On this day four years ago, Israel launched one of its deadliest military offensives against the Gaza Strip in recent history. The conflict left 2,251 people dead, with more than 11,000 wounded, according to Palestinian and UN sources. Four years on, Gaza is still subject to intense attacks by Israel as well as the ongoing blockade which has been enforced for more than 11 years.
What: 2014 Israelis offensive against Gaza
When: 8 July – 26 August 2014
Where: The occupied Gaza Strip
Israel’s military offensive on the Gaza Strip took place against the backdrop of a second Palestinian unity government being formed in early June by the Islamic Resistance Movement — Hamas — in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Threatened by the reconciliation between the two main Palestinian factions, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the PA had to choose between peace with Hamas and peace with Israel.
Ten days later, on 12 June, three Israeli settlers went missing in the West Bank, an incident for which Israel blamed Hamas, despite providing no evidence to back the allegation. Netanyahu also stated that the kidnapping proved that the unity pact between the Palestinian factions could not be endorsed.
High ranking Hamas officials denied involvement and the PA attributed the abductions to the Qawasameh clan, a group within Hamas that has frequently acted against the party’s policies. Israeli historian Ilan Pappé has said that the motivation for the kidnapping was the murder of two Palestinian teenagers by Israeli forces in May 2014; the autopsy report which showed that the teens were killed by Israeli soldiers’ live fire had been made public the day before the kidnapping.
In the aftermath of the abduction, Israel launched a crackdown on alleged Hamas associates in the West Bank. Some 11 Palestinians were killed and dozens were wounded in the run up to 2 July, with hundreds arrested, many of whom had been freed in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal. The murder of a Palestinian teen by Israeli settlers then sparked widespread protests in the occupied territories. Israel also bombarded the Gaza Strip, prompting some minor rocket fire from various factions in the besieged enclave.
After attempts to agree to a ceasefire failed, with Tel Aviv refusing to meet Hamas conditions that the siege be ended and prisoners released, on 7 July the Israeli military announced the start of Operative Protective Edge to “hit Hamas hard”.
Within the first 48 hours of the operation, Israel dropped 400 tonnes of bombs on Gaza. Over the next two months, some 6,000 air strikes were launched on the besieged 365 km2 of the coastal territory.
The subsequent bombardment displaced some 500,000 people; 300,000 civilians were forced to shelter in UNRWA schools. Electricity to hospitals was cut off, rendering thousands without basic medical care.