Confusing and conflicting reports of the conflict between Palestine and Israel have been released to the media in recent weeks. Militant group Islamic Jihad recently made an announcement that Egypt had intervened in the conflict to restore calm to the region. Islamic Jihad is the militant group responsible for firing dozens of rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip. However, Hamas, the militant Palestinian faction, said it knew of no such truce. Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007.
Even after the announcements, about 60 more rockets were launched by smaller cells in Gaza towards Israel. Israel responded by bombing what it called 29 “terror sites” across Gaza. The escalation of violence has shaken both sides of the border. Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair said the rocket strikes “underline and illustrate the depth of the problem.” In Jerusalem, he told reporters “One thing we are going to need, medium- and long-term, is a completely new strategy toward Gaza.”
A damaged Hamas has struggled to maintain control as Gaza and its 1.7 million residents have become increasingly isolated and desperate. Last summer, Egypt’s military ousted that nation’s Islamist leaders, weakening Hamas’s position in the region. Egypt shut down hundreds of smuggling tunnels, frequently closed its border crossings and declared Hamas a terror organization. Unemployment in Gaza is at 39 percent, prices for staples are soaring, fuel shortages have led to half-day blackouts, and travel is thwarted. Fatah, the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad, and a host of less organized radical groups have challenged the leadership of Hamas based on the conditions in Gaza.
Experts said that the upset to the status quo in the region might force Israel to rethink its longstanding deterrence strategy. Shaul Shay, director of research at the Institute of Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, said, “It’s quite clear for Israel that the balance of power in Gaza is changing, and not to a very optimistic direction. Israel and Hamas both have no interest in escalation, but there are other parties that are playing in the Gaza Strip, other bad guys.”