Earlier this year, Secretary of State John Kerry was involved in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, prior to their collapse. Amid increasing tensions, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri was quoted saying “the gates of hell will open” if Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu wages a war on Gaza.
Indeed, Gaza has attempted to unleash hell on Israel. Since the beginning of July, more than 1,500 rockets have been fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip according to the IDF. Additionally it has been reported by the IDF that several groups of militants have attempted to infiltrate Israel via an underground tunnel network. Due to rising security concerns regarding the conflict, the Federal Aviation Administration initiated a temporary travel ban on all United States flights to Tel Aviv on July 22.
It may be easy to ignore problems on the other side of the planet when you possess no personal connections to the issue. But for me, these issues have quite a large personal significance. The conflict is extremely difficult to ignore because my parents and sisters are in Israel. They were planning on attending the marriage of a friend in the region, but now they could face difficulty leaving due to the travel bans being enacted.
When I realize that my own family is endangered by the rockets launched from Hamas in Gaza, it decreases the empathy I might otherwise have for the organization’s position — not that it is easy to feel any sympathy for an officially recognized terrorist organization. The U.S. Department of State recognizes Hamas as a terrorist organization and as the main governing force in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas has attempted a multitude of terrorist attacks which range from launching rockets into the Israeli civilian population to the use of explosives-laden donkeys against the Israel Defense Forces. In response to these blatant attacks, Israel is executing a military operation in order to eliminate Hamas terrorists and weapons.
As a terrorist organization, Hamas ignores the normal rules of war and hides in locations which are traditionally off-limits during combat. The IDF has located weapons stockpiles in schools, mosques and hospitals, and publishes warnings prior to attacking these targets because these are civilian areas. The utmost care is given to clear these areas of civilians prior to any attack. Unfortunately, when Israelis tell Palestinians to take cover, Hamas uses them as cover for their terrorist activities by remaining in the area.
Essentially, Hamas uses Palestinians as civilian, human shields to protect its members and their weapons. Due to the civilian casualties resulting from the conflict, Israel has faced deep criticism over the death of Palestinians.
Marie Harf, a spokesperson for the Department of State, said, “Over the past several days we think they (Israel) could take additional steps to protect civilian casualties.”
However, none of the criticism suggests what any of these “additional steps” could be. Israel is left between a rock and a hard place, facing criticism for civilian casualties, but it is left with a need to continue its defensive operations.
America defends itself from terrorism. I believe that we, as Americans, will defend ourselves if and when we are attacked. And I believe that Israel ought to have that same right to defend itself. Despite the significance of the crisis, I am often more focused on my sisters’ and parents’ well beings. In lieu of how deeply religious beliefs permeate the region, I trust that providence will guide my family members along safe paths.