“Operation Protective Edge” has set off the most intense fighting between Israel and Hamas since an eight-day battle in 2012. Hamas has fired more than 225 rockets into Israel since this conflict began. In response, Israeli forces carried out some 80 strikes on July 7, followed by 273 strikes on July 8 and more than 160 on July 9. The overall casualty count has grown to at least 47 people killed and 130 wounded.
Israeli public security minister Yitzhak Aharonovich announced, “We will not stop. They’ll receive a hard first blow, from both the air and the sea. And if a ground invasion is needed, there will be a ground invasion. All options are open, but we need to restore calm.”
Here’s how we got here, and what to watch for.
On June 12, three Israeli teens on their way home from school in the West Bank went missing. On June 30, their bodies were discovered. The Israeli government blamed Hamas, the group that controls Gaza and has been labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. Hamas denied involvement, but praised the abductions. Israeli forces then carried out arrests and demolished homes in the West Bank.
Last week, a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and killed in apparent retribution for the slaying of the Israeli teens. The murdered teenager’s cousin was later arrested by Israeli security forces; he has accused them of beating him. In response, Hamas began firing rockets into Israel, and Israeli forces have responded with attacks on Hamas fortifications.
What will happen now? Here are three keys to watch in coming days. First: have West Bank Palestinians joined the Hamas protest? If they do, the conflict could escalate into an “intifada” (“uprising”) across the region. So far this is not happening.
Second, will Israel mount a ground invasion of Gaza? So far, Israeli defense forces have only called up only 1,500 reservists, though they have received permission to call up 40,000 more. This is a key factor in determining the likelihood of a ground war. Another is Hamas’ actions in the future. If they continue shifting from short- and medium-range rockets to longer-range rockets that can strike Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, Israel will be forced to escalate its response.
Third, what are local leaders doing? Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for an end to the killings. The family of one of the slain Israeli teens condemned the revenge killing of the Palestinian teenager. The family attorney for the beaten Palestinian called on all sides to “stop this disgusting cycle of violence.”
When will true peace come to the Middle East? When the Prince of Peace reigns. When Muslims believe that Jesus is more than a prophet and trust him as their Savior and Lord. When Jews believe that Jesus is more than a rabbi and make him their Messiah. When a great spiritual awakening sweeps this ancient land. God wants to “grant to those who mourn in Zion” that they receive “a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning” (Isaiah 61:3).
Will you “pray for peace in Jerusalem” today (Psalm 122:6)?