On 5th October 2016 the Israeli Defence Forces targeted suspected militants in the Gaza strip, wounding one person, in response to a rocket attack that landed in the Israeli town of Sderot. A Palestinian militant group affiliated with Islamic State has since claimed responsibility for the attack. The Israeli government has also enacted a policy of immediate retaliation to any form of attack from militants throughout the occupied territories, and on the same day intercepted a Spanish flotilla attempting to breach the blockade and deliver aid to Gaza. Whilst the events of the past 48 hours have thrown the precarious Arab-Israeli situation into the spotlight once more, political and humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip have been in decline for some time now:
In the past 4 months, essential building materials and petrol have joined the list of blockaded items after the Egyptian government redoubled its efforts to seal up underground tunnels leading into Ramallah, with both Egypt and Israel having long complained that they were being used to smuggle weapons into their respective territories. Gazans are not only struggling to make ends’ meet, they are too scared to leave their homes in case of being caught up in street violence. Alongside clashes between Fatah and Hamas in the Strip, unnamed militant groups have been carrying out attacks across the occupied territories, which led to the Palestinian High Court’s decision earlier this week to postpone upcoming elections in the Gaza Strip until early 2017, whilst allowing them to go ahead in the West Bank. The move is likely to worsen political tensions within Gaza, and has also led to fears that in the absence of a functioning democratic system, Hamas will intensify its rocket-throwing campaign against Israel in show of its solidarity with the Palestinian people.
If history is anything to go by, it can almost be taken for granted that any attacks borne by Israel carried out by Palestinian militants will lead to a disproportionate but nonetheless predictable military retaliation. It is sure to be most devastating for ordinary Palestinian citizens, the very same people whose interests the militant group supposedly has at heart. Hamas has proven itself a hindrance to both the peace process and the more pressing issue of short-term humanitarian relief. A recent UN report revealed that since the 51-day confrontation of 2014 which claimed over 2,300 Palestinian lives, only 17% of the homes that were destroyed have been rebuilt. Conditions created by Hamas provoking greater co-operation on the blockade between Egypt and Israel offer virtually no hope for those in need of shelter. In addition, the militant group has rejected numerous peace talks proposed by both Western leaders and the Arab League, and broken countless ceasefires during confrontation periods which were indeed respected by their enemies. If any real progress is to be made on what is undoubtedly the oldest and most complex conflict of our time, there can be no virtue in tolerance of the kind of bullheaded warmongering that gives contempt of the enemy precedence over compassion for weary and wounded compatriots.