...while we can’t expect to see peace and normalization between Israel and the residents of Gaza anytime soon, we can at least reasonably hope for no further large-scale killings in the immediate future. And all that needed to happen was for Hamas to decide a bunch of dead Palestinians no longer served its interests.
The killings this week, which left 60 dead on Monday, occurred during a large protest, involving tens of thousands of people, along the fence that constitutes Israel’s southern border with Gaza. Gaza is controlled by Hamas, a listed terrorist group that also functions as Gaza’s government. The protesters were calling for the right to return to homes and villages they (or their ancestors) lost during previous Arab-Israeli conflicts, which typically end with Israel both victorious and larger.
It is difficult to overstate how ridiculous that claimed right is. Israel’s existence and massive military superiority are textbook examples of facts on the ground (heavily armed facts, at that). There isn’t going to be a return, period. Still, Hamas and other jihadist groups have had a role in organizing the protests, which are also fuelled by the genuine frustrations of Gazans tired of living in the densely populated, economically stagnant enclave, wedged between Egypt and Israeli checkpoints.
Israel, for its part, has been clear that any attempt to breach the border fence, including by approaching it within 100 metres, will be considered hostile and met with force. On Monday, reporters at the scene of the protest noted that Israel had deployed Arabic-language leaflets, which read, in part, “The [Israel Defense Forces are] prepared to face all scenarios and will act against every attempt to damage the security fence or harm IDF soldiers or Israeli civilians. Do not let Hamas cynically use you as its puppet. … Stay away from the security fence, from terror instigators and the violent rioters! Save yourselves and prioritize building your future!” When that didn’t work, tear gas was used, and warning shots fired into the dirt in front of protestors. When that didn’t work, live ammunition was used, resulting in the deaths and hundreds of injuries (further hundreds were apparently injured in the rush away from the shooting). Some of the dead were children.