In late June 2014, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed while hiking in the occupied West Bank. Their bodies were recovered days later and a burial was held in early July. The day after their burial, the burned body of a missing Palestinian teenager was found in a forest near Jerusalem. The incidents increased tension between Israelis and Palestinians, including riots in East Jerusalem and an exchange of rocket fire in Southern Israel and Gaza, where Israel targeted Hamas.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the police to investigate what he called "the abominable murder" of the Palestinian teenager. Netanyahu promised to punish those responsible. Israel's Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said that if it was a revenge killing in reaction to the death of the three Israeli teenagers than it was "an act of terrorism."
Within a week, several Israeli Jewish suspects were arrested in connection with the killing of the Palestinian teen. Meanwhile, Hamas leaders praised the kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli teenagers, but did not take credit for the incident.
Operation Protective Edge
The situation continued to escalate in July. Hundreds of rockets were launched into Israel by militant groups in Gaza. The rockets reached areas that previous attacks could not, such as outskirts of Jerusalem, despite Israel's use of the Iron Dome, its missile-defense system designed to intercept short-range rockets. In response, on July 8, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, an aerial offensive in Gaza, killing dozens of Palestinians. Israel also called up thousands of reservists for a potential ground operation.
By mid-July, Israel had bombed 60 targets, most of them in northern Gaza, and the Palestinian death toll reached over two hundred. Hundreds of rockets continued to be fired from Gaza into Israel, many intercepted by the Iron Dome. One Israeli was killed from the rockets. Meanwhile, Egypt proposed a cease-fire which was approved by Israel, but rejected by Hamas. Egypt's role as an aggressive mediator increased tension with Hamas.
Ground Offensive Begins
On July 17, 2014, Israel launched a ground offensive into Gaza. Israeli officials said that the mission's main focus was tunnels near Gaza's borders that were being used by Hamas to enter Israel. As the violence continued and the casualties mounted on both sides, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Egyptian, Israeli, and Palestinian leaders to negotiate a cease-fire. In the midst of his urgent diplomatic outreach, 16 Palestinians were killed and more than 100 wounded in an attack on a UN elementary school in Gaza on July 24. Israel denied launching the attack, saying Hamas militants were responsible, missing their target. Demonstrations followed the attack, and Palestinians in the West Bank protested to show unity with Gazans. At least five protesters were killed by Israeli fire.
As the conflict grew more intense, several countries banned flights to Israel for safety concerns. Pro-Palestine and pro-Israel demonstrations were held all over the world. On July 23, the United Nations Human Rights Council began an investigation into war crime accusations on both sides. The investigation would be headed by Canadian academic William Schabas, an internationally respected human rights law expert.
Several Cease-Fire Attempts
Israel announced a 12-hour cease fire beginning on July 26 and extended it to 24 hours, but backed out of it amid heavy rocket fire from Gaza. The UN Security Council issued a statement on July 28 calling for a humanitarian cease-fire. Later that day, a hospital and a refugee camp in Gaza were hit, killing about 10 children. Israel blamed the attack on a "failed rocket attacks launched by Gaza terrorists," and Hamas said the sites were hit by Israeli drones.
After fighting for seven weeks and attempting several short-term cease-fires, Israel and Hamas agreed to an open-ended cease-fire on Aug. 26. The agreement was mediated by Egypt. The interim agreement still had Hamas in control of Gaza while Israel and Egypt still controlled access to Gaza, leaving no clear winner in this latest conflict. However, Hamas declared victory. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was criticized in Israel for how costly the conflict has been. Since the conflict began in early July, 2,143 Palestinians had been killed, mostly civilians, with more than 11,000 wounded and 100,000 left homeless. On Israel's side, 64 soldiers and six civilians were killed.
Synagogue Attack Creates More Tension
Two Palestinians, armed with knives, meat cleavers, and a handgun, entered a synagogue in Jerusalem during morning prayers and killed five people on Nov. 18, 2014. Four of the people killed were rabbis; the other was a police officer who died hours after the incident. The two attackers were shot and killed by police. It was the deadliest assault that occurred in Jerusalem since eight students were killed during a Jewish seminar in March 2008.
Hamas praised the synagogue attack, claiming it was in response to the recent death of a Palestinian bus driver. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack. In a televised address, Netanyahu said that Abbas' condemnation wasn't enough. Israel said it would retaliate, beginning with demolishing the homes of the synagogue's attackers. As 2014 came to a close, the incident increased tension in Israel, which was already on high alert after a recent rise in religious violence.