Since Hamas won elections in Gaza in 2006, took full control in 2007 and ousted the more moderate Palestinian leadership now based in the West Bank, Israel has been locked in an endless cycle of conflict with the militant group. The latest, which ended with a ceasefire last Friday, was the fourth major conflagration. The 11-day engagement, triggered by clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, left over 220 dead, including 12 Israelis. Aside from civilian casualties, including women and children, nearly 100km of underground tunnels used by the militants were destroyed. The fighting stopped after the United States and Egypt weighed in on Israel, and Qatar on Hamas.
What did the fighting achieve? Aside from showing that the US-built “Iron Dome” missile shield over Israel held up, as did the competence of Israel’s intelligence agencies, there was little change to the status quo. Hamas continues to dispute Israel’s right to exist. Core issues such as the lack of a sovereign Palestinian state, the military occupation of the West Bank, which is home to millions of Palestinians, and the blockade of Gaza remain unresolved. Unfortunately, the intense Israeli strikes may have driven more Palestinians to see Hamas as their only hope and saviour. After three previous offensives, Hamas has been able to rebuild its capabilities each time.