Since the evening of Monday, May 10th, Israeli civilians have been subject to indiscriminate rocket attacks on an unprecedented scale, perpetrated by Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. The non-stop bombardment, which saw more than 1500 rockets fired in just the first 36 hours, has claimed the lives of seven Israelis, including Israeli Arabs, and wounded many dozens more, whilst forcing millions to take refuge in bomb shelters.
Numerous cities across southern and central Israel, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, have been attacked and schools have been forced to close in much of the country. Israel’s only major international airport was temporarily forced to stop flights after it too was deliberately targeted.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad – both designated as terrorist organizations by the EU – make no pretence to discriminate between military and civilian targets and endanger Gazan civilians by deliberately using civilian infrastructure as cover. Moreover, about 200 of the rockets they fired at Israel fell inside Gaza, in some cases resulting in Gazan casualties. ‘Victory’ in their terms is terrorizing Israel’s civilian population.
Aside from being EU-designated terror organizations, Hamas and Islamic Jihad pose a real threat to the wider purposes of European policy in the region. They proudly identify as members of a regional ‘axis of resistance’ alongside Iran and Hezbollah, which seeks the destruction of Israel and destabilization of Western-aligned, moderate regional actors. These groups reject the two-state solution as a conflict-ending settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Hamas’ desire to replace the current leadership of the Palestinian national movement is a major part of its motivation in triggering the current round of conflict. It is vital to European values and goals that Hamas not be allowed to succeed in this pursuit.
ELNET calls on the EU and European leaders to affirm unequivocally Israel’s right to defend itself in the face of this intolerable assault. It further calls on European leaders to avoid drawing a false equivalence between the violence of armed Islamist terror groups deliberately targeting civilians, and the actions of the IDF, who are targeting terrorists in defence of Israel’s civilian population.
Whilst European leaders may have legitimate concerns regarding the drivers of tension in Jerusalem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a whole, these should in no way diminish their condemnation of Hamas’s reckless escalation, nor their affirmation of Israel’s right to respond.