Current war deadliest in 50 years, with more than 2,000 people killed on both sides
IDF won’t rule out Gaza ground invasion: ‘All options on the table’
Featured VideoWarning: Video contains graphic details | Israel Defence Forces spokesperson Jonathan Conricus tells The National’s Adrienne Arsenault that the military hasn't ruled out a Gaza ground invasion and that it’s now fighting on three fronts after rockets were launched from Syria.
The all-out war between Israel and Hamas, the militant group in control of the Gaza Strip, is the latest in more than 70 years of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that has destabilized economies, divided the Middle East and left thousands of civilians injured or dead.
The current fight has been the deadliest in half a century, with more than 2,000 people killed on both sides. More than a quarter of a million people have been also been made homeless in Gaza, according to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees.
The war is expected to escalate. Here is a look at the ongoing conflict and the history of confrontations between Israel and Palestinian militants.
What sparked this current war?
Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that holds power in the Gaza Strip, launched a stunning surprise attack on Israel early Saturday, prompting Israel to declare war.
Hamas militants said their invasion was retribution for worsening conditions for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. In negotiations with Qatar, Egypt and the UN, Hamas has pushed for Israeli concessions that could loosen the 16-year blockade on the Gaza Strip and prevent a financial crisis from getting worse.
Officials with Hamas also referred to a fight over the Al-Aqsa mosque site in Jerusalem, which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews. Disputes over the site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, have resulted in violence before — including a violent 11-day war between the two sides in 2021.
During the initial assault that began at dawn Saturday, Hamas fighters killed more than 1,200 Israelis and took scores of hostages — a move that potentially complicates any Israeli response.
More than 2,700 people were wounded, with 155 soldiers among the dead.
After declaring war on Sunday, Israel then vowed to cut off food, water, electricity and other supplies to the Gaza Strip in what would amount to a total siege of one of the most impoverished and densely populated territories in the world.
Doctor in Gaza says supply blockade means 'it's a mess everywhere'
Featured VideoDr. Hammam Alloh, an internal medicine physician in Gaza City, says Israel's blockade means doctors must constantly manage shortages of drugs, blood products, fresh water and power.
Israeli warplanes bombed Gaza repeatedly overnight ahead of a possible ground offensive to root out Hamas. A ground invasion is possible, according to Israel Defence Forces.
In all, the Health Ministry in Gaza says more than 1,050 people have been killed and more than 5,100 injured. An estimated 250,000 people were made homeless — many huddling on streets or in schools.
How does Gaza factor into the situation?
During another war in 1948, large numbers of Palestinians fled or were forced out of the area now known as Israel. They ended up in Gaza, which was then controlled by Egypt.
In the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Israel captured Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem — three territories Palestinians would like to see merged into one state.
The first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, erupted in Gaza in December 1987 — the same year Hamas was founded. The push spread to the other occupied territories.
In the 1990s, the Oslo peace process, which began with talks between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, 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 currently controls Gaza?
Hamas is the Palestinian militant group that controls the Gaza Strip. It has been in power in the territory since 2007, after winning a majority of seats in a Palestinian legislative election the previous year. There has not been an election in Gaza since.
Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after the Hamas takeover. Israel — which controls Gaza's airspace, territorial waters, population registry and commercial crossings — has said the blockade is necessary to keep Hamas and other militant groups from importing arms.
Rights groups said the blockade is a form of collective punishment, which is illegal under international law.
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 about 50 per cent, power outages are frequent and the tap water is badly polluted.
Palestinians face heavy restrictions on their movement that make it difficult to travel abroad for work, study or to visit family.
How have previous conflicts ended?
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.
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