After clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem, rockets fired by militants in Gaza into Israel prompted a series of Israeli airstrikes in the most tense fighting in the region since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza.
Subsequent clashes between Arabs and Jews in other mixed cities across Israel, as well as violent confrontations in the West Bank, have added a layer of volatility to the conflict not seen in more than two decades — particularly in the Israeli town of Lod, which has seen several nights of confrontations even after additional security forces were deployed.
Here is a look at the ongoing conflict and the history of confrontations between Israel and Palestinian militants.
What sparked this latest conflict?
The current eruption of violence began a month ago in Jerusalem. A focal point of clashes was Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, on a hilltop compound revered by both Jews and Muslims, between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters over a legal case in which eight Palestinian families face losing their occupied East Jerusalem homes to Jewish settlers.
On Monday, after a weekend of sporadic violence, hundreds of Palestinians were hurt in clashes with Israeli security forces at the Al-Aqsa compound, Islam's third holiest site. After demanding Israel withdraw its security forces from the compound, Hamas fired a barrage of rockets from Gaza into Israel. Israel hit back with airstrikes on Gaza.
Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, while Palestinians want East Jerusalem, which includes sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, to be the capital of a future state.
How does Gaza factor into the current situation?
Large numbers of Palestinians who fled or were forced out of what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding Israel's creation ended up in Gaza, which came under Egypt's control during that war.
Israel captured Gaza, along with the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The Palestinians want all three territories to form a future state.
The first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, erupted in Gaza in 1987 — the same year Hamas was founded — and later spread to the other occupied territories. The Oslo peace process in the 1990s established the Palestinian Authority and gave it limited autonomy in Gaza and parts of the occupied West Bank.
Israel withdrew its troops and Jewish settlements from Gaza in 2005, after a second and far more violent intifada.
Who controls Gaza currently?
The militant group Hamas won a majority of seats in a Palestinian legislative election in 2006. That triggered a power struggle with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, culminating in a week of clashes in 2007 that left Hamas in control of Gaza.
Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade after the Hamas takeover. Israel — which controls Gaza's airspace, territorial waters, population registry and commercial crossings — says the blockade is needed to keep Hamas and other militant groups from importing arms. Rights groups say the blockade is a form of collective punishment.
The closures, along with years of misrule and Hamas's long-running feud with the Palestinian Authority, have devastated Gaza's economy. Unemployment hovers at around 50 per cent, power outages are frequent and the tap water is badly polluted.
Palestinians face heavy movement restrictions that make it difficult to travel abroad for work, study or to visit family.
How have past conflicts between Israel and Hamas played out?
The ongoing conflict is the fourth major confrontation between Israel and Hamas since 2008, although there have also been sporadic flare-ups. The Islamic Jihad militant group has also been involved in this current conflict.
The worst conflict so far between Israel and Hamas — which is considered to be a terrorist group by many countries, including Canada — was the 2014 war. The kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas led to a seven-week war which resulted in as many as 2,200 Palestinians killed, according to the United Nations, with more than half believed to be civilians; 73 people were killed on the Israeli side, 67 of them military.
Israel has come under international criticism for civilian casualties during three previous wars in Gaza, home to more than two million Palestinians. It says Hamas is responsible for endangering civilians by placing military infrastructure in civilian areas and launching rockets from them.
Israel's airstrikes and incursions into Gaza have left vast swaths of destruction, with entire neighbourhoods reduced to rubble and thousands forced to shelter in United Nations schools and other facilities. Israel says it makes every effort to avoid civilian casualties and accuses Hamas of using people in Gaza as human shields.
As of Friday, the Israeli military said more than 2,000 rockets had been fired from Gaza into Israel since the start of the current conflict. It said around half of them were intercepted by Israeli missile defence systems and 350 fell in Gaza — which the military said has resulted in some of the deaths in Gaza.
The range of these rockets has steadily increased in recent years, with some striking as far as major metropolitan areas like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and beyond. While the majority have been intercepted by Israeli missile defences or land in open areas, they sow widespread fear and can bring life to a standstill.
Earlier this year, the International Criminal Court launched an investigation into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories. It is expected to scrutinize the actions of both Israel and Palestinian militants in the 2014 war.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the move as "a dark day for truth and justice." While Israel is not a member of the court and does not recognize its jurisdiction, Palestinians have been recognized as a member state and requested an investigation.
How have previous conflicts concluded?
Previous conflicts drew to a standstill with the help of diplomatic intervention from Egypt and the United States. Hamas in recent years observed a shaky, informal ceasefire with Israel, trading calm for an easing of the blockade and hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from Qatar that was delivered regularly through Israel's Erez crossing.
Any larger resolution to the conflict appears further out of reach than ever. There have been no substantive peace talks in recent years, and Israel's expansion of settlements and its plans to eventually annex parts of the West Bank have drawn serious criticisms from rights groups.
With files from CBC News and Reuters
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