TIME Middle East

Poll: 92% of Israeli Jews Say Operation Protection Edge Was Justified

Talks resume in Cairo, as fresh 3-day truce holds in Gaza
A general view of a Merkava tanks near the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, 11 August 2014. Abir Sultan—EPA

A poll of Israeli public opinion in the aftermath of the ground invasion of Gaza finds overwhelming approval of the military operation among Israeli Jews.

A total of 92% of Israeli Jews agreed that Operation Protective Edge was justified, according to the monthly Peace Index poll published Tuesday by the Israel Democracy Institute, an independent think-tank, and Tel Aviv University. The survey found that even amongst self-described left-leaning Israeli Jews, 67% thought the operation was justified.

But Jewish Israelis weren’t so unified on the question of whether the Israel Defense Forces used the appropriate amount of firepower in its operation. While 48% thought the amount was just right, some 45% think too little firepower was used. 6% felt the IDF used too much.

Published two weeks after Israel announced the withdrawal of all ground troops in Operation Protective Edge from Gaza on Aug. 5, the poll found that just 13% of Israeli Arabs believed the government had achieved most or all of its goals, compared with 44% of Israeli Jews.

As Israeli and Palestinian leaders meet to discuss a cease-fire the real question is whether peace will be brought to the troubled region. Sadly 71% of Israeli Jews thought chances were low that Operation Protective Edge would lead to three or more years of quiet from Gaza. Amongst Israeli Arabs the figure was 49%.

 

TIME Israel-Gaza conflict

Israeli Left Finds Itself Isolated After Gaza War

Polls show that most Israelis supported the launch of Operation Protective Edge

The past month has not been an easy one for left-leaning organizations in Israel. A July poll by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI), a non-partisan Israeli think-tank, found that 95% of Israelis believed Operation Protective Edge was justly launched. More than two weeks into the fighting support remained unwavering.

Inside the country, only a few groups have been vocal in their condemnation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and Adalah are all notable examples. But perhaps the loudest has been human rights group B’Tselem. Founded in 1989, it’s been persistent in its criticism of the Gaza conflict.

Running across its homepage are the names of all children killed in the recent Gaza war. B’Tselem had hoped to broadcast this list on Israeli radio but the clip was blocked by the Israeli Broadcast Authority (IBA), which said the advert’s content was “politically controversial.” On Thursday, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israel’s Supreme Court had overturned B’Tselem’s appeal against IBA’s decision.

That added to what has been a difficult month for the non-governmental organization. Hagai El-Ad, B’Tselem’s director, told TIME: “The last month has been unprecedented… We received death threats, people told the police we should be accused of treason, we faced attempts of physical violence.” After repeatedly filing complaints to the police, El-Ad says B’Tselem was forced to hire its own security.

“The Israeli public has veered to the right,” says Dan Goldenblatt, Israeli co-director at Israel-Palestine: Creative Regional Initiatives, a non-profit think-tank that works to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians. “It’s more nationalistic, more racist, more xenophobic, more anti-Arab.”

B’Tselem’s situation worsened last week after the National Civilian Service removed the group from Israel’s national service volunteer list, though this decision was put on hold on Sunday pending an investigation. If upheld, it would mean that those eligible to opt for national service over military conscription won’t be able to work for the organization.

Sar-Shalom Jerbi, the National Civilian Service’s administration director, said the original decision was made because B’Tselem “crossed the line in wartime [by] campaigning and inciting against the state of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces, which is the most moral of armies.”

Despite this backdrop, groups like B’Tselem are unlikely to be silenced. Abraham Bell, Professor of Law at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and Goldenblatt are united in agreement that the left is usually critical of the government over incursions into Gaza, even if that’s an unpopular stance to take at the time.

Although strongly critical of Israel during the war, B’Tselem has also condemned the role Hamas has played in the conflict. A statement on its website contains the line in bold: “Hamas did, indeed, violate international humanitarian law during the fighting.” Though this sentiment is undoubtedly shared by its detractors, they might not agree with B’Tselem’s succeeding paragraph which begins: “However, Israel is wrong in shirking responsibility for the consequences of its actions and in laying them at Hamas’ door.”

Yariv Oppenheimer, the general director of Peace Now, another NGO which was founded in 1978 and campaigns for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, is also critical of Hamas, telling TIME: “We think that Hamas is not a partner for peace… [it’s] a terrorist organization, officially it doesn’t recognize the right of Israel to exist.” Oppenheimer adds however that “Israel should not just criticize Hamas but speak to other Palestinian groups like the Palestinian Authority… We should say to our neighbors that people who come with peace will be able to reach an agreement with us.”

Peace Now and B’Tselem’s refusal to censure Hamas as strongly as the Israeli government perhaps explains why they’re seen as lenient toward the organization. Bell told TIME: “I haven’t done a comprehensive survey but as far as I can see, most of the [left-wing] criticism has been towards the government… B’Tselem’s criticism has been almost exclusively towards the Israeli government.”

Though B’Tselem might be perceived as unduly critical of the government, it hasn’t gone unheard. “We’ve seen a surge in public interest in B’Tselem’s work and public statements,” El-Ad says, though he adds: “I understand that many people are upset with our statements and interest doesn’t equal support.”

The same can’t be said for Peace Now. The group has declined in the decades since its founding. Unlike B’Tselem, Peace Now has been fairly quiet on the current conflict. “I admit that in the last few weeks it was very difficult to have a clear position on [Israel’s] right to respond [in Gaza],” Oppenheimer says. He adds however that the group held a protest against the war in Tel Aviv on Saturday that attracted over 10,000 people by his estimate.

For Oppenheimer, a shift in public mood is to blame for their dwindling support. “In the past people were much more optimistic and romantic about the idea of peace,” he says. “People in Israel have suffered a lot of disappointment over the last decade.”

Though Bell agrees people are disappointed he blames the left-wing organizations for their own failure. “Groups like Peace Now, they managed to implement the major parts of their platform and it didn’t go as expected,” he says.

Left-wing groups originally pushed for negotiations with the Palestinian leadership to achieve territorial compromises, Bell explains, and then hopefully a lasting peace deal. When talks failed, the leftist groups called for unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, which also failed to bring peace. “It’s not clear to Israelis that accommodation or unilateral withdrawal will bring peace or international support,” says Bell. In the IDI’s latest peace poll just 3.2% of Israelis believe negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which is based in the West Bank, will lead to future peace.

B’Tselem’s El-Ad suggests such views are partly the result of the government’s stance. “There has been a huge effort by the political leadership to sell to the public that there’s no partner for a politically agreed solution,” he says. “The strategy that’s being pitched is the only way to deal with Gaza is force.”

Bell, however, is not convinced. “It’s very hard in Israel to control the public opinion from a governmental position,” he notes. “I think the [government’s] rhetoric is the result, not the cause [of people’s loss of faith].” Nevertheless Bell doesn’t think this is the end of Israel’s left. “I don’t think [these groups] are ever going to truly disappear, I think that people are naturally optimistic.”

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TIME Middle East

No Easy Answers to Charges of War Crimes in Gaza

A Palestinian man enters his destroyed home in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, August 5, 2014.
A Palestinian man enters his destroyed home in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, August 5, 2014. Oliver Weiken—EPA

Experts on both sides say there were, but proving it will be hard and prosecuting even harder

A three-day cease-fire began in Gaza Tuesday, while Israeli and Palestinian delegations traveled to Cairo to negotiate peace.

But looming over negotiations to end the conflict is the ugly specter of war crimes, which both Israel and Hamas have been accused of committing. On July 23, Navi Pillay, the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, suggested that attacks on civilians by both Israel and Hamas may have violated international law “in a manner that could amount to war crimes.”

That’s no idle charge — war crimes are breaches of international humanitarian law defined by the Geneva Conventions as:

“Wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including… wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile power, or wilfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial, …taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.”

Investigating and proving this is a lengthy and complex process that could take many months. Nevertheless, experts on both sides of the conflict have already drawn their own conclusions.

“It is fairly clear that Hamas has committed war crimes as a matter of systematic [authorized] policy,” says Abraham Bell, Professor of Law at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. “Hamas has used child soldiers, human shields, indiscriminate firing and weaponry incapable of discriminate firing during the conflict. It has also committed perfidy – using protective objects in an attempt to shield combatants – such as storing rockets in schools,” he adds.

ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN-GAZA-CONFLICT
A picture taken from the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip shows the trail of a missile launched by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system as it intercepts and destroys a rocket launched from Gaza into Israel on August 4, 2014. Jack Guez—AFP/Getty Images

Though aware Israel has been similarly accused of war crimes, Bell is unconvinced. “It’s hard to argue that there are significant war crimes going on from the Israeli point of view,” he comments. “The IDF has lawyers who accompany and advise commanders on missions.”

Israel’s detractors might argue that these legal experts could be more effective: The U.N. places the most recent death toll in Gaza at over 1,200, most of them civilians. Bell says civilian deaths are not necessarily war crimes. “You could end up with a lot of civilian casualties and have acted in accordance with the law,” he says. “It’s expected that there are going to be a lot of civilian deaths in urban warfare.”

Not on this scale, says Simon Natas, partner at ITN solicitors, who has worked with the UK-based organization Palestine Solidarity Campaign.”There are two enormously powerful inferences to draw from the extraordinarily high number of civilian casualties caused by Israel. Either it’s targeting civilians or its attempts to distinguish them from combatants is wholly inadequate,” Natas says. “Both constitute war crimes.”

“We know that Israel has directly targeted non-combatants… I don’t think there is any doubt that they deliberately attacked civilian targets such as mosques, hospitals and the Islamic University in Gaza,” he says.

Natas further claims that the extensive shelling — which, he says, “has characterized this conflict” — is the real “indiscriminate firing” Bell accuses Hamas of carrying out. “There are vast areas where all houses have been flattened,” Natas says. “It’s simply not possible to repeatedly fire these types of shells and not risk disproportionate civilian casualties.”

Though Israel says it warns civilians of attacks by dropping leaflets, leaving pre-recorded messages, and firing warning missiles, Natas is unimpressed. “A civilian is entitled to say ‘I want to remain in my home’ and it doesn’t mean they can be killed for exercising that right.”

Natas concedes that Hamas, too, fires indiscriminately at Israeli civilian areas but adds: “They don’t have the sophisticated technology to only hit military targets… they use extremely primitive weapons.” That lack of discrimination is not deliberate, he says, but due to a technical lack of control when retaliating against a more powerful, national military. That militant organizations can be accused of war crimes when they’re forced to resort to crude weaponry for self-defense, he says, is “an issue that international law needs to get to grips with.”

Accusations of war crimes are easy to come by, but prosecutions of them are not. While the UN Human Rights Council conducted a war crimes inquiry into a three-week conflict in Gaza in 2008-9 that concluded there had been serious violations on both sides, it had no powers of enforcement. For prosecution to actually go ahead, the domestic country must first have investigated its own conduct.

Natas says that Israel’s analysis of its own actions during war has never been carried out with sufficient rigor or impartiality, and believes it will be much the same after Operation Protective Edge. So, he says, “two NGOs in Gaza – al-Mezan and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights – will be impartially collecting evidence of war crimes along with the U.N.”

Though Natas says the Gazan NGOs will also report on any crimes committed by Hamas, Bell says the militant group won’t carry out an internal investigation into its own conduct either. “A terrorist organization is not going to investigate its own war crimes,” he says.

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA
Palestinians remove pieces of rubble from a house hit by an Israeli airstrike in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, on August 4, 2014. Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

Once the internal process has been completed, the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) can intervene if it thinks the process has been unsatisfactory. However, the court doesn’t have jurisdiction in Israel or in Palestine, meaning that it can’t prosecute them without U.N. Security Council referral.

Israel refused to ratify the I.C.C.’s treaty, the Rome Statute, in 1998, and though Palestine is keen to join the treaty after being declared a non-member state by the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, Natas says it’s under pressure from Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. to stay away lest it tries to prosecute Israeli officials. The U.S. also voted against making Palestine a non-member state.

Two other options remain. The U.N.’s Security Council can request an I.C.C. investigation or an independent country that has universal jurisdiction can prosecute individuals for war crimes. Universal jurisdiction is possessed by 166 states, who, according to Amnesty International, “have defined one or more of four crimes under international law (war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and torture) as crimes in their national law.”

Both Natas and Bell agree that the former looks unlikely. Bell thinks the U.N. Security Council won’t target a Palestinian military group whilst Natas says that the U.S., Israel’s strongest ally and a permanent member of the council, would veto any attempt to take Israeli officials to the I.C.C.

However, prosecution of Israel or Hamas could still happen in one of those 166 states. “It remains a distinct possibility that the prosecutions could happen in another country,” says Natas. “It’s just a question of them having the will and the political power.”

Any attempt to prosecute either party would cause huge international ramifications, but it likely wouldn’t come any time soon. Any war crimes inquiry would need to come after the conflict has drawn to a lasting halt, and a domestic investigation has been carried out — and right now, less than a day into a shaky cease-fire, what everyone is hoping for is peace.

TIME Israel

Gaza’s Future Unclear After Cease-Fire Ends Just Hours After it Began

A Palestinian family from Gaza Strip's central Bureij refugee camp drives back to their district during the first hours of a failed truce on August 1, 2014.
A Palestinian family from Gaza Strip's central Bureij refugee camp drives back to their district during the first hours of a failed truce on August 1, 2014. Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

The future of Israel's war in Gaza is uncertain after a cease-fire ended hours after it began and an Israeli soldier was said to be captured

The optimists in this part of the world went to sleep last night feeling vaguely hopeful, or at least relieved. The pessimists woke up and said, “I told you so.”

The 72-hour cease-fire announced by the United Nations and United States around midnight Thursday local time was supposed to go into effect Friday morning at 8 a.m. About an hour and a half later, the Israeli military says, soldiers who were at work dismantling a tunnel in Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, came under attack. Two Israeli Defense Forces soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber and one was captured.

Hamas, however, says the incident happened just before the cease-fire went into effect.

Israel named the soldier as 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, of Kfar Saba, north of Tel Aviv, and soon after his name was released he became a Twitter hashtag as well as the subject of at least three Facebook pages calling for him to come home safely. It is exactly the kind of build-up that Hamas likely hopes for, as its stated goal is repeating the pattern it established when it secured the 2011 release of 1,026 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for one Israeli: Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped in an June 2006 infiltration attack inside Israel.

The capture of an IDF soldier has been the event that Israel feared Hamas had been gunning for, knowing that Hamas sees soldiers as bargaining chips for more Palestinian prisoners and increased popularity. Over 5,000 Palestinians are held in Israeli jails, some having been convicted and others held as “administrative detainees.”

The brazen attack is by Israeli accounts the fourth time since this war started on July 8 that Hamas and other Palestinian militants groups in Gaza has broken or rejected a truce. The incident seems likely to open the doors for yet more intensive bombardments from the Israeli military — following the attack, the IDF pounded the area with artillery, killing 40 Palestinians.

An Israeli soldier prepares his equipment at an army deployment area, on the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, on August 1, 2014.
An Israeli soldier prepares his equipment at an army deployment area, on the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, on August 1, 2014. Jack Guez—AFP/Getty Images

The cease-fire violation and ensuing violence derailed plans for talks on a more prolonged peace, which were to be held in Cairo on Friday. But the Israeli soldier’s capture only underscores how differently the two sides see the ongoing conflict. Hamas political chief Khaled Mashal hailed the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in mid-June – even though it turns out that was executed by an independent cell of Hamas-inspired militants acting on their own. Hamas has tried capturing soldiers during other recent infiltration attacks as well — Israeli soldiers have found handcuffs, tranquilizers and syringes in captured militant tunnels.

But from Israel’s point of view, there’s little chance of an agreement to exchange prisoners for another captured soldier.

“We are in the middle of a war,” said Ephraim Kam, an expert in strategic intelligence at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, as well as a retired IDF colonel. “I assume that Israel will continue as if it had not happened. I’m doubtful that we will repeat the exchange that happened with Gilad Shalit.”

Kam added that Israeli public opinion has particularly been colored on this issue by a recent incident of recidivism: a Hamas operative who was released as part of the Shalit deal was found by Israel to be responsible for shooting and killing an off-duty police officer in April.

“As a result, it will be much more difficult than ever before,” for Hamas to get the prisoners it expects to in exchange for one live soldier, Kam says.

Gershon Baskin is among those who helped forge a backchannel between Israel and Hamas to get the two sides to negotiate over Shalit’s release. Baskin, a peace activist and the co-founder of the Israel/Palestinian Center for Research and Information, maintains contacts in the political wing of Hamas. He tells TIME he communicated to Hamas three weeks ago his belief that the group would not be able to stage a repeat of the Shalit deal because too many factors had changed.

“I told them that the idea that Israel will negotiate and agree to a ratio of 1:1,000, that time is over and it won’t happen again,” Baskin said. “The scenario in which we already have 40,000 soldiers in Gaza and another 14,000 being called up tells me Israel isn’t leaving without the soldier, dead or alive.”

Baskin predicts that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, which will meet late Friday, may decide on a total conquest of the whole southern Gaza Strip around Rafah, both in search of the missing soldier and in looking for more tunnel entrances.

“Whatever happens, Hamas will win in their definition, because they have a different kind of rationale,” Baskin said.

Smoke and flames are seen following what witnesses said were Israeli air strikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, August 1, 2014.
Smoke and flames are seen following what witnesses said were Israeli air strikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, August 1, 2014. Ibraheem Abu Mustafa—Reuters

Indeed, the Palestinian version of events is significantly different than the Israeli one. Not only did the soldier’s capture happen before the end of the cease-fire, some Palestinian leaders argue, but Hamas officials also accuse Israel of breaking the cease-fire first.

“There is no justification for Israel to violate the truce as the officer was captured and the two soldiers were killed ahead of the truce,” senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouq told the Anadolu News Agency, a Turkish newswire. Marzouq said the troops were only responding to “Israeli aggression.” In a press release, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Israel made the claim of Hamas violating the cease-fire to “cover up a massacre” in Rafah.

It was never clear exactly how the cease-fire agreement would stick for three days even while Israeli troops are operating in Gaza. Netanyahu said Israel would work at destroying tunnels with or without a cease-fire, and the truce indicated that Israeli forces would stay in Gaza but not attack Palestinians. Israel read this as permission to continue destroying tunnels. However, Hamas says it treats any Israelis efforts against infrastructure as an act of aggression and would, in the words of Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan speaking in Beirut, act accordingly in self-defense, according to Israeli radio.

Hamdan also said that he has no knowledge of a captured soldier, possibly pointing to an old pattern that has been noted by Hamas observers before: a gap between what the political wing says and what the military wing does.

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TIME Middle East

15 Killed in Gaza Market Airstrike As Temporary Cease-Fire Passes

As at least 15 were killed in the shelling of a UN school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza

Updated 1:22 pm ET

An Israeli airstrike on a busy market in Gaza has killed at least 15 and wounded 150 others, the Associated Press reports.

The strike occurred during a four-hour humanitarian cease-fire,which occurred between 3pm and 7pm local time, in the Gaza Strip. The market is situated within Shejaiya, an area which Israel said wasn’t protected by the parameters of its cease-fire.

A Gaza healthy ministry official, Ashraf al-Kidra, told the AP the Gazans shopping in the market believed they were protected.

In a statement released before the cease-fire, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that the humanitarian window would “not apply to the areas in which IDF soldiers are currently operating” — among which is Shejaiya.

The IDF told residents not to return to areas which they were asked to evacuate, and warned “the IDF will respond to any attempt to exploit this window to harm Israeli citizens and Israeli soldiers.” During the cease-fire, the AP reports, Palestinian militants did fire rockets into Israel.

The IDF scheduled the cease-fire earlier Wednesday, after another night of heavy fighting between it and Hamas saw 15 people killed in the Israeli shelling of a UN school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency said that Tuesday’s attack was the sixth time the IDF had struck a U.N. school during the current conflict. In a statement on their website they called the incident “an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced.”

A spokesperson for the IDF told TIME: “The initial IDF investigation suggests that [Palestinian] militants fired mortar shells from the vicinity of the school,” to which the IDF responded. The spokesperson added that the investigation is ongoing.

The White House condemned the UN school shelling Wednesday afternoon, the Associated Press reports, but did blame any party for it.

The shelling of the school happened during the 23rd day of operations in the Gaza strip which has so far seen over 1,258 Palestinians killed, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Israel has lost 56 in the fighting.

[AP]

TIME

Gaza Bloodshed Continues Despite UN’s Call For Cease-Fire

Israel and Hamas blame each other for blasts that killed at least 10 children and injured dozens of others just hours after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon demanded an end to the violence

TIME Middle East

Bloody Day in Gaza as Calls for Cease-Fire Intensify

Palestinian mourners cry at Gaza City's al-Shifa hospital after an explosion killed at least seven children in a public playground in the beachfront Shati refugee camp on July 28, 2014.
Palestinian mourners cry at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City after an explosion killed at least seven children in a public playground in the beachfront Shati refugee camp on July 28, 2014 Mahmud Hams—AFP/Getty Images

Israel and Hamas point the finger at each other for an attack on a Gaza hospital that left at least 10 dead

Updated at 6:45 p.m. ET

The U.N. Security Council’s call for an immediate cease-fire between Israeli forces and Hamas failed to cease violence in Gaza on Monday, as two large attacks left over a dozen dead and scores wounded.

Israel and Hamas traded blame for explosions at al-Shifa Hospital and a nearby refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Monday, which killed at least 10 children and left at least 30 people dead or wounded, NBC reports.

Hamas said the explosions were a “direct” strike by Israeli drones, while Israel said they were caused by failed militant rockets. “A short while ago Al-Shifa hospital was struck by a failed rocket attack launched by Gaza terror organizations,” the IDF said in a statement, adding that “there was no Israeli military activity in the area surrounding the hospital whatsoever. “

At least four people were also killed by a mortar shell in Eshkol, in Israel’s southern district close to the border with the Gaza Strip, the Jerusalem Post reports. At least six others were seriously injured.

The attacks came just hours after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon echoed calls from the U.N. Security Council for an immediate cease-fire. “In the name of humanity, the violence must stop,” he said, according to the BBC.

Over 1,030 Palestinians have been killed, according to Palestinian health organizations, many of them children. A daily report for July 28 by the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that in just the past 24-hour period, 74 Palestinians had been killed. Israel says it has lost 43 soldiers and two civilians.

Ban called for an end to the violence out of respect for Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday commemorating the end of Ramadan. “It’s a matter of their political will,” he said. “They have to show their humanity as leaders, both Israeli and Palestinian.”

His statements follow the Security Council’s call for a “durable” truce that would stop the violence and lead to substantial talks. The Palestinian representative to the U.N., Riyad Mansour, said that didn’t go far enough, and he demanded a formal resolution calling for Israel to remove troops from Gaza.

Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor said the Security Council’s statement was slated toward the Palestinians by failing to mention Hamas and the recent rocket attacks, the BBC reports.

TIME Middle East

Hamas Still Has Some Friends Left

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters at parliament in Ankara, Turkey, July 22, 2014.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters at parliament wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh, in Ankara, July 22, 2014. Burhan Ozbilici—AP

Though Egypt has turned its back on Hamas, other countries are coming in from the cold

With the fighting in Gaza intensifying daily, the ruling militant group Hamas is finding itself pushed to the limit. Trying to match Israel’s vast military might is an impossible task, and even finding the resources to launch rocket attacks against Israeli targets could only be achieved by heavy foreign investment.

But which country wants to invest in Hamas? The West certainly doesn’t. The militant Palestinian organization has been a firm fixture on the United States’ Foreign Terrorist Organizations list since 1997. Hamas’ only hope is its neighbors in the Arab world.

Hamas has two clear allies, according to Middle East experts: Qatar and Turkey. Both have given Hamas their public support and financial assistance estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Qatar also hosts Hamas’ political bureau which includes Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal,” says Shashank Joshi, Senior Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. “Qatar has a long history of providing shelter to Islamist groups, amongst them the Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban.”

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, which came to power in 2002, supports what Joshi calls “other neo-Islamist allies.” Though the Turkish government explicitly rejects the label “Islamist”, their social conservatism is inspired by an Islamic ideology that Hamas shares. Last year, Meshaal visited Turkey and met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for several hours.

Both Qatar — one of the world’s richest states — and Turkey are powerful allies to have, but Hamas might wish for more support given the breadth of the Arab world. It once had it, too. Hamas used to be strongly allied with both Iran and Syria, with the former giving Hamas an estimated $13-15 million a month as recently as 2011, as well as long-range missiles. Hamas’ political bureau used to be based in the Syrian capital of Damascus before its move to Qatar in 2012.

But relations cooled dramatically with Iran and Syria amid sectarian divisions following the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. Iran, a Shia-majority country, backed the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whose Alawite faith is a branch of Shia Islam. Hezbollah, a powerful Shia Islamist group based in Lebanon, also took Assad’s side.

However Hamas, a Sunni-led faction, sided, as most of the Arab world did, with the rebels. Cue Tehran cutting their allowance, Hezbollah allegedly ordering Hamas members out of Lebanon, and Hamas packing their bags for Qatar.

“Iran’s relationship with Hamas was always problematic,” says Chris Doyle, director of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding. “Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni group and Iran is Shia. Nevertheless, Hamas was their entry into the issue of Palestine.”

Seeking to regain its influence over this issue, Iran has attempted to foster a reconciliation with Hamas over the last 18 months. Farwaz Gerges, professor on the Middle East at the London School of Economics says the conflict in Gaza is the reason. “The current crisis has brought a kind of rapprochement between Iranian leaders and Hamas.”

Hezbollah too, Gerges notes, has invited Hamas back into the fold. On Monday, the Hezbollah-owned television channel Al Manar reported that Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, praised Meshaal for “the persistence of the Hamas resistance.” The TV station added he “strongly supported their rightful demands to end the current battle.”

Gerges is quick to point out that this doesn’t signal “a return to the warm days of the Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas leaders.” However he adds: “Out of this particular crisis, a new realignment might happen.” That may sound like good news for Hamas, but there’s another Arab country that is of late vehemently opposed to it. That would be Egypt, the largest and most influential country in the Arab world and the one responsible for drafting a potential cease-fire.

From 2012 to 2013, Hamas enjoyed Egypt’s munificence under the leadership of former President Mohamed Morsi, a longtime member of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood of which Hamas is an offshoot. When Morsi was ousted last year and replaced with Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, Hamas knew the good times were over.

“The most devastating thing that has happened to Hamas is the ousting of Mohamed Morsi,” comments Gerges. Sisi, whose government has orchestrated a violent crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, destroyed Hamas’ tunnel network into Egypt and closed the border crossing at Rafah, devastating Hamas’ finances. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, two of Egypt’s financial backers, are also hostile to Hamas. Like Egypt, they view the Muslim Brotherhood as a clear domestic threat — and Hamas is guilty by association.

But perhaps Hamas doesn’t need Egypt. As the death toll continues to rise in Gaza, there is a groundswell of public sympathy across the Arab world for the group.

“Hamas in terms of people on the street is at the height of its political power in every single Arab country with the exception of Egypt,” says Gerges. “The longer the conflict continues, the more they gain in popularity. And for Hamas, what really matters is the public pulse.”

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