Between January 2001 and December 2008, Hamas-affiliated terrorists in Gaza fired some 8,165 rockets and mortars at civilian communities in southern Israel. Meanwhile, the terrorists embedded their infrastructure in schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings – thereby protecting themselves behind “human shields.” In response to these years of provocations, on December 27, 2008, Israel launched “Operation Cast Lead,” a defensive military operation targeting Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza.
The conflict broke out after Hamas leader Khaled Mash'al refused to attend talks for a Cairo-brokered intra-Palestinian agreement. Instead, he announced in Damascus that his organization’s tahdia (temporary armistice) with Israel had ended and would not be renewed; to drive the point home, his men in Gaza proceeded to fire dozens of rockets into southern Israel.
As soon as Israel initiated Operation Cast Lead, Syria and Qatar attempted to convene an emergency Arab League summit in order to help Hamas. This move was blocked by Egypt and Saudi Arabia at the December 31, 2008 Arab foreign-ministers meeting in Cairo, where the participants decided only to conduct international diplomatic activity aimed at stopping the hostilities. According to reports, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said at a closed meeting with European Union foreign ministers that "Hamas must not be allowed to emerge triumphant from the present confrontation."
Ultimately a summit was held in Doha, Qatar, in January 2009. It was attended by the main European leaders. To the dismay of some Arab countries, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited to attend as an observer. Also present as an observer was Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who expressed total support for Hamas.
On January 18, 2009, Hamas was compelled to accept the ceasefire that Israel had unilaterally declared the day before, as well as Egypt's mediation in the intra-Palestinian talks -- two demands the terror group had categorically rejected prior to the war.
Adapted from "An Escalating Regional Cold War - Part I: The 2009 Gaza War," by By Y. Carmon, Y. Yehoshua, A. Savyon, and H. Migron (February 2, 2009).