The recent escalation of violence in the Israel-Hamas conflict has left many around the world seeking answers. Here, we provide crucial information and context to help you make sense of the ongoing situation.
What is Hamas?
Hamas is a Palestinian Islamist militant group that governs the Gaza Strip. It is openly committed to the destruction of Israel and has engaged in multiple wars with Israel since taking control of Gaza in 2007. In the periods between these wars, Hamas has either launched rockets at Israel directly or permitted other groups to do so. Israel has responded with airstrikes and, in collaboration with Egypt, imposed a blockade on Gaza since 2007, citing security reasons.
Hamas is designated as a terrorist group by Israel, the United States, the European Union, the UK, and other nations. The group receives funding, weapons, and training from Iran.
What is the Gaza Strip?
The Gaza Strip is a narrow territory measuring 41 kilometers (25 miles) in length and 10 kilometers (6 miles) in width. It is situated between Israel, Egypt, and the Mediterranean Sea and is home to approximately 2.3 million people. Gaza has one of the world’s highest population densities.
Israel controls the airspace above Gaza and its coastal waters, as well as the movement of people and goods through border crossings. Egypt also controls the passage of people and goods through its border with Gaza. About 80% of Gaza’s population depends on international aid, with approximately one million people relying on daily food assistance, according to the United Nations.
What is the Significance of Palestine in This Conflict?
Historically, the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and Israel were all part of the region known as Palestine since Roman times. These areas have also held significance for Jewish history and are considered by Jews as their ancient homeland.
In 1948, Israel was declared a state, but the use of the term “Palestine” persists among those who do not acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. Palestinians also use the name “Palestine” as an overarching term that encompasses the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
Why Are Israel and Hamas Currently in Conflict?
Tensions between Israel and Hamas have been ongoing, but the recent attack by Hamas militants on Saturday caught many by surprise. Hamas launched thousands of rockets at Israel, and dozens of militants breached the border, entering Israeli communities and causing civilian casualties. Israel responded with immediate airstrikes targeting militant sites in Gaza.
This attack represents the most ambitious operation ever launched by Hamas from Gaza and one of the most serious cross-border assaults Israel has faced in decades.
Is This a Failure of Israeli Intelligence?
Many have questioned whether Israeli intelligence agencies, known for their extensive resources and networks, failed to anticipate or respond adequately to this attack. Despite significant intelligence assets within Palestinian militant groups and neighboring countries, the breach of the Gaza-Israel border took Israel by surprise.
Militants managed to breach or bypass security measures, including surveillance cameras, ground-motion sensors, and barbed-wire barriers designed to prevent such infiltrations.
What Could Happen Next?
Hamas’s militant commander, Mohammed Deif, has called on Palestinians and other Arabs to join the operation against the Israeli occupation. The key question now is whether Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, or other regions will heed this call.
Israel is concerned about the potential for a multi-front war, which could involve groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon. On a recent occasion, Hezbollah launched missiles at northern Israel, although no casualties were reported. The Israeli military has increased troop deployments, conducted intense airstrikes on Gaza, and indicated its readiness for a ground operation in the territory. The situation remains highly volatile and uncertain.