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Calmest Year in Decade on Gaza-Israel Frontier but Tensions Persist

  • Scott Bobb

It has been one year since Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza engaged in an eight-day exchange of bombings and rocket attacks in which about 180 people were killed and 1,000 wounded. Since then, analysts say, Gaza has been calmer than at any time in the past decade, but neither side has lowered its guard.

A year later, the rubble has been cleared from the air strikes that Israelis called Operation Pillar of Defense; for eight days, Israeli planes and artillery pounded 1,500 targets in Gaza. More than 170 Palestinians were killed, many of them civilians, and more than 800 were wounded.

During the same period, Hamas militants fired 1,500 rockets into Israel, reaching the outskirts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for the first time. Six Israelis were killed and 200 wounded.

Israeli officials say the past year has been the calmest in more than a decade, and indeed the calmest since the Second Intifada Palestinian uprising, which ran from 2000 to 2005. The violence since then peaked with a three-week incursion by Israeli ground troops nearly five years ago, in which more than 1,000 people were killed.

Despite setbacks from the conflicts, Hamas remains committed to its goals.

"Heroes, thousands of them above ground and thousands underground, are preparing quietly for the battle to liberate Palestine," said Ismail Haniyeh, the group’s leader in Gaza.

Analyst Talal Okal thinks Gazans see any ceasefire as temporary.

“Everybody in Gaza, everybody, is expecting a new war by the Israelis. It is a matter of time, you know, a matter of justifications,” explained Okal.

The director of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, General Yossi Kuperwasser, does not foresee another conflict soon but does say that Hamas remains a threat.

“It is still a terrorist organization committed to the struggle and the destruction of Israel, committed to terrorist activities. And we have to continue to keep a very close eye on what’s happening in Gaza on a daily basis,” said Kuperwasser.

Israeli officials say they are most worried by Hamas’s growing ability to build rockets inside Gaza and the increasing size and range of these missiles.