Israel | Violence Flares in Gaza
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- Violence Flares in Gaza
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Violence Flares in Gaza
After years of almost daily exchanges of rocket fire between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, signed an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire in June. The fragile agreement held for most of the remainder of 2008. Israel continued its yearlong blockade of Gaza, however, and the humanitarian and economic crisis in Gaza intensified.
Olmert resigned in September, as expected, after Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was elected head of Kadima, the main party in the governing coalition. She was not able to form a new majority coalition, however.
While Palestinian and Israeli officials continued their dialogue throughout 2008, a final peace deal remained out of reach amid the growing rift between Fatah, which controls the West Bank, and Hamas. In addition, Israel's continued development of settlements in the occupied West Bank further stalled the process. In late December 2008, days after the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas expired, Hamas began launching rocket attacks into Israel, which retaliated with airstrikes that killed about 300 people. Israel targeted Hamas bases, training camps, and missile storage facilities. Egypt sealed its border with Gaza, angering Palestinians who were attempting to flee the attacks and seeking medical attention. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the goal of the operation was not intended to reoccupy Gaza, but to “restore normal life and quiet to residents of the south” of Israel.
After more than a week of intense airstrikes, Israeli troops crossed the border into Gaza, launching a ground war against Hamas. Israeli aircraft continued to attack suspected Hamas fighters, weapons stockpiles, rocket-firing positions, and smuggling tunnels. After several weeks of fighting, more than 1,300 Gazans and about a dozen Israelis had been killed.
In September, Richard Goldstone, a South African jurist, released a UN-backed report on the conflict in Gaza. The report accused both the Israeli military and Palestinian fighters of war crimes, alleging that both had targeted civilians. Goldstone, however, reserved much of his criticism for Israel, saying its incursion was a "deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate, and terrorize a civilian population." Israel denounced the report as "deeply flawed, one-sided and prejudiced." The United States also said it was "unbalanced and biased," and the U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution that called the report "irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy."
Goldstone recommended that both Israel and the Palestinians launch independent investigations into the conflict. If they refused, Goldstone recommended that the Security Council then refer both to the International Criminal Court. The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution in October that endorsed the report and its recommendation regarding the investigations. In November, the UN General Assembly passed a similar resolution. Both Israel and the U.S. said continued action on the report could further derail the peace process.