The Israeli-Gaza Conflict: A Historical Overview
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The Israeli-Gaza Conflict: A Historical Overview

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(CTN NEWS) – On October 7, the Palestinian militant group Hamas initiated a highly unusual attack on Israel.

This assault involved hundreds of militants infiltrating communities near the Gaza Strip.

The attack resulted in the death of over 1,400 Israelis, and the Israeli military reported that more than 220 soldiers and civilians, including women and children, were taken hostage in Gaza.

In response, the Israeli military carried out extensive air and artillery strikes in Gaza, resulting in the death of more than 5,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Israel has also amassed its troops along the Gaza boundary, raising concerns of an impending large-scale ground operation.

As part of its response, Israel cut off the supply of electricity and most sources of water to Gaza.

It also halted the importation of food and medicine.

However, it did permit the entry of several aid convoys through Egypt’s Rafah crossing starting on Saturday.

What was Israel before 1948, and what was the Balfour Declaration?

After the fall of the Ottoman Empire following World War One, Britain assumed control over the region known as Palestine.

This area was inhabited by a Jewish minority and an Arab majority, along with smaller ethnic groups.

Tensions escalated when the international community tasked the UK with establishing a “national home” for Jewish people in Palestine.

This responsibility originated from the Balfour Declaration of 1917, a commitment made by then Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Britain’s Jewish community.

The declaration became an integral part of the British mandate over Palestine and was endorsed by the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations, in 1922.

While Palestine held significant historical importance for Jews as their ancestral homeland, Palestinian Arabs also laid claim to the land and contested the move.

Between the 1920s and 1940s, the number of Jewish immigrants to Palestine grew, many of whom were escaping persecution in Europe, particularly the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust during World War Two.

Simultaneously, violence between Jews and Arabs, as well as resistance against British rule, intensified.

In 1947, the United Nations voted in favor of partitioning Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, designating Jerusalem as an international city.

Although this plan was accepted by Jewish leaders, it was rejected by the Arab side and never put into effect.

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How and why was Israel created?

In 1948, as the British mandate over Palestine came to an end and the issue remained unresolved, Jewish leaders declared the establishment of the State of Israel.

This new nation was envisioned as both a safe haven for Jews fleeing persecution and a national homeland for Jews.

The intensifying conflict between Jewish and Arab militias had been brewing for several months, and shortly after Israel’s declaration of statehood, five Arab countries launched an attack.

This marked the beginning of a war that resulted in the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes, a period they refer to as Al Nakba, meaning the “Catastrophe.”

When the fighting concluded with a ceasefire the following year, Israel had gained control of the majority of the territory.

Jordan occupied the region that would come to be known as the West Bank, while Gaza was under Egyptian control.

The city of Jerusalem was divided, with Israeli forces in the West and Jordanian forces in the East.

As no formal peace agreement was reached, subsequent decades witnessed further wars and conflicts in the region.

The map of Israel

In the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank, most of the Syrian Golan Heights, Gaza, and the Egyptian Sinai peninsula.

As a result, Israel gained control over these territories.

Many Palestinian refugees, as well as their descendants, reside in Gaza and the West Bank, and in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

Israel has not permitted them or their descendants to return to their original homes, arguing that such a return would pose a demographic threat and endanger its identity as a Jewish state.

Israel continues to occupy the West Bank and claims the entirety of Jerusalem as its capital.

In contrast, the Palestinians aspire to establish East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

The United States is one of the few nations to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Over the past five decades, Israel has constructed settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where more than 700,000 Jewish residents now reside.

These settlements are considered illegal under international law, a position upheld by the UN Security Council and governments like the UK, although Israel disputes this view.

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What is the Gaza Strip?

Gaza is a narrow piece of land located between Israel and the Mediterranean Sea, with a short border in the south shared with Egypt.

It measures just 41 kilometers (25 miles) in length and is 10 kilometers wide.

Despite its small size, Gaza is home to over two million people, making it one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

After the 1948-49 war, Gaza came under Egyptian occupation for 19 years.

In the 1967 war, Israel occupied Gaza, and this occupation continued until 2005, during which time Israel established Jewish settlements in the region.

However, Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005.

Nevertheless, Israel retained control over Gaza’s airspace, shared border, and coastline.

The United Nations continues to classify Gaza as a territory under Israeli occupation.

What are the main problems between Israelis and Palestinians?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains deeply complex, with various unresolved issues, including:

1. Palestinian Refugees:

The question of what should happen to Palestinian refugees who were displaced during the conflict remains a contentious issue.

Palestinians seek the right of return to their former homes, but Israel is opposed to this on the grounds that it could threaten the country’s existence as a Jewish state.

2. Jewish Settlements:

Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank are a major point of contention.

Palestinians demand that these settlements be removed, considering them illegal under international law.

Israel has continued to build and expand settlements, complicating efforts to establish a two-state solution.

3. Jerusalem:

The status of Jerusalem is another critical issue.

Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.

Israel currently controls the entire city, while Palestinians aspire to have East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Finding a solution for Jerusalem’s status is challenging.

4. Two-State Solution:

The fundamental question of whether a Palestinian state should exist alongside Israel remains at the core of the conflict.

The “two-state solution” envisions an independent Palestine living alongside Israel.

However, achieving this solution has proven difficult due to the numerous disputes outlined above.

These are just some of the key issues that have prevented a comprehensive peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

Reaching a mutually acceptable resolution remains a significant challenge.

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What efforts have been made to resolve these problems?

Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations took place sporadically from the 1990s to the 2010s, punctuated by episodes of violence.

At the outset, the prospects for a negotiated peace seemed promising.

Secret talks in Norway evolved into the Oslo peace process, famously marked by a ceremony on the White House lawn in 1993, overseen by President Bill Clinton.

In a historic moment, the Palestinians recognized the State of Israel, and Israel acknowledged the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), its long-standing adversary, as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.

A self-governing Palestinian Authority was established.

However, tensions soon surfaced, with then-Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu deeming Oslo a grave threat to Israel.

Israel expedited its settlement efforts in the occupied Palestinian territories, and the emerging Palestinian militant group, Hamas, dispatched suicide bombers to sabotage any prospects of an agreement.

The atmosphere within Israel soured, culminating in the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish extremist on November 4, 1995.

Efforts were made in the 2000s to rekindle the peace process, including a roadmap crafted in 2003 by global powers with the ultimate aim of a two-state solution.

Regrettably, it was never implemented.

In 2014, peace initiatives reached a standstill when negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians faltered in Washington.

The latest peace plan, referred to as “the deal of the century” by Prime Minister Netanyahu, was introduced by the United States during Donald Trump’s presidency.

However, it was rebuffed by the Palestinians as one-sided and never gained traction.

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Why are Israel and Gaza at war now?

Hamas, an Islamist group committed to the destruction of Israel and classified as a terrorist organization by the UK and other countries, gained power through elections in 2006.

The group took control of Gaza in the following year, ousting the Fatah movement led by West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas.

Since then, Gaza has witnessed several conflicts with Israel.

Israel, along with Egypt, has maintained a partial blockade on Gaza, aiming to isolate Hamas and prevent attacks, especially rocket launches toward Israeli cities.

Palestinians in Gaza argue that these restrictions and Israeli airstrikes on densely populated areas amount to collective punishment.

This year has seen the highest number of Palestinian casualties in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, further fueled by restrictions and military actions in response to attacks on Israelis.

Hamas’s recent attack may have been driven by these ongoing tensions, along with a bid to gain popularity among ordinary Palestinians and potentially negotiate the release of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Who supports Israel in the current conflict, and who does not?

Numerous countries have expressed their disapproval of the Hamas attack on Israel, with the United States, the European Union, and several Western nations leading the condemnation.

They have all taken a strong stance against this act of violence.

In contrast, Russia and China have not publicly criticized Hamas for the attack.

They claim to be maintaining communication and engagement with both sides involved in the conflict.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in particular, has blamed the United States’ policies for the continued lack of peace in the Middle East.

Iran, which is a staunch adversary of Israel, provides support to Hamas as well as Hezbollah.

Hezbollah militants have been engaged in almost daily skirmishes with Israeli forces since Hamas initiated its attack.

This has raised questions about Iran’s potential involvement in planning and executing the attack by Hamas, despite Tehran’s firm denial of any such role.

Overall, the international response to the Hamas attack on Israel is divided, with some countries condemning it and others refraining from doing so or showing support for Hamas.

The complex geopolitics of the region further complicate the situation.

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