A little over a week ago the world woke up to the unimaginably horrible sight of a terrorist attack conducted by Hamas in Israel. Since then, we have learned that around 1300 people were massacred in cold blood while several thousand others were injured by armed gunmen, who managed to pass through Israel’s defensive installations at the border with the Gaza Strip. The tragic event has since been compared to the Al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center that took place over two decades ago and is considered by many as the darkest day in the entire history of the State of Israel. Understanding exactly how such a thing could happen will surely take some time but in order to have as clear a picture as possible on the entire situation it is necessary to look deeply into the complicated and violent relationship between Israel and Hamas.
The Israel-Hamas conflict is a long-standing and deeply rooted issue that has garnered international attention and concern for decades. Rooted in historical, political, and territorial disputes, this ongoing conflict has had far-reaching consequences for the people in the region and global geopolitics.
To fully understand the Israel-Hamas crisis, we must first look back at the historical context that gave rise to the conflict. The roots of the issue can be traced to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Jewish immigrants, began moving to Palestine. This influx of Jewish settlers led to tension with the Arab population, resulting in various clashes and disputes.
The United Nations Partition Plan of 1947 aimed to divide Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, but it was met with resistance from the Arab nations, setting the stage for the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. This war ended with an armistice, leaving Israel in control of a significant portion of Palestinian territory, leading to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs. This period marked the beginning of the Palestinian refugee issue, which remains a central point of contention in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
One of the most critical aspects of the Israel-Hamas crisis is the control of territories, particularly the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The Gaza Strip, a narrow coastal enclave, has been a flashpoint for conflict and remains a stronghold for Hamas, a Palestinian militant group.
Hamas, formed in 1987 during the First Intifada, is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. The organisation combines political and military wings and is dedicated to the liberation of all of historic Palestine, advocating for an independent Palestinian state, and resisting Israeli occupation. Its militant activities, including rocket attacks on Israel, have been a constant source of tension in the region.
The West Bank, on the other hand, is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, led by Fatah. However, even within the West Bank, tensions exist between Fatah and Hamas, further complicating the situation.
One of the most distressing aspects of the Israel-Hamas conflict is the recurring cycle of violence. Periodic clashes and military operations have resulted in significant loss of life and suffering for both Israelis and Palestinians. The 2014 conflict, known as Operation Protective Edge, claimed over 2,200 Palestinian lives and 73 Israeli lives.
Before the tragic events of last Saturday, October 7th, the most recent major escalation of the conflict occurred in May 2021, when tensions boiled over into an 11-day war. This latest outbreak resulted in substantial destruction and casualties on both sides, with over 250 Palestinians and 12 Israelis killed. The scale of the devastation and the humanitarian crisis that ensued garnered widespread international attention.
Understanding the root causes of the Israel-Hamas crisis is essential for any efforts to resolve it. Some of the key underlying issues include:
Territorial Disputes: The ongoing struggle for control of territories and borders remains a core issue in the conflict. Israelis and Palestinians have competing claims to land, including East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.
Refugee Issue: The displacement of Palestinian refugees in 1948 and their descendants continues to be a point of contention. Palestinians demand the right of return, while Israel insists that it poses a demographic threat to its Jewish majority.
Political Divide: The division between Fatah and Hamas, both politically and territorially, has weakened the Palestinian leadership’s ability to negotiate with Israel effectively.
Security Concerns: Israel’s main concern is the security of its citizens. Security threats are often met with military responses, escalating the conflict.
Blockades and Sanctions: Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza since 2007, which, coupled with international sanctions, has crippled the region’s economy and restricted the movement of goods and people.
Efforts to address the Israel-Hamas crisis have taken various forms over the years, involving both regional and international players. The United Nations, the United States, and the European Union have been involved in peace initiatives, but achieving lasting peace has proven elusive.
The Oslo Accords, signed in the 1990s, were a significant step toward peace but have not resulted in a final resolution. Subsequent negotiations and peace plans, such as the Camp David Summit in 2000 and the Annapolis Conference in 2007, also fell short of a lasting agreement.
In 2021, the Abraham Accords, brokered by the United States, led to the normalisation of diplomatic relations between Israel and several Arab nations. While this initiative aimed to isolate Hamas and reduce its influence, it also highlighted the shifting dynamics in the region.
Additionally, Egypt has played a role in brokering ceasefires and negotiations between Israel and Hamas. However, while these temporary truces provide relief to the affected population, they do not address the core issues of the conflict.
The Israel-Hamas crisis is a deeply entrenched and multifaceted conflict that has had severe humanitarian, political, and security implications. The conflict has its roots in events that took place 75 years ago and one could argue that Hamas exists solely because of what the Palestinians refer to as Nakba — a word that literally means “catastrophe” and is used to refer to their displacement in 1948.
The path to peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been a complex and challenging one. It has become a lot more complicated by last week’s attack and achieving a lasting resolution requires addressing the fundamental issues at the heart of the conflict. Israel’s response to the recent crisis has been extremely hard, so far causing thousands of casualties on the Palestinian side and is likely to cause many more since, according to Israeli authorities, it is only the beginning of a long and difficult operation that has, as its final objective, the complete destruction of Hamas.
The only way to resolve the crisis in the short as well as the long term is through direct negotiations between the parties involved. A comprehensive peace agreement should address issues such as borders, refugees, security, and the status of Jerusalem. The international community should play a constructive role in facilitating negotiations and ensuring a fair and balanced process. All parties must adhere to international law and human rights standards. Violations on either side, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians and disproportionate use of force, should be investigated and addressed.
As this attack was unprecedented in scale, scope and sheer number of victims, Israel’s response is sure to be without precedent in magnitude and intensity. Many more will die before the parties involved will even consider sitting down for talks. Perhaps the most tragic aspect of this entire situation is the fact that innocent blood, both Israeli and Palestinian, will turn the land that both parties cherish and crave a dark red.