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Last week, a new wave of attacks was launched against Gaza by Israel claiming more than a hundred innocent lives. The renewed tensions came after Israel launched a series of missile attacks targeted at militants in Gaza which killed Hamas military commander Ahmed Al Jabari. Israel said the killing of Jabari was a response to Palestinian attacks from Gaza. Over the years, Israel has been aiming at Jabari for his key role in the Hamas military decision-making process after the Operation Cast Lead in 2008.
Soon after Israeli attacks, Hamas retaliated by firing four Grad rockets which caused no casualties and only some damage to infrastructure in the southern city of Beersheba. As the clashes continue and civilian death toll mounts, foreign countries are condemning the attacks. Yesterday, a truce was agreed to end the bloodshed.
Even as both sides work out the details of the truce, one question is waiting to be answered. Why did Israel launch the attacks now? Listed below are ten reasons why Israel reignited the Gaza war.
1. An election tool. The attack on Gaza is timed with Israel’s general election on January 22. Though opinion polls predict an easy win for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he still needed to address domestic problems to ensure a stable government next year.
In 2011, Netanyahu’s popularity plummeted due to social justice protests which had a significant impact on his government, but he immediately recovered with his speech on the Palestinian campaign to gain full membership in the UN. The current attacks have helped divert public’s attention. With only a few weeks left, Netanyahu’s re-election bid will mainly focus on Israel’s national security.
2. A call to US government. The conflict is meant to influence Obama’s foreign policy. Netanyahu, who vigorously backed Mitt Romney, is moving forward with his agenda regardless of the outcome of US elections. On Sunday, Obama showed support for Israel saying it has the right to self-defence while urging the Israeli government to find ways to halt attacks. Netanyahu expressed his appreciation about US investment in Iron Dome system.
3. A challenge to Egyptian government. President Mohammed Mursi from the Brotherhood party is under increasing pressure as escalation of crisis threatens its peace treaty with Israel. Mursi vowed to maintain Egypt’s pact with Israel. However, Egyptians sympathise with Palestinians and condemned Israel’s advance. Egypt led the ceasefire efforts.
4. A blow to Hamas power. Israel responded to Hamas rocket attacks by demolishing its power centres with a barrage of airstrikes. On October 24, an attack on an ammunition factory in Sudan raised tensions between Khartoum and Tel Aviv. Israel believes Iranian weapons were transported via Sudan to Gaza.
5. Purging Hamas leadership. After the assassination of Hamas leader Jabari, the Israeli Defence Force warned other Hamas leaders that they too were among targets in its move to wipe out terrorist groups. Mediator Gershon Baskin said last Thursday that Jabari had received the draft of a ‘permanent truce agreement with Israel’ hours before he died. However, Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel is ‘not prepared to reconcile itself to such situation’, referring to Hamas escalation of attacks on Israeli citizens.
6. Influencing UN vote. Palestinian envoy at UN accused Israel of ‘deliberately timing the attack’ to torpedo Palestine’s UN non-member state bid. Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated that he would continue the statehood bid despite US and Israel opposition. The UN General Assembly can grant the bid with a majority vote which the Palestinians have already secured. If granted statehood, the Palestinian state can sue Israel at the international criminal court for war crimes. Israel has threatened to annul all peace accords and oust Mahmoud Abbas if he pursues his plan.
7. A test of Iron Dome. The Gaza crisis served as an opportunity to test Israel’s Iron Dome which was first tried in 2011. Over the weekend, the shield had intercepted more than 200 rockets from Gaza, marking a success rate of 90 percent. The US has allotted about $300m to fund the defence system. The Dome has been an asset to the Israeli military which continuously attacks Gaza Strip.
8. Syria and Israeli security. Israel’s offensive has provided them a glimpse into what will happen when the Syrian regime falls. As Assad’s rule nears its end, Israel is preparing its border security and military to counter the effects of the collapse. Syria is an urgent issue for Israel and fears that the violence might spill over into Golan Heights. Moreover, the peril is that Syria’s stockpiles of WMD might fall into the hands of jihadis.
9. An evaluation of Arab reaction after Arab Spring. The Gaza attack created less furor in the Arab world than it did in the West due to the reform movements in Middle East. However, Egypt condemned the attack and withdrew its ambassador from Tel Aviv. President Mursi also called for an emergency meeting of the Security Council. Jordan warned that it would cause further instability in the region. The Turkish government distanced itself from its former ally Israel.
10. A message to Qatar. Prior to the attack, Qatar had increased its investment in Gaza from $254m to $400m to rebuild the infrastructure. Israel criticised Qatar’s move and described it as ‘not good’. Qatar’s Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani voiced his stance on the peace process and how to address the conflict in Gaza. The attack is an indirect call to Qatar to break its promises to Palestine. The Peninsula