Gaza Front Was Relatively Quiet for a Short While. Here’s What’s Igniting It Again

>> UPDATE: Barrage of Gaza rockets targets Israel; house in south takes direct hit

While Lebanon is erupting, blood is being spilled in the streets of Iraqi cities – while Israel and Iran have not stopped exchanging threats – and the Gaza Strip is still quiet, or at least as quiet as Gaza can be. For two months, the number of incidents in Gaza has been very small, after being tempestuous for almost a year and a half. 

– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 45

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 45Haaretz

A brief reminder: After Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, which ended in late August 2014 in a disappointing draw, three and a half years of relative calm prevailed along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. The leaders of Hamas in Gaza relied on a flow of international financial aid to rebuild the Strip, and in general worked to preserve the relative calm, also out of the understanding that another outbreak would be too much for the Gazan public to bear, in view of the destruction caused by Israel during the last operation.

But the money took its time in coming and the frustration in Gaza climbed, until the explosion on Land Day at the end of March 2018. The public’s desperation was met by the distress of the leadership, and they quickly climbed on for a ride on the back of this tiger, out of a fear that otherwise the tiger would turn on them, too. 

This is why Hamas led dozens of violent protests, every Friday, along the border fence. Over 300 Gazans have been killed since they began, most of them protesters who were shot by IDF snipers during attempts to break through the border fence. But the demonstrations began to run out of momentum. Recently the numbers of protesters were relatively low, about 5,000 a week, and the level of friction with the IDF has dropped. A debate has begun inside Hamas on the benefits of continuing the demonstrations. They had few achievements, while at the same time the burden imposed on the Gazan health system by the thousands wounded by IDF sniper fire has become unbearable. 

It is possible that because of the symbolic importance the public in Gaza attributes to the protests, it has not yet been decided to stop them completely. But the participants’ drop in motivation and the reduced influence of the protests is very clear. The number of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip has also fallen during these past few months. At the same time, the Qatari cash has continued to flow into Gaza as usual, some $30 million a month. The last monthly payment was transferred at the beginning of the week, and the media’s interest in it was limited.

The understanding among senior Hamas officials that the Arab press’ main interest is now in places far away from Gaza, more volatile – firstly in Lebanon and Iraq – could possibly be contributing to the restraint. Still, it would be appropriate to mention what is always true about Gaza: This direction could change in the blink of an eye, as a result of casualties in a specific incident, or from an Israeli initiative. The quiet rests on very thin and fragile ice, said senior IDF officers this week.