A barrage of missiles fired by Israeli jets on the coastal enclave of Gaza has broken the fragile peace that was holding in the region for the last couple of months. Military jets pounded dozens of targets across the Gaza Strip, a day after an Israeli special forces operation in Gaza ended in an exchange of fire with militants from Hamas. One Israeli soldier and seven Palestinians were killed in the botched operation that now threatens to torpedo any headway made in the peace efforts by regional and international players. Those efforts, led by Egypt, were expected to result in a long-term truce deal between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The latest wave of violence, instigated by Israel, has put a serious question mark on such peace-building efforts, and threatens to spiral the region into a fully-fledged war. Once again, when push came to shove, Tel Aviv showed that it is not interested in lasting peace and shall resort to reckless behaviour to reverse any efforts aimed at easing tensions on the border of the enclave where some two million Palestinians live. While the latest surge of violence threatens to scupper a temporary ceasefire reached between the two sides recently, there is also growing apprehension that Israel and Hamas were hovering on the brink of an all-out conflict.
Already the people are Gaza are suffering. The enclave is literally besieged by Israel and its two million inhabitants face a humanitarian catastrophe resulting out of 10-year illegal blockade. Previously the UN has warned that the blockade might make Gaza completely “uninhabitable” by 2020. With movement of people and goods severely restricted and most of the exports and imports from the strip banned by Israel, it is a pressure cooker situation in Gaza. Most people were hoping that the ongoing delicate truce might pave the way for long-term peace talks — on issues such as easing of a blockade that has destroyed much of Gaza’s economy. Such a deal, both regional powers in the Arab world and international players surmised, has the potential of leading to eventual peace — one which favours both the Israelis and Palestinians. Unfortunately, as has been the case in the past, Israel decided to play spoilsport and wreck the chance — once again. The Palestinian reaction should therefore not surprise anyone. They are right to say that they are simply defending themselves and reacting to the wanton destruction of their security and infrastructure. Israel cannot just barge in and sabotage peace efforts by targeting Palestinians. It must stop the aggression, exercise self-restraint and take practical measures to end its hostile behaviour in Gaza. Only then will peace get a real chance in the region.