GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 755, 12 October 2023

Israel-Palestine Conflict: The return of violence in Gaza
Rosemary Kurian, Rishita Verma, Shakthi Vigneshwaran, Shamini Velayutham and Rajika Kanungo

In the news
On 7 October, the Hamas launched a massive attack on Israel. Al Jazeera reported that 100 people were killed and dozens taken hostage in an assault combining gunmen crossing into Israel and a barrage of rockets fired from Gaza. 

On 8 October, Israel responded with air strikes, hitting multiple targets in Gaza. According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, 370 died in Israel’s retaliatory strikes. 

On 10 October, Israel said that it recaptured Gaza border areas from Hamas militants as the war’s death toll passed 3000. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, warned Israel’s military campaign was only the start of a sustained war to destroy Hamas and change the Middle East.  

On 11 October, a wartime unity government was formed in Israel to oversee the fight. The US President, Joe Biden, condemned the Palestinian militant group’s attack as “sheer evil” and stated that "there is no justification for terrorism."

Issues at large
First, a brief note on the Hamas, its support base and opposition. Hamas is one of the two main groups governing the West Bank, the other being Fatah. Since 2006, the Hamas has ruled over two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Hamas believes in violent armed resistance against Israel, while the Fatah-dominated Palestine Authority (PA) prefers a political approach. The majority of the countries in the West consider Hamas as a terrorist organization given its violent approach against Israel. Within Gaza, more than half the population supports Hamas’ leadership over Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the PA, according to a survey by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR). Iran is considered one of the strong supporters of the Hamas. 

Second, the strategic significance of the Gaza. A small enclave wedged between Egypt, Israel, and the Mediterranean Sea, the Gaza Strip is 365 square kilometres area with 40 kilometres of coastline. Roughly 60 times smaller than Israel, Gaza is inhabited by a majority Sunni Muslim population with a minority Christian group. With the dismantlement of Jewish settlements in 2005, it is fully inhabited by Palestinians. Gaza’s population is about two million people, making it one of the world’s most densely populated areas. It was governed by Britain under the Palestinian mandate between 1918 and 1948 and by Egypt from 1948 to 1967. Later, Israel captured both Gaza and the West Bank (from Jordan). Post the Oslo Accords in 1994, the Palestinians took over governance. In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza under international pressure. In 2006, Hamas took over after their election victory and has been controlling it ever since. Gaza is extremely dependent on Israel (and Egypt) for basic resources like food and electricity. 

Third, a brief note on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Palestine wants a state of its own and so does Israel, making the ‘Two-State Solution’ as an option supported by the former and negated by the latter. Tensions persist as Israel continues to build settlements in designated Palestinian regions while the latter fights for its state, making it extremely difficult to settle. Externally, the differences between the Israelis and Palestinians led to Israel fighting the Arab countries - Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon at various points. Over the years, through multiple wars, Israel has captured the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria. 

Fourth, agreements and intifadas. In 1978, the US mediation resulted in the signing of the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. The President of Egypt and the Prime Minister of Israel received the Nobel Prize for Peace for agreeing to work together. Later in 1993, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed an agreement at Oslo, that focussed on a two-state solution. The Oslo Accord of 1993 also resulted in establishing the PA and limited self-governance in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In 1995, both signed more agreements referred to as Oslo-II. During the 1980s and 1990s, the Palestinians also waged what was referred to as the Intifada-I and Intifada-II. Both uprisings were violent in terms of protests and state responses. They were aimed at self-determination, the withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlements.

Fifth, regional and global responses. Since the independence of Israel, the Arab world has witnessed numerous wars. Egypt normalised the relations with Camp David Accords, following which Jordan resumed its diplomatic relations. The Oslo Accords in 1993 and 1995 between Israel and Palestine were aimed at reaching an understanding between the two actors within. The recent Abraham Accords in 2020 signed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Morocco, Bahrain and Israel were aimed at regional normalization. Iran has backed Palestine and Hamas.

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