What Happened in the Past Year between the Gaza Strip and Israel?

March 13, 2019
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With almost a year passed since the beginning of the “March of Return” riots, Hamas has used violent protests on the Gaza border to attack Israel.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019 | Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, has been waging an armed conflict against Israel for almost two decades, with the stated purpose of killing Jews and destroying the State of Israel.

Since violently taking control over the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority [PA] in 2007, Hamas has used its control over the territory bordering Israel to increase its attacks and their effectiveness, including by embedding rocket and mortar launch systems within the urban environment, conducting cross-border shooting attacks and cross-border infiltrations, and by digging numerous cross-border assault tunnels, reaching into Israeli residential areas.

Hamas has also used its control over the population, and the financial and material resources that result from this control, for the same purpose. This has included using its control over the education, media and social services to incite and recruit supporters and new members, its control over land crossings and the maritime area to smuggle in weapons and military materiel, actively using the civilian population as shields in military operations, and utilizing urban areas to support offensive and defensive operations

In 2018, alongside the Gaza border events, Hamas increased its military activities against Israel significantly. Hamas fired over 1,300 rockets and mortar shells toward Israeli civilian population centers, a marked increase from 2017. Hundreds of other attacks were carried out, including firing ground-to-ground missiles and machine guns into Israel and detonating mines and other explosives on the fence line, resulting in harm to persons and property damage. Both from within the Gaza border events and separate from it, Hamas launched thousands of incendiary and explosive balloons into Israel.

Simultaneously, Hamas continued to invest in building up its military arsenal and capabilities. Hamas continues to develop and conduct testing of rocket technology and has continued to develop its array of cross-border assault tunnels. Since the end of 2017, 17 tunnels have been neutralized by the IDF [Israel Defense Forces], including tunnels under and close by the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings, as well as under United Nations facilities inside Gaza.

Hamas continues to import military equipment and materials and conducts smuggling operations into the Gaza Strip via Israel and Egypt. Hamas has also continued to conduct large-scale military trainings, including a joint forces exercise on March 27, 2018, which involved training infiltrating into Israel, taking over buildings, kidnapping soldiers and retreating into the Gaza Strip.

Other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip also carried out attacks against Israel during 2018, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, funded and directed by Iran. Many of the different terrorist organizations in Gaza act in cooperation with Hamas, including in a joint operations room commanded by Hamas. In other cases, these groups have purportedly acted independently.

In the face of such threats, Israel takes various steps to protect its population from the armed conflict, including investing in defensive infrastructure (such as bomb shelters), developing and constructing the underground obstacle, deploying and employing the Iron Dome active defense interception system and improving Home Front Command emergency procedures. Israel also works to constrain Hamas’s military buildup by conducting security checks of goods entering Gaza from Israel and regulating the import of goods from Israel that could be used for military purposes. Israel also carried out attacks against Hamas military objectives, primarily consisting of aerial strikes in response to attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip.

What are the Gaza Border Events?

It is within the above context that violent riots and attacks have taken place along the Gaza border since March 30, 2018. Purportedly beginning as a civilian initiative, these events were appropriated by Hamas in order to further its attacks against Israel, to create heightened security tension in the Gaza arena and to increase political and diplomatic pressure on Israel, internally and internationally.

During these events, IDF forces have contended with [nearly a year] of simultaneous gatherings of sometimes tens of thousands of people along the border, each of which have involved varying levels of violence. This has included gunshots; grenades; Molotov cocktails and other explosive devices; marbles and rocks launched using different high-velocity launching devices; coordinated maneuvers to sabotage and destroy the security infrastructure, mostly under cover of large clouds of smoke from burning tires; and the launching of incendiary and explosive airborne devices (primarily kites and balloons) into Israel in order to kill and harm, destroy military infrastructure and cause widespread damage to homes, nature and agriculture.

Under the cover of this violence, breaches in Israel’s security infrastructure have occurred, followed by infiltrations into Israeli territory and attacks on IDF forces, IDF positions and military infrastructure. These breaches have threatened to evolve into mass breaches of the security infrastructure and infiltration en masse into Israel.

Besides these threats, Hamas also intended to exploit breaches created by the rioters and Hamas operatives in the security infrastructure in order to penetrate into Israel territory and conduct military attacks inside Israel. Hamas’s other military assets (such as rockets, missiles and mortars) have been constantly primed and ready so as to rapidly provide ancillary support to successful military attacks inside Israel.

As these violent riots and attacks occur in the Gaza border area, Hamas organized and maintained mass gathering sites further from the border—each site consisting of between eight and twenty-four marquees—social activities, and political and religious speeches, which often include incitement to violence against Israel. These sites did not involve the types of activities described above, and the following information generally refers to the activities occurring in the Gaza border area itself, unless noted otherwise.

The number of people congregating at the focal points and the border area ranges between several thousand and 45,000 each day. Thus, as of the date of this publication, over half a million people have attended these events since March 30, 2018.

Posted on March 13, 2019

Source: (Excerpt from a publication originally posted by the IDF blog. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original publication at this link.)

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces/idf.il