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Crisis in Gaza, 2014

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Three Israeli teenagers were abducted while hitchhiking home from their schools in West Bank on June 10, 2014. Their bodies were found on June 30, 2014, after an exhaustive search by Israeli soldiers and volunteers during which airstrikes were carried out by Israel on Gaza.[1][2] Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, claimed Hamas was responsible, stating, "Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay ... [They] were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by wild beasts." A Hamas spokesperson denied the group's involvement in the deaths, claiming, "Only the Israeli version of the events has been published. Israel is attempting to make way for aggression against us, against the Hamas … No Palestinian group, Hamas or any other group, has taken responsibility for the action, and thus the Israeli version can't be trusted," increasing tensions between the two groups.[2]

On July 2, 2014, a Palestinian teenager from East Jerusalem was abducted and murdered in what was believed to be a revenge killing by extremist right-wing Israelis. Netanyahu responded by condemning the murder as increasingly violent protests began in East Jerusalem.[3] Israeli forces arrested six men on July 6, 2014, who were suspected of carrying out the murder, with Netanyahu claiming they would "face the full weight of the law," but tensions had already begun to boil over with Palestinian rocket attacks coming from the Gaza Strip and Israeli airstrikes countering.[4]

Beginning July 8, 2014, Israeli forces began Operation Protective edge, which involved missile attacks by sea and air on over 50 sites in Gaza as well as mobilizing ground troops for a possible assault.[5] One of the main objectives of Israel's ground assaults was to eliminate Hamas' elaborate tunnel system. Hamas expanded their system of tunnels extensively beginning in 2007. It was built to facilitate attacks and kidnappings, provide logistics between weapons plants, rocket launch points and military command. Egypt destroyed a similar set of tunnels on their border which were used to get key supplies into Palestine that Hamas could place taxes on.[6]

The Israeli government proposed a humanitarian cease-fire agreement on July 25, 2014, but stated they would respond to any shots fired from Gaza. The unnamed official also pointed out that Israeli forces would continue to destroy Hamas' military tunnel system during the cease-fire.[7] Hamas rejected the truce offer, but made their own attempt the following day. Israel's Netanyahu responded to the offer, by stating, "Israel is not obliged and is not going to let a terrorist organization decide when it’s convenient to fire at our cities, at our people, and when it’s not," suggesting that Hamas' terms couldn't be trusted.[8]

Israeli forces firing into Gaza bombed a United Nations school on July 30, 2014, that was sheltering evacuees seeking to leave the area. The U.N. agency's commissioner claimed they told Israel a total of 17 times that the school was housing evacuees along with its exact location. He stated, "These are people who were instructed to leave their homes by the Israeli army." At least 20 were believed to be killed, with dozens more wounded in the incident. The Israeli government said an investigation into the incident would take place.[9]

Israel and Hamas agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire agreement that began at 8 a.m. August 1, 2014. While Israeli ground forces remained in place, delegations from both sides were sent to Egypt to work on extending the peace. The decision for the cease-fire came a day after Netanyahu called 16,000 reserve soldiers up to push forward with their tunnel destruction plan.[10]


Obama administration reactions

President Barack Obama
June 30, 2014: Barack Obama issued a written statement following the discovery of the slain teenagers, stating, "The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms this senseless act of terror against innocent youth." He continued on urging both sides not to take actions that could further "destabilize" the situation.[2]

July 2, 2014: Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the revenge murder of the Palestinian teen by Israeli extremists, claiming, "It is sickening to think of an innocent 17-year-old boy snatched off the streets and his life stolen from him and his family. There are no words to convey adequately our condolences to the Palestinian people. The world has too often learned the hard way that violence only leads to more violence and at this tense and dangerous moment, all parties must do everything in their power to protect the innocent and act with reasonableness and restraint, not recrimination and retribution."[3]

July 18, 2014: Speaking about the international community's worry about the escalation of violence in Gaza, President Obama stated, "No nation should accept rockets being fired into its border. We are hopeful that Israel will continue to approach this process in a way that will minimize civilian casualties.[11]

July 20, 2014: While wearing a microphone prior to a television interview, Kerry was recorded saying to one of his aides, "It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation," allegedly criticizing the Israeli government's assurance that the ground operation would be limited in scope. When confronted about the statement on air, Kerry responded, "We support Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets that are continuing to come in. Hamas has started its process of rocketing after Israel was trying to find the people who killed three young [people] — one American kid, three young Israelis." [12]

National Security Adviser Susan Rice
July 28, 2014: Before calling for an immediate cease-fire, National Security Adviser Susan Rice commented on the rising death toll the Gaza conflict is imposing on the area, stating, "It’s the U.S. view, as well, that the death toll and the civilian toll in Gaza is rising in an alarming pace,” Rice continued. “It’s a concern that is grave and deepening on the part of the United States, the American people and the entire international community.[13]

July 30, 2014: A spokesperson for the National Security Council came out against Israel's bombing of a United Nations school in Gaza, stating, "The United States condemns the shelling of a United Nations Relief and Works Agency [UNRWA] school in Gaza, which reportedly killed and injured innocent Palestinians — including children — and UN humanitarian workers."[14]

July 31, 2014: In a joint statement with U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, Sec. Kerry stated the 72-hour cease-fire was for humanitarian efforts to provide aid to civilians, stating, "During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive urgently needed humanitarian relief, and the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured, and restocking food supplies. Overdue repairs on essential water and energy infrastructure could also continue during this period.[10]

August 3, 2014: Appearing on Face the Nation, White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett claimed that the violence against civilians needed to stop, stating, "This is why the cease-fire is so important. It's a devastating situation. Israel absolutely has the right to defend itself, and we are Israel's staunchest ally. But you also can't condone the killing of all of these innocent children." However, fellow guest on the show, Michael Bloomberg, defended Israel's actions, stating, "There's no simple answer to these kinds of things. You can't walk in and say, 'The good guys are wearing white hats, and the bad guys are wearing black hats.' You can't tell who you're fighting in this kind of war."[15]

August 4, 2014: White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest cleared the air, claiming there was no problem between the Obama administration and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, stating, "Israel continues to be one of this country’s strongest allies, and you saw that sentiment reciprocated in the remarks delivered by Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu over the weekend, where he praised the United States for the level of support that the United States is providing to our ally."[16]

Republican reactions

July 18, 2014: Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee voiced his disagreement with John Kerry's suggestion to Netanyahu that more could be done to avoid civilian deaths, stating, "Let me just be blunt, saying that is idiotic. What he ought to be saying is that Israel has every right to defend itself against the terrorism that they have been subjected." He continued commenting on the situation, explaining, "It’s one of the most inexplicable things about the Middle East. Why is Israel the bad guy? It was Hamas who drew first blood, it was Hamas who violated two different ceasefire agreements and continued to fire rockets … Hamas has relentlessly fired missiles at civilian targets in Israel. I’m just disgusted that [the Obama administration] acted like there’s some more equivalency between Israel and a terrorist organization. That’s nonsense."[17]
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
July 23, 2014: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) defended Israel's right to fight back against Hamas in an interview, stating, "I wouldn’t question what they need to do to defend themselves. These are difficult decisions people make in war when someone attacks you. It’s not our job to second guess." When asked how he would handle the situation if he were president, Paul responded, "The first thing I do is say absolutely no money goes to Hamas, no foreign aid gets in the hands of Hamas.[18]

July 27, 2014: House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-MI) was critical of the administrations decision to free up $2.8 billion for Iran, while involved in ongoing discussions about nuclear technology with the country. Rogers suspected that Iran would use the money to fund Hamas' fight against Israel, claiming, "Iran is publicly, in their own newspapers, touting the fact that they are helping to militarize Hamas in the Gaza Strip. They’re supporting Hezbolah in the fight in Syria and supplying Hamas in the Gaza Strip with weapons."[19]

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI)
July 28, 2014: Rep. Rogers claimed that the Obama administration and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, stating, "I think there’s always been a little bit of friction between Netanyahu and this administration. He also continued to suggest the media's announcements of the failed cease-fire agreements were not making the admnistration's role any easier, claiming the media "ought to be in quiet until they can come up with an agreement that can be sustained by both sides."[20]

July 31, 2014: Former Republican representative Joe Scarborough criticized Israel's methods, claiming, "This is asinine. This continued killing of women and children in a way that appears to be indiscriminate is asinine." He said he still supported Israel, but insisted, "The United States of America — we cannot be associated with this if this continues. This is so bad, not only for the Israeli people, but for us."[21]

August 3, 2014: Following the failed cease-fire agreement that the Obama administration tried to establish, Governor Perry criticized Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, claiming, "There have been messages sent both publicly and privately that have not been strong in their support of Israel." Perry continued, insisting, "We need to be standing up with Israel, sending a strong message to those in the Middle East that would attack this democracy that they are our ally, and they can count on us."[22]

Democratic reactions

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
July 21, 2014: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed Israel was provoked into joining the conflict when answering a question during an interview at Twitter headquarters. Clinton stated, "Because of the actions by Hamas, first to rain rockets onto Israel, Israel being provoked — because I do think that was part of the Hamas calculation, to provoke Israel to respond, to defend itself, which any nation has to do if you are under attack like that, and then we see the unfortunate effects of any conflict with innocent people being caught in the crossfires."[23]

July 22, 2014: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) worried that the high death toll of Palestinians could create a danger to U.S. security, explaining, "[T]hat is a problem for Israel, but it’s a problem for the United States, as well, which is why we have to be so concerned about this. This is bulletin board material, stuff for people that are recruiting folks to the fight against Israel but also against the West in general. When continuing about the prospects of a long term peace agreement, Murphy doubted any more than a short-term cease-fire was possible, "[I]t’s been clear for a long time that you don’t have the leadership right now — either on the Israeli side or on the Palestinian side — in order to do anything more than that. I think we are in a position of essentially waiting for new leadership on both sides in order to do anything more substantial on the peace process."[24]

July 28, 2014: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) claimed that more than the $225 million in emergency funds for Israel lawmakers placed into an immigration bill would be necessary if the fighting continued. He argued, "We should not give the Israeli people the minimum amount of aid and then cross our fingers and hope it all works out in the future. We can do better and need to go further in protecting Israel." He commented further that Congress needed to pass increased spending bills for Israel, the U.S. border surge and wildfires in the western U.S. before the August recess.[25]

International reactions

July 10, 2014: U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for restraint from both sides of the conflict, stating, "Gaza is on a knife-edge. The deteriorating situation is leading to a downward spiral which could quickly get out of control. The risk of violence expanding further still is real. Gaza, and the region as a whole, cannot afford another full-blown war."[26]

July 22, 2014: Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, defended Israel's actions, acknowledging the high number of civilian deaths, claiming, "We are in a situation where we have to defend our people, and we’re doing it in ways that other countries have not done and would not done. If 200 million Americans were sitting in bomb shelters day after day, the U.S. military, the U.S. government, would not take action that is less forceful than Israel."[27]

July 28, 2014: Pope Francis pleaded for the two sides to stop fighting with a powerful break from his weekly address, stating, "Brothers and sisters, never war, never war! I am thinking above all of children, who are deprived of the hope of a worthwhile life, of a future. I think especially of the children whose hopes for a dignified future are taken from them, dead children, injured and mutilated children, orphans and children who have bits of weapons as toys, children who don't know how to smile."[28]

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
July 31, 2014: In a joint statement with Sec. Kerry, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated the 72-hour cease-fire was for humanitarian efforts to provide aid to civilians, stating, "During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive urgently needed humanitarian relief, and the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured, and restocking food supplies. Overdue repairs on essential water and energy infrastructure could also continue during this period.[10]

August 3, 2014: Palestinian United Nations Observer Riyad Mansour criticized Israel's actions against Palestinians on NBC's "Meet the Press," stating the need to "address the tragic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip," while attempting to deflect questions about Hamas' role in the violence. He claimed, "Hamas is part of the Palestinian political configuration. The question is how to deal with that. The first step is the national consensus government. Israel is trying to destroy this government.[29]

Also present on the show was Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, who claimed, "The road for peace goes over Hamas. It doesn’t include Hamas." He continued to insist that the goal of Israel's ground operation is the destruction of tunnels, stating, "What we don’t want to see is us simply leaving and allowing Hamas to use the time to simply re-arm thousands of rockets, more tunnels. We have to make sure that we have an effective mechanism to prevent Hamas from re-arming and refueling its war machine."[29]

Actions proposed

FAA halt on flights to Israel

On July 22, 2014, after a Hamas rocket landed near Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration put a temporary ban on flights headed to Israel.[30] While initially only a 24-hour ban, the FAA extended the ban an extra day, upsetting Netanyahu, who requested John Kerry override the ban and once again allow flights. Flights resumed on July 24, 2014, but the administration received from within the United States, as well.[31] Former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg, who was in Israel at the time of the ban, stated, "Halting flights here – when the airport is safe – hurts Israel and rewards Hamas for attacking Israel. Hamas wants to shut down the airport; we can’t let that happen. I’m a pilot – and I’ve always believed the FAA does a great job – and still do. But on this issue, I think the agency got it wrong."[32]

Cruz' hold on federal nominees

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced on July 23, 2014, that he was placing holds on all federal nominees to the U.S. Department of State because of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) decision to stop all flights from the U.S. to Israel, calling it an "economic boycott." An Obama administration replied to Cruz' suggestion, calling the claim "ridiculous and offensive," which began a war of words between the two with Cruz placing his hold on the nominees, stating, "The only thing ‘offensive’ about this situation is how the Obama Administration is spurning our allies to embolden our enemies; the only thing ‘ridiculous’ is the administration’s response to basic questions. Until the State Department answers my questions, I will hold all State Department nominees."[33]

Cruz lifted the hold on July 28, 2014, after he received a briefing on the reasoning behind the flight ban by FAA officials. Cruz explained, "I appreciate the FAA’s efforts to respond to my questions, and so I have lifted my hold on State Department nominees. The hold was designed to force answers to important questions about why the Obama administration had banned flights to Israel. Thankfully, in response to widespread criticism, the administration has now reversed course and lifted its ban on flights to Ben Gurion International Airport.[34]

Kerry peace talks

On July 25, 2014, Kerry proposed a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas to ease the violence in the Gaza Strip. Kerry's proposal involved a seven day cease-fire backed by the United Nations, which would halt the offensive and possibly allow for the release of some Palestinian prisoners by the Israeli army. However, Israel's former ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, noted, "if the cease-fire proposal calls for a five- or a seven-day cease-fire that enables Hamas to regroup, reestablish its communication systems and replenish its ammunition, then I don’t think Israel will accept that."[35]

Later on July 25, Kerry announced that the cease-fire agreement he proposed was not accepted by the two sides, and Israel's ground forces were likely to "significantly" ramp up their offensive. Kerry did suggest a much smaller 12-hour cease-fire which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "indicated his willingness to do that as a good faith down payment to move forward." However hope was held that an agreement would be reached in the near future with Kerry stating, "Gaps have been significantly narrowed. It can be achieved, if we work through some of the issues that are important for the parties."[36]

Cruz, Gillibrand condemn Hamas

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) condemned Hamas in a resolution they presented to the Senate on July 28, 2014. Cruz said of Hamas, "Hamas is undoubtedly guilty of violating international humanitarian law through its deliberate, repeated, and consistent use of civilians as human shields. The United States of America, along with the entire international community must expose and denounce Hamas’ barbaric tactics and unequivocally support Israel’s right to self-defense." Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) filed the resolution in the House, as well.[37]

U.S. aid to Israel

The United States Senate approved a bill on August 1, 2014, providing $225 million to Israel in order to fund their "iron dome" missile defense system, which shoots down rockets fired into the country by Hamas. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) initially blocked the legislation on July 31 because the funding was not offset, but the next day, he lifted his hold on the bill and it passed through the Senate with a unanimous vote. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said of the bipartisan effort, "This is a good example of us being able to put aside partisan considerations and work together to help our good friend, Israel." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) agreed with Paul's sentiment, suggesting, "As dysfunctional as the Congress has been, this is one of our finer moments. We’re about to leave here soon with a lot of work undone. But let it be said what we did have the foresight and the ability — and quite frankly the moral decency — to end on a positive note."[38]

The House passed the bill by a vote of 395-8 on the evening of August 1, 2014, before leaving for recess.[39]

Recent news

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See also


  1. Al Jazeera, "Israeli airstrikes kill 2 Palestinians in Gaza as border tensions rise," June 27, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 The Guardian, "Bodies of three missing Israeli teenagers found in West Bank," June 30, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 Al Jazeera, "Palestinian teen killed in suspected revenge attack by hard-line Israelis," July 2, 2014
  4. New York Times, "6 Israelis Held Over the Killing of Palestinian," July 6, 2014
  5. The Guardian, "Operation Protective Edge: Israel bombs Gaza in retaliation for rockets," July 8, 2014
  6. Washington Post, "Hamas tunnel threat at center of war with Israel," July 25, 2014
  7. Politico, "Israel says it's extending Gaza truce for 24 hours," July 25, 2014
  8. Politico, "Gaza truce doesn't hold," July 27, 2014
  9. Washington Post, "U.N. agency: Israel shelled Gaza school sheltering evacuees; 20 reported killed," July 30, 2014
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Israel, Hamas agree to humanitarian cease-fire," July 31, 2014
  11. Politico, "Obama ‘deeply concerned’ over Gaza," July 18, 2014
  12. Politico, "Kerry caught on open mic," July 20, 2014
  13. Politico, "Susan Rice: Gaza death toll ‘alarming’," July 28, 2014
  14. The Hill, "US condemns shelling of UN school in Gaza," July 30, 2014
  15. Politico, "Valerie Jarrett: Israeli strikes on civilians wrong," August 3, 2014
  16. The Hill, "White House rejects US-Israel rift," August 4, 2014
  17. Politico, "Mike Huckabee: Obama ‘not presidential’," July 18, 2014
  18. Politico, "Rand Paul:'I wouldn't question' Israel," July 23, 2014
  19. Politico, "Rogers: Iran aiding Hamas," July 27, 2014
  20. Politico, "Mike Rogers: Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu ‘friction'," July 28, 2014
  21. Politico, "Joe Scarborough turns on Israel," July 31, 2014
  22. Politico, "Perry: Obama shouldn't leave 'any air' between U.S., Israel," August 3, 2014
  23. Politico, "Hillary Clinton defends Israel on Gaza," July 21, 2014
  24. Politico, "Chris Murphy: Palestinian deaths 'problem' for U.S.," July 22, 2014
  25. Politico, "Harry Reid: Israel may need more aid," July 28, 2014
  26. The Guardian, "Gaza cannot afford another all-out war, says Ban Ki-moon," July 10, 2014
  27. Politico, "Israeli official: 'We're not perfect'," July 22, 2014
  28. Christian Post, "Pope Francis Pleads for Peace as Israel-Palestine Fighting Carries On," July 28, 2014
  29. 29.0 29.1 Politico, "Israeli ambassador: 'The road for peace goes over Hamas'," August 3, 2014
  30. The Washington Post, "Halted flights to and from Israel strand travelers, complicate U.S. bid for cease-fire," July 22, 2014
  31. USA Today, "U.S. airlines resume flights to Israel after FAA ban lifted," July 24, 2014
  32. Time, "Michael Bloomberg Blasts FAA for Halting Israel Flights," July 23, 2014
  33. Roll Call, "Cruz Threatens to Delay State Department Nominees Over FAA’s Israel Flight Ban," July 23, 2014
  34. Politico, "Cruz lifts hold on State nominees," July 28, 2014
  35. The Washington Post, "Kerry presents Gaza cease-fire proposal to Israel and proxies for Hamas," July 25, 2014
  36. Politico, "Kerry says no Gaza truce deal yet," July 25, 2014
  37. Politico, "Ted Cruz, Kirsten Gillibrand team up on Hamas," July 28, 2014
  38. Politico, "After ugly spat, Senate backs aid to Israel," August 1, 2014
  39. Politico, "Congress backs aid to Israel," August 3, 2014
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