Over 1,100 people died on both sides in the deadliest escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in decades.
The Palestinian group Hamas claimed responsibility for the rocket assault on Israel on Saturday, saying its members had launched more than 5,000 rockets.
Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel, blowing up parts of the country’s highly fortified separation fence and sending fighters into Israeli communities along the Gaza frontier.
The Israel-Palestine fighting continued at 7-8 points near Gaza more than 24 hours after the initial surprise attack, the Israeli military said Monday.
According to reports in the Israeli media, around 130 Israelis, including civilians and soldiers, have been taken into neighbouring Gaza as hostages.
‘We decided to put an end to all the crimes of the occupation (Israel), their time for rampaging without being held accountable is over,’ Hamas said in a statement.
‘We announce Operation Al-Aqsa Flood and we fired, in the first strike of 20 minutes, more than 5,000 rockets.’
Hamas ‘will face the consequences and responsibility for these events,’ an Israeli army statement read.
History of the Israel-Palestine War
Britain gained control of Palestine, after the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I.
The region at the time was was inhabited by a Jewish minority and Arab majority. In the 1920s through the 1940s, the number of Jewish immigrants to Palestine increased significantly, as many Jews fled persecution in Europe in the wake of the Holocaust.
The international community tasked Britain with creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine, which heightened tensions between the two groups.
In 1947, the United Nations voted to divide Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem under international administration.
The Jewish leadership embraced the plan, but the Arab side rejected it, and it was never implemented.
In 1948, unable to resolve the situation, British authorities withdrew and Jewish leaders proclaimed the founding of Israel.
Many Palestinians objected, and a war ensued. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes in what they call ‘Al Nakba,’ or ‘The Catastrophe.’
The Founding of the Hamas and the conflict intensifies
In 1987, Hamas, an acronym for ‘Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya’ (Islamic Resistance Movement), a political group with military capabilities, was launched by Palestinian cleric Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his aide Abdul Aziz al-Rantissi, as a political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, a transnational Sunni Islamist organisation.
Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, a military wing was created to pursue an armed struggle against Israel with the aim of liberating historic Palestine.
The Hamas movement was founded shortly after the start of the first ‘Intifada‘, an uprising against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.
It also offered social welfare programmes to Palestinian victims of the Israeli occupation.
Hamas has been in power in the Gaza Strip, a territory of about 365sq km (141sq miles), home to more than two million people, blockaded by Israel.
The group has been in power since 2007 after a brief war against Fatah forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Hamas is part of a regional alliance that also includes Iran, Syria and the group Hezbollah in Lebanon, which opposes US policies towards the Middle East and Israel.
What are the Hamas’ principles?
Unlike the PLO, Hamas does not recognize Israel’s statehood, but accepts a Palestinian state on 1967 borders.
Hamas violently opposes the Oslo peace accords negotiated by Israel and the PLO in the mid-1990s.
‘We shall not waive an inch of the Palestinian home soil no matter what the recent pressures are and no matter how long the occupation,’ the group said in 2017.
Hamas has pursued this aim through attacks on Israeli soldiers, settlers and civilians both in the occupied Palestinian territories and in Israel. The group as whole, or in some instances, its military wing, is designated as a ‘terrorist’ organisation by Israel, the United States, European Union, Canada, Egypt and Japan.
How the ‘intifidas’ change the course of Israel-Palestine relations
The two Palestinian uprisings against Israel, the first in the late 1980s and the second in the early 2000s, had a dramatic effect on Israeli-Palestinian relations.
The second ‘intifada’, in particular, is widely seen as marking the end of the 1990s-era negotiating process and ushering in a new, darker era in Israeli-Palestinian relations.
The first intifada was a largely spontaneous series of Palestinian demonstrations, mass boycotts and sporadic attacks (using rocks, Molotov cocktails, and occasionally firearms) on Israelis, which was met with Israeli counter-resistance causing more casualties on the Palestinian side.
The second, and far bloodier, intifada grew out of the collapse of the peace process in 2000.
US President Bill Clinton convened the Camp David Summit on July 11, 2000, bringing together Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasser Arafat for intensive final status negotiations, but the summit ended up being a failure.
Negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat broke down, and the intifada began shortly afterwards.
Typically, Israelis blame a conscious decision by Arafat to turn to violence as the cause of the second uprising, while Palestinians point to an intentionally provocative visit to the contested Temple Mount by Israeli politician (and soon to be Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon.
Breakdown of trust
While both Arafat and Sharon played some part, the central cause was likely a basic mistrust between the two sides that made war inevitable after peace talks broke down.
When Israeli soldiers fired on a series of Palestinian demonstrations, matters escalated. Palestinian militants subsequently took to broader violence, and the PA refused to rein them in.
Unlike with the first intifada, Palestinian tactics centered on suicide bombings, rocket attacks, and sniper fire, which Israel met with even deadlier force.
The conflict petered out in 2005, but not before about 1,000 Israelis and 3,200 Palestinians were killed.
The second intifada had a transformative effect on Israeli attitudes toward the conflict.
Skepticism of the peace process grew, complicating future efforts to arrive at a two-state agreement.
Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have pointed out that Israeli civilians had been killed by Hamas in the latest attacks.
Hamas said its fighters took several Israelis captive in the enclave, releasing videos of fighters dragging bloodied soldiers. It said senior Israeli military officers were among the captives.
Hamas also sent paragliders flying into Israel, the Israeli military said. The attack recalled a famous assault in the late 1980s when Palestinian fighters crossed from Lebanon into northern Israel on hang-gliders and killed six Israeli soldiers.
World leaders condemned the attack and the US said that it was sending warships and warplanes to Israel, as it pledged ‘unwavering’ support to its ally.
Barely weeks ago, in New York at the United Nations General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talked of the new possibilities for ‘normalizing’ ties with the Arab world
The new attacks seem to now have put paid to any rising hopes for a ‘New Middle East,’ connected and at peace.
As gun battles ensue and Israel launches a heavy-handed counter-offensive, the mounting death toll from the attack is a reminder of the intractable nature of the conflicts in the region and the extraordinary difficulty of transcending them.
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