For some context of the latest violence in the Middle East, we go back to last week: Since Israel forcibly removed its settlers and relinquished Gaza to the Palestinian Authority in 2005, Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip have used the area as a base to fire Qassam rockets at civilian centers within reach in Israel, notably the town of Sderot and coastal city of Ashkelon. On Feb. 27, a Qassam hit the car of student and father of four Roni Yechiah at Sapir College in Sderot, killing the man. In response, Israel launched an offensive into Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of about 127 Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers before Israel withdrew Monday under international pressure. Hamas claimed victory upon the Israeli withdrawal.
On March 6, an Israeli soldier was killed by an explosive set at the Kissufim crossing Gaza security checkpoint. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. After the blast, Israeli troops moved into Gaza again, conducting an airstrike in which one Palestinian was killed. Then, we arrive at the Jerusalem slayings.
Agence France-Presse reported that "since late November, at least 330 people have been killed in violence, most of them Gaza militants, according to an AFP tally."
So what next for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Even as Israel attacked Gaza, militants kept up rocket fire with long-range projectiles hitting Ashkelon, so don't expect a letup in Qassam attacks in a region over which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has no control since the violent Hamas-Fatah power-sharing divorce. Hamas will not be influenced to renounce violence, holding out for hope that Islamic nations and/or groups will come to its aid as needed. Israel will likely launch a scathing attack in response to the seminary bloodbath. There will be more arguments at the U.N. Security Council over resolutions that do or don't condemn Hamas while also condemning Israel.
Meanwhile, Egypt, which is trying to mediate some sort of truce in the region, is shoring up its wall with Gaza, putting a 13-foot-high concrete and rock wall with watch towers in place of the metal wall breached by Hamas during the January blockade of the Strip. Egypt originally let Palestinians buy whatever food and commodities they needed before going back over the seven-mile-long border, but now they're concerned -- likely more than ever -- about Hamas militants crossing over into their country.