Will This Ceasefire Hold?

The conflict between Israel and Palestine is nothing new, but the escalation last summer was tremendously significant. It began with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in June 2014, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed on Hamas and promised that the group would pay for what it had done.[1] Hamas, the militant Palestinian Islamic group that wants to create an Islamic state of Palestine, denied any involvement in the horrific murder.[2] Back in November 2012, after yet another round of violence in the Gaza strip, Israel and Hamas had reached a ceasefire with support from Egypt and the United States, but just after the truce was signed Palestinian rockets began flying again into southern Israel.[3] There was hope, but also, as always, a great deal of scepticism surrounding the deal, like most things concerning Israel and Palestine. This came to a head in summer 2014 when Hamas fired almost three thousand rockets at Israel, provoking Israel to carry out airstrikes on terrorist targets, like the rocket launchers, in Gaza.[4] Gaza, which is a strip of land surrounded by Egypt, Israel, and the Mediterranean Sea, is governed by Hamas.[5] The West Bank, next to Israel, Jordan, and the Dead Sea, is controlled by Fatah, which is also a Muslim group, but it has accepted the existence of Israel while Hamas has not.[6]

Image courtesy of Ingmar Zahorsky, © 2009, some rights reserved.
Image courtesy of Ingmar Zahorsky, © 2009, some rights reserved.

Between July and August of 2014 2,100 Palestinians, 66 Israeli soldiers, and 7 Israeli civilians were killed in the fighting.[7] The number of Palestinian civilians was very controversial because different organizations and different people reported smaller or larger casualties. The disparity reflects a bias, either towards Israel (lower) or Palestine (higher). There was even more controversy surrounding the methods of attack employed. Israel is known to use the ‘knock on the roof’ method where people inside buildings are warned of an upcoming attack by a non-explosive missile hitting the roof.[8]  Israel has also been accused of targeting civilian households, which international organizations like Amnesty International are claiming constitutes a war crime.[9] And, on the other hand, Israel said it was merely defending itself from the Palestinian rocket attacks.

Yet another ceasefire was finally reached at the end of August 2014, which was skilfully brokered by Egypt. But, of course, controversy surrounded this too. Israel said the agreement to a seaport, airport, or release of Palestinian prisoners had not been part of the deal, while Palestine claimed they had and that necessary humanitarian supplies and reconstruction materials would be allowed to pass freely into the region.[10] In the digital age, the conflict between Israel and Palestine is all about perceptions. The power of the Internet is immense, and if each side can promote their own viewpoint and garner public support then they feel they are gaining an advantage. Also, how other states and other groups view each side is important to them, too. This is evident in the aforementioned disagreements over the death toll. If one side can appear to be overly aggressive, it works in favour of the other.

Of course no one was expecting the situation in Israel and Palestine to suddenly resolve itself. Now, another outside group is weighing in. Anonymous, a ‘hacktivist’ group that has targeted government and military websites over the last three years, has released a new video announcing its annual intended cyber attack on Israel’s servers and websites, this year on 7 April 2015. In the video the group said, “We are coming back to punish you again, for your crimes in the Palestinian territories. All we see is continuous aggression, bombing, killing and kidnapping of the Palestinian people, as in the last war against Gaza in 2014.”[11]

To further add to the conflict, Palestine also became a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 1 April 2015, and hopes to bring Israel to court over the country’s ‘Protective Edge’ operation last summer, which contributed to the deaths of thousands of Palestinian civilians.[12] As previously mentioned, organizations like Amnesty International, which feel Israel acted in the wrong in the summer of 2014, would support action against Israel. However, countries like the United States, who is not part of the ICC, would probably not wholeheartedly support such a suit. Only time will tell what the future holds for these two conflicting sides and what effects this next Anonymous hack will have or what will happen in The Hague. Hopefully some sort of agreement can be reached to prevent future casualties like the region saw last summer, but who knows if that will even happen in our lifetimes.

[1] “Abducted Israeli teens found dead near Hebron.” BBC. 30 June 2014.

[2] “Hama.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 26 March 2015.

[3] Kirkpatrick, David D. and Rudoren, Jodi. “Israel and Hamas Agree to a Cease-Fire, After a U.S.-Egypt Push.” The New York Times. 21 November 2012.

[4] “Escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” Council on Foreign Relations.

[5] Masi, Alessandria. “What’s The Difference Between The West Bank and The Gaza Strip?” International Business Times. 18 July 2014.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Gaza crisis: Toll of operations in Gaza.” BBC. 1 September 2014.

[8] Ibid.

[9] “Israeli forces displayed ‘callous indifference’ in deadly attacks on family homes in Gaza.” Amnesty International. 5 November 2014.

[10] “Gaza crisis: Toll of operations in Gaza.” BBC. 1 September 2014.

[11] Dearden, Lizzie. “Anonymous vows to wreak ‘electronic holocaust’ on Israel for ‘crimes in the Palestinian territories’.” The Independent. 31 March 2015.

[12] “Palestine formally joins International Criminal Court.” Aljazeera. 1 April 2015.

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