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Conflict in the Middle East

Israel and Palestine

On October 7th, 2023, Hamas announced that it had launched more than 5,000 rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel. This attack happened “50 years almost to the day since the 1937 war, when Israel’s Arab neighbors launched a surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur” (CNN article “Israel is at war with Hamas. Here’s what to know”). Militants in Gaza sent thousands of rockets toward Israel, breaking down Israel’s border and sending militants past and into Israeli territory. Hamas, an Islamist organization, referred to this attack as “Al-Aqsa Storm.” Hamas claims that this attack was in rebellion to Israel’s attacks on women, the violation of the Al-Aqsa mosque, and the continuous back-and-forth siege of the Gaza Strip.

This attack, and most of the recent attacks, have occurred in or right on the border of the Gaza Strip. Multiple people were said to be killed in the bombing and the cities Gedera, Herzliyya, Tel Aviv, and Ashkelon were bombarded by rockets sent by Hamas. Simultaneously, around 2,900 Palestinian militants infiltrated Israel from Gaza using trucks, pickup trucks, motorcycles, bulldozers, speedboats and paragliders. Images and videos appeared to show heavily armed and masked militants dressed in black fatigues riding pickup trucks and opening fire in Sderot, killing dozens of Israeli civilians and soldiers and setting homes on fire.

Other videos appeared to show Israelis taken prisoner and a burning Israeli tank, as well as militants driving Israeli military vehicles. There have been innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians taken hostage and/or killed in the days following the launch of the missiles.

Following the bombing, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, addressed his nation stating, “Citizens of Israel, we are at war. Not an operation, not a round [of fighting,] at war! This morning Hamas initiated a murderous surprise attack against the state of Israel and its citizens . . . We have been in this since the early morning hours. I have convened the heads of the defense establishment. I’ve given directives, first and foremost, to clear the [affected] urban areas of the terrorists who penetrated them…” In addition, Israel “declared war and launched ‘Operation Swords of Iron,’ striking what it says are Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza” (CNN article “Israel is at war with Hamas. Here’s what to know”).

The Hamas bombing is an unexpected event, as Israel’s Iron Dome system failed to intercept most of the rockets and the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, failed to get any sort of information from Hamas.

Hamas has accused Israel of killing hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the Israeli missile strikes across the Gaza Strip. The Israeli government has not accepted or denied these accusations and orders a full siege on the Gaza Strip asking for the civilians to retreat and seek shelter and has outlined safe roads for them. These safe roads however have not been used because both sides keep bombarding the other with missile strikes and the situation is very volatile, and the civilians on both sides are suffering as a result of the war.

The Hamas supporters are making ventures into Israeli towns close by, the most known excursion of theirs has been to Sderot where they’ve taken many hostages and many civilian casualties are happening. Hezbollah, a Lebanese based Palestinian terrorist organization, has threatened the Israeli government that any attempt to go into the Gaza Strip will cause war between them as well.

After all the years of fighting that have taken many lives and injured many civilians, Israel and Palestine still have not come to any agreement. No negotiation or peace plan has been able to help Israel and Palestine decide on whether Jewish settlements in the West Banks (which stems back to the early 20th century) should be allowed or not, who Jerusalem should belong to, and mainly, the creation of Palestine as an individual state alongside Israel.

Historical Background

The reason for this conflict is because of the greater Israeli – Palestinian conflict starting from 1948, from the British partitioning of the Israel – Palestine region which started when the Jewish and Palestinian populations were resentful of the other due to claims to the land. Both groups have strong claims to the land and have had disputes over land, religion, and nationalism. Since 1948, Israel and Palestine have gone back and forth over who has control of the Gaza Strip. This conflict has been going on for the past 75 years now.

Israel and Palestine have clashed before Israel was founded. Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians have been killed and injured throughout the years. The origin of the conflict goes back to the early 20th century when Jewish people fleeing persecution started to immigrate to Palestine, which was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire at the time.

Then World War I happened, and the League of Nations gave Palestine to Britain. Palestine becoming under the control of Britain caused Jewish immigration into Palestine. “To Jews Palestine was their ancestral home, but Palestinian Arabs also claimed the land” (BBC article “Israel Gaza war: History of the conflict explained”), which brought anger to the Palestinians.

Between 1947 and 1948, the United Nations passed a resolution that suggested Palestine be split into separate Jewish and Arab states. This led to the creation of Israel. The “Arab side rejects it, arguing that it is unfavorable to their majority population” (The Washington Post article “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict: A chronology”). The rejection and anger that the Arabs felt was the origin of the first Arab-Israeli war.

The first Arab-Israeli War sparked Israel’s establishment and created a sense of displacement for Palestinians. This Arab-Israeli war ended with Israel having control of a larger territory than before (not including the West Bank and Gaza Strip). During this war, the Palestinians experienced what they call “Nakba,” which means catastrophe in Arabic. About “700,000 Palestinians flee or are driven from their land” (The Washington Post article “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict: A chronology”) because of the war.

After the first Arab-Israeli war, Palestine started multiple resistance movements (including the Palestine Liberation Organization), predominantly led by Yasser Arafat. Peace initiatives and negotiations were made following these wars, such as the Camp David Accords, Oslo Accords, and many others.

Although there have been several instances of trying to establish peace, neither Israel nor Palestine have been able to settle on a final peace agreement. Israel and Palestine have not been able to agree on the terms of their peace agreement. Their problems means there will most likely be more wars, and countless more civilians in both Israel and Palestine will continue to lose their homes and their lives.

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