The world has once again turned its attention to the longstanding and volatile Israel-Palestine conflict as Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, initiated a surprise attack against Israel. The situation quickly escalated into a full-blown conflict, prompting Israel to declare war and take retaliatory measures. The cycle of violence in this region has deep historical roots, and it is essential to delve into the background of this conflict to understand the current situation.
Who is Hamas?
Hamas is a Islamic Resistance Movement, a Palestinian militant group that has been in existence since 1987. Founded by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas has its military wing known as the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, established in the early 1990s. Unlike the Palestinian Authority, Hamas does not recognize the existence of Israel and is committed to replacing it with a Islamic state encompassing the entire territory from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
Hamas’s violent tactics have led to its designation as a terrorist organization by the United States, and it has received support from Iran. Over the years, the group has employed tactics such as explosives, rockets, suicide bombings, and kidnappings to target Israel. Hamas gained political power when it won elections in Gaza in 2006, defeating Fatah, another Palestinian political party that still controls the West Bank.
The Current Conflict
The recent outbreak of violence initiated by Hamas caught Israel by surprise but comes after months of rising tensions. Key factors contributing to the escalation include:
- Al-Aqsa Mosque: Tensions had been simmering over incidents at Al-Aqsa Mosque, a sacred Muslim site in Jerusalem that is also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount. Violence at this location has frequently sparked clashes and protests.
- Evictions in East Jerusalem: In May 2021, proposed evictions of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem neighborhoods led to clashes between protesters and Israeli forces, which prompted Hamas to launch rocket attacks on Israeli cities.
- Escalating Clashes: In the months leading up to the surprise attack, clashes had increased between Israeli forces and Palestinians, particularly in the West Bank. The violence had already claimed numerous lives on both sides.
- Political Factors: The presence of hard-right elements in the Israeli government and domestic strife within Israel have contributed to a perception of weakness, further exacerbating tensions.
- Intelligence Failure: The current conflict has been partially attributed to a perceived Israeli intelligence failure, with some analysts suggesting that the government’s focus on domestic issues may have led to inadequate attention on Gaza.
The situation has wider international implications as Iran expressed support for Hamas and warned Arab countries attempting to normalize relations with Israel. Hezbollah, the militant group in Lebanon, also expressed solidarity with Hamas, raising concerns about a regional conflict. Hezbollah is viewed as a more formidable opponent to Israel, with advanced weaponry and close ties to Iran.
Israel has requested cooperation with the United States on sharing intelligence related to southern Lebanon, indicating a growing concern about the potential for regional escalation. The U.S. has sent warships to help Israel and has extended its full support of the nation.
On the other hand, Brazil wishes that the nations avoid further escalating the conflict, and condemns the attacks. “The Brazilian government reiterates its commitment to the two-state solution, with Palestine and Israel living together in peace and security, within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders. It also reaffirms that the mere management of the conflict is not a viable alternative for the referral of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and that the resumption of peace negotiations is urgent”.
The conflict between Palestinians and Israelis has deep historical, political, and territorial roots. It primarily revolves around competing claims to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which both Israelis and Palestinians consider their ancestral homeland. For decades, both sides have asserted their right to self-determination and statehood, leading to a struggle over borders, control of territory, and the status of Jerusalem.
The historical context includes the establishment of Israel in 1948, a development that displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and resulted in the creation of a large Palestinian refugee population. This event, known as the Nakba or “catastrophe,” remains a traumatic memory for many Palestinians. Over the years, disputes over territory, settlements in the West Bank, and control over East Jerusalem have continued to fuel tensions. Both Israelis and Palestinians have faced violence, with numerous conflicts and wars exacerbating the situation. While there have been attempts at peace negotiations and international interventions, a lasting resolution to the conflict remains elusive due to deep-seated mistrust, unresolved issues, and competing national aspirations.
This, obviously, is an oversimplification of the full story. To really know the causes, I encourage you to read more about the history of Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
The conflict between Hamas and Israel is a tragic and deeply complex situation with historical, political, and religious roots. The latest outbreak of violence is a stark reminder of the unresolved issues in the region and the urgent need for diplomatic efforts to achieve a lasting peace. The international community must engage actively in promoting dialogue and finding a sustainable solution to bring an end to the cycle of violence that has plagued this region for decades, otherwise, we all will continue to see nothing but hatred and bloodshed coming from that region.