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.”

TIME Middle East

Hamas: Israel Will ‘Face a Long War’ If Palestinian Demands Not Met

A Palestinian man looks through the window of his house to buildings damaged by an overnight airstrike in Gaza City, July 22, 2014.
A Palestinian man looks through the window of his house to buildings damaged by an overnight airstrike in Gaza City, July 22, 2014. Alessio Romenzi for TIME

The militant Islamic group wants an end to Israel's long-standing economic blockade on Gaza and fewer movement restrictions on its people

The offers for peace made to the Palestinian delegation in Cairo don’t meet the demands of the people in Gaza, Hamas’ head of foreign affairs said Saturday, raising the prospect of a long-term conflict.

“Israel must accept the demands of the Palestinian people or face a long war,” Osama Hamdan said in Arabic on his official Facebook page on Saturday, according to an English translation by Reuters.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told the Al-Aqsa Hamas TV station he has demanded an end to Israel’s long-standing economic blockade on Gaza, Reuters reports, and that Israel reduce movement restrictions on the 1.8 million residents of the territory.

Hamas and Israel are not meeting face-to-face in Cairo, as Israel considers it a terrorist organization.

The current violence in Gaza began July 8 when Israel responded to rocket fire from the territory, eventually launching a ground operation and killing more than 1,900 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians. Sixty-seven Israelis have died in the conflict as well, and over 400,000 Gaza residents have been displaced.

TIME foreign affairs

My Jewish Family’s Incredible Shrinking World

Rabbi Shmuel Segal of the Jewish educati
Rabbi Shmuel Segal of the Jewish education centre looks up at the Chanukkah lights in front of Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, December 20, 2011. Odd Andersen —AFP/Getty Images

Synagogues from the UK to France have been defaced, and there's no sense of outrage to be found

My first flight was international, 2,500 miles from my birthplace in Kyubishev, Russia, to Rome, Italy in 1978. Italy was a common stopover for Russian Jews fleeing the Soviet Union. We stayed three months in a small apartment in Ladispoli, a suburb of Rome. I ate a lot of chocolate and oranges while my parents learned Italian and waited to hear that America would let us in.

When we got to Brooklyn, they got busy working. In Russia, my father had been a doctor, my mother a teacher. Here, he drove a cab and she knitted yarmulkes for the local Judaica store.

My parents had spent their lives looking at maps of the world and planning where they would go when they were free. We were poor, but they saved all of their money for the traveling we would do. The world was suddenly so big, after a lifetime of insurmountable Soviet borders, and we were going to go everywhere. My first trip was to Venezuela in 1983.

The first few days we stayed at the Caracas Hilton. It was magical. I had never seen a pool that big. I may have never seen a pool at all. No one spoke English but, well, neither did we, so a lot of the conversations were an interpretive dance. We’d act out eating to find the restaurant and spoke in pidgin Italian and hoped it was close enough. Somehow it always was.

Two days later we flew to Canaima National Park, our real destination. We slept in a hut, swam in red water and saw piranhas. We’d hear animals outside of our door at night. I saw little children on monkey bars at a nearby school and marveled at how similar they were to me.

No one goes to Venezuela anymore. It became, for all intents and purposes, off-limits years ago. The State Department warns American travelers about kidnappings and suggests not visiting.

We traveled a lot through my childhood and adolescence. My parents were partial to weird places: Devil’s Island off the coast of French Guiana in South America, and the Amazon River, where I saw bugs the size of my head and met people who didn’t use currency so they traded their handmade goods for Disney World t-shirts. We saw beautiful, safe places, along with the strange and dangerous. Istanbul, Punta del Este, Buenos Aires and a tiny island called Îles des Saintes all stick out in my mind. But what I remember most from our family trips is the smell of sewage, impoverished children selling gum to tourists and an element of danger everywhere we went as my parents forced my brother and me to really see our wide, strange world.

When I traveled alone for the first time, I wanted something more…familiar. I didn’t want to worry about drinking the water; I didn’t want to do that interpretive dance. My first trip alone, at 17, was to England, Scotland and Wales. They spoke our language, sort of, but everything was different enough to mark it foreign. I got off the bus in beautiful Edinburgh and ended up falling deeply in love with Scotland, visiting again the next summer, then living there two separate times during college. When I tell my 4-year-old daughter about that time, I add that I’ll take her there someday.

Will I, though?

My children both had passports before they turned one. Unfortunately, the big world, the one my family couldn’t wait to see, is getting smaller. I keep track of places off-limits to me because I am Jewish, and that list grows all the time. I check Wikipedia for countries that don’t “recognize” Israel. Those are the ones where I know definitively I am unwelcome. North Africa is tough. I’m only partially surprised Sudan doesn’t recognize Israel, even though U.S. Jews showed an overwhelming support for Darfur. Truth be told, I’m in no rush to get to Mali or Somalia. I guess I’ll miss out on Morocco.

The Middle East is even more fraught, of course. “You can go to United Arab Emirates, certainly to Dubai,” people say. Can I? “Don’t be too open about being Jewish but they don’t care there. They’re very modern.” My husband was born in Israel and it says so on his American passport. They don’t allow Israelis into the United Arab Emirates, at least that’s the official policy of this “modern” country. Even if he wasn’t marked for exclusion, I’m not keeping my Jewishness a secret. If Saudi Arabia opened its doors to me tomorrow, I still wouldn’t go. I’m not covering my head. I’m a woman of the free world, I have spent my life being grateful for this, knowing that a twist of fate gave me freedom I could have so easily not have had.

I wore a Star of David around my neck the entire time I lived in Scotland. I think I’d be uncomfortable doing the same now. The rage emanating from Europe toward Jews is white hot. A synagogue in Surrey was defaced. Another synagogue was vandalized in Miami of all places. But what’s lacking when it happens in Europe is any sense of outrage from the Europeans. In Miami the atmosphere was “how could this happen here?” In Europe there is no such question. Of course it happens there. In France, when synagogues get firebombed, as they do with alarming frequency, there isn’t a national movement to say they won’t stand for it. They very much stand for it. French Jews are the scapegoats for the real problems in France, between the French and those the French call “the Arabs,” even though “the Arabs” have lived there for decades and should just be French by now. Forget Turkey, a country I once enjoyed visiting. They went off the rails years ago. It’s an election year in Turkey now, so obviously Israel is the top issue in a country with 9% unemployment.

Israeli performers get disinvited from a festival in Edinburgh as if disinviting artists from countries whose politics you don’t like is a normal thing to do. Where is the outrage? They pretend it’s because of Israel, not because they’re Jews. Then the Jewish Film Festival gets canceled in London. An embarrassment. Britain should hang its head in shame. It doesn’t. A crowd in Germany (in Germany!) shouts “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.” Where is Germany’s soul-searching that this goes on within its borders? Forget Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem signing an anti-Israel letter in a Spanish newspaper. No big deal when the second-biggest newspaper in Spain prints a piece arguing Jews “are not made to co-exist,” with references to how good they are with money, how they deserved expulsion, wondering how they still exist (“persist”) at all.

So no, I won’t be taking my daughter to Scotland anytime soon, or any place where Jews are made to feel unwelcome. I still want to see the whole world and show it to my children, but much of the world right now does not want to see us. I’d take my children to places off the beaten path. I don’t want it to be all Hiltons for them. Sometimes it has to be the hut. But I won’t take my children to places where they are hated for who they are.

I’ve heard that I shouldn’t let a few anti-Semites keep me from traveling. But it’s not the anti-Semites who are the problem. It’s the people in these countries sitting idly by and not saying that these people canceling Jewish film festivals or writing despicable op-eds don’t speak for them. The silence is what is so troubling. The optimist in me hopes things change and that the world opens up to us again. A lot would need to change for that to happen. I wonder if my kids will see Edinburgh or Caracas first.

Karol Markowicz is a writer in New York City.

TIME Gaza

Remembering Videographer Simone Camilli: Watch One of His Final Projects

Simone Camilli
Associated Press video journalist Simone Camilli on a balcony overlooking smoke from Israeli Strikes in Gaza City. Camilli, 35, was killed in an ordnance explosion in the Gaza Strip, on Aug. 13, 2014 together with Palestinian translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash and three members of the Gaza police. Lefteris Pitarakis—AP

The video journalist was killed, along with a Palestinian translator, on Wednesday as they were reporting on the conflict in Gaza

Simone Camilli, a 35-year-old Italian journalist, was killed Wednesday in an ordnance explosion while reporting from the Gaza strip.

Camilli started his career in 2005 in Rome, as an intern with the Associated Press.

“He was a sponge,” said Derl McCrudden, head of international video news for the Associated Press. “He was one of those guys who learned everything he could about the job.”

One of his first assignments was to portray the world’s sorrow at the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005.

Maria Grazia Murru, currently a senior producer with the AP in Rome, remembers Camilli at the start of his career. “He was passionate about wanting to tell people’s stories and wanted to be where the story was all the time,” she said. “He wanted to learn everything and be the first, he was never happy waiting for images to happen.”

In 2006, Camilli moved to Jerusalem. From that moment on, he grew accustomed to rockets flying overhead, as he embarked on assignments in Israel, Gaza, Iraq, Lebanon and other areas of conflict. Camilli immersed himself in wartime reporting, vividly capturing with his camera both moments of sorrow and joy, colleagues said.

“His video had a signature, an incredible eye for detail and was able to personalize stories and portray human drama,” said Tomislav Skaro, a regional editor of international video for the AP. “He was incredibly calm, mature beyond his age, gentle and the friend that everybody wants to have.”

Camilli’s father, Pierluigi Camilli, said his son loved his work. The senior Camilli is a former journalist himself who currently serves as the mayor of Pitigliano, a small town in Italy, whose nickname is “little Jerusalem.”

“I talked with Simone the other day,” Pierluigi Camilli told Italian media. “I told him to be careful but he said not to worry (…) I’m proud of Simone. He had his work in his blood.” Camilli always wanted to be on the front lines, his father added.

In one of his last multimedia projects, Camilli worked with AP photographer Dan Balilty on a compelling piece depicting the 2009 Israeli bombardment in Gaza. Watch the piece below:

TIME Israel

Israel-Hamas Talks Show Changing Imperatives as Cease-Fire Nears End

Gaza Strip, Gaza City: A Palestinian look a heavy destruction in Al Shaaf neighbourhood during a 72 hours ceasefire on August 11, 2012. ALESSIO ROMENZI
A Palestinian man looks at heavy destruction during a 72 hours cease-fire in Al Shaaf neighborhood of Gaza City on Aug. 11, 2014 Alessio Romenzi for TIME

A 72-hour cease-fire is set to end Wednesday night

Almost three decades ago, Benjamin Netanyahu was the editor of a new book called Terrorism: How the West Can Win. He was then Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, and the 1986 book was part of the doctrine he was developing for himself and for Israel: We don’t negotiate with terrorists.

Times have changed.

Today Israel’s negotiators are in Cairo, where they’re engaged in indirect negotiations with the militant group Hamas—as well as other Palestinian factions—in an effort to reach a cease-fire agreement to end more than a month of war in Gaza. The stakes are high, with the latest temporary cease-fire set to expire Wednesday night. The talks are part of the search for an exit strategy from Operation Protective Edge, which Israel launched on July 8 in response to a barrage of rocket fire from Gaza. Hamas says it acted in retaliation for the arrests of its activists in the West Bank. But the very fact that Israel and Hamas are participating in a version of proximity talks—where the parties don’t sit in the same room but are close enough for a mediator to facilitate negotiations—shows how far both sides have come from their hardline positions.

Israel has made its stance clear: It will not negotiate with Hamas, which both Israel and the U.S. view as a terrorist organization. Hamas, for its part, doesn’t recognize Israel and calls in its charter for the destruction of the Jewish State, but has recently offered a 10-year truce, an idea that dates to the time of the Prophet Mohammed.

And yet, the two sides are talking, albeit indirectly.

Netanyahu, now Israel’s Prime Minister, has continued to emphasize that Israel sees Hamas as a force to be ostracized—in the same category as ISIS or Boko Haram, he told foreign reporters last week. Even the most pro-peace member of Netanyahu’s cabinet, Tzipi Livni, said earlier this week that giving in to Hamas’ demands would be “a signal of weakness” that would only encourage yet another round of fighting. “Nobody can afford to send a message to Hamas that those who act with terror towards civilians can get what they want,” Livni told reporters.

Rhetoric aside, though, Israel has found itself faced with two basic choices, says Dr. Jonathan Spyer, a senior research fellow at the IDC Herzilya, a university near Tel Aviv. Either continue with its military campaign, with an eye toward toppling Hamas and possibly re-occupying Gaza—a move bound to engender intense international censure as well as soaring casualty counts—or negotiate with the very people Israel says no one should recognize as legitimate. Netanyahu, Spyer notes, has decided not to go the route of regime change by force, despite pressures from hard-liners to do so. As such, there is nothing to do but to negotiate over the terms.

“If Israel decides that it’s not going to try to destroy Hamas, [it] then [has] to deal with this semi-sovereign enclave between Israel and Egypt, and you end up with a situation of ongoing conflict with a neighboring entity: a situation of no peace but now war, or maybe a war of attrition,” Spyer tells TIME. To let the war drag on indefinitely, he notes, would also be seen in Israel as a failure.

“If the Israeli communities on the border of Gaza become ghost towns, then we have a de facto disengagement from the south of Israel, and I don’t think any Israeli prime minister wants that,” he said.

The majority of Israelis who live in communities that surround the Gaza border, which have borne the brunt of more than 3,500 rocket and mortars fired at them from Gaza over the past month, have been seeking shelter in the center and north of the country. If Netanyahu wants to make good on his pledge to “bring back quiet,” there is no way to get there without doing business with Hamas.

While some analysts commend Netanyahu’s decision to choose cease-fire talks over further military action, he has also come under criticism. Writing in the New York Times, military analyst Ronen Bregman argued that the war has done “significant damage” to Israel’s deterrence. “And as much as Israel is seeking to marginalize Hamas and empower the weakened Mr. [Mahmoud] Abbas, Hamas is, for the first time in its history, on the verge of being internationally recognized as an equal party in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute,” Bregman writes.

Zvi Bar’el, a writer for the left-wing Haaretz daily newspaper, said Netanyahu’s policies have painted Israel into a corner, forcing it to negotiate with Hamas. “Israel’s insistence on viewing the Palestinian unity government as a ‘terrorist entity,’ or at the very least ‘a Hamas government,’ has actually trapped it, and once again forced it into negotiating with Hamas and Islamic Jihad while pushing Abbas into the position of an observer who is not authorized to sign an accord, should one be reached,” Bar’el writes. The end result will likely be to revive Hamas’ popularity, he predicts.

Mark Heller, an analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, says the international censure coming down on Israel has steered the country’s leadership away from rhetoric around destroying Hamas, choosing a negotiated solution instead. “Israel has the ability to reoccupy Gaza and destroy Hamas, if it’s willing to pay the price, but one of the prices is the lives of troops and Israel’s international standing,” Heller says. “As Hamas still has effective control of Gaza and decides whether or not there will be firing from Gaza, the only way to pursue the possibility of a cease-fire is to speak with them.”

The latest 72-hour truce, meanwhile, expires Wednesday night—and it’s far from certain that the gaps between the two sides will be bridged before then.

TIME Middle East

U.N. Names Gaza War-Crimes Panel

Amal Alamuddin, human rights lawyer attends the 'End Sexual Violence in Conflict' summit in London June 12, 2014.
Human-rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin attends the End Sexual Violence in Conflict summit in London on June 12, 2014 Lefteris Pitarakis—AP

George Clooney's fiancée Amal Alamuddin was one of three tapped to investigate international-law violations in Gaza, but she says she can't join the team

Updated 5:33 p.m. ET

The U.N. named three experts to investigate possible war crimes and human-rights violations committed by both Israelis and Palestinians during the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip, the organization announced Monday.

One of the members, however, British-Lebanese human-rights attorney Amal Alamuddin, says she won’t be joining the group.

“I was contacted by the UN about this for the first time this morning,” the attorney, who also happens to be George Clooney’s fiancée, said in a statement. “I am honoured to have received the offer, but given existing commitments — including eight ongoing cases — unfortunately could not accept this role. I wish my colleagues who will serve on the commission courage and strength in their endeavours.”

A Canadian international-law professor, William Schabas, will lead the panel, Reuters reports. Doudou Diène, a Senegalese lawyer who has previously worked with the U.N. on numerous cases, was also named.

The team will look at “all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law … in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014” and present a report in March 2015, according to the U.N.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has accused Israel of violating international law in attacking U.N. safe sites, though Israel has said the U.N. is biased against the country. The U.N. has also claimed Hamas forces in Gaza violated international laws as well by indiscriminately launching rockets at Israel.

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators are engaged in peace talks after a recent cease-fire agreement appears to be holding. The conflict has so far seen nearly 2,000 Palestinians and 67 Israelis killed.

[Reuters]

TIME Security

Off the Battlefield, Hackers Are Waging Cyberwar Against Israel and Palestine

Hacktivist attacks against Israel quintupled as violence swept across Gaza, but are the hackers doing any damage?

Fighting in the Gaza Strip hit a lull this week as a 72-hour cease-fire ends its third and final day Thursday — but a digital war has still been raging as hackers pay little mind to the temporary truce. Cyberattacks directed against Israel have increased dramatically since it invaded Gaza in early July, intensifying last month as the violence peaked, according to a report released this week by the security research firm Arbor Networks.

Websites of Israeli civilian governmental agencies, financial services and military agencies—including the legendary intelligence agency Mossad and the Prime Minister’s office—were targeted as part of the sharp uptick in attacks that began in July, when the total number of strikes increased by 500%.

Whether those online attacks had much of an impact, however, is a subject of debate. U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) warned in an interview on CBS News’ Face the Nation late last month that cyberattacks against Israeli websites could present a risk to the country’s security. “So far I think Israel has done a great job of defending from these cyberattacks, but the sheer volume and intensity as it grows could spread from what is a conflict between Israel and Gaza to some cybereffort to try to shut these operations down, and that’s always a concern,” Rogers said.

But some experts said the attacks were doing little substantial harm against the Israeli government. The attacks are primarily targeting external, user-facing websites, perhaps increasing the time it takes to load a webpage or temporarily shutting the page down altogether by jamming up the works with bogus traffic. But the attacks have not yet affected the Israeli agencies’ internal operations, researchers said.

“To be able to do something effective against the [Israeli] government you have to be a very sophisticated hacker,” said Giora Engel, vice president of LightCyber, a security firm that provides security for Israeli government agencies. “A group of activists can’t do any damage.”

Most of the the recent and mostly harmless attacks against prominent Israeli websites are known as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Carrying out a DDoS involves flooding websites or servers with traffic to deny other, legitimate users access to those websites. Hackers that conduct such attacks usually control a wide array of third-party computers which they instruct to do their bidding; the owners of those machines rarely know their devices are even involved.

The number of denial of service attacks against Israel increased from an average of 30 per day in June, before the violence began, to 150 per day in July, while the armed conflict raged on. The number of attacks peaked on July 21, with a total of 429 attacks. Researchers haven’t been able to definitively track the attacks back to any particular groups, but the timing of the incidents correlate with rising violence.

“There’s a clear increase not only in number of attacks but in the size of attacks and how long they’re lasting,” said Kirk Soluk, manager of threat intelligence and response at Arbor. “Interestingly enough, when there’s a cease-fire, the attacks seem to drop off.”

Cyber attacks have increasingly accompanied political conflicts in recent years, with actors like the Syrian Electronic Army notoriously hacking BBC News, eBay and other sites. There has also been an increase in attacks associated with recent disputes over the South China Sea.

In the case of the recent attacks against Israel, Arbor said the third-party computers used to strike Israeli government sites are scattered across the globe in countries including the U.S., Myanmar, Russia, Mexico, Great Britain, and others. However, that does not mean the attacks originated in those countries—it just means those are the locations of computers hackers have commandeered to stage attacks against Israel.

So where are the attacks coming from? One clue could be that the structure of the attacks bears a resemblance to a certain kind of attack that targeted U.S. banks en masse in 2012, Arbor said. U.S. security forces later linked those attacks to Iranian hackers. Meanwhile, the hacking group Anonymous claimed to have attacked Israeli sites, but it’s unclear if the organization is just taking credit for others’ work.

The attacks appear not just to be one-sided, however, as an Israeli civilian group called the Israeli Elite Force (IEF) has said that it’s attacking Palestinian websites. In the early days of the figthing, the IEF regularly updated its Twitter with reports of attacks on Palestinian websites, posting email addresses of what it said were login codes at the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

If a cease-fire holds and violence ends, cyberattacks may dwindle in the short term, but hacking has become a permanent feature in conflicts. “Cyber has joined land, air, sea, and space as the fifth domain of modern warfare,” said Chris Petersen, the co-founder of security firm LogRhythm.

TIME Gaza

Hamas Says It Will Continue Fight After Ceasefire

An armed Hamas militant walks through a street in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City on July 20, 2014.
An armed Hamas militant walks through a street in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City on July 20, 2014. Wissam Nassar—The New York Times/Redux

“We are ready for a long war”

Hamas reiterated late Thursday that it plans to continue fighting after a temporary cease-fire ends Friday morning, if its demands are not met.

“The resistance is ready to pay the price and the people are behind the resistance,” Abu Obaida, a spokesman for the military wing of Hamas, said on Hamas-run television, CNN reports. “We are ready for a long war.”

Earlier Thursday, Hamas held a public rally in Gaza City and a top Hamas official, Mushir al-Masri, declared to the crowd that Hamas would continue to fight until the seven-year-old blockade on Gaza by Israel and Egypt is lifted, the Associated Press reports.

A three-day truce mediated by Egypt has largely quieted the three-week-long conflict that killed more than 1,860 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel. The truce is scheduled to end Friday at 8 a.m. local time, though representatives of Hamas and other Palestinian factions are in Cairo indirectly negotiating with Israel for a permanent ceasefire.

But hours before the ceasefire is set to end, talks have faltered, with Hamas demanding an end to the blockade and Israel saying the militants must first disarm, a condition Hamas has so far rejected.

[CNN]

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