Israel and Hamas: the war explained.

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On Saturday, Israel was caught off guard by an orchestrated Hamas attack on several fronts resulting in the most amount of deaths sustained by the country in one day of bloodshed.

So far, 1,300 Israelis have been killed, and a “significant number” of citizens have been taken hostage, according to the Israeli Military.

The Palestinians have reportedly lost over 1,000 lives.

As part of their retaliation, Israel has cut off supplies of food, water and energy, which has led the United Nations, the European Union and President Biden to call for international laws to be upheld.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah which is a political party in Lebanon has taken the opportunity to send rockets into Israel, sparking a retaliation.

The Arab League has called on the world’s countries to “reinforce the two-state solution and create conducive conditions for the resumption of the peace process,” after it met on Sunday (8th October).

How did we get here?

The conflict between Israel and Palestine has been going on for decades, beginning with the Balfour Declaration in 1917.

At the time, Britain had a mandate over the Palestine region after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. It was only meant to be a transitional phase until Palestine was capable of independent rule.

After generations of antisemitism and displacement, the Jewish people needed a homeland safe from persecution, so the British government pledged to establish a “national home for the Jewish people,” giving commitments to the Zionist Organisation to provide a homeland in Palestine.

This led to the slow migration into Palestine and, ultimately, the events we see today.

(source: United Nations)

Despite the UN passing Resolution 181 (also known as the partition resolution) on the 29th November 1947, as soon as Britain left the region in May 1948, US President Truman recognised Israel as an independent state. A day later, the first Arab- Israeli war began.

Though Israel was successful at pushing back the Arab Nations, tensions in the region remained high, accumulating into the six-day war in 1967, where Israel gained the borders we now recognise today.

The Yom Kippur War came out of the disgruntlement of the Arab nations that Israel had not returned the territory gained from their previous war against each other, and on the 6th of October 1973, Egypt and Syria launched an attack on the Sinai peninsula and Golan Heights.

(Source: BBC)

The war ended when the UN Security Council passed Resolution 338, which called for all sides “to cease all firing and terminate all military activity immediately.”

Though the war only lasted around three weeks, the death toll was immense, 8,500 Syrian and Egyptian soldiers were killed, along with 6,000 Israelis.

On the 1st of December 1987, the Palestinians undertook their first Intifada against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, beginning the Conflict that we see playing out before us today.

The closest the region got to peace was with the Oslo Accords in 1993.

In it was the agreement of the Israeli government to withdraw from occupied territories and the creation of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and the West Bank.

Who are Hamas?

Hamas grew out of the first Intifada and at the time was seen as the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza.

During the early years the organisation remained a militant group, partaking in many terrorist attacks throughout the years.

It wasn’t until its successful election win in Gaza against the Fatah party in 2006 that Hamas became the governing body for the Palestinians in Gaza.

Hamas has a relative amount of autonomy over the Gaza strip but with Israel controlling movement via land air and sea, it is hindered in what it can achieve as a nation.

It is however a well organised group, with relations to senior figures throughout the Middle East.

Two state solution

The two-state solution is as old as the conflict itself, first being introduced back when the state of Israel was still just a concept.

Unfortunately, a series of events has led to the implementation of the two-state solution being put in the background of international affairs.

Despite resolutions being adopted by the UN and International Condemnation of the current humanitarian crisis in the region, the idea of either side agreeing to the two-state solution is slim.

Palestinian commentator Marwan Bishara wrote on the 12th of September 2023: “Thirty years on, it is doubtful the charade of Oslo can continue much longer,” and that “apartheid cannot be the alternative to the two-state solution; certainly not in the long run.”

(source: United Nations)

Conclusion

Despite efforts to find a solution to allow both communities to exist as a state, a particular set of circumstances meant that it was never possible to implement.

The Idea of Peace in the region never had the room to grow.

It took a day after President Truman recognised Israel as a state in a press release for Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria to declare war- many Israeli people had just survived the Holocaust.

The Palestinians felt betrayed by the recognition of Israel as a state; despite the adoption of the UN resolution, there was no recognition of the state of Palestine.

Since then, the state of Israel has had to defend its borders from several invasion attempts and terrorist attacks from Hamas and surrounding nations. Collectively, the Israeli people, with the generational trauma of their existence being under threat.  

The state of Palestine, though, has gone through decades of illegal occupation of its land and apartheid, leading to the generational trauma of the Palestinians, causing them to distrust and, for some, despise the Israelis.

War on the 50th year anniversary has torn to shreds any idea of peace in the region.

It should be made clear that Israel is only responding to the declaration of war by Hamas when they crossed the barricade, slaughtering hundreds of civilians and taking over a hundred hostages.

However, U.N Human Rights Chief Volker Turk said on Tuesday 10th, October: “Imposition of sieges that endanger the lives of civilians by depriving them of goods essential for their survival is prohibited under international humanitarian law,” in response to the Israeli government cutting off food, water, and energy supplies to the Gaza Strip.

It doesn’t seem that either side is ready to come to a ceasefire anytime soon, and the possibility of a two-state solution looks even more unlikely than ever.

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