Tensions between Israel and Palestine have reached a boiling point following a perpetual cycle of violence from both sides. The string of violence follows the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three Israeli teenagers at the hands of Hamas militants.
On the night of Thursday June 12th, Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Sha’ar, and Naftali Frenkel were hitchhiking home when a Hyundai i35 with two men inside offered them a ride. Unbeknownst to the three Israeli teens, the men were actually Hamas militants disguised as religious Jews. The teenagers were kidnapped and one of them managed to call the police in an attempt to alert them that they were being kidnapped. Authorities brushed his call off as a prank call and it wasn’t until four hours later, when Sha’ar’s parents informed authorities that their son had not returned home that night.
Israeli authorities found the vehicle torched and abandoned in the days following. Further inspection of the car revealed bloodstains on the seats. This prompted Israeli soldiers, police, and security forces to search through various villages throughout Palestine. The bodies of the three teenagers were found in a field on June 30th.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed tough and swift retaliation for those responsible for the murders. The houses of the two prime suspects in the kidnapping and murder were demolished. Hamas militants retaliated back on July 1st, launching rockets into Israel, to which Israel responded with 34 jet and helicopter strikes throughout the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the launch of the Israeli operation “Protective Edge”.
Many have accused Israel of participating in “collective punishment” (which is illegal under the Geneva Conventions) through the use of these strikes. They have bombed both civilian and military targets in an attempt to retaliate against Hamas and in order to scare Palestinians from any further attacks.
The kidnapping of the three Israeli teens also inspired anti-Palestinian sentiment and vigilantism among many Israeli citizens. There were reports of protesters chanting “Death to Arabs” in the streets of Israel following the funerals of the three teenagers. This anti-Palestinian rhetoric culminated in the kidnapping, torture, and murder of a Palestinian teenager in the day following the burial of the three teens as an act of revenge for the killings of the three Israelis.
Mohammed Abu Khdeir was forced into a vehicle in East Jerusalem and authorities found his charred remains a short while later. According to an autopsy performed on his body, Mohammed was beaten and set on fire while he was still alive. Police apprehended six Israeli suspects, who soon admitted to the killings. This sparked a series of protests and riots throughout Palestine and the West Bank.
In one such protest, 15-year-old Tariq Khdeir was brutally beaten at the hands of Israeli troops. He was detained afterwards and is currently under house arrest. Tariq is an American citizen who was visiting family in Palestine. Tariq is also the cousin of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. The beating was caught on tape, in which the viewer can see the Israeli troops relentlessly beating and kicking Tariq despite him being handcuffed and on the floor, nearly unconscious.
According to Israel authorities, Tariq was throwing stones at Israeli troops, while his family maintains that he was simply running for his life after what happened to his cousin.
Israel has pounded Palestine relentlessly in the last couple of days. While Hamas has fired back, their rockets are significantly inferior those launched by Israel; many of these rockets are intercepted by Israel’s “Iron Dome’ anti-missile defense system. There have been no reported Israeli deaths. The same, however, cannot be said about their Palestinian counterparts. On the first day of the Israeli operation Protective Edge, 25 people were killed in strikes. The death toll so far has risen to 78, a vast majority of them civilian.
The strikes have not only decimated the infrastructure of Palestine, but also the psyche and well-being of the Palestinian people. The United Nations’ agency for Palestinian Refugees reported that the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSDS) levels among people living in Palestine had risen 100% after the 2012 Israeli bombing campaign. 42% of patients were under the age of nine years old. The relentless bombing and constant fear of utter annihilation at the hands of Israeli airstrikes have taken a toll of the children of Palestine. Many have developed psychological issues; they have an irrational fear of loud noises and have trouble going to bed.
Israeli airstrikes have also helped resentment amongst the Palestinians ferment. Many of the children grow up with the idea that the Israeli’s are the enemy, an in discriminant killing machine that has killed family members and friends alike. This only adds to the perpetual cycle of violence, with no clear end in sight.