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Operation Guardian of the Walls

By Mitchell Bard
(May 10 - 20, 2021)

After Hamas took credit for firing six rockets at Jerusalem, on May 10, 2021. This unprovoked and indiscriminate attack on the capital prompted Israel to respond with airstrikes throughout the Gaza StripPalestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) subsequently joined Hamas in firing hundreds of rockets toward Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Tel Aviv and neighboring communities prompting Israel to launch Operation Guardian of the Walls in the most significant outbreak of violence since Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Motivations of Hamas
Israeli Objectives
Media Coverage
Hamas/PIJ Preparations
U.S. Response
Successes and Failures
Threats to Resume Fighting
Impact on Peace


At the time Hamas and PIJ began firing rockets there was no particular tension along the Gaza border. The terrorists began their attacks on the pretext they were defending the al-Aqsa Mosque and responding to the possible eviction of Palestinian families illegally living on Jewish property in Sheikh Jarrah.

On May 4, Hamas commander Muhammed Deif warned “If the aggression against our people in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood does not stop immediately, we will not stand idly by.”

Though as many as 90,000 worshippers were allowed to attend services, Palestinians complained of a number of provocations that prompted riots on the Temple Mount, such as police preventing them from gathering outside the Damascus Gate (the order was later rescinded), disconnecting loudspeakers, and otherwise interfering in the observance of Ramadan. On May 7, after learning that rocks and other weapons for rioters were being stockpiled in the mosque, and police were attacked, officers raided the mosque and the video of the incursion went viral provoking more protests.

May 10 was Jerusalem Day when an annual march is held by Israeli to celebrate the reunification of the city. The same day the Supreme Court was due to rule whether the eviction order in Sheikh Jarrah should be enforced, but the decision was delayed to avoid escalating tensions.

Motivations of Hamas

Though none of these events directly affected the people in Gaza, Hamas saw a chance to demonstrate it was defending Jerusalem. The opportunity arose in the context of the decision by Mahmoud Abbas to cancel Palestinian Authority elections out of fear Hamas was going to win and he would be deposed. Attacking Israel would bring Hamas attention and, the group believed, win greater support from the public for its willingness to fight.

Hamas was also likely motivated by the de-emphasis of the Palestinian issue during the Trump administration and the signing of the Abraham Accords which ended the Palestinian veto over the normalization of relations between Israel and Arab/Muslim nations. They could not be ignored if they started a war with Israel, which they referred to as the Al Quds Sword campaign.

Israeli Objectives

According to Ron Ben Yishai, the Israeli operation’s goals are to:

Bring back Israeli deterrence; hit and destroy as much as possible anything that allows Hamas and PIJ to fight, from infrastructure to fighters and commanders, including senior Hamas commanders; dealing a severe blow to Hamas and PIJ’s rocket production capabilities and preventing them from posing a threat for years to come; and maintaining the IDF’s legitimacy to act in self-defense and creating support of Israel, especially among democratic Western countries.

Israel also wanted to send a message to Hezbollah not to underestimate how it would respond to any rocket attacks from Lebanon.

By May 21, 2021, 4,350 rockets and mortars had been fired at Israel from Gaza. The farthest reached about 150 miles inside Israel  

The salvos decreased in intensity as Israel ramped up its air raids; nevertheless, the number of rockets launched simultaneously was unprecedented and apparently designed to overwhelm the Iron Dome. The terror groups believe they have exposed vulnerabilities in the missile defense system by firing dozens of rockets from multiple directions. Iron Dome, however, has the capacity to launch some 800 interceptors at a given time, making it hard for Hamas to overwhelm the system and 90 percent of the incoming rockets were intercepted while 207 landed in Israel. Approximately 680 exploded or misfired inside the Gaza Strip, and the remainder landed in open fields in Israel or the Mediterranean.

Example of damage to Israeli buildings caused by rockets

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on May 15, Israelithat  forces were “in the midst of this operation” and it “will continue as long as necessary.” He added, “Unlike Hamas, which deliberately intends to harm civilians while hiding behind civilians, we are doing everything, but everything, to avoid or limit as much as possible harming civilians and to directly strike terrorists instead.”

Haviv Rettig Gur said the message might be paraphrased, “We can do this for a long time. You get to choose when a war begins, but you don’t get to decide when it will end. And you will be paying a higher price at that unknowable end than you were at the beginning.”

Israel also was concerned that Hezbollah might decide to attack from the north to create a two-front war. Six rockets were launched from Lebanon but none reached Israeli territory. The IDF fired artillery at the sources of the launches.

Rockets fired from Gaza


No Palestinians would have died in Gaza if Hamas had not launched rockets into Israel’s capital. Once the terrorists instigated a war, the casualty toll grew each day with Hamas and PIJ targeting civilians in Israel asnd the IDF targeting Hamas and PIJ terrorists, rocket launchers, tunnels, and arsenals with the intent of minimizing civilian casualties. The fact that terrorists would use their own people as shields is one indication of their callousness – some say it is a deliberate strategy to force Israel to kill civilians to erode its international image – another is the failure to build any shelters for them. While terrorists believed they could escape Israeli airstrikes by going into underground tunnels, civilians were given no place to hide.

After the fighting, Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau Yahya Sinwar admitted that Hamas locates its military headquarters in high rise and residential buildings. He said many were now being transferred out of civilian areas.

As in past operations, Israel provided warnings to civilians before attacks where they might be hurt despite the fact this also alerted the terrorists and allowed them to escape. A reporter for Palestinian Authority TV reported one example:

When they were informed that this tower will be attacked… the site was completely evacuated. The block, the street, the civilian buildings, and the residential buildings in the area - completely - including children and women, and we saw it…
The guard who works in this tower was warned through a phone call from the Israeli Security Agency. They told him word by word: Evacuate the tower and tell them that this tower will be attacked. It will be attacked any moment. After this conversation, this tower was attacked about two hours later.

The challenge for Israel was to accurately hit Hamas and PIJ targets that are deliberately placed in civilian areas where Palestinian women and children are used as shields. Even the director of UNRWA’s operations in Gaza acknowledged that Israel’s attacks were precise and directed at military targets. “They did not hit,” he said, “with some exceptions, civilian targets.” Under pressure from Hamas, with whom he must cooperate to do his job, he later revised his comments to fit the terrorists’ narrative.

Later, UNRWA published a statement that acknowledged a terror tunnel was built under one of its schools and condemned the “potential use by Palestinian armed groups of such tunnels underneath its schools.” UNRWA recognized this made their schools legitimate military targets and said it was “unacceptable that students and staff be placed at risk in such a way.”

Click photos to enlarge

Click to enlarge

According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, 248 Palestinians died in Gaza, including 66 children, and 1,910 people were wounded. These figures are not independently confirmed. The Ministry does not record deaths the of terrorists or those killed by friendly fire.

Approximately 680 rockets fired by Hamas and PIJ landed inside Gaza. Given that number and the high population density of Gaza, it is likely a much higher number of casualties were self-inflicted.

According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), 256 Palestinians were killed, 128 were civilians but that figure also seems to include those killed when Hamas rockets misfired and landed in Gaza. For example, eight members of one Palestinian family, including two children, were killed by a Palestinian rocket.

According to one postwar estimate, as many as 91 Palestinians were killed by Hamas rockets. That would bring the total number of civilian casualties to 37. That is probably an underestimate, however, given that 42 were killed in one day after Israel bombed Hamas tunnels and surrounding buildings collapsed. 

A few days after the ceasefire, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar admitted 80 of the dead were terrorists –57 from Hamas and 22 from PIJ, and one member of a small group called the Popular Resistance Committees. Since Hamas has an interest in minimizing the number of casualties of its men, this is undoubtedly an underestimate as suggested by a study by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, which meticulously examines the identities of the dead. After analyzing the names of 234 Palestinians who died, the center found that at least 111 belonged to terrorist organizations.

Doing the math and using the OHCHR casualty total, the number of civilians who were killed is between 176 (Hamas figures) and 144 (Meir Amit). If we subtract the 91 who were estimated to have died because of rocket misfires, the number of civilian casualties would be between 85 and 53. Still tragic, but the narrative of the fighting and public opinion would have been very different if the media reported that most of the casualties were either terrorists or killed by terrorists.

Despite all the evidence that the casualty figures they published from the Hamas Health Ministry were bogus, the media seems to have no interest in correcting their stories. Of course, that’s also the point of Hamas throwing them out in the first place; they know the press will unquestioningly report whatever they say and by the time the truth comes out it is too late to erase the damage caused to Israel’s image.

Every death is a tragedy; however, if Israel intended to kill civilians, or did not take precautions to avoid collateral damage, the number of casualties would have likely been in the thousands if not tens of thousands given that Israel struck more than 1,500 targets in an area that is the sixth most densely populated in the world. By comparison, President Obama authorized 542 drone strikes that killed 324 civilians.

Israelis living as far north as Tel Aviv were in danger and had to alter their daily routines, schools and other facilities in some areas were closed, and, when the red alert sirens sounded those in communities closest to Gaza had just 15 seconds to find shelter. In Ashkelon alone, sirens sounded 389 times and, each time, men, women, and children, old and young, able-bodied and disabled, had to go to bomb shelters or find a relatively safe place outside. 

Twelve Israelis were killed, including two children and one soldier; 342 were injured, mostly from shrapnel and blast wounds. The low number of casualties was primarily due to the success of Iron Dome in shooting down 90% of the incoming rockets.

Media Coverage

The media, as it always does, emphasizes civilian casualties, which turns fighting into a kind of sport where a score is kept and gives the impression of a lack of proportionality because more Palestinians are killed and injured than Israelis. This implies Israel should not defend its citizens so the body count is more even and does not take into account the numbers are lopsided because it is the Palestinians who are initiating the hostilities but Israel is responding with superior firepower.

Attack Aborted When Civilians Detected

Furthermore, the media gets its information from the Hamas Health Ministry which has a history of providing misinformation. Some Palestinian casualties, for example, were a result of the hundreds of rockets that land inside Gaza but were blamed on Israel. For example, Defense for Children International – Palestine, an organization that is highly critical of Israel, reported that “a homemade rocket fired by a Palestinian armed group fell short and killed eight Palestinians, including two children…. Another 34 Palestinian civilians were injured in the blast, including 10 children.” Rockets have also hit Palestinian villages in the West Bank.

The IDF estimated that nearly 700 Hamas rockets misfired and landed in Gaza. How many more Palestinians were killed in those abortive attempts to kill Israelis?

In addition, the ministry does not admit that any of the dead or injured are terrorists. In the first few days of fighting, for example, the IDF identified at least 50 of the dead as terrorists, 20 of whom were in key leadership or technical positions. 

The New York Times published a front-page story with pictures of all the children allegedly killed by Israel in the fighting. Sadly, Palestinian terrorist groups use children. One, a 17-year-old named Khaled alj-Qanou, the Times later acknowledged was a member of the Mujahideen Brigades. A second, a 16-year old, Sabar Ibrahim Suleiman, was discovered to be a Hamas member. Another 17-year-old, Bashar Ahmad Samour, was likely a member as well since he was called a “hero martyr” and given a funeral like those associated with the Al Aqsa Brigades.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OCHA), at least three children were not killed by Israel. Another report by the Meir Amit Center said eight children were killed by misfired rockets, but the Times did not report that and only acknowledged that it could not confirm that two of those children were killed in Israeli airstrikes. Another six died because they were close to their fathers who were targeted because they were members of terror groups. The Times also did not mention these circumstances. 

Hamas was reportedly shocked by the number of its senior commanders who have been killed – 16 on May 12 alone – which has created distrust within the organization and suspicion that traitors or Israeli spies have compromised their communications and revealed the location of tunnels, rocket factories, and other assets. Among those killed were Bassem Issa, the commander of the Gaza City Brigade; Jomaa Tahla, commander of Hamas’ cyber system and rocket audit project; Jamal al-Zibdeh, leader of the development project in the rocket production system; Kazem al-Khatib, commander of the engineering unit in the rocket production system; Sami Radwan, commander of the technical directorate in Hamas’ military intelligence; and Walid Shamali, commander of the industrial equipment directorate in the military production system. In a later airstrike, Islamic Jihad commander Husam Abu-Harbid was killed. The homes of several senior officials, including Sinwar, and his brother, Muhammad Sinwar, Head of Logistics and Manpower for Hamas, were destroyed but the fate of the Sinwars was not reported.

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During the seven-year lull since the last major battle, Hamas replenished its arsenal and added more accurate and long-range weapons, which enable it to target population centers including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The barrages forced Israel to close its main airport, Ben-Gurion, which is located between the two cities.

Hamas/PIJ Preparations

The two terror groups are believed to have about 30,000 rockets and mortars. A Palestinian Islamic Jihad official, Ramez Al-Halabi, admitted Iran’s role in helping to build its arsenal:

The mujahideen in Gaza and in Lebanon use Iranian weapons to strike the Zionists. We buy our weapons with Iranian money. An important part of our activity is under the supervision of Iranian experts.

Similarly, Sinwar said, “If it wasn’t for Iran’s support, we would not have had these capabilities.”

Rocket Launcher

In addition to material smuggled through Egypt, the terror groups have also learned to build their own rockets by using the unexploded explosives and parts of Israeli missiles that failed to detonate in previous strikes on Gaza. They also use old water pipes which Sinwar said provided Hamas with the ability to “manufacture rockets for the coming 10 years.”

Click to enlarge

Hamas also built a network of tunnels Israel referred to as “Gaza’s metro.” On May 13, the IDF spokesman said air and ground forces were attacking Gaza. The news of a ground invasion was widely reported by the media. The IDF spokesman later said he had misspoken and that the troops were mobilized outside Gaza but did not enter. Reports subsequently suggested the statement was deliberate with the intention of driving Hamas fighters into the tunnels to escape from invading ground troops. The Israeli Air Force subsequently bombed the tunnels. There was no immediate report on casualties, but it was believed many terrorists were killed and the tunnel network destroyed.

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Israel was criticized for deceiving the press, which was further angered following the bombing of a 12-storey building where the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera had offices. Officials from both organizations complained and insisted they were unaware of any Hamas presence in the building. It is possible that is true, it is also likely they would not object or report the presence of terrorists because it might lead Hamas to deny them access to cover the situation in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government provided the United States with intelligence indicating that Hamas and Islamic Jihad had offices for their military intelligence in the building, that Hamas experts there were developing weapons to use against Israel, and that “highly advanced technological tools in or on the building” that were used by Hamas to fight Israel. The fact that President Biden did not publicly criticize the attack suggests he was convinced by the information he received. 

In June 2021, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and UN met with the president of AP and told him Hamas was “developing an electronic jamming system to be used against the Iron Dome defense system” from the building.

The claims by media organizations that Israel was trying to silence the press were belied by the fact that no restrictions were placed on their coverage. Israel certainly had no interest in harming journalists as was evident by the warnings they received an hour in advance to evacuate the building – which they did – before the air raid.

Arab states condemned Israel’s actions but took no action. They also criticized Hamas and the UAE reportedly told Hamas it will stop funding projects in Gaza if it doesn’t end the fighting. “If Hamas does not commit to complete calm, it is dooming the residents of the Strip to a life of suffering,” an unnamed UAE official told Globes. “Its leaders must understand that their policies are first and foremost hurting the people of Gaza.”

This was an indication the Abraham Accords were holding and that, contrary to the claims of some Trump critics, the peace agreements with the UAE and Bahrain did result in positive change.

For its part, Hamas also was criticized internationally and by Palestinians who saw the organization bringing death and destruction on Gazans. While demonstrations supporting the Palestinians occurred in the United States and Europe, beyond a few violent protests in the West Bank and some mixed Israeli towns, there was no uprising in the PA. West Bankers want Abbas out but are not interested in replacing him with Hamas. Also, while the Gaza economy has been in shambles for years, the situation in the West Bank has been relatively good and Palestinians there had little incentive to put it at risk by provoking Israel.

U.S. Response

The United States and other countries backed Israel’s right to self-defense and the need for Hamas to cease firing rockets at Israel. In a call with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Biden condemned the indiscriminate attacks against Israeli towns and cities. The United States also blocked proposals for a UN Security Council joint statement on the violence three times because it would be “unhelpful” in de-escalating the situation. The statements focused on criticizing Israeli actions and failed to condemn the rioting by Palestinians or missile barrages by Hamas.

President Biden also resisted pressure from some congressional Demorats to criticize Israel and demand a ceasefire. Publicly, the president reiterated U.S. support for Israel and its right to self-defense. In a call with Netanyahu on May 17, 2021, he said he supported a ceasefire but fighting continued without further comment from the White House.

On May 20, the foreign ministers of Germany, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia visited Israel in a show of solidarity. 

“The fact that we see that Hamas is again firing missiles into the south of Israel since we have arrived here in Tel Aviv is for us an indication of how serious the situation is that the people of Israel find themselves in,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said after arriving in Israel on May 20.

“I am speechless after I witnessed the destruction and terror that Israel has experienced,” said Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek after touring a rocket-devastated building in Petah Tikva. “During this time, Israel needs its friends in the world, and we are here to show our strong and enduring friendship,” Kulhanek said. “Israel has the full right to defend its citizens.”

Slovakian Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok said, “We are true friends…and we came here to show the strength of the friendship between the countries.” He added, “Hamas fire must stop….Israel has the full right to defend itself.”


Over the course of the nearly two weeks of fighting, the calls by the international community for a ceasefire grew louder, especially as the media highlighted Palestinian civilian casualties. The Biden administration, despite pressure from its progressive wing, remained publicly supportive of Israel’s right to self-defense, preferring to use quiet diplomacy with Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Israel, and others to move toward an end to the fighting. In a series of phone calls with Netanyahu, however, the president reportedly became increasingly concerned with the civilian toll and, after giving Israel 10 days to degrade the threat from Hamas, his sixth call, on May 20, was blunter and made clear he expected an imminent ceasefire. He also warned the prime minister Israel was losing support and would face increasing international pressure if the operation continued.

That night, Israel and Hamas agreed to an Egyptian initiative for as ceasefire. Some Israelis, particularly Netanyahu’s rivals, criticized the prime minister for ending the fighting without a “victory” and failing to get Hamas to return the hostages it has been holding for several years.

“In my conversation with President [Prime Minister] Netanyahu,” Biden said on May 20, 2021, “I commended him for the decision to bring the current hostilities to a close within less than 11 days. I also emphasized what I have said throughout this conflict: The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks from Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel.

Biden said the U.S. would replenish Israel’s Iron Dome system “to ensure its defenses and security in the future.” He also said the U.S. would provide aid to rebuild Gaza in “in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority — not Hamas, the Authority — in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal.”

“I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy,” Biden said. “My administration will continue our quiet, relentless diplomacy toward that end.”


Due to the number and intensity of air strikes by the IDF in Gaza, the damage was extensive and will take months if not years to repair. Israel targeted buildings used by Hamas and PIJ but some were also collateral damage as in the case, for example, when structures collapsed near tunnels destroyed by the IAF. Some of the destruction was caused by rockets that landed inside the Strip, though that distinction was not reported. 

According to the UN, 1,042 housing and commercial units in 258 buildings were destroyed and 769 units were severely damaged. Fifty-three educational facilities were also damaged, as were six hospitals, 11 clinics, and the only coronavirus test laboratory. Power lines were cut, leaving many Gazans with only a few hours of electricity. Water pipes also broke leaving thousands of residents without drinking water and wastewater in the streets. 

During the fighting, Hamas blocked an international aid convoy carrying medical equipment, animal feed, and fuel tanks from entering Gaza when it fired mortars toward the convoy of 24 trucks. Only five got through. The following day another convoy was shot at by Hamas.

UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, who focused his criticism on Israel throughout the fighting, said after the ceasefire announcement the UN would provide $22.5 million in immediate humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip. 

Thanks to the Iron Dome shooting down 90% of the incoming rockets, damage in Israel is far less significant. At least 146 buildings have been hit by rockets, including homes, apartment blocks, schools, kindergartens, and an oil storage tank. Some of the residents will be temporarily homeless. The economy, which was showing one of the largest post-Covid growth spurts, ground to a virtual halt as some businesses closed and many Israelis had to flee their homes. Israel's offshore gas platforms were shut down due to concern they would be targets. Ben-Gurion Airport also closed just as Israel was preparing to allow more foreign visitors.

Violence also spread to cities in Israel and the West Bank. The JTA reported, At least 10 synagogues and 112 homes owned by Jews have been torched partially or thoroughly in the unrest. Hundreds of cars owned by Jews have been set on fire. There have been a series of cases of vandalism and assaults against Arabs by Jews.

Successes and Failures

The ultimate objective of Hamas is the destruction of Israel but that was never the goal of the rocket barrage. The group wanted to establish itself within Palestinian politics as the defender of Jerusalem and the party still willing and able to engage in resistance against Israel. It accomplished this goal at the expense of Abbas who, despite supporting the violence, remains the preferred interlocutor of the West. 

“It’s not a win-lose situation between us and Hamas,” retired Brig. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser, the former head of analysis at Israel’s military intelligence agency, told the Wall Street Journal. “On the military battleground, they were defeated. But on the political level, Hamas doesn’t fight Israel—it fights Abu Mazen and the moderates in the Arab world. And there, they have succeeded regardless of what has happened on the military battleground.”

The Iron Dome was not expected to be foolproof; nevertheless, Hamas demonstrated the system could sometimes be defeated by multiple rocket launches, which has to be a serious concern for Israel given that Hezbollah is estimated to have perhaps ten times as many rockets, and many of those are more accurate and have longer range than the ones in the Hamas arsenal.

As Yochanan Visser observed, Hamas did have more sophisticated weapons than previously thought, including “kamikaze drones,” mini remote-controlled submarines, and Kornet anti-tank missiles.

Despite deep politicial divisions and being in the midst of the turmoil of trying to form a coalition government among disparate parties, the government managed to work in relative harmoney. The IDF by all accounts performed well and worked in close coordination with the Shin Bet.

Visser noted that Israeli achievements included preventing an unmanned underwater drone attack and neutralizing the Hamas diving unit. The IDF said it hit more than 1,500 targets, damaged 675 rocket launchers, killed more than 200 terrorists, including 25 high-ranking members, and destroyed more than 60 miles of the “metro” tunnel complex as well as other terrorist infrastructure, training camps, and the homes of Hamas and PIJ commanders. In addition to the success of the Iron Dome, the IDF intercepted every drone sent over the border.

Despite the scale of the airstrikes, the loss of civilian life was relatively low, the IDF suffered only one casualty, and it accomplished its objectives without a ground assault. 

Though Hamas’ arsenal was diminished, it was not destroyed. According to one estimate, Hamas had 60% of its original 15,000 rockets left. The group also demonstrated it is capable of smuggling and, more worrisome to Israel, building its own weapons despite the preemptive actions of the IDF. Still, much of what was destroyed, especially the tunnel network, will take years to rebuild should Hamas choose to do so.

Given the amount of damage to both men and materiel, the IDF reinforced the message that Gazans will pay a heavy price for attacking Israel. This bought relative peace for seven years after the last operation; however, it was neither a deterrent for long-term stability nor a catalyst for peace. Some analysts believed Israel made a mistake by not seeking a more decisive victory by destroying; however, others doubted this was possilbe under any scenario and certainly not without a large-scale ground invasion that would inevitably resulted in Israeli casualties as well as greater Palestinian civillian deaths. Given the pressure put on Israel to stop the campaign after the death of fewer than 300 Palestinians, it is doubtful a longer, bloodier operation would have been allowed to be completed.

Former Israeli national security advisor Yaakov Amidror said, “The purpose of all the Gaza operations over the past 15 years has been to hurt Hamas and restore quiet to people living in the south - not to topple the terror groups or conquer the Strip. Israel didn’t embark on Operation Guardian of the Walls with the goal of winning. The goal was to inflict maximum damage on Hamas’ military capabilities in hopes of establishing deterrence.” he added, ”In the current round...Hamas didn’t catch Israel unprepared in any area. It failed to inflict significant damage...and Hamas proved unable able to land any blows by sea, air, or through the terror tunnels....In summary, they notched zero successes and suffered a severe mauling.”

Amos Yadlin, a former Israeli Air Force General, viewed the operation as less successful. He noted the Israeli public had expected a decisive victory and the return of Israeli hostages held by Hamas. The operation also failed to decapitate the political and military leadership of Hamas. The fighting also led to “a significant collapse of Israel’s position in public opinion and social media, especially among the younger generation and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in the United States.” The good news, he said, was that the United States had blocked the Security Council from adopting a resolution condemning Israel and defended Israel’s right to defend itself. 

Nevertheless, former United States Middle East envoy Dennis Ross observed, “So long as Hamas can have rockets, then the prospect of changing anything in Gaza will be very limited and any calm is basically a short-term calm.” He added, that as long as Hamas posed missiles, “they will fire them into Israel.”

“The head of IDF Operations, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, said the operation would be considered a success for Israel if it brought about five years of calm in Gaza,” according to Hamodia.

Threats to Resume Fighting

Qatar has invested roughly $1.4 billion in Gaza since 2012. In the past, Israel allowed Qatar to deliver millions of dollars in cash to enable Hamas to pay for fuel, salaries, and humanitarian aid. Qatar reportedly is prepared to provide $30 million per month for reconstruction and aid to poor families. Israel, however, is insistent that the money be transferred through UN channels to prevent it from being diverted by Hamas for non-humanitarian purposes. Hamas threatened to resume fighting if the Qatari funds were not paid directly to Hamas, which wants to use them, in part, to pay salaries for “public servants,” meaning members of the organization. 

Samantha Power, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, assured members of Congress that U.S. aid could not be diverted by Hamas because “Anything that goes into Gaza… goes through that very stringent vetting process that the Israeli government itself presides over.” Israel’s department for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) must approve any materials that are sent through the border crossing into the Gaza Strip, and grantees, sub-grantees, and sub-sub-grantees must pass “the most elaborate set of vetting procedures that [U.S. has] anywhere in the world,” Power said.

Israel also wants to link funding for reconstruction to the return of the bodies of two soldiers Hamas has held since 2014, and two civilians, Abera Menginstu and Hisham al-Sayed, who were taken after wandering into Gaza. The United States says it will raise the issue in negotiations but will not make aid contingent on the Israelis’ release. 

Meanwhile, in mid-June 2021, terrorists resumed launching incendiary balloons into Israel, which started a number of fires. Israel responded with airstrikes.

In August 2021, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas reached an agreement whereby Qatari aid for Gaza would be disbursed through banks subject to the supervision of the Palestinian Monetary Fund. Funds will also be transferred for 27,000 Hamas administration officials.

The first distribution of aid occurred on September 15, 2021. A total of $40 million is being disbursed through supermarkets, money exchange shops and other retail stores.

Impact on Peace

The rocket attacks on Israel are likely to harden Israeli resistance to further territorial compromises in the West Bank. The Israeli body politic has shifted to the right in the years following the disengagement from Gaza because of the fear that a Palestinian state could become “Hamastan” and that terrorists would be within feet rather than miles of Israel’s capital and only a short distance from its population centers. Thus, while Palestinians in the West Bank cheered on Hamas, their prospects for improving their own plight are now more remote.

The Gazans, meanwhile, not only suffered many casualties and destruction of property but their prospects for improving conditions were also undermined thanks to Hamas. According to Alex Fishman, “two days before the conflict erupted, both sides agreed upon a mechanism to ease the entry of goods into Gaza, as well as on a new pipeline that would increase the amount of water brought into the Strip from Israel.” In addition, he said, “Advanced discussions were also taking place on the construction of fish farms along Gaza's coastline, the establishment of a large fuel reservoir to prevent future power shortages, and a jointly operated industrial zone at the Karni border crossing.” All of those plans have now been canceled.

Sources: “Nine children killed in Gaza Strip as violence escalates,” Defense for Children International – Palestine, (May 11, 2021).
“PA TV admits Israel warned civilians in Gaza to leave buildings before bombings,” Palestinian Media Watch, (May 11, 2021).
“Palestinian Islamic Jihad Official Ramez Al-Halabi: The Rockets We Use To Pound Tel Aviv, Our Weapons, Our Money, And Our Food Are Provided By Iran,” MEMRI, (May 12, 2021).
Mona El-Naggar, “Gaza’s Rockets: A Replenished Arsenal That Vexes Israel,” New York Times, (May 13, 2021).
Felicia Schwartz, “Israel Begins Ground Operations Against Hamas in Gaza,” Wall Street Journal, (May 13, 2021).
Ron Ben Yishai, “The land incursion that never came, “ Ynet, (May 14, 2021).
Rasha Abou Jalal, “Hamas scrambles to learn how Israel killed its military leaders hiding in secret locations,” Al-Monitor, (May 14, 2021).
Judah Ari Gross, “IDF: Hamas chiefs spurred to launch war after seeing Monday Temple Mount clashes,” Times of Israel, (May 14, 2021).
Ali Rogin, “Israel Defense Forces spokesman defends ongoing strikes on Gaza,” PBS News Hour, (May 14, 2021).
Steven Erlanger, “Arab World Condemns Israeli Violence but Takes Little Action,” New York Times, (May 14, 2021).
Patrick Kingsley, After Years of Quiet, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Exploded. Why Now?” New York Times, (May 15, 2021).
“Report: UAE demands Hamas stop rockets attacks or face halt in investments,” i24News, (May 15, 2021).
“Netanyahu says Israeli offensive in Gaza to continue as long as necessary,” Reuters, (May 15, 2021).
“Readout of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel,” The White House, (May 15, 2021).
Robin-Ivan Capar, “EU leaders condemn Hamas attacks,” Norway Today, (May 15, 2021).
Jonathan Sacerdoti, “Hamas’s rockets are killing Palestinians too,” The Spectator, (May 16, 2021).
Lahav Harkov, “Israel showed US ‘smoking gun’ on Hamas in AP office tower, officials say,” Jerusalem Post, (May 16, 2021).
“Israel strikes house of Hamas political chief in Gaza Strip,” Arab News, (May 16, 2021).
Haviv Rettig Gur, “While all eyes are on Gaza, Gaza is only half the story,” Times of Israel, (May 16, 2021).
Yaroslav Trofimov and Felicia Schwartz, “As Hamas Rockets Rain on Israel, Iron Dome Proves It Can Withstand the Barrages,” Wall Street Journal, (May 16, 2021).
Alexander Smith and Saphora Smith, “Israel and Hamas trade attacks after Biden expresses support for cease-fire,” NBC News, (May 18, 2021).
Cnaan Liphshiz, “Day 10 of the fighting: Israel strikes Hamas tunnels, Gaza rocket fire decreases, ceasefire efforts continue,” JTA, (May 19, 2021).
Ilan Ben Zion and Laurie Kellman, “Rockets from Gaza rain havoc on Israeli cities,” AP, (May 18, 2021).
Iyad Abuheweila, Adam Rasgon, Isabel Kershner and Marc Santora, “Gaza War Deepens a Long-Running Humanitarian Crisis,” New York Times, (May 18, 2021).
Anna Ahronheim, “Israel says 160 terrorists killed in Gaza since beginning of operation,” Jerusalem Post, (May 18, 2021).
“Israel says Palestinian family of 8 was killed by failed rocket, not airstrike,” AP, (May 19, 2021).
“Readout of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel,” The White House, (May 17, 2021).
Ben Gittleson, “Biden keeps to 'quiet diplomacy' as calls for Israel-Hamas cease-fire ramp up,” ABC News, (May 18, 2021).
Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak, “Biden, staring down first Mideast crisis, touts ceasefire,” CNN, (May 20, 2021).
“Remarks by President Biden on the Middle East, The White House, (May 20, 2021).
Jonathan Lis and Jack Khoury, “Israel Agrees to Mutual Cease-fire With Hamas ‘Without Any Conditions,’” Haaretz, (May 20, 2021).
Lazar Berman, “‘Showing friendship’: European ministers visit in act of solidarity with Israel,” Times of Israel, (May 20, 2021).
Tovah Lazaroff, “Dennis Ross: If Hamas has rockets, there can only be a short-term truce,” Jerusalem Post, (May 20, 2021).
Anshel Pfeffer, “Another Round of Israel-Gaza Fighting Is Over and Nothing Will Change Soon,” Haaretz, (May. 21, 2021).
Yaroslav Trofimov. “In Cease-Fire, Israel and Hamas See Gains—Toward Differing Goals,” Wall Street Journal, (May 21, 2021).
Yochanan Visser, “ Fourth Gaza War Brought Only Military Achievements,” Israel Today, (May 24, 2021).
Sam Sokol, “11 Days, 4,340 Rockets and 261 Dead: The Israel-Gaza Fighting in Numbers,” Haaretz, (May. 23, 2021).
Doron Matza, “Operation Guardian of the Walls: Tactical Victory, Strategic Defeat,” BESA, (May 25, 2021).
Amira Hass, “Following Backlash, UNRWA Director Apologizes for Saying Israeli Army Rarely Attacked Civilians,” Haaretz, (May 26, 2021).
Amos Harel, “The Rockets Hamas Fired at Israel Reflect the Success of Gaza's Military Industry,” Haaretz, (May 26, 2021).
Eliezer Shulman, “Who Won The Gaza War?” Mishpacha, (May 25, 2021).
Micah Zenko, “Obama’s Final Drone Strike Data,” Council on Foreign Relations, (January 20, 2017).
“Response to the escalation in the oPt,” Situation Report No. 1, OCHA, (May 21-27, 2021).
Arshad Mohammed, Jonathan Saul, John Irish, and Parisa Hafezi, “Israel’s Gaza challenge: stopping metal tubes turning into rockets,” Reuters, (May 23, 2021).
Shmuel Smith, “IDF Answers Hamas ‘Victory’ Narrative,” Hamodia, (May 27. 2021).
Robert Satloff, “What’s wrong with the NY Times’ report on children’s deaths? So much,” Times of Israel, (May 31, 2021).
“An examination of the names of the fatalities in the IDF airstrikes during the first two days of Operation Guardian of the Walls reveals that most of them were terrorist operatives,” The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, (June 1, 2021).
“Escalation from the Gaza Strip – Operation Guardian of the Walls – Summary,” Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, (May 24, 2021).
Fares Akram, “Hamas leader says 80 fighters killed in war with Israel,” AP, (May 26, 2021).
“They Were Only Children,” New York Times, (May 26, 2021).
Adam Rasgon and Iyad Abuheweila, “Gaza Militant Group Says 17-Year-Old Killed by Airstrike Was a Member,” New York Times, (May 30, 2021).
Tamar Sternthal, “What The New York Times Hadn’t Told You About The Children,” CAMERA, (June 1, 2021).
“The Neutrality and Inviolability of UNRWA Installations Must be Respected at All Times,” UNRWA, (June 4, 2021).
“Another Gazan boy, who according to the New York Times list died in Operation Guardian of the Walls, was found to be an operative in Hamas’ military-terrorist wing. The Times’ list also included the names of eight children who were killed by terrorist organization rocket misfire,” Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, (June 8, 2021).
Ron Kampeas, “Hamas was developing technology to jam Iron Dome system in bombed AP building, Israel says,” JTA, (June 8, 2021).
@DigFind, (June 10, 2021).
“A third Gaza child soldier is uncovered,” Elder of Ziyon, (June 11, 2021).
Emanuel Fabian, “Hamas threatens to renew fighting if Qatari funds don’t enter Gaza next week,” Times of Israel,(June 4, 2021).
“UN to play role in new method of transferring Qatari money to Gaza — report,” Times of Israel, (June 20, 2021).
Alex Safian, “How Many Palestinians Were Killed by Hamas Rockets in May? An Estimate,” BESA, (June 27, 2021).
“Israel responds to "arson balloons" with airstrikes on Gaza in 1st flare-up since cease-fire,” CBS News, (June 16, 2021).
Jacob Magid, “US opposes conditioning Gaza reconstruction on return of IDF troops’ bodies,” Times of Israel, (June 29, 2021).
Alex Fishman, “Hamas is freeing Israel of its Gaza albatross,” Ynet, (July 7, 2021).
Marc Rod “Power emphasizes Israeli role in clearing Gaza aid during latest congressional hearings,” JewishInsider, (July 15, 2021).
“PA, Qatar reach agreement on transfer of aid funds to Gaza,” Ynet, (August 3, 2021).
“Qatar resumes aid to Gaza, minus the suitcases of cash,” AP, (September 15, 2021).
Amos Yadlin, “Gazan Futures | After Operation Guardians of the Wall,” Fathom, (June 2021).

Photos - Ministry of Public Diplomacy.
Rockets - Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance. 
Maps and videos - IDF.
Biden - The White House, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Jet - Amit Agronov / IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.