The Gaza Strip, 25 miles long and 4-7 miles wide, is located in the southwestern coast of Israel. This one strip of land is the source of many deadly rocket launches on Israeli civilians. Gaza is controlled by Hamas, a terrorist organization whose charter proclaims: “The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!”
Quick Gaza facts timeline:
- Pre 1917: a minority of Jews lived in small communities throughout Israel
- 1917-1948: British Mandate period in which Jews still were dispersed throughout Israel
- 1948-1967: After the 1948 War of Independence with the gaining of Israel’s new borders, all Jews were forbidden to live in Judea-Samaria (West Bank) and Gaza
- 1967-2005: After being attacked by surrounding nations, Israel gains the disputed territories Gaza and Judea-Samaria (West Bank).
- 2005: Complete eviction of all Jews from the Gaza Strip by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
- 2008: Operation Cast Lead- Israeli precise defensive strike against continual rocket and mortar firings from Gaza
When Israel gained its Independence in 1948, it did not include Judea-Samaria and Gaza. It was only after the Six Day War that Israel gained the now disputed territories (as well as the Golan Heights). Israel was not actively seeking out these territories, even though Jews had many Biblical ties to these lands including Bethlehem and Hebron (where the Matriarchs and Patriarchs are buried). After the tiny nation was attacked on all sides and won, it gained a large addition.
However, in 2005 Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared a mass exodus of all Jews from Gaza. He was unilaterally giving Gaza to the Palestinian Legislative Authority. There was no trade, no compromise, just a hope that peace would be achieved by giving Palestinians the land they so desperately wanted. Families were torn from their homes, all in the government’s desperate hope that it would be for the greater good of Israel. The Israeli government left behind their infrastructures, greenhouses, and synagogues.
The day after the pull out, the greenhouses were destroyed. The synagogues were burned down. And throughout the years, Gaza has been used as an unchecked rocket launch pad.
Israel has a right to defend itself against these armed attacks. According to Article 51 of the United Nations charter states: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.” Israel has complete authority to carry out a defensive strike against an attack from Gaza. The fact that Israel is attacked multiple times, and has to defend itself multiple times does not take away from its legitimacy in its defense. It cannot wait for the UN to figure out what to do about the situation, while rockets continue to kill its civilians.
One of the indicators of a state’s legitimacy is by de-facto means; the state has a way to protect its citizens from violence, not just by law. A state must monopolize violence, having only one source of armed resistance provided by the government. When Ben Gurion became the first Prime Minister, he recognized the necessity for monopolized violence. There was a radical group, Altalena (Alternative Violent Organization, meaning an alternative of IDF) that did not want to negotiate with Arabs. In June 1948, Ben Gurion ordered their boat to be sunk in the Altalena Affair. Ben Gurion knew that in order to keep peace and the legitimacy of the State of Israel, there was no room for terrorism.
Palestinian authorities in Gaza on the other hand, have done nothing to monopolize violence. They allow terrorist organizations to launch rockets, murder and kill Israelis and do not answer to any government authority. For example, it was not Hamas that kidnapped and hid Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for 5 years, but another terrorist organization. If the Palestinian government cannot even control its own sources of violence, how can the international community expect the government to keep true to its words of any peace with Israel?
Furthermore, Hamas has breached many international laws. The most prominent being civilian’s role in war. Israel deliberately pains itself to make sure that it has the least amount of civilian fatalities. Even when it was against its best interest, it would warn civilians of a coming defense strike against Hamas. Israel would not even have to do this if Hamas did not use its civilians as human shields (against international law). The Law of Armed Conflict states that combatants cannot deliberately target an enemy’s civilians and one must distinguish between their own civilians and their armed forces; they also must not have operations in or “near civilian structures, especially protected sites such as schools, medical facilities and places of worship.”
According the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
“Hamas’ main base of operations during the Gaza Operation was located inside Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, which was not attacked by Israeli forces out of concern for the inevitable harm to civilians also present in the hospital. Hamas’ decision to place the lives of hundreds of patients, doctors, and nurses in danger in this manner is in clear breech of the principle of distinction.”
In Gaza, Hamas deliberately launches rockets from areas in and around civilian areas. There have been numerous rockets launched from areas in and around schools, hospitals, places of worship and homes. Hamas puts a target on their civilians, knowing that Israel will be hesitant to strike those areas.
What is even worse is that Hamas uses this against Israel. When Israel does in fact have to defend itself and hits an area where the rocket came from, Hamas uses the defensive strike as propaganda that Israel is killing Palestinian civilians. The cause of which was their own doing.
Additionally, Israel gives humanitarian aid to Gaza’s civilians. During the times they deliver this aid, they cease fire to make sure that it is delivered safely to its destination. However, Hamas takes advantage of Israel’s cease fire by launching rockets during the humanitarian aid deliveries. For example, in 2009, 44 rockets were launched during this 9 day pause. Hamas even hijacked the supplies blocking the aid from getting to its impoverished civilians.
352 rockets landed in Israel from January 2010 to August 2011. In August 2011 alone, the Israeli ministry of Foreign Affairs reports: “a synagogue and a school in Ashdod were hit by rockets fired from Gaza. One person was seriously injured, and some ten were wounded…two Grad rocket hits were identified in Beersheba, causing the death of one Israeli civilian, critically wounding four others and inflicting varying degrees of injuries on three others; considerable damage was done to one house in the city…two Grad rocket hits were identified in the region of Ashdod. Four civilians were wounded, one of them critically; several structures were damaged…” This is not an unusual occurrence. People on the border of Gaza are in constant fear for their lives. An entire generation has been living in fear every moment. They do not know if the next moment the target will be their own home.
As believers we must stand with these people. We can be praying for many things during this time:
- 1. We can pray for the ending of this violence.
- 2. We can pray for the families of the victims.
- 3. We can pray for supernatural protection over all of Israel.
- 4. We can pray for those living in Gaza. Hamas is using its own civilians as shields, and we need to pray for a protection over these innocent lives.
- 5. We can pray for protection over IDF soldiers as they defend Israel.
- 6. We can pray for wisdom for those who are making the defense decisions.
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