out of here.
        Have fun trolling someone else.