(CTN News) – More than 1,200 Israelis were killed and an estimated 150 were taken hostage over the weekend when Hamas launched a surprise attack. The attack marks the beginning of a new violent phase in a conflict that has been raging for decades over territory and control.
The Israeli Defence Forces responded swiftly, igniting a war between Israel and Hamas, the group that has been in charge of the blockaded Gaza Strip. Over 2,800 lives have been lost on both sides.
On Wednesday, the crisis began its fifth day against a backdrop of religious conflicts that date back centuries, an Israeli government in disarray over judicial reform, and escalating Israeli military raids within Palestinian territory.
Hamas conducted a coordinated surprise offensive on multiple fronts on Saturday. More than a thousand Israelis were kidnapped and killed when Hamas fighters crossed the border into various communities in southern Israel.
At least 150 people, including several Americans, are currently being held prisoner by the group, and every time Israeli forces hit civilians in Gaza without warning, they threaten execution.
Hamas’s unexpected strike on Israel, which arrived on the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, was one of the most widespread in recent memory. Some rocket strikes were not stopped by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system as Hamas penetrated the country by land, air, and sea.
Israeli military retaliated by launching airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. More than 1,100 people have been killed so far, according to Palestinian authorities, and many more have been injured. Troops from the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) have been stationed near the Gaza border in anticipation of a future ground invasion.
There are two Palestinian territories, one of which being the Gaza Strip. Only slightly more than 140 square miles in size, it is home to about 2.3 million Palestinians.
Hamas took power in 2007 from the Palestinian Authority, which still rules the Israeli-occupied West Bank despite losing legislative elections in 2006.
To further isolate Hamas, Israel has imposed a physical and economic siege on the region. Israel, with Egypt’s support, has limited what it calls “weaponizing” imports and prevented many Palestinians from leaving Gaza. The economy has suffered, as have job rates and healthcare infrastructure.
“Israel, with the help of Egypt, has turned Gaza into an open-air prison,” Omar Shakir, director of the Israel and Palestine division of the non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch, has warned.
Why did Hamas attack now?
The Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem is the third holiest place in Islam, and Mohammed Deif, the commander of Hamas’ military arm, said the attack, dubbed “Operation Al-Aqsa Storm,” was a response to Israeli activity there.
Because of its proximity to Temple Mount, a sacred Jewish landmark, the mosque compound has historically served as a flashpoint in tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.
However, that event scarcely marks the beginning of Hamas-Israeli tensions. There have been four wars with Israel since the party took power in 2007.
According to Hamas, the Israeli military’s actions are part of a decades-long plan to forcibly remove Palestinians from their land and dispossess them of their culture and way of life.
The group has been claiming responsibility for multiple deadly strikes against Israel and has often stated its intention to destroy the Jewish state.
Read our comprehensive explanation to learn more about the background of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
How has Israel responded to the Hamas attack?
In a televised speech on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “We are at war and we will win it.” Israel has since launched a full-scale attack on the Gaza Strip, with airstrikes that have destroyed houses, medical facilities, and even a mosque.
On Wednesday, the reaction reached a fever pitch. Israel increased its rocket fire and clampdown on Gaza’s access to essentials like food and water. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have taken back control of the Gaza border, but they have also launched a targeted strike into Gaza City, where Hamas’ government ministries are headquartered.
Israelis have “destroyed the centre of everything,” a Palestinian trader named Ali al-Hiyak claimed from his home in the area of Rimal. “That’s where we have our public gatherings and our communities.”
About 250,000 Palestinians are said to have evacuated their homes in Gaza, with the majority taking refuge in overcrowded UN schools.
As the humanitarian crisis in the blockaded enclave worsens, the Israeli military ordered about a million Gazans to evacuate and travel south on Thursday, a move that was denounced by the United Nations. Hamas urged people in Gaza to ignore the order to leave their homes.
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What is Hamas?
Hamas is a militant Palestinian party that was founded in 1987 during the first Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. The name is an abbreviation for “Islamic Resistance Movement,” which is part of the group’s charter, which demands for the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state in place of Israel.
Hamas has been labelled a terrorist organisation by the United States, the European Union, and other countries.
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Is Iran involved?
Iran, a close neighbour, frequently provides Hamas with financial and logistical help.The nation denied any complicity in the recent atrocities but expressed sympathy.
In a televised address, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared, “We kiss the hands of those who planned the attack on the Zionist regime.”
Who is Hamas’ leader?
Yahya Sinwar and Ismail Haniyeh run Hamas, with Mohammed Deif in charge of the organization’s military. According to the AP, Sinwar currently resides in Gaza while Haniyeh is currently in exile.
Following the latest assault, Haniyeh declared, “Enough is enough, the cycle of intifadas and revolutions in the battle to liberate our land and our prisoners languishing in occupation (Israeli) prisons must be completed.”
Is there a country called Palestine?
The concept of Palestine has evolved over time. Palestine has been granted observer status as a non-member state by 139 of the United Nations’ 193 current member states.
Palestine was one of the Ottoman areas that the League of Nations handed over to the United Kingdom after World War One.
Britain kept control of Palestine after other countries gained independence, enforcing the Balfour Declaration’s 1917 request for a Jewish state to be established there. An uprising by Palestinians broke out in 1937 as Jewish immigration increased and Palestinians sought independence.
The United Nations suggested a plan to divide the area into two states in 1947, one for Jews and one for Palestinian Arabs, with Jerusalem as their shared capital.
Five Arab countries invaded British mandate territory in 1948 after hearing of Israel’s establishment. As a result of the conflict, Israel expanded its borders and now claims 77 percent of the territory that the United Nations partitioned between the two states.
Since then, this area has been envisioned as Palestine’s future capital. There has been no progress towards a solution that recognises an independent state despite years of violence and rising Israeli settlement.
The situation is further compounded by the fact that some devout Jews consider the contested territory as the biblical regions of Judea and Samaria.
Despite international recognition of Palestine’s right to self-determination and sovereignty, state-building efforts have been hampered by repeated land grabs, military occupation, and violent conflict.
Palestine currently consists of several areas in Gaza and the West Bank that are under occupation and have been cut off from the outside world.
What is the death toll in Israel, Palestine?
President Biden said in a statement released Tuesday from the White House that the attack by Hamas resulted in the abduction or death of more than 1,200 Israeli civilians. U.S. officials have confirmed the deaths of 27 citizens, with 14 others still missing.
According to Israeli Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, hundreds of Palestinians, including civilians, have been killed as a result of Israel’s retaliatory air attacks, while the bodies of 1,500 Hamas fighters have been uncovered around southern Israel.
Amid the heart-wrenching backdrop of terrorist attacks, murders, and kidnappings in Israel, American Friends of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva (AFYBA) in Israel stands resolute. With a deep sense of responsibility and an unwavering commitment to support, they announce ‘AFYBA Supports War Efforts in Israel’– a movement designed to bolster the nation during its time of need. To extend support, please visit www.afyba.org.