J Street welcomes reports that an informal ceasefire has now been reached along the Gaza border — and we fervently hope that it will hold. We have been alarmed by the rapid escalation in violence between Gaza Strip militants and Israeli forces over the past several days, which has included indiscriminate attacks against Israeli civilians living in communities along the border.
We condemn the multiple rounds of mortar shells that have been fired into Israel — including into a kindergarten yard on Tuesday morning — as well as the reported planting of an improvised explosive device by Islamic Jihad members alongside the Gaza security fence on Sunday. Israel has the right to defend itself against those who launch attacks threatening the security and safety of its people.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad bear responsibility for the attacks they have launched. Thankfully, Israel’s military response over the past 48 hours appears to have been carefully targeted, with no reported civilian casualties.
While we hope that today’s relative calm will continue, we remain deeply troubled by the broader context in which this current flaring of tensions is occuring. There is a major humanitarian crisis in Gaza that continues to worsen with no end in sight. Israeli and US governments have broken with decades of precedent in refusing to clearly affirm support for achieving a two-state solution. In recent weeks, we have seen a series of harmful, destabilizing actions taken by the Netanyahu government and the Trump administration — from the use of lethal fire against mostly unarmed protesters at the Gaza fence to the unilateral relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem.
In the midst of this turmoil, and with multiple actors seeking to exploit it for their own benefit, we desperately need strong political leadership committed to making progress on the issues that lie at the core of the situation. While such leadership has been sorely lacking, there is no substitute for it. Continuing a broken and unsustainable status quo is indefensible in light of the lives that are at stake.
Faced with an already-explosive situation, all actors and leaders must understand the extraordinary devastation and destruction that could follow from further escalation. All must avoid actions that would push the region into a further spiral of violence and chaos.