Criminal Extortion

An Israeli soldier is silhouetted against the sky in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Nov. 13, 2018.
An Israeli soldier is silhouetted against the sky in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Nov. 13, 2018.

At time of writing, a tense truce is holding along Israel’s border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Just days ago, the region was gripped by the most intense fighting seen in years. Another war seemed inevitable. After a few false starts, however, a ceasefire has been holding.

Israel lives in a tough neighbourhood. It’s an old saying, but as true now as ever. The recent fighting was triggered by a raid by Israeli special forces into Gaza. Little is known about the raid’s purposes or what went wrong, but a battle ensued, with casualties among both the Israeli special forces unit and Hamas terrorists. The incident flared up into a near-war, with Hamas pounding Israel with rockets and artillery, and Israel replying with airstrikes.

The pause in fighting may not hold. Even if it does, it may cost Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his government — hardliners in his coalition want to see Hamas pay a much higher price, not just for this week’s rocket barrages, but also for the long-running violent “protests” — riots — Hamas has been organizing along Gaza’s border with Israel.

The entire affair brings to mind, yet again, the importance of securing a long-lasting peace. But it also reminds us how difficult it will be to make that peace. Israel isn’t perfect, but it is a responsible actor, and it exercised tremendous restraint this week, as always. Hamas, in contrast, responded to the skirmish with massed, indiscriminate rocket fire on civilian targets — war crimes. It only backed down when faced with the realistic prospect of another punishing war against vastly superior Israeli forces.

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