In order to understand the current Middle East crisis, one must look back to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza in Ariel Sharon’s “Disengagement Plan” displacing over 8,500 Israelis who called Gaza home. The purpose of expelling all Israelis from Gaza was to give over the Gaza strip to the Palestinians as an act of good faith. Hamas was elected in 2006 as a governing body over Gaza by the Palestinians who currently occupy it.

Hamas is an internationally renowned terrorist organization with the explicit intent of destroying Israel. One very telling excerpt from their governing charter reads, “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” This is why there is such a struggle for peace; while Israel wants the fighting to end, Hamas clearly states that their end goal is the complete obliteration of the only Jewish state in the Middle East. Since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Gaza has shelled Israel with over 11,000 rockets. Over 70% of Israelis are currently living within range of Hamas’ rockets. Hamas not only terrorizes Israel, but it also terrorized their own people, the same civilians that elected them, by using civilian homes, hospitals, and schools to store rockets as well as using innocent civilians as human shields. So far, on three separate occasions Israel has found rockets hidden in a school run by the United Nations in Gaza.

There is only so long that children can grow up thinking of terror attacks as the norm and bomb shelters as their second home before the government is forced to act for the sake of the people. This is why, after the constant rain of Hamas rockets, Israel has chosen to employ Operation Protective Edge, an operation with the goal of destroying top-Hamas officials in an effort to protect Israeli and Palestinian civilians alike. In any other country, even a single rocket strike would be grounds for starting a war. Israel has been under constant fire, and after enduring so much, they are taking action to prevent these rockets from reigning terror on civilians again.

Unlike Hamas, Israel’s goal is not to attack civilians. Israel is doing all it can to minimize civilian casualties by using only the most precise weaponry to target only those buildings that house Hamas officials or are used by Hamas officials to store weaponry. In an attempt to further reduce civilian casualties, Israel also drops leaflets onto the targeted area with a warning message in both Hebrew and Arabic for civilians to evacuate the premises. In addition to dropping leaflets, Israel also calls those in targeted areas, verbally warning them that the area will be bombed and to evacuate immediately.

With Israel attempting to reduce civilian casualties to such a great extent, one must wonder about the growing number of civilian casualties in Gaza. Unfortunately, Hamas embraces martyrdom and even idolizes those that blow themselves up in Israel with the purpose of killing innocent civilians, celebrating their “heroism” by passing out sweets to the citizens of Gaza and naming children’s summer camps after these terrorists. Because Hamas has no respect for human life, Israeli or Palestinian, they force the civilians of Gaza to flock to those buildings that are meant to be bombed with the intent of forming a human shield. On multiple occasions Israel has called off air strikes to avoid mass civilian casualties. In an attempt to strike fear in Israeli civilian hearts, Hamas put out messages on national Israeli television reading: “From the Al-Qassam Brigades to the Zionist soldiers: The Al-Qassam Brigades love death more than you love life.” The Al-Qassam Brigades is Hamas’ military wing. Another chilling message that was broadcasted by Hamas read: “All of Palestine is ours. There’s nothing here for you but death.”

While Hamas is constantly attempting to kill civilians and destroy Israel, Israel still does what it can to assist the Palestinians living in Gaza by bringing in thousands of truckloads of goods into Gaza per-month. During the month of May 2014 alone, 5,392 truckloads of goods entered Gaza. Israel also treats wounded Palestinians in Israeli hospitals. While Israel attempts to care for the civilians in the Gaza strip, Hamas uses them as pawns to terrorize the tiny Jewish state.

During Operation Protective Edge, the Israel Defense Force has so far uncovered 30 tunnels that were built by Hamas that lead from Gaza to Israel, as well as the plans for what the tunnels were to be used for, to infiltrate the surrounding Israeli cities and massacre, murder, and kidnap Israeli citizens on Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar. According to the IDF, in order to build just one tunnel Hamas would have had to use 350 truckloads of building supplies. The construction of one tunnel cost Hamas three million dollars. With 30 tunnels found so far, Hamas spend ninety million dollars building terror tunnels that otherwise could have been invested in the welfare of the citizens of Gaza.

Although I can not claim to have the answer to the Middle East crisis, I believe that the first step towards peace is to eradicate Hamas who is terrorizing not only Israeli’s, but civilians in Gaza as well. There is no chance of peace in the Middle East when a terrorist organization who’s goal is to destroy Israel is in control of Gaza. As Benjamin Netanyahu summarized the situation, “The truth is that if Israel were to put down its arms there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms there would be no more war.”