Militant attacks occurred across Israel starting on Saturday, Oct. 7. Hamas, a terrorist group and major political party in the Palestinian territory, governs more than two million people in the Gaza Strip. This group has historically been known for their hostility toward Israel and is funded by Iran. Hamas was founded by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 1987. In 1988, Hamas called for the destruction of Israel as a country, wanting to create an Islamic state in Palestine. The United States recognized Hamas as a terrorist organization in 1997. Gaza City is on a tiny stretch of land inhabited by nearly one million people, and has been subject to destruction and Israeli airstrikes long before Hamas’s recent attack. Due to this and harsh economic factors within the city, Gaza’s infrastructure was close to collapsing before the current attacks. According to the United Nations, between 2008-2020, Israeli casualties due to Hamas terrorist attacks totaled at about 6,500, including 251 deaths. During the same timeframe, Palestinian casualties at the hands of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) totaled over 100,000, including 5,590 deaths.
Hamas launched thousands of missile strikes on Saturday. Hamas fighters were no longer remaining just on the Gaza Strip, but were making their way into Southern Israel. Residents in Southern Israel were asked to hide in their homes at this time. Hamas was also taking hostages and the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, told Israelis in a public statement that they were at war. There are deaths on both sides.
The conflict involving Israel and Palestine dates back to 1947, when the United Nations approved a plan to divide Israel into a Jewish state and Palestine into an Arab state. The city of Jerusalem is historically controversial, as it is the Holy Land for Jewish people, Christians, and Muslims. Israel and Palestine ended up going to war. Israel won and took huge parts of Palestinian land, while also expelling large numbers of Palestinians from their homes. This created a very large refugee population of displaced Palestinians. At this point, Israel controlled all of the land except for Gaza. Israeli settlers started to move to the West Bank, a Palestinian territory, for religious and political reasons and due to cheap housing prices. Soldiers were also moving there to protect Israelis, making this an armed zone. Thus, Palestinians were being kicked out of what they considered their own land and were unable to have their own independent state. There was a Palestinian uprising in the 1980s which began with peaceful protests, but soon became violent. Israel responded with force which resulted in many casualties on both sides. Hamas was created around this time with the goal of destroying Israel.
The Oslo Accords were signed under Bill Clinton in 1993. This treaty dictates that one day Israel might withdraw from Palestinian territories, in order to allow for Palestine to be independent. There was a second uprising from 2000 to 2005, which proved to be much more deadly than the first. Israeli skepticism of Palestinians ever accepting peace grew rapidly. Israel forced Gaza to operate as a blockade and growing settlements in the West Bank continued to suffocate Palestinians. The fighting that still occurs has killed more Palestinians than Israelis. The will for peace is decreasing, but everyone understands that the conditions cannot remain as they currently are.
All of this points to the fact that the conflict between Israel and Palestine is deeply complex. The violence that we see today is not random, rather, it is an effect of unresolved issues between the two regions. All nations must focus our efforts on how to find peace and avoid any further bloodshed.