As of today, 12 July 2014, Israeli bombings and airstrikes on Gaza have killed over 120 people, and 920 people injured. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu says that the targets are all terrorist-related, and Hamas is responsible for any civilian deaths by putting legitimate targets like rocket launch sites and command and control centres in residential areas. However, one of the tactics being used is trying to kill Hamas leaders by bombing their homes, therefore killing the Hamas officers’ families. There are also reports of purely civilian locations being attacked, including a charitable association for the disabled in Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza where 2 civilians were killed. Various politicians including US president Obama have urged Israel to call a ceasefire. But Netanyahu has declared that the dramatically-named “Operation Protective Edge” will not stop until Hamas stops launching rockets at Israeli targets.
A big problem with Netanyahu’s statement is that it is not just Hamas that is firing rockets into Israel. Hamas is the official government of the Gaza Strip, but there are other groups who are involved in attacks. So if Hamas did stop its hostilities, rockets would still be fired from Gaza and Netanyahu would carry on with his brutal aerial assault that has been going on for more than 4 days now.
Another problem is the rhetoric that the Israeli authorities use. They call Hamas “terrorists”, even though Hamas has been officially in charge of Gaza throughout the long blockade of the Gaza Strip. Hamas obviously has support from the Strip’s population, otherwise it would have been removed from power long ago. Netanyahu would do well to remember that the Likud party he leads is directly descended from the Irgun terrorist organization responsible for atrocities like the King David Hotel bombing in 1946, in which 91 people were killed, many of them civilians, of various nationalities. Also it can be argued that “Operation Protective Edge” is itself an act of terrorism, as the Israeli forces are at best indifferent to the fact that they are killing civilians; it is probably more accurate to say Israel is deliberately killing civilians in an attempt to damage Hamas credibility in Gaza. The Israeli attacks are completely out of proportion to the rocket attacks that are the supposed provocation.
Hamas are popular, and in any case there are other groups firing rockets. And informed commentators have said (for instance on the BBC Radio 4 “Today” news programme) that Hamas has large stocks of weaponry and can probably carry on its attacks for months. If Netanyahu really wants to get rid of Hamas, he is going to have to order a ground invasion of Gaza. How long will his popularity and credibility last when Israeli conscripts start returning in body bags?