World

Why is Israel Fighting the Gaza Strip?

READING TIME ~ 2 MINUTES

Israel and Palestine have been in conflict since 1948, when the massive loss of life after the Holocaust prompted Great Britain to give Jewish people their own independent state: Israel. However, Muslims also lived in the area that now became Israel. They fled and formed the neighboring state of Palestine, where they continuously have conflicts with Israel over land and religious matters. Currently, Palestine’s sovereignty is not recognized by most European and North American powers nor by the United Nations. The Gaza Strip in particular is a portion of Palestine that is surrounded by Israel on three sides and the ocean on the other, but is disconnected from mainland Palestine. 

A map of Israel, Palestine, and the Gaza Strip; ABC News

Key Questions to Consider:

  1. What caused the recent escalation of tensions between Israel and the Gaza Strip?
  2. When will tensions end?

1: What caused the recent escalation of tensions between Israel and the Gaza Strip?

The Al-Aqsa Mosque: This mosque in Jerusalem rests on a site holy to both Muslims and Jews, and both Israel and Palestine claim it as a part of their country, so it is often a source of tension between the two sides. Recently, amid the holy Muslim holiday of Ramadan, many Palestinians were visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque for religious prayer. After a few Palestinian bystanders near the mosque threw rocks at Israeli police, the officers raided the area, releasing tear gas and stun grenades on Palestinians and injuring about 300. In response to the violence, Hamas, a militant group in the Gaza Strip, began firing rockets on Israel.

However, many other frustrations indirectly prompted the back-and-forth attacks between Hamas and Israel. 

The Al-Aqsa Mosque; Oded Balilty/AP

Evictions: Palestinians have become increasingly frustrated by the evictions of Palestinians from their homes by Israeli settlers. This is a trend that has continued for the past decades as Israel continues to overtake Palestinian land. 

Arab nations and Israel: As Israel becomes an economic power, more Arab nations have recognized it as a nation and opened diplomatic and economic relations with them. In 2020 alone, Israel has established ties with Sudan, Morocco, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. Palestinians in Gaza feel betrayed by fellow Arabs in these nations, and Hamas has channeled this frustration into support for launching air attacks on Israel. 

So far, Hamas has released hundreds of missiles toward Israel, but most of the missiles have been intercepted and very few have actually hit the nation because of Israel’s advanced missile defense, called the Iron Dome system. Israel’s Iron Dome Defense system has the capability to launch rockets that collide with enemy missiles before they land on civilians. 

For this reason, very few Israelis have been killed by the Palestinian airstrikes despite the fact that Hamas has launched about 3 times more rockets than Israel. 

However, Palestine has no such defense system. The majority of Israeli missile attacks have been successful in bringing down many of their strategic targets, ranging from covert militant Hamas bases to high-rise apartments. Already, Hamas has reported that close to 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli airstrikes. 

Palestinians survey the damage to their homes after recent Israeli airstrikes; AFP

2: When will tensions end?

A ceasefire between Hamas and Israel was negotiated on May 21st, two days ago. So far, this agreement has been withheld on both sides, but neither Palestinians nor Israelis are very optimistic about its future. Both believe that it is temporary and that fighting will resume in the near future.


TL;DR

  • Relations between Israel and Palestine have been tense since the creation of the two states about 70 years ago due to their differences in religion and fight for land. 
  • These tensions peaked for the first time in 8 years when Israeli police officers threw tear gas and stun grenades at people both inside and outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a sacred site for both Muslims and Jews
  • Immediately after, Hamas (a militant terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip portion of Palestine) and Israel launched air strike attacks at each other for 11 days, causing many more casualties and damage to Palestine due to its less advanced defense systems

Sources

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/05/10/what-is-happenin0in-jerusalem-israel-gaza-clashes-faq/

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/07/world/middleeast/evictions-jerusalem-israeli-palestinian-conflict-protest.html?name=styln-jerusalem-palestinian&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=Article&variant=show&is_new=false

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-57152419

https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israel-bombs-hamas-gaza-chiefs-home-fighting-enters-seventh-day-2021-05-15/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/10/dozens-injured-in-clashes-over-israeli-settlements-ahead-of-jerusalem-day-march

https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/05/10/al-aqsa-israel-jerusalem-palestinians/

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-57053074

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