Hamas’s surprise raid on Israel last weekend once again fanned the flames of conflict in Gaza, a strip of land that has gone through countless storms for nearly 60 years.
The conflict between Israel and Hamas broke out after a raid by the Islamic militant group on October 7, leaving at least 2,400 people dead and nearly 10,000 injured. After the initial shock, Israel is now using all its strength to launch a fierce response against the Gaza Strip, causing this land to once again be engulfed in tragedy and fire.
The Gaza Strip is a small strip of land, with an area of about 365 square kilometers, bordering the borders of Israel and Egypt as well as the Mediterranean Sea. This is one of two Palestinian territories. The remaining area is the West Bank controlled by Israel, including East Jerusalem, areas bordering Jordan and the Dead Sea.
Gaza was once part of the Ottoman Empire before being occupied by Britain from 1918 to 1948 and then by Egypt from 1948 to 1967. After the 6-day war in 1967, Israel defeated the Arab coalition, sending troops in—complete control of the Gaza Strip as well as the West Bank.
During the 38 years of controlling Gaza, Israel has built 21 Jewish settlements on land Palestinians claim as their territory and considers them part of a future state. This has caused deep resentment among Palestinians, sparking a growing wave of protests.
Tensions and violence lasted for many years, reaching a climax with the stabbing and killing of four Palestinians by an Israeli military truck at the Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on December 9, 1987, sparking large protests and protests. Clashes between Palestinian youth and the Israeli army.
This was the source of the intifada, the first anti-Israel uprising, lasting nearly 4 years by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The bloody clashes caused Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabi to exclaim in 1992, “I want Gaza to sink into the sea, but that is impossible, so a solution must be found.”
A negotiated solution was promoted by Israel with leader Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), leading to the Oslo peace treaty in 1993. According to the agreement, the PLO recognized the State of Israel; in return, Tel Aviv also recognized the State of Israel. Recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and a partner in the negotiations.
The treaty recognizes the “Palestinian right to self-determination” and gives them the right to manage the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as resolve important issues such as the border between Israel and Palestine or Israel’s military presence in the Palestinian territories.
In 1994, the Palestinian Authority took control of the Gaza Strip, while the Israeli army remained present in this land. Violence spread in the region after the second Palestinian intifada began in 2000, with the rise of Hamas, which advocated the use of violence against Israel.
In response, Israel began building security fences between the Gaza Strip and its territory and at the border with Egypt. However, the intifada movement prompted Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2003 to propose a plan to withdraw troops and dismantle the country’s settlements in the Gaza Strip.
In 2005, due to domestic and international pressure, Israel gave up control of the Gaza Strip, withdrawing all soldiers and more than 8,000 settlers from the area. Israel’s decision to withdraw has created conditions for Hamas to emerge as a major political faction in Gaza, competing with Fatah, a force loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, and the PLO.
A year after Israel withdrew, Hamas defeated Fatah, winning the Palestinian legislative elections. When Fatah did not recognize the election results, a major clash between the two sides broke out, with Hamas winning. No elections have been held in Gaza since then.
In 2007, Hamas overthrew the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and took control of the entire Gaza Strip. This was also the time when Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza on land, in the air and at sea to prevent the threat from Hamas.
The United Nations criticized Israel’s blockade for “destroying livelihoods” and hindering development in the Gaza Strip. The International Committee of the Red Cross says the blockade violates the Geneva Accords, something Israeli officials deny.
Tel Aviv argues that the blockade measures are intended to control the Gaza border, prevent Hamas from growing and protect Israelis from rocket attacks that the group and the armed forces in Gaza regularly carry out.
The Gaza Strip has not been silent since then. In November 2008, the Israeli army launched a raid campaign into the Gaza Strip, breaking the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement between Tel Aviv and militant groups. The breakdown of the agreement led to an increase in raids between the Gaza Strip and Israel. A month later, Israel launched a three-week military campaign in Gaza, killing more than 1,300 people.
During these three weeks, Israel bombed the Gaza Strip heavily, causing much infrastructure to be destroyed and a UN headquarters in Gaza to be bombed. Hamas and Palestinian armed groups also continuously fired rockets at Israel in response.
In November 2012, Israel launched an eight-day attack on Gaza, starting with a drone strike that killed senior Hamas military commander Ahmed Jaabari. The two sides fought fiercely, leaving more than 100 people dead, including 2 Israeli soldiers and 4 civilians.
The 2012 conflict ended relatively quickly thanks to strong diplomatic intervention by the Egyptian government under President Mohammed Morsi.
Israel’s longest and most intense campaign in the Gaza Strip took place in the summer of 2014 when Israeli forces launched a 50-day war against Palestinian militant groups. More than 2,000 Palestinians were killed, more than 7,000 homes were destroyed, and 118 UN facilities in Gaza were damaged. The conflict also left 67 Israeli soldiers, 5 Israeli civilians and a Thai citizen dead.
After many years of only using rockets and mortars with limited range, Palestinian militant groups in Gaza have shown the ability to upgrade their weapons to fire deep into Israeli territory with rockets that can reach Jerusalem and Israel. Tel Aviv.
In 2021, the Gaza Strip is once again engulfed in conflict. After Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group fired rockets at the holy Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Israel launched an airstrike campaign, killing over 250 people in Gaza. The conflict also left 14 civilians and 1 Israeli soldier dead. This clash ended after 11 days with a ceasefire brokered by Egypt.
Violent clashes and Israeli blockade efforts have made the lives of more than 2 million people in the Gaza Strip increasingly tragic. The United Nations estimates that Israel’s blockade cost the Palestinian economy nearly $17 billion in nearly a decade.
Gisha, an Israeli non-governmental organization, said the Gaza Strip is “one of the most populous territories in the world.” Gaza’s area is twice as large as the US capital, Washington, but its population is three times larger. This area is much smaller than the West Bank, which covers an area of more than 5,600 square kilometers.
The population of the Gaza Strip is very young. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that the region is home to about one million children, accounting for nearly half of the population. Nearly 40% of people living in Gaza are under 15 years old, according to the CIA.
More than 1.4 million residents of the Gaza Strip are Palestinian refugees, according to the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). About 80% of the population relies on international aid to survive or access basic services. Living conditions in Gaza are dire, with 95% of the population lacking access to clean water and frequent electricity shortages.
Gaza imports mainly food, consumer goods and construction materials from Israel and Egypt. Most of Gaza’s fresh fruit and vegetables come from farms along the Israeli border.
Despite having a long-standing power plant, Gaza still relies heavily on electricity from Israel. This land has underground water sources, but many wells have been destroyed because of pollution and seawater intrusion. More than 90% of the water in the Gaza Strip’s aquifer is undrinkable.
Defense Minister Israel Gallant announced on October 9 that the Gaza Strip would be “completely surrounded” in the early stages of the war, with all food supplies, clean water, electricity and fuel cut off.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country would “respond with unprecedented intensity,” while Palestinian operations official Ghassan Alian said the Hamas offensive had “opened the door to the region.” prison” with this armed group.
But as Israel prepares for a major campaign to “erase” Hamas, civilians in the Gaza Strip still have to withstand continuous air strikes in a situation of extreme deprivation.
“No one feels safe. Attacks happen anytime, anywhere, without warning. My husband, my wife and two children are very scared. Extremely scared,” Jason Shawa, 55 years old, a Palestinian living in Gaza, said.