On August 26, following nearly two months of conflict, Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Gaza agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire for an indefinite period of time. Hamas committed to halting rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, and Israel to cease its military actions in Gaza. Israel also agreed to reopen border crossings between Israel and Gaza in order to facilitate the transfer of humanitarian aid and reconstruction supplies, and to restore the six-nautical-mile fishing zone off the Gaza coast.
In response to unceasing rocket and missile fire on civilian centers in Israel, on July 7, Israel launched a military operation, codenamed “Operation Protective Edge”, targeting strategic Hamas facilities, tunnels, weapons and leadership.On July 17, following days of unceasing rocket fire, Israel expanded its military operation by sending IDF ground troops into Gaza in order to destroy Hamas’s infrastructure, including rocket storage sites and tunnels which cannot be destroyed by aerial attacks. Hamas smuggles rockets and other weapons into Gaza through its tunnels, and uses them to infiltrate Israel with the intention of killing and kidnapping civilians and soldiers. On August 3, the IDF announced that it had finished destroying Hamas’ tunnels, and withdrew most of its ground forces from Gaza.
Since the conflict began in early July, nearly 4400 rockets and mortars were fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza into Israeli cities and towns, including Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva, Ashkelon, and even as far north as Haifa, a distance of over 85 miles from Gaza. At least six Israelis were killed by rocket or mortar fire, and a number injured, some quite seriously. There was also extensive damage to homes, schools, synagogues and other structures. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted hundreds of projectiles fired into Israel, including missiles fired at Ben Gurion International Airport. Two-thirds of Israel’s civilian population (equal to over 200 million Americans) – Jews, Muslims, Christians and others – were directly threatened by missiles from Gaza. In addition, Israeli security forces stopped terrorists from infiltrating inside Israel from sea, over land and through underground tunnels.
The IDF aimed to curtail Hamas’ ability to attack Israel – through rocket, missile, mortar attacks, and through an extensive network of underground tunnels, to ensure quiet and security for the Israeli population. The IDF announced that it uncovered and destroyed 32 tunnels and over 60 tunnel shafts. Referring to the labyrinth of tunnels, Israeli military spokesmen spoke of there being two Gazas – one above ground, and one below. Entry points to these tunnels were found in mosques, civilian homes and civilian institutions. Exit points in Israel were discovered in kibbutz dining halls, in fields near Israeli towns and on the outskirts of Israeli communities all along the border with Gaza.