Northern Gaza has been flattened. It isn’t just another combat zone. The area will need years of rebuilding before Palestinian civilians can live there.
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Despite recent peace deals between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors, the security situation in the Middle East remains volatile. Israel’s recent military operation in the Gaza Strip, known as Operation Protective Edge, is sending a message to a different audience outside the region – Iran and Hezbollah.
Operation Protective Edge began in July of 2014 when militants in the Gaza Strip fired dozens of rockets at Israel. In response, Israel launched a massive air campaign against Hamas targets, a more severe response than it has taken in the past. The operation also included ground troops, though their mission quickly shifted from urban combat to searching for tunnels used by Hamas to launch attacks on Israeli territory.
Israel’s operation in Gaza was not limited to Hamas. It sent multiple messages to Iranian and Hezbollah leadership as well. First, it was a reminder that Israel is capable of taking decisive military action when necessary. This is particularly significant in light of the recent nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers, as Israel viewed the terms of the deal as inadequate to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
The operation was also a direct challenge to both Iran and Hezbollah’s influence in the Gaza Strip. As part of its attempts to counterbalance Israel’s power, Iran has provided support for militant groups in the region. This support has come in the form of financial aid, weapons, and training. Israel’s operation in Gaza was a show of force that was meant to demonstrate that any further Iranian involvement in the region would be countered with an equal or greater response.
Finally, the operation sent a message to Hezbollah that the group cannot continue to launch attacks on Israeli soil with impunity. The group has increased its rocket stockpile in recent years and continues to launch attacks periodically. Israel is sending a clear signal that any further attacks will be met with a swift and devastating response.
Israel’s Operation Protective Edge was a necessary response to the security threat posed by Hamas. However, its significance goes beyond that. By carrying out the operation with a level of severity that it had not used in the past, Israel is sending a clear message to both Iran and Hezbollah about its willingness to defend its security interests in the region.