Israeli army and Hamas have faced each other on many occasions since the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Here is a quick look at some of the major battles.

Israel has assembled thousands of troops on the border of the Gaza Strip, signalling a major ground invasion of the Hamas-controlled tiny Palestinian enclave. 

While the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) retracted from a previous statement that said they had entered Gaza, their handling of the issue suggested that Israeli troops had indeed entered the strip. The move comes at a time when Israeli airstrikes have already assassinated several Hamas commanders in Gaza. Despite having withdrawn from Gaza in 2005, Israel controls the enclave’s airspace and territorial waters. 

But Hamas, which has sent at least 1,750 rockets towards Israel since Monday, targeting the capital and leading to cancellations of flights to and from Tel Aviv, appears to be ready for another ground invasion waged by the Zionist state under hardliner Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

“The enemy carries out show raids aimed at sabotage and destruction. It will not affect the capabilities of the resistance,” said a Hamas spokesman. 

Netanyahu, who has been accused of several corruption charges, seems to be inclined towards escalating tensions and gaining political mileage to hold on to power. Netanyahu and his extremist allies could not assemble enough votes to win the last three elections and were on the verge of losing power. 

Despite having enormous military and political capabilities, as well as the backing from Washington, Israel appears to be struggling to crush the voices of dissent. Palestinians across the occupied territories and Israeli landscape are standing up to —  and not backing down from — the Zionist state.  

Gaza, particularly, where 70 percent of Palestinian residents are unemployed and about 80 percent of people live in poverty, has long been one of the core centres of the resistance against Israel. 

Palestinians stand at the entrance of a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), warehouse in the Shati refugee camp, in Gaza City, Sept. 1, 2009.
Palestinians stand at the entrance of a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), warehouse in the Shati refugee camp, in Gaza City, Sept. 1, 2009. (Hatem Moussa / AP Archive)

“I said we’d exact a steep price from Hamas, and that’s what we’re doing...The last word has not been said and this operation will continue for as long as it’s necessary,” said Netanyahu, tweeting earlier today. 

Here are some of the major confrontations in recent history between the Israeli army and Hamas and its allies. 

The 2006 escalations

Both Palestinians and Israelis exchanged rocket and artillery fire in 2006. In early June of that year, Israel escalated tensions by launching its extrajudicial killings of Hamas leaders, attacking both the armed group’s members and civilians alike. 

On June 25, in a retaliatory act, Hamas captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit with a cross-border operation, triggering the Israeli army’s first major ground invasion of Gaza after its withdrawal in 2005. 

The invasion led to a full-scale battle between Palestinian armed groups and Israel, which first entered southern Gaza and later, northern Gaza. "It's a crazy scene – everyone is shooting at everyone. Soldiers are coming out of the trees, from the rooftops. The residents don't know if they should leave their homes or hide," said a resident of Beit Lahiya, a town in northern Gaza. 

During Israeli operations, human rights groups, including an Israeli one, accused Tel Aviv of using Palestinians as human shields. More than 400 civilians were killed by Israeli attacks; six Israelis died during confrontations. 

In late November, both sides agreed to a fragile ceasefire.  

The 2008-09 invasion

Between the end of major escalations in 2006 and 2008, which marked the beginning of a full-scale Israeli-Palestinian confrontation, there was a major political development regarding the fate of the Gaza Strip. 

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, left, sits next to Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, right, during a cabinet meeting in Gaza City, Dec. 17, 2006.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, left, sits next to Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, right, during a cabinet meeting in Gaza City, Dec. 17, 2006. (Adel Hana / AP Archive)

After Hamas’s legislative victory in 2006, the Mahmoud Abbas-led Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) denied Hamas coming to power, escalating political tensions between the two groups. In 2007, Hamas, believing its political rights were gravely violated, took over Gaza from Fatah, the leading organisation in the PLO. 

Since then, Gaza has been under Hamas, which has strongly defended armed resistance against Israel. That position has long worried the Zionist state which launched another massive military offensive against Gaza in 2009. 

In late December 2008, like today, first, Israeli airstrikes began against both Hamas’s security and political structures, aiming at civilian administrative institutions, which have been considered illegal under international law. 

On January 3, the Israeli ground invasion began in the densely populated areas of Gaza. But against a stiff Palestinian resistance and under strong international criticism of civilian casualties, the Israeli political establishment decided not to go further and deeper into Gaza, eventually declaring a unilateral ceasefire. 

On January 21, the Israeli army completely pulled out from the Gaza Strip. The 2008 military invasion led to more than 1,500 Palestinian and 13 Israeli deaths. 

The 2014 invasion

The seven-week conflict was one of the deadliest between Palestinians and Israelis for decades, resulting in thousands of Palestinian civilian deaths. 

On July 8, the Israeli Operation Protective Edge, another ground invasion, began against Gaza. Israelis claimed that the operation aimed to stop Hamas rockets, which were retaliatory acts to Israel’s crackdown on the group’s members in the occupied West Bank, according to the armed organisation. 

Smoke rises after Israeli missile strikes hit the northern Gaza Strip, July 16, 2014.
Smoke rises after Israeli missile strikes hit the northern Gaza Strip, July 16, 2014. (Adel Hana / AP Archive)

On July 17, the Israeli operation evolved to a ground invasion, which the state claimed to destruct Hamas’s tunnel system in Gaza. But according to various sources, the operation aimed to kill as many Palestinians to bring an end to their resistance capabilities in Gaza. 

The impact of Israel’s targeting of Palestinian civilians was far more visible in Shujaiyya, a city with 90,000 people in 6 square kilometres, than any other place. The town’s population strongly supported Hamas, and as a result, it became a target of the Israeli army’s indiscriminate attacks. 

While Hamas has no tanks at its disposal, its fighters put up fierce resistance against the Israeli army in the Battle of Shujaiyya. Israel had more than 2,000 tanks in its military inventory. Hamas's effective military tactics conducted with utmost tenacity and strategic use of tunnels marked one of the turning points of the Palestinian resistance. 

Angered by the Palestinian resistance in the town, Israelis resorted to brutal aerial bombardment reinforced by artillery fire against Palestinians, targeting civilians. At the time, Max Blumenthal, an American journalist, reported that under heavy Israeli bombing the town’s people were forced to “jump from fourth-floor windows as their homes burst into flames.” 

“Others rushed out in their night clothes, nearly nude, prompting him [Tamer Atash, a Palestinian witness of events] and other men to hand over their shirts and even their trousers to women scurrying half exposed through the darkened streets,” the reporter wrote. 

Israeli strikes flattened apartments as its ground troops reportedly executed many civilians across the town. John Kerry, the US Secretary of State at the time, described Israeli attacks as "a hell of a pinpoint operation”. To control the Palestinian town, Israel used 11 artillery battalions, which amount to what the US military deploys for two divisions. The UN described the Israeli conduct in Shujaiyya as a possible “war crime”. 

On August 5, Israeli ground forces withdrew from Gaza. In late August, a ceasefire was declared. 

The 2014 Israeli invasion killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, wounding more than 10,000. The operation’s cost over the lives of Palestinian children was overwhelming. At least 3,374 children were wounded as the invasion left more than 1,000 Palestinian children permanently disabled. More than 7,000 Gazan homes were razed to the ground. 

During the 2014 invasion, 67 soldiers and 5 civilians of Israel were killed. 

Source: TRT World