Wed. Jul 24th, 2024
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

In early October 2023, conflict broke out between Israel and Hamas, the militant Islamist group that has controlled Gaza since 2006. Hamas fighters launched rockets into Israel and initiated attacks on southern Israeli cities and towns near the Gaza border. This led to casualties among both Israeli soldiers and civilians, as well as the capture of numerous hostages. In response, Israel swiftly launched a military operation. The Israeli cabinet officially declared war against Hamas one day after the October 7 attack, with a directive from the defense minister for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to implement a “complete siege” on Gaza.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Background:

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict traces its origins to the late nineteenth century. In 1947, the United Nations adopted Resolution 181, known as the Partition Plan, which aimed to divide the British Mandate of Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states. On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was established, sparking the first Arab-Israeli War. Although Israel emerged victorious in 1949, the conflict resulted in the displacement of 750,000 Palestinians and the division of the territory into three parts: the State of Israel, the West Bank (along the Jordan River), and the Gaza Strip.

Tensions continued to escalate in the subsequent years, particularly between Israel and its neighboring countries, including Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Following the 1956 Suez Crisis and Israel’s invasion of the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria signed mutual defense pacts in anticipation of potential Israeli military actions. In June 1967, Israel initiated a preemptive strike against Egyptian and Syrian air forces, leading to the start of the Six-Day War. Israel gained control over the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. Six years later, during the Yom Kippur War or October War, Egypt and Syria launched a surprise two-front attack on Israel in an attempt to regain lost territory. Although the conflict did not result in significant changes to territorial boundaries, it facilitated negotiations between Egypt, Syria, and Israel over previously ceded land. Finally, in 1979, following a series of ceasefires and peace negotiations, Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David Accords, a peace treaty that ended a thirty-year-long conflict between the two nations.

Despite improvements in relations between Israel and its neighboring countries due to the Camp David Accords, the issue of Palestinian self-determination and governance remained unresolved. In 1987, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip initiated the first intifada, a mass uprising against the Israeli government. The 1993 Oslo I Accords mediated the conflict and established a framework for Palestinian self-governance in the West Bank and Gaza, leading to mutual recognition between the newly established Palestinian Authority and the government of Israel. In 1995, the Oslo II Accords expanded upon the initial agreement, mandating Israel’s complete withdrawal from six cities and 450 towns in the West Bank.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

In 2000, the second intifada erupted, partially triggered by Palestinian grievances over Israel’s control of the West Bank, a stagnant peace process, and a visit by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the al-Aqsa mosque in September 2000. In response, Israel constructed a barrier wall around the West Bank in 2002, despite opposition from international bodies such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.

Factionalism among Palestinians escalated when Hamas won the Palestinian Authority’s parliamentary elections in 2006, displacing the long-dominant Fatah party. Hamas, a political and militant movement inspired by the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, assumed control of the Gaza Strip. Gaza, a small coastal territory bordering Egypt to the south, had been under the semi-autonomous rule of the Palestinian Authority since 1993. Western governments, including the United States and the European Union, did not acknowledge Hamas’ electoral victory, designating the group as a terrorist organization since the late 1990s. Following Hamas’ takeover, violent clashes between Hamas and Fatah ensued. From 2006 to 2011, a series of unsuccessful peace talks and deadly confrontations eventually led to a reconciliation agreement. Fatah entered into a unity government with Hamas in 2014.

In the summer of 2014, conflicts in the Palestinian territories escalated into a military confrontation between the Israeli military and Hamas. Hamas militants fired nearly three thousand rockets at Israel, prompting Israel to respond with a major offensive in Gaza. The conflict concluded in late August 2014 with a ceasefire brokered by Egypt, but not before causing casualties on both sides. In 2015, a wave of violence between Israelis and Palestinians further strained the situation. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah announced that Palestinians would no longer adhere to the territorial divisions set by the Oslo Accords. In 2018, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip began weekly demonstrations at the border with Israel, culminating in the seventieth anniversary of the Nakba, the Palestinian exodus that coincided with Israel’s establishment. While most protesters were peaceful, some breached the perimeter fence and engaged in confrontations. According to the United Nations, 183 demonstrators were killed, and more than 6,

000 were injured by live ammunition. The heightened political tension resulted in a return to discord between Fatah and Hamas, with Fatah controlling the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas effectively ruling Gaza. This situation persisted throughout the late 2010s and early 2020s, despite Mahmoud Abbas’ efforts to unite the Palestinian people under the Palestinian Authority.

In May 2018, violence erupted once again between Hamas and the IDF, marking the most significant period of violence since 2014. Before a ceasefire was reached, militants in Gaza fired over one hundred rockets into Israel, prompting Israel to respond with strikes on more than fifty targets in Gaza during a twenty-four-hour flare-up.

The Trump administration made brokering an Israeli-Palestinian deal a foreign policy priority. In 2018, they terminated funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency, which aids Palestinian refugees, and moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, reversing long-standing U.S. policy. While Israeli leaders celebrated the embassy move, Palestinian leaders and others in the Middle East and Europe condemned it. Israel sees Jerusalem as its “complete and united” capital, while Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for their future state. In January 2020, the Trump administration unveiled the “Peace to Prosperity” plan, which Palestinians rejected due to its support for Israeli annexation of West Bank settlements and control over an “undivided” Jerusalem.

In August and September 2020, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain normalized relations with Israel, becoming the third and fourth countries to do so in the region. These agreements, known as the Abraham Accords, followed ministerial talks in Warsaw, Poland, involving Israel and several Arab states. Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas both rejected the accords.

In October 2020, an Israeli court ruled that several Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, should be evicted and their land transferred to Jewish families by May 2021. In February 2021, some Palestinian families appealed the ruling, leading to protests, legal disputes, and the forceful displacement of Palestinians.

In late April 2021, Palestinians protested impending evictions in Jerusalem, organizing nightly sit-ins. In early May, violence erupted at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, with Israeli police using force against demonstrators. On May 10, after ongoing violence and Israeli police use of force, Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups launched rockets into Israel, leading to Israeli airstrikes. The conflict resulted in casualties and damage, culminating in a cease-fire on May 21, 2021.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

In October 7, 2023, war broke out again between Israel and Hamas, with President Joe Biden expressing support for Israel. The United States increased arms shipments and deployed warships to the Mediterranean. The UN Security Council failed to reach a consensus. Concerns arose about civilian safety in Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Gaza. The conflict led to casualties on both sides.

While there were reports of Iranian support to Hamas, the U.S. did not immediately confirm this. Concerns emerged about Iran’s expanding influence in the Middle East, including through Hezbollah. On October 9, reports of IDF targeting in Lebanon, where Hezbollah is based, raised questions.

Efforts to normalize Israel-Saudi Arabia relations in 2023 faced disruption due to the conflict, jeopardizing progress made by both countries.

In late December 2022, Israel formed a far-right and religious government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu. The government’s focus on expanding settlements in the West Bank and endorsing discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals drew criticism. Violence escalated in 2022 and 2023, with clashes and Israeli military operations in the West Bank, including missile attacks and drone strikes. Israel approved new settler homes and intensified operations. In response, Hamas carried out attacks.

The October 2023 conflict represents a significant escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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