Israel Policy Forum condemns this past weekend’s escalation at the Gaza border fence, orchestrated by Hamas.

We are deeply saddened by the loss of civilian lives. Palestinians have the right to peacefully assemble and protest, and Israel must demonstrate maximum restraint when dealing with civilian crowds on the Gaza side of the fence.

It is clear, however, that violence was directed toward Israel by members of Hamas, as well as other factions, who were operating in the midst of civilians with the intention of provoking an Israeli response. While the utmost care must be taken not to harm civilians, Israel has the right and the responsibility to respond to hostilities directed at it from inside Gaza.

It is notable that the vast majority of Gaza’s residents – about 99% – did not heed Hamas’s call to participate in Friday’s “March of the Return,” headlined by the Hamas leadership’s calls for Israel’s destruction.  Hamas has neglected the people of Gaza by investing in a militant infrastructure below ground rather than a civilian infrastructure above ground, and it abuses civilians by putting them in harm’s way in an attempt to provoke Israeli actions.

The only actor that benefits from the current standoff is Hamas.  The absence of any meaningful diplomatic avenues toward a political horizon has created a void that violence now threatens to fill.  As Hamas threatens increased hostilities in the weeks ahead, it is critical that all relevant actors, including the United States, provide the kind of leadership that has thus far been sorely lacking in working to de-escalate the situation and to take meaningful steps to address deteriorating conditions in the Gaza Strip.  The quality of life in Gaza will not be improved through violence against Israel, and Israeli security will continually erode if Gaza is allowed to fester.