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by William H. Benson

November 29, 2018

     On November 29, 1947, 71 years ago today, the United Nations voted to partition Palestine between first, the Palestinians, the people and families who had resided on that land for centuries, and second, the recent immigrants, the Jewish Zionists, who had fled Europe after the Holocaust.

     Six months later, on May 14, 1948, Great Britain withdrew from Palestine, and that same day the Zionists created a new nation, Israel.

     The next day, May 15, 1948, armed forces from the neighboring Arab nations—Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq—invaded Israel. The Israelis fought for their lives, with fewer numbers and inferior military equipment, during this, the first of several Arab-Israeli wars.

     Yet, the Israelis won their battle for survival. Daring tactics, a motivated army, and makeshift bombs and rifles defeated their enemies. “Defeat for the Israelis would mean eradication.”

     Fearing the Israelis’ intentions, some 750,000 Palestinians people fled their homes and villages in Palestine, and found temporary shelter in Jordan, on the West Bank of the Jordan River, in Egypt, in Lebanon, and on a strip of land that borders Egypt, five miles wide and twenty-five miles long, alongside the Mediterranean Sea, the Gaza Strip, where two million Palestinians live desperate lives.

     After seventy-one years, the Palestinians’ temporary settlements are now thought of as permanent, yet, they and their children and grandchildren dream of returning to their native villages.

     Since 2007, Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip. Some countries, including the United States and Israel, consider Hamas a terrorist organization, but others, including Russia and Turkey, do not.

     Hamas’s officials want to liberate all of Palestine from Israeli occupation, establish an Islamic state across Palestine, and allow Palestinians and their descendents to return to their towns and villages.

     To accomplish this, Hamas launches rockets into Israel. They set aloft incendiary balloons that fall on Israeli agricultural fields and that scorches thousands of acres. They march along the wire fence and protest the open-air prison that the Israelis force them to live in. They build tunnels under the fence.

     War between Israel and Hamas has broken out four times since 2007. The last war, in 2014, “ravaged the territory further and left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead.”

     Christopher Gunness, of the United Nations said, “The humanitarian situation was already disastrous. There’s more than a decade of an illegal blockade. It’s collective punishment.”

     Late in October this year, the Israeli government tried another approach, peaceful and calm actions.

     Israeli officials allowed diesel trucks to pass into Gaza where they filled fuel tanks at the Gaza’s sole electrical power plant. For a few days, the Palestinians enjoyed access to electricity, and hospitals, homes, businesses, and sewage treatment plants could operate again.

     The Israelis also allowed $15 million dollars to pass unobstructed into Gaza, donations that Qatar, a wealthy Arab emirate, gave to the Gaza Palestinians. Hamas then paid months of missed back pay to “thousands of civil servants, teachers, and police officers.”

     This de-escalation fell apart though on Sunday, November 11, 2018, when Israeli special forces, dressed in civilian clothes—including some dressed in women’s clothing—drove a civilian car three kilometers into the Gaza Strip, near the southern city of Khan Younis.

     The Israeli commandoes stopped their car in front of a house that belonged to Nour Baraka, a Hamas battalion commander, in charge of “digging attack tunnels and firing rockets into Israel.” In the gunfight that ensued, the commandoes killed seven Palestinians, including Nour Baraka, but were forced to call in airstrikes “to cover their retreat back into Israeli territory.”

     One Israeli commando was killed during the raid; another was wounded.

     In a rage, Hamas responded with a flurry of rockets, aimed at Israeli communities near Gaza, and, in turn, Israeli aircraft pounded targets inside Gaza. By sundown on Tuesday, November 13, 2018, “Israel and Hamas signaled a willingness to end the clashes.”

     One wonders why Israel’s government would signal peace, hoping for a long-term truce, and then launch a covert undercover operation into Gaza. They must know that, “For Israel to return to a policy of targeting individual Hamas commanders—a tactic abandoned in recent years—could raise tensions along the fence.” A fifth Hamas-Israeli war is a real possibility today.

     Will the Gaza Strip Palestinians ever experience peace? If so, may it happen in 2019.