Israel commenced its operation against the terrorist forces in Gaza following several weeks of escalating Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians.
- The Hamas terrorist organization fired over 40 rockets at Israel in April.
- Incendiary balloon devices launched from Gaza caused dozens of fires, resulting in widespread environmental and economic damage throughout southern Israel.
- In a shooting attack at the Tapuah Junction in early May, a Palestinian terrorist killed a 19-year-old yeshiva student and injured two others.
- Border police stopped an attempted stabbing attack in Hebron and prevented a serious mass attack when they diverted a minibus carrying three heavily armed terrorists to the Salem Junction border police base.
Combined, these attacks left almost seventy Israeli civilians injured in just the month before the escalation.
In addition, violent rioters led by the Hamas terrorist organization and the Palestinian Authority met in planned clashes, with the goal of igniting violence and unrest in the city of Jerusalem. Deliberately manufactured flashpoints were used to stoke the flames. Every Israeli attempt to deescalate the situation was either ignored or drove the Palestinians to focus on a new issue after the removal of their contrived excuse for unrest.
The deteriorating situation gave Hamas an excuse to trigger renewed conflict between Israel and Gaza. A significant factor was that Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, canceled Palestinian elections slated for May 22, fearing Hamas’ success. Exploiting the moment, and spurred on by Iran, Hamas instigated violence at the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Palestinian passions in eastern Jerusalem were inflamed by reports about the possible eviction of four families who had not been paying rent to the legally recognized owner in a long-running property dispute (Sheikh Jarrah: A Legal Background, 9 May 2021).
On the afternoon of 10 May 2021, Jerusalem Day, Hamas issued an ultimatum to Israel to remove all its police and military personnel from both the Temple Mount and Sheikh Jarrah by 18:00 that day. If it failed to do so, they stated that it and the other terrorist organizations of the Gaza Strip would strike Israel. Minutes after the deadline passed, Hamas fired more than 150 rockets into Israel from Gaza. Seven rockets were fired toward Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh. One was intercepted. An anti-tank missile was also fired at an Israeli civilian vehicle, injuring the driver.
Operation Guardian of the Walls ensued.
Additional Resources (Most of the legal and related issues which will arise in this operation have been addressed in relation to prior Gaza conflicts. See, for example, the 2014 conflict, Operation Protective Edge, and the 2008 conflict, Operation Cast Lead.)
- International Legal Forum, Website on the the Gaza situation
- Aurel Sari, Israeli Attacks on Gaza’s Tower Blocks – 17 May 2021
- Michael N. Schmitt, Legal Protection of the Media in Armed Conflict: Gaza – 18 May 2021
- International Jewish Lawyers (on YouTube), Operation Guardian of the Walls: Briefing – 19 May 2021
- Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Escalation from the Gaza Strip, Summary – 23 May 2021
- UN Watch Statement to the UN Human Rights Commission – 26 May 2021
- Pnina Sharvit Baruch, Operation Guardian of the Walls: The Legal Angle – 31 May 2021
- International Legal Forum, FAQs: International Law and ‘Operation Guardian of the Walls’ – June 2021
- Amb. Alan Baker, The Legal War: Hamas’ War Crimes and Israel’s Right to Self-Defense, 3 Jun 2021