By Dominic DeGrinney, Newswire Intern
The fighting between Israel and Hamas, which launched an unprecedented surprise attack on Oct. 7, is the latest in nearly seven decades of conflict between Israelites and Palestinians that has further destabilized regional security in the Middle East.
The conflict, which has been criticized by human rights groups for breaking humanitarian law, began after Hamas militants stormed from the blockaded Gaza Strip into Israeli towns, killing dozens and abducting others in a surprise attack on civilians.
In retaliation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mobilized 360,000 army soldiers and bombed the Gaza Strip with more than 6,000 munitions, while Israel has imposed a total blockade of the strip, denying it food and other essential resources. The death toll so far from the conflict has risen to at least 1,400 people in Israel and 2,700 people in Gaza.
Hamas formed in 1987 after the First Intifada, which was a series of Palestinian protests and violent riots following the killing of four Palestinians by an Israeli vehicle. The group’s roots are in the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and remains supported by other groups inside the Gaza Strip.
The conflict between Israel and Hamas has existed for decades as tensions between these groups continually escalate from longstanding territorial disputes.
The conflict has challenged Israeli demands for security and focused their efforts on the elimination of Hamas infrastructure in the region. Hamas officials cited longstanding tensions, including a conflict over the storming of the Al-Aqsa mosque by Israeli police in 2021 and expansions of Jewish settlements on lands Palestinians claimed for a potential future state.
Now, Israel has planned a possible invasion of the Gaza Strip in order to permanently oust Hamas, a move which may result in the death of many more Palestinian civilians. Israel is also considering a possible attack on the northern border from Lebanon, where another religious fundamentalist group called Hezbollah has threatened to invade and has fired missiles at Israeli bases.
“Hamas exploited the advantage of surprise with astonishing success. Its advantage now is the ability to scatter and hide within the protective shield of Gaza’s civilian population,” Bruce Hoffman, an international politics expert with the Council on Foreign Relations, said.
“Also, as an authoritarian regime that has not held elections in Gaza for 15 years, it can coerce the population into cooperation and does not have to worry about public opinion,” he said.
Recently, Israel has continued to bombard the Gaza Strip, and the area’s Interior Ministry stated that an Israeli airstrike killed five individuals and wounded at least 15 others in the southern city of Rafah. An attack yesterday on a Gaza City hospital killed hundreds. Hamas has also received condemnation for their actions, including the killing of at least 260 civilians for a strike on the Tribe of Nova music festival.
A United Nations Commission of Inquiry said it has been “collecting and preserving evidence of war crimes committed by all sides” since the violence started.
Israel has stated that they had no knowledge of the attack, while Hamas claimed to have successfully fooled the Israeli Defense Forces into believing it did not want a confrontation. There have also been intensifying diplomatic efforts from outside groups who are pressuring Middle Eastern governments like Egypt to open humanitarian corridors for civilians to flee to.
President Joe Biden is making a wartime visit to Israel to show his support for the nation. He also plans to meet with the leaders of Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority government in Jordan during the trip.
“Across the world, everyone regardless of faith wishes that the situation de-escalate, though Hamas as an unelected group of terror with de-facto control over Gaza seems bent on seeing Israel attempt an invasion,” Hoffman said.