The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, the militant group controlling the Gaza Strip, is the latest chapter in a more than seventy-year-long struggle between Israelis and Palestinians. This conflict has had far-reaching consequences, crippling the economy, dividing the Middle East, and resulting in the injury, death, and displacement of countless civilians.
The current conflict has become the deadliest in half a century, with over 2,000 casualties on both sides. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees reports that more than a quarter of a million people are now homeless in the Gaza Strip.
Israel declared war on the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, following an unprecedented air, sea, and land attack that commenced on Saturday.
The large-scale attack on Israel resulted in over 1,200 casualties, according to IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus. In response, Israel launched a series of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, resulting in at least 1,055 casualties.
As they retreated into the Gaza Strip, the militants claimed to have taken up to 150 hostages and threatened to harm them if the area was attacked without warning. Israel has pledged to make Hamas pay a heavy price and is possibly preparing for a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.
What Led to the Conflict?
On Saturday morning, militants in the Gaza Strip fired thousands of rockets at Israeli towns and breached Israel’s heavily fortified border fence, sending fighters deep into Israeli territory. There, Hamas fighters have killed hundreds of people, including civilians and soldiers, and taken hostages, some from their own homes.
It took Israeli soldiers more than two days to regain control, with fierce street fighting. On Monday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced that they had regained control of all Israeli communities along the southern border of the Gaza Strip after the conflict with Hamas ended.
IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus stated on Tuesday that they had found the bodies of “approximately 1,500” Hamas fighters in Israel after Saturday’s attack.
The scale and tactics of these attacks are unprecedented. Israel has not faced adversaries in street fighting on its territory since the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 and has never experienced a terrorist attack of this magnitude resulting in so many civilian casualties. While Hamas has kidnapped Israelis in the past, they have never taken dozens of hostages, including children and the elderly.
Hamas referred to these events as the “Tempest on Al-Aqsa” and stated that the assault was a reaction to what they perceived as an Israeli attack on women, the desecration of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, and the ongoing siege of Gaza.
A Century-Old Issue
Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled this region of the Middle East, during World War I, Great Britain gained control of the area known as Palestine. In this region, a Jewish minority and an Arab majority coexisted.
Tensions escalated when the international community tasked Britain with establishing a “national home” for the Jews in Palestine. While the Jews consider this their ancestral homeland, Palestinian Arabs also lay claim to the land and oppose this move.
Between the 1920s and 1940s, an increasing number of Jews arrived in the region, many of them fleeing persecution in Europe and seeking a home after the Holocaust during World War II. This influx led to growing violence between Jews, Arabs, and British rule.
In 1947, the United Nations proposed a plan to divide Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem designated as an international city. While Jewish leaders accepted this plan, the Arab side rejected it, and it was never implemented.
The Current Situation
Gaza is currently under the control of Hamas, an Islamist militant group determined to destroy Israel. Many countries, including Britain, consider Hamas a terrorist organization.
Hamas won the last Palestinian elections in 2006 and subsequently took control of the Gaza Strip, displacing the rival Fatah movement based in the West Bank, led by President Mahmoud Abbas. Since then, militants in the Gaza Strip have engaged in several wars with Israel and Egypt, as these countries sought to isolate Hamas and cease its attacks, particularly indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli cities.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip view Israel’s blockade and airstrikes on densely populated areas as collective punishment. Additionally, they have expressed dissatisfaction with sanctions and military actions imposed in response to deadly attacks on Israel.
The Real Issues
Israel and Palestine remain deeply divided on various key issues, such as the fate of Palestinian refugees, the status of Jewish communities in the occupied West Bank, the sharing of Jerusalem, and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Although peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians have persisted since the 1990s, they broke down in 2014.
Who Governs Gaza?
Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, currently controls the Gaza Strip. They have held power since 2007, following their victory in the last Palestinian parliamentary elections. Subsequently, no elections have been held in Gaza.
Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas took control. Israel, which controls Gaza’s airspace, territorial waters, immigration, and trade points, contends that the blockade is essential to prevent the importation of weapons by Hamas and other militant groups. Human rights activists argue that the blockade constitutes illegal collective punishment under international law.
The blockade, along with years of mismanagement and Hamas’ prolonged conflict with the Palestinian Authority, has severely damaged the Gaza Strip’s economy. Unemployment has reached around 50 percent, power outages are frequent, and tap water is highly polluted. Movement for Palestinians is severely restricted, making it difficult to travel abroad for work, education, or family visits.
In essence, the situation does not appear to be nearing resolution anytime soon. Experts caution that a similar cycle of violence may recur without a solution, as previous attempts to address the conflict have fallen short.
The most recent peace plan, referred to as the “deal of the century” by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and formulated during the presidency of Donald Trump, was unilaterally rejected by the Palestinians and never adopted.
World Leaders and Global Reactions:
World leaders and international organizations have swiftly responded to the escalating violence in the region. Here are some key tweets and statements from prominent figures:
United Nations: The UN Secretary-General tweeted, “I am deeply concerned about the escalating violence in Israel and Palestine. The loss of civilian lives is unacceptable. The only way to end this conflict is through peaceful dialogue and a two-state solution.
United States: The President tweeted, “We are closely monitoring the situation in the Middle East. We urge both sides to exercise restraint and work towards a peaceful resolution. We remain committed to a two-state solution.
Iran: The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson posted, “We condemn the Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people and support their right to self-defense. The international community must hold Israel accountable for its actions.
Turkey: President Erdogan tweeted, “The suffering of the Palestinian people must end. Israel’s attacks are unacceptable, and we stand by our Palestinian brothers and sisters. The world must act to stop this violence.
Egypt: President el-Sisi stated, “Egypt is in contact with all parties involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict to reach a ceasefire and prevent further loss of life. We call for an immediate end to hostilities.”
BREAKING: The Palestinian health ministry says that Israeli settlers have killed two Palestinians in the West Bank.
They were reportedly shot whilst attending the funeral of four Palestinians who were killed by armed settlers on Wednesday. https://t.co/7e8NWGKDq5
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