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Operation Protective Edge: What happened, why, and what now?

Gazans flee Shuja’iyah by Basel Yazouri
Gazans flee Shuja’iyah by Basel Yazouri Photo: Basel Yazouri / ActiveStills
Beit Furik checkpoint Nablus Gaza solidarity
Beit Furik checkpoint Nablus Gaza solidarity Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz / ActiveStills
Gazans flee Shuja’iyah by Anne Paq
Gazans flee Shuja’iyah by Anne Paq  Photo: Anne Paq / ActiveStills

On July 8, 2014, Israel launched an attack on Gaza which has become known as Operation Protective Edge. A ceasefire was finalized on August 26 and brought fighting to an end. This factsheet is designed to answer basic questions about what has happened, why it happened, and what should happen now.     

Humanitarian impact

  • According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), as of August 25 at least 2,076 Palestinians, over 70% of them civilians, were killed by Israel during Operation Protective Edge. According the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, this includes 521 children. An additional 10,224 people were injured during the attacks.
  • During the same period a total of 69 Israelis, including 5 civilians (one a child and one a foreign national), were killed.  
  • As of August 25,it was estimated that 17,200 housing units had been severely damaged or completely destroyed. A further 37,650 had been damaged to the extent that they were uninhabitable. This temporarily displaced at least 475,000 people and more than 100,000 will remain displaced for an extended period. [2] 
  • At least 58 hospitals and 216 schools were damaged or destroyed.  As many as 360 factories were also damaged with at least 126 of them completely destroyed. Most farms and agricultural land also have been destroyed or severely damaged. This has left the Gaza economy in ruins.[3]  
  • During the attack the main Gaza electrical plant was destroyed. As a result, electricity is now available in Gaza on average for only six hours per day. In many areas, running water also is not available as a result of damaged and destroyed infrastructure. 
  • The attack on Gaza caused widespread fear and trauma in Gaza, particularly among children. This trauma will require psycho-social support for adults and children alike.

Operation Protective Edge

  • Following the June 11 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli youth by Palestinians from the West Bank, Israel launched a campaign of collective punishment in the occupied Palestinian territory. In the West Bank, the Israeli military carried out raids in Palestinian cities and villages, detained at least 800 Palestinians without charge, destroyed homes, closed universities, restricted movement, and killed and injured a number of Palestinians.  Israel also carried out bombing attacks against Gaza that killed several Palestinians including a child. After these attacks Palestinian factions in Gaza began firing rockets into Israel. Operation Protective Edge developed from this context.[4] 

The Gaza blockade

  • The blockade of Gaza has now entered its eighth year. The International Committee for the Red Cross and the United Nations have both made clear that the blockade constitutes a form of collective punishment and is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
  • As a result of the blockade, 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza have had their freedom of movement limited and their access to adequate, water, electricity, housing, economic development, medical care, and other basic necessities restricted.
  • The economic impact of these restrictions has been devastating for the population who have become mostly reliant on foreign aid and assistance. In 2000, the UN Relief and Works Agency provided food aid to 80,000 people. Before Operation Protective Edge it supplied aid to more than 800,000 people. If the blockade is not lifted these numbers will now rise. Even before this conflict the Gaza economy was frail, unemployment was high, and there were limited future prospects for youth.

Moving forward

  • A ceasefire is important, but not enough. Now that a ceasefire has been achieved there must also be an end to the siege and efforts to reach a long-term political solution that addresses the root causes of the conflict. The conflict between Palestinians and Israelis will only be resolved when Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory is ended and the inherent equality, worth, and dignity of all is realized. This requires dismantling the existing systems that discriminate against Palestinians, addressing the rights of Palestinian refugees, and ending the occupation. 
  • This conflict cannot end with a return to the status quo that existed before Operation Protective Edge began. The blockade must end, Gaza’s borders must open, and movement and access restrictions, including in the buffer zones and on the sea, must end.  Without these changes no recovery from the terrible devastation of the last two months and deprivation caused by eight years of siege can occur. 
  • War crimes have been committed in Gaza. The U.S. government must stop accepting the Israeli government’s justifications for human rights abuses, including the killing of civilians. Instead it should support international investigations into what has happened in Gaza. This is consistent with U.S. and international law requirements that human rights abuses be investigated and acted upon. The U.S. must live up to its obligations under both domestic and international law and hold Israel accountable for its actions.
  • The U.S. government provides Israel with more than $3 billion in military funding annually. This U.S. support to Israel has directly supported this conflict and helps sustain Israel’s occupation. This support must end. 
  • Corporations must be held accountable for their complicity in human rights abuses. Corporations such as Elbit Systems, Northrop Grumman, Caterpillar, and Hewlett-Packard provide Israel with the weapons and other products used during attacks on Gaza and as Israel enforces its military occupation. Boycott and divestment campaigns can help hold corporations accountable.  

[2] Ibid



[4] Between the signing of the Hamas-Israel ceasefire in 2012 and the start of this latest Israeli military offensive on Gaza, Hamas fired no rockets into Israel and worked to stop other groups from firing rockets. This decreased the number of rockets and mortars fired into Israel from Gaza to record low levels during this period.

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