I don't normally talk a whole lot of international issues, but this is something that I've been following via the news fairly closely.
According to wikipedia, on December 27th, Operation Cast Lead was initiated by the Israeli Defense forces, a massive bombing and ground assault against the leading party Hamas, in retaliation for years of bombing against Israeli civilians. Since then, there have been well over 3,000 casualties (537 dead, 2,700 injured as of January 4th). That number has most certainly risen in the past couple of days, and is marked by a rise in civilian casualties, which will likely rise as the conflict drags on. The international community has called for an end to the violence, and a return to the cease-fire, which both sides have rejected.
Admittedly, this is an incredibly hard thing to judge, being thousands of miles away, safe at home and work. For me, it's completely impossible to judge exactly what the people are going through. Of course, bombings, civilian casualties and conflict in general is a bad thing. It's incredibly painful to read about children being killed when they're accidentally fired upon, or how families are killed in their home.
Both the Israelis and Palestinians have lived with this for a long time now, and both sides need to be held accountable for what they have done. Unfortunately, with the images of the war fixed in our heads right now, it's incredibly easy to side with the Palestinians with this one, especially when you consider that what the Israelis are essentially bombing are refugee camps, filled with people who are likely to get in the way of gunfire.
But on the other side, it's difficult for me to sympathize with the Palestinians, who have been attacking Israel for a very long time, shooting rockets into civilian sectors, sending out suicide bombers, all the while utilizing hospitals and schools, thereby putting the people who shouldn't be involved in a conflict right in the middle of it.
I think what bothers me the most is the absolute simplicity and naivete that I've seen from some people, either in person, via the internet or television. Stop the bombing, stop the violence, etc. It's not that simple. Hypothetically, should Israel stop the ongoing military operations, what would they have accomplished, aside from giving the people of Palestine even more reasons to be angry and essentially creating a new generation of impoverished, poor and angry people.
The problems there is only going to continue, and I don't see any major changes coming, aside from a cease-fire that will likely only last for months or a year, at the most. Hamas, the dominant political party in Palestine because the people felt they best represented their beliefs, that Israel should not exist, among other things. This feeling is unlikely to go away with the crippling of the party during this attack. People are still going to dislike the existence of Israel, and will continue to cause problems.
Israel is not likely go to anywhere either, not with the dominant support of the United States and other members of the international community who view the nation. However, they will continue to stir up problems as they continue these justified conflict, because of the David and Goliath effect that their warfare takes on.
The problems will continue so long as there is poverty and a general lack of education on the part of the Palestinians that serves to continue the problems between both parties. Unfortunately, this currently conflict is the end result of years of pent-up frustrations and grievences on the part of the Israelis. Should the ongoing military operations cripple the Hamas party, this would be a good, but ultimately futile step towards peace in the region, as the anger of the people will shift to another group and new people who will only continue to personify their beliefs. Unfortunately, neither side seems willing to take the steps, to follow their religious beliefs to the point where we can have a real, lasting peace.