Rockets slammed into Israeli homes, forcing residents to flee to safety. Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorists fired more than 1,000 rockets into Israel, killing two civilians, while many Palestinians were killed by missiles that fell short. The ruling regime in the Gaza Strip, Hamas, avoided the conflict in an apparent turf war between rival factions.
The Israel Defense Forces launched “Operation Shield and Arrow” on May 9 when its air force killed three senior Islamic Jihad commanders. This came one week after PIJ launched more than 100 rockets at Israel. The Israeli government responded to threats from PIJ by ordering residents in southern Israel to stay near bomb shelters, as they also had to close schools, beaches and roads in anticipation of rocket fire. The IDF continued to strike terrorist infrastructure.
PIJ launched 1,468 rockets towards Israel—targeting even Jerusalem and Tel Aviv—over the next five days before Egypt mediated a ceasefire. Rockets killed two civilians in Israel: an 80-year-old Israeli Jew helping her paralyzed husband to their shelter and a Palestinian laborer working on an Israeli farm. Israel has recognized him as a terrorist victim, entitling his family to compensation.
Misfired rockets smashed into Gazan residential neighborhoods, killing at least four, including one as young as 10. One out of every five rockets landed short in Gaza. Terror organizations do not protect their civilians, while Israel is known for warning Palestinian residents before airstrikes.
Israel has developed multiple defense systems to help prevent civilian casualties. The most well-known—jointly developed and funded by the United States—is the Iron Dome, a strategic missile-targeting defense system that destroys enemy rockets mid-air. Its success rate was 95.6%. Israel also successfully deployed its “David’s Sling” defense system for the first time which is designed to shoot down short-range rockets.
Israelis are alerted to incoming rockets by sirens and the Red Alert: Israel phone app. Residents living near Gaza have only 15 seconds to seek shelter. Personal accounts reveal the intense fear and stress Israelis face on a regular basis. One of the hardest-hit Israeli towns was Sderot. Resident Etti Kramer shared her heart-wrenching decision: “You have to choose which of your children you save. I grabbed the baby and the 2-year-old and ran to the shelter.” Many Israelis, particularly children, suffer post-traumatic stress as a result of these attacks.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad: Another Iranian Proxy
PIJ’s primary objective is to wipe out the Jewish state and establish in its place an Islamic Palestinian state based on Sharia law. Islamic Jihad rejects any negotiations or compromises with Israel. It is classified as a terrorist organization by several countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
PIJ has a decades-long track record of attacking Israeli civilians. It took credit for the first Palestinian suicide attack in 1989 when a terrorist grabbed the wheel of a crowded commuter bus and ran it off a cliff, killing 16 civilians, including one American. In 2003, 21 Israelis—18 Jews and three Arabs—were killed when a female law student, strapped with an explosive belt, detonated it when she walked into the beachfront restaurant, Maxim, an iconic site of Arab-Jewish coexistence.
While Iranian-backed Hamas did not take an active role in the recent fighting, its leaders did not restrain PIJ from launching repeated rocket barrages. PIJ and Hamas are in competition with each other for control of Gaza and with the P.A. in the West Bank; Hamas sees Israel’s elimination of PIJ commanders as a favor.
History of a Sliver of Land
The Gaza Strip’s complex history spans several millennia. The earliest inhabitants date back to the 15th century BCE, including the Canaanites. The area was conquered by Babylonians, Persians and then Greeks. Gaza became part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the early 1500s until the end of World War I, when it was incorporated into the British Mandate for Palestine.
Egypt ruled Gaza until it lost the area to Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. The Israeli government withdrew all of its civilians there in its 2005 unilateral withdrawal. The Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists seized Gaza and its two million residents after a violent coup against the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Since then, Hamas has initiated numerous wars against Israel.
Points to consider:
- Multiple terrorist organizations in Gaza are dedicated to Israel’s destruction.
Hamas, the regime ruling Gaza, is the most prominent Palestinian terror organization leading attacks against Israel. Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine are solely committed to destroying Israel. Their extremist beliefs fuel hatred, hindering efforts to build trust, foster dialogue and achieve peace. It is important to acknowledge that the goals and actions of these terrorists do not represent the aspirations of all Palestinians. A Palestinian living in Gaza stated, “We want Gaza to be like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Cairo. I don’t want there to be wars and rockets.” Rather than dedicating their resources to building a prosperous Gaza for its citizens, terrorist Palestinian leaders focus on the destruction of Israel.
- Gaza-based terrorists are part of an Iranian axis targeting Israel.
Iran backs multiple terrorist organizations in Gaza and across the Middle East. The Iranian regime provides financial, military and political support enabling the terrorists to continue attacks against Israel. Iran supports these terror groups with weapons, training and logistical assistance as part of its broader regional agenda to annihilate Israel’s existence and control Palestinians. The Iranian influence on Gaza terrorist organizations challenges regional stability and undermines peaceful coexistence with Israel.
- Palestinians in Gaza suffer under Hamas rule.
The oppressive actions of Hamas and other terrorist organizations have only brought joblessness, poverty and suffering to Palestinians living in Gaza. Hamas and the PIJ prioritize their own interests and extremist agendas over the well-being of their civilian population. Their focus on eliminating Israel diverts attention and undermines the ability to provide basic humanitarian services. Terror leaders redirect international aid intended for civilian purposes to construct terror tunnels and acquire weapons, further hindering the development of Gaza’s economy and infrastructure. Under Hamas rule, society is denied political freedom, civil liberties and human rights. Dissent and criticism of the regime are met with severe consequences, including arbitrary arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings. The strict enforcement of Islamic law on personal freedoms limits the opportunities of Palestinians, particularly women and other minorities.
- The Palestinian education system promotes hate and violence.
The Palestinian curriculum, including at schools run by U.N. agencies, is an indoctrination system that systematically teaches incitement to terrorism against Israelis. Palestinian textbooks promote anti-Jewish rhetoric, depict Israel as an aggressor and glorify martyrdom. This narrative perpetuates hate and violence, making it difficult for young Palestinians to see Israelis as potential partners for peace and making them more susceptible to extremist ideologies. The education system does not prioritize teaching skills that are necessary for building a prosperous society, such as innovation and civic engagement. Educational reforms must include teaching tolerance and critical thinking to help the next generation of Palestinians find common ground with Israelis for achieving a lasting peace in the region.
- Palestinian terrorists exploit children as soldiers.
Palestinian terrorist organizations routinely recruit children to join their ranks. The use of child soldiers is a grave violation of children’s rights and international humanitarian law. Children have been seen carrying weapons and participating in combat. Hamas intentionally recruits and trains children, exposing them to significant physical and psychological harm. Children are manipulated and coerced into joining terrorist groups, often through propaganda, indoctrination and promises of martyrdom and rewards for their families. Exploiting children not only robs children of their childhood and their future, but also undermines their rights to education, health and safety. The international community must condemn and address the use of child soldiers.