Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Re-ignites Violence

How Do Ceasefires End? Who Re-igniting Violence?

If you followed the current timeline of how the new round of bombs, shells, and missiles showering on Gaza started and evolved (see link in note 1), you’ll appreciate the study done by Nancy Kanwisher in 2009, the exact systemic pattern of apartheid Israel.

Following the previous cease fire in Gaza in 2009, many wondered “How did the recent ceasefire unravel?

The mainstream media in the US and Israel places the blame squarely on Hamas, (as is their habit).

The media insisted that “massive barrage of Palestinian rockets were fired into Israel in November and December of 2009″

(hand made rockets that fizzled before landing at the time), and ending this rocket fire is the stated goal of the current Israeli invasion of Gaza.

Nancy Kanwisher, Johannes Haushofer, & Anat Biletzki published in the HuffPost on Jan. 6, 2009 “Reigniting Violence: How Do Ceasefires End?

“As Israel and Palestine suffer a hideous new spasm of terror, misery, and mayhem, it is important to ask how this situation came about. Perhaps an understanding of recent events will afford lessons for the future.

The US media account leaves out crucial facts about the cease fire:

First, and most importantly, the ceasefire was remarkably effective: after it began in June 2008, the rate of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza dropped to almost zero, and stayed there for four straight months (see Figure 1, from a fact sheet produced by the Israeli consulate in NYC).

So much for the widespread view, exemplified in yesterday’s New York Times editorial that: “There is little chance of restraining Hamas without dealing with its patrons in Syria and Iran.”  Instead, the data shows clearly that Hamas can indeed control the violence if it so chooses, and sometimes it does, for long periods of time.

Second, and just as important, what happened to end this striking period of peace?

On November 4th, Israel killed a Palestinian, an event that was followed by a volley of mortars fired from Gaza. Immediately after that, an Israeli air strike killed 6 more Palestinians. Then a massive barrage of rockets was unleashed, leading to the end of the ceasefire.

Figure 1. Number of Palestinian rockets fired in each month of 2008 (adapted from The Israeli consulate in NYC [pdf])


Thus the latest ceasefire ended when Israel first killed Palestinians, and Palestinians retaliated by firing rockets into Israel.

However, before attempting to glean lessons from this event, we need to know if this case is atypical, or if it reflects a systematic pattern.

We decided to tally the data to find out.

We analyzed the entire timeline of killings of Palestinians by Israelis, and killings of Israelis by Palestinians, in the Second Intifada (mass disobedience), based on the data from the widely-respected Israeli Human Rights group B’Tselem (including all the data from September 2000 to October 2008).

We defined “conflict pauses” as periods of one or more days when no one is killed on either side, and we asked which side kills first after conflict pauses of different duration.

As shown in Figure 2, this analysis shows that it is overwhelmingly Israel that kills first after a pause in the conflict: 79% of all conflict pauses were interrupted when Israel killed a Palestinian, while only 8% were interrupted by Palestinian attacks (the remaining 13% were interrupted by both sides on the same day).

In addition, we found that this pattern — in which Israel is more likely than Palestine to kill first after a conflict pause  — becomes more pronounced for longer conflict pauses.

Indeed, of the 25 periods of nonviolence lasting longer than a week, Israel unilaterally interrupted 24 of the periods (96% of the times), and it unilaterally interrupted 100% of the 14 periods of nonviolence lasting longer than 9 days.


Figure 2. For conflict pauses of different durations  (i.e., periods of time when no one is killed on either side), we show here the percentage of times from the Second Intifada in which Israelis ended the period of nonviolence by killing one or more Palestinians (black), the percentage of times that Palestinians ended the period of nonviolence by killing Israelis (grey), and the percentage of times that both sides killed on the same day (white).

Virtually all periods of nonviolence lasting more than a week were ended when the Israelis killed Palestinians first. We include here the data from all pause duration that actually occurred.

Thus, a systematic pattern does exist: it is overwhelmingly Israel, not Palestine, that kills first following a lull. Indeed, it is virtually always Israel that kills first after a lull lasting more than a week.

The lessons from these data are clear:

First, Hamas can indeed control the rockets, when it is in their interest.  The data shows  that ceasefires can work, reducing the violence to nearly zero for months at a time.

Second, if Israel wants to reduce rocket fire from Gaza, it should cherish and preserve the peace when it starts to break out, not be the first to kill.

Note 1: For timeline of this year preemptive war on Gaza….

Note 2: For a detailed account of the  breakdown of the ceasefire and the precise numbers of rockets fired in November from the point of view of the Israeli military, see




June 2023

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