5 times Israel ‘had no choice’ and went to war
Israel has no other option but to launch a "war" against Hamas, the Israeli defense minister has recently claimed, calling it the last resort. Modern history shows, however, that Israel has resorted to force quite frequently.
"Wars are only conducted when there is no choice, and now there is no choice," Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the Israeli Parliament on Tuesday. But it looks like Israel believed many times that it severely lacked options throughout the last two decades, as it has launched more than half a dozen major military operations since the beginning of the 21st century.
Largest incursion into West Bank since the Six-Day War
In 2002, a suicide bombing carried out by the Hamas militant group over the course of the Second Intifada, which resulted in the deaths of 30 Israelis, provoked an IDF operation called 'Defensive Shield'. It's the largest one in the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Between March and May 2002, tens of thousands of Israeli troops invaded the six largest cities of the West Bank and imposed strict curfews and restrictions on locals as well as foreigners working in the area.
The Israeli measures resulted in a partial ban on humanitarian aid and medical personnel entering the West Bank. Thirty Israelis and almost 500 Palestinians were killed, while 7,000 Palestinians were detained, according to the UN.
2004 invasions of Gaza
In 2004, the Israeli forces conducted two major operations in Gaza. The first, called 'Operation Rainbow', was carried out in May and was in response to Palestinian attacks in which 11 IDF soldiers were killed. Israel invaded Gaza's southern city of Rafah, razed around 300 homes and expanded the buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt in what it called a push to destroy Palestinian smuggling tunnels. Almost 60 Palestinians, including 11 minors, were killed in less than two weeks of the military campaign, according to Human Rights Watch.
Four months later, Israel invaded Gaza again after two children were killed as a Palestinian-launched rocket hit the Israeli town of Sderot. The Israeli operation, called 'Days of Penitence', targeted northern Gaza to prevent further rocket launches and claimed 129 Palestinian lives, including between 50 and 87 militants, and one Israeli soldier, according to the Israeli media.
2006 Lebanon War
In 2006, a cross-border raid by the Hezbollah militants has led to a 34-day war between Israel and its neighbor, Lebanon. Hezbollah launched rocket strikes against Israeli border towns and ambushed a military patrol, killing three soldiers. Two more were abducted, as militants sought to exchange them for Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. Tel Aviv responded with air strikes and artillery fire, targeting Hezbollah positions and Lebanese civilian infrastructure alike.
Israel imposed an air and naval blockade and invaded southern Lebanon. The conflict led to the deaths of more than 1,100 Lebanese people and 165 Israelis, including soldiers. It also displaced about a million Lebanese and over 300,000 Israelis.
Operation Cast Lead
In December 2008, Israel once again invaded Gaza with the stated goal of stopping indiscriminate rocket fire into Israeli territory. The Palestinian Hamas group said at the time that the rocket launches were a response to Israel's violation of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire reached six months earlier.
During the operation, called 'Cast Lead', the IDF struck the densely populated cities of Gaza, Khan Yunis, and Rafah. The military campaign, which lasted until January 18, 2009, claimed the lives of more than 1,400 Palestinians, most of whom were civilians, according to Palestinian sources. An Israeli NGO put the number of civilian deaths at 759, while the IDF put it at 295.
The operation became known as the Gaza War, and is sometimes even referred to as the Gaza Massacre. Israel lost 10 soldiers and three civilians during the campaign.
Operation Protective Edge
The latest large-scale IDF military campaign in Gaza – 'Operation Protective Edge' – took place in 2014. It was carried out in response to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by alleged members of Hamas' military wing.
After Israel conducted an operation to arrest Hamas military leaders, Hamas responded with rocket attacks. The Israeli airstrikes and ground campaign to put an end to Palestinian rocket attacks resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, the vast majority of them Gazans. During the 51-day assault, over 2,100 Palestinians were killed, with another 10,000 injured. The Israeli actions provoked worldwide protests and were slammed by human rights groups over the disproportionate use of force.
Israel lost 66 of its soldiers and five civilians from Hamas rocket fire. Another 469 IDF soldiers and 261 Israeli civilians were injured.
Even though Israel has not conducted any major military operations against Palestinians since 2014, its violent crackdown on Palestinian protesters in Gaza continues to take its toll. Over 200 Palestinians have been killed, including medics and journalists, and more than 22,000 injured since border protests – the Great March of Return – began in March.
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