The third in a series of air strike conflicts since 2008 between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Operation Protective Eagle has been active for only two days, but has seen 430 Israeli air strikes, 41 Palestinian deaths and 160 rockets.
Late Tuesday, Hamas set off 40 long-range rockets, some of which were intercepted over Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. There were no reports of injuries, but the attacks spurred the Israeli government to respond with even greater force. Israeli warplanes struck 150 sites said to harbor Islamist fighters in Gaza, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called up 40,000 reservists, so if it came to it, Israel would have the option of ground invasion.
Wednesday, Israel released at least 160 air strikes on Gaza. Hamas responded with just four rockets, one of which was an M302, the same type of missiles that were in a shipment Israel intercepted from Iran in March. Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Learner says even if Hamas forces pull back, Israel will not back down. “We’re beyond that point now,” he said to a CNN reporter. “Hamas are going to pay for the attacks that they’re carrying out – it’s just unacceptable.”
Israel tries to make up for the violence by warning Hamas targets of attacks. Occupants of a building about to be bombed are given a brief warning in Arabic to evacuate – usually around five minutes before being bombed – in Israel’s efforts to reduce civilian casualties and avoid charges of indiscriminate killings. These targeted houses belong to Hamas members involved in military activity, and many have been used as operations rooms.
This isn’t the first time Israel has practiced this policy. During Operation Cast Lead in late 2008, Israel used telephone calls and leaflets to tell occupants to leave before striking, or they fired missiles without explosive warheads onto the roof as a warning to leave before the real missile came. But, often the warnings are in vain, and groups like Human Rights Watch have criticized the attempts because they can’t truly pardon armed forces from their actions. Often, people die from the attacks anyway because they defy the warnings or don’t leave in time, and sometimes missiles don’t hit the building at which they were aimed.
Operation Protective Eagle seems like just a repeat of history, following Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. But this time, it looks like Israel is getting stronger, while Hamas’s position is weakening. Israel’s new defense against rocket attacked, based on the Iron Dome system, is more sophisticated. So far, in this attack, no injuries or deaths have been reported from the Israel side. Meanwhile, Hamas lacks allies it once had – Hizbollah and Syria – because of the Syrian war, and its alliance with Iran is under strain. Because it didn’t support President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Hamas has seen a sharp drop in financing from Iran. Israeli experts warn to also be careful of a weakened Hamas though, as it could lead to extremism.
– Rachel Reed