Rockets Fired From Gaza Strip Are Met By Israel's Iron Dome Defense System (SG - Getty Images)

The crisis began on May 6 when Palestinians in the Eastern portion of Jerusalem began to protest over a decision made by Israel’s Supreme Court regarding a landlord and tenant dispute that resulted in the eviction of six Palestinian families in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The area, along with the rest of East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel after the Jordanians withdrew during the Six-Day War. The court case in question was over unpaid rent to Jewish owners by the Palestinian residents. After the second intifada, many Arabs living in Jewish-owned buildings or on Jewish-owned land refused to pay rent. The building in question was owned by Jews since the late 1880s, and while the rent was not being paid, the Israeli owners had to go through the court system - which took over a decade to adjudicate. Once ownership was established and verified, the actual deed in which an ancestor of the current Palestinian residents was authenticated - showing that the family would pay a monthly rent for continued usage of the property. No one was kicking them off the property until they stopped paying and even then, it took over fifteen years to finally come to a court decision.

Despite the facts of the case, Palestinians, emboldened by Anti-Zionist groups in America who created a viral social media campaign with the hashtag '#SaveSheikhJarrah' decided to protest the court decision on the ground. They began by throwing stones down from the Temple Mount at Jewish worshipers who were praying at the Western Wall. The Israeli police, who typically stay off of the Temple Mount so as not to incite, were forced to enter the area of the al-Aqsa Mosque to stop the rock-throwing and restore order. Oddly, the international press agencies were all on the Temple Mount at the time, called upon by Palestinian organizations who had orchestrated the 'photo opportunity.

The event was documented and footage of Israeli soldiers clashing with Palestinian youth headlined the evening news of most major outlets. Of course, what led to the police activity was not reported, instead, the outlets used Palestinian talking points and pointed to the social media campaign to save Sheikh Jarrah from being taken over by Jews, when in fact most buildings in the neighborhood were already owned by Jews. In fact, the Associated Press ran a story in 1997 about a Palestinian law that called for the death of anyone selling land to Jews, after an Arab land owner sold land to an Israeli in the neighborhood adjacent to Sheikh Jarrah. In another case, in 2018, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas lowered the penalty of death to life in prison for a Palestinian who sold land inside the Old City to Jews. Part of the Palestinian rule on land sales to Jews is despite the transaction taking place, they refuse to accept the validity of the deal so that any Arab home sold to Jews still belongs to Arabs according to Palestinian law. This was the basis for the Sheikh Jarrah dispute, a land sale over 110 years old was not recognized by Palestinian protesters.

The social media campaign in tandem with the staged press event on the Temple Mount caused a wider flare-up where Molotov cocktails were being thrown at busses and cars, businesses were being looted and damaged and Jerusalem was on the verge of spiraling into chaos.  It was decided that the Army would need to intervene and Operation Guardians of the Walls began which brought in the Israeli Defense Force to patrol the area surrounding the Temple Mount and the Old City. At the same time, Israel’s Supreme Court made an unprecedented and unilateral decision to delay the evictions of the Sheikh Jarrah property in hopes it would help reduce the tension.

Just as things were seemingly calming down, on May 10, Hamas made a very public ultimatum to Israel. Demanding withdrawal from the area around the Temple Mount and the entire neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah by that evening. With things relatively calm at that point and most of the violence quelled, Israel did not see a reason to respond, let alone acknowledge the request of a terror organization 100 kilometers from Jerusalem. On May 11, both Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad did the unthinkable, they launched rockets from Gaza towards Jerusalem. Something they had never done before given the crude nature of their missiles which could not be guided and the close proximity to a million Palestinians. Many of the rockets hit civilian buildings inside Israel, killing several Israelis.

This reckless action began an exchange of rocket fire and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes against Gaza whose imagery captivated the world. Over the course of the next 12 days, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad fired over 4,400 rockets into Israel. About 680 of these rockets misfired and fell into Gaza causing many Palestinian civilian casualties. Israel made a great effort to protect its own civilians through the deployment of the Iron Dome Aerial Defense System which intercepted 90% of the rockets that were fired at civilians - and for the first time gave the world a close-up view of the game-changing technology that Israel had been rumored to have.

In response to Hamas’s attacks on Israel’s civilians, the IDF destroyed 1,500 prime targets such as rocket-launching sites, command and control centers, weapon storage sites, as well as extensive tunnel systems that had been rebuilt and expanded after the 2014 Protective Edge operation. It was also during this conflict that the world began to see the truth, that offensive weapons-making and things like the extensive tunnel network were built using money donated to the Gaza Strip by humanitarian agencies, donor countries, and even the United Nations who had earmarked the funds to fight poverty and support education in the Gaza strip. since the previous 2014 ground operation.

Hamas had entrenched itself even deeper into civilian areas. Photographs of missiles stored in Kindergartens and even United Nations schools and UNRWA offices surfaced. Many Hamas strategic offices were in apartment buildings occupied by women and children. Israel had a policy of destroying each site a missile was launched from, but it was complicated by the proximity to civilians. In some videos, it is clear missiles were being fired from a balcony in a residential building - and in instances when that occurred, Israel went to extraordinary measures to minimize the accidental deaths of civilians in the Gaz Strip. In what was hailed as unheard of by the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff and British military officials, the Israel Defense Forces notified the residents of buildings and neighborhoods before it was to be bombed. From 'tapping' or 'knocking on rooftops' in which a series of non-explosive bombs are dropped on a building, to dropping flyers on a neighborhood to actually calling the residents of a building to notify them of the impending destruction, the IDF was commended for making every effort to curtail the deaths while for the first time, Hamas was seen as the terror organization many countries had labeled them for firing indiscriminately at civilian infrastructure.

After 11 days of fighting in Operation Guardian of the Walls, and after Hamas's terror infrastructure had been demolished, a ceasefire was declared on May 21, 2021. This ended the constant rocket fire from Gaza and in a massive publicity win for Israel, saw Gazans come out openly against the 'irresponsible' actions of Hamas that caused social and economic problems. During the operation, over 4,360 rockets were fired at Israel, of which 3,573 fell inside Israeli territory and the rest fell either inside the Gaza Strip or into the sea. Eleven Israeli civilians were killed by rocket fire and an IDF commander was killed by an anti-tank missile while defending the border. There was mass destruction of property and infrastructure both in Israel and in the Gaza strip.

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