Current Gaza violence could be 'four times more intense' than 2014 war

Peace efforts may be running out of time to stop a further escalation of violence, analysts warn

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The last time Israel and armed Palestinian groups in Gaza fought a war in 2014, militants fired 4,000 rockets at Israel over the 49-day conflict.

Since the latest flare-up of violence led to rocket fire on Monday evening, over 1,000 were fired in just 48 hours.

Netanyahu has been placed in a situation where he must respond with firmness, or risk looking weak

Palestinian militants in Gaza appeared to be firing at Israel at as much as four times the average rate of the previous conflict, which stood out for its intensity and led to a ground invasion and 2,300 dead in the strip – mostly civilians – as well as six civilians in Israel and 70 soldiers.

People in Gaza have reported intense bombardments from Israel that eclipse the 2014 conflict or other skirmishes since.

The Israeli military has released fewer details on the number of airstrikes carried out than it has about the numbers of rockets fired towards Israel. But as of Wednesday afternoon, it said that 500 airstrikes had hit the coastal enclave.

That puts it at about 166 air strikes a day into the densely populated area – roughly the same frequency as during the 2014 conflict.

The death toll in Gaza on Wednesday rose to 53 Palestinians, including 14 children and three women, according to the Health Ministry.

More than 300 people have been wounded, including 86 children and 39 women.

Six people in Israel, including three women and a child, have been killed by rocket fire and dozens of people were wounded.

Even at a comparable rate of fire to 2014, the Israeli airstrikes are nonetheless intense and the number of strikes does not account for size and type of munitions being used.

Recent videos from Gaza showed the impact of Israeli strikes, with whole areas of a main streets engulfed in fire and debris.

Videos uploaded to social media on Tuesday night showed scores of rockets and Israeli "Iron Dome" missile interceptors lighting up the night sky over the Gaza-Israel border.

Iron Dome intercepts rockets over Tel Aviv

Iron Dome intercepts rockets over Tel Aviv

On Tuesday night, an Israeli strike brought down a multi-storey building that the military said housed Hamas offices.

Shock and awe

During the 2014 conflict, Israel opened the conflict with barrages of very heavy air attacks – applying a tactic derived from the US dubbed "shock and awe". The move aimed to stun the opposition into submission.

But, it seemed to have limited effect and a bloody ground invasion followed within 10 days as the army decided that militants would have to be uprooted from tunnel complexes and other hidden positions.

The Israeli army has hinted that another ground incursion is not off the table today either.

Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, on Wednesday said two infantry brigades had been sent to the Gaza border area.

Michael Stephens, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, warned that a ground war could be inevitable.

"Netanyahu has been placed in a situation where he must respond with firmness, or risk looking weak. As a result the IDF will have to enter Gaza and go in hard. After 1000 rockets being fired into Israel, there is no chance that they will not carry out an operation," he says.

Compared to 2014, the escalation over the last week appears to have caught Israel less well prepared – forcing the military to cancel a massive month-long training exercise and recall and divert units.

Defence Minister Benny Gantz warned on Wednesday that the Israeli military “will continue to attack and bring complete and long-term peace”.

Operation Protective Edge

The last war, dubbed Operation Protective Edge by Israel, began on July 8, 2014, with the Israelis attacking 223 targets in Gaza, continuing the next day with another 326 raids, according to a report from the US defence think tank Rand.

That soon tailed off to an average of 190 per day, to a total of 1,700 targets hit during the 50 day campaign.

But Joe Truzman, an analyst at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, warned that the high intensity in the first few days did not mean the current violence would be shorter.

In 2014, Hamas and other groups went on for over a month firing rockets, [but] there’s a lot of reports already that they’re back to their 2014 levels of rocket stockpiles,” he said.

“They may have even more rockets now or rather, more accurate rockets. So, that's a huge issue. They can go on for quite some time."