Are you like me and don’t really understand the situation in Gaza? Here.
The coverage of the atrocities that are happening in Israel and Palestine at the moment are pervasive throughout the media, my Twitter feed, my Facebook and conversation with friends. However, despite spending the last two months nodding stoically, acknowledging how truly harrowing the situation is and really wanting to understand, I was always under the impression that Hamas is a blended chickpea dip.
I didn’t understand. I knew nothing about the history, geography and context to really grasp what was going on. I found that I was not alone after my wonderful flatmate sent me the following message:
“I have no idea what’s going on in Gaza. Who’s side am I on?
Zayn tweeted #freepalestine so I’m guessing that.”
I realised that using 1D members as your politico-ethical compass is far from ideal so spent about two hours doing some research trying to break it down so we can actually understand what’s happening in the world.
I’ve published it for anyone else who may be struggling with the same problem as we were (are).
If there’s anything in here that’s wrong, please let me know. And it goes without saying that this is not inclusive of anywhere near all of the factors contributing to the current crisis, but a simple synopsis.
A Dummies Guide to Gaza
Who and Where?
Palestine: This is a sovereign state recognised by the UN, it gained independence in 1988. It claims sovereignty over the Palestian territories, which are currently:
The Palestinian Authority runs some parts of it, Hamas run other parts of it (namely Gaza).
Israel: Shares borders with Syria, Lebanon, Jordon and Palestine. It’s a Jewish majority state – becoming so after the 2nd world war
Hamas: they are a Sunni Islamic organisation who have governed the Gaza strip since 2007. Hamas is designated as terrorists by Israel, the US, the EU, Jordon, Egypt and Japan. However other places, such as Iran, Russia and China, they are not.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ): A Palestinian militant organisation, labelled by US, a lot of Europe, Japan and Australia as terrorists. Iran supports them financially a lot, they are gaining in popularity mainly due to these funds. The relationship between Hamas has typically been tense and rivalrous.
Israeli Defense Forces (IDF): The well-stocked military arm if Israel. Most Israeli go through compulsory military service.
What’s all the tension?
Fighting has been happening in this area for decades because, after WW2 and the Holocaust, Jewish people felt like they wanted their own country. They were given a large part of Palestine, which then became Israel.
However Palestinian Arabs living there and in neighbouring countries weren’t happy about it; particularly because it was right by Jerusalem, which has religious significance for Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Both Israel and Palestine claim Jerusalem as their capital.
More war came after this and Gaza was controlled by Egypt, the West Bank controlled by Jordon.
In 1967, more significant fighting broke out called the Six Day War between Israel, Egypt and Syria. The result of this fighting was that Israel won a large land war, taking control of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In 1994, Israel granted the right of self-governance to Gaza through the Palestinian Authority and since 2007 Gaza has been governed by Hamas.
There was an Israeli military presence in Gaza until 2005.
So, in a hugely reductionist nutshell:
Gaza is currently Palestinian, under Hamas authority. Hamas refuse to recognise Israel as a country and wants Palestinians to be able to return to their old home and will use violence to achieve its aims. Consequently, since 2005 Israel has held Gaza under a blockade and controls its borders. It’s been very tense for a very long time.
So why is it so violent now?
There have been a serious of events that escalated to cause the current scenario, in an already strained environment.
3 Israeli teenagers (one of whom has American citizenship) were hitch hiking in the West Bank and were murdered.
Israel accused Hamas and they denied it. As a reaction to this, Israel began arresting Palestinians and consequently, Gaza launched missiles at Israel and Israel started dropping bombs on Gaza.
A Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and burned to death in apparent retaliation. The death triggered riots in East Jerusalem, a largely Palestinian area. Three Israelis were arrested and charged with his death. Violence then escalated and PIJ launched really powerful missiles against towards Israel. The biggest ever. Civilians were injured and one killed.
The fighting continues, there is no shelter for civilians in Gaza and Egypt is refusing to open its borders for refugees. About 1300 people have been killed in Gaza since this spate of fighting began – the UN estimates that around 80% of these are civilians and now around 100k civilians in Gaza are without water. Because Gaza has been under Isreali watch for so long, it’s medical facilities are not satisfactory to deal with the amount of casualties.
Israeli soldiers are also losing lives (on Monday in particular), with 53 soldiers killed so far:
This break out of fighting is notable because:
- It came just months after the latest peace talks collapsed
- Civilians are being killed, with a recent school shelling in Gaza
- The technology being used is more advanced than previous periods of violence. For example, Hamas have drones to fire missiles and gather intelligence and can reach further within Israel than previously.
- The EU and UN are pressing for ceasefire, but neither Israel or Hamas are willing to stop the fighting.
Tolls to date:
- 3,289 targets in Gaza struck by Israel
- 1,221 Palestinian deaths
- 2,612 rockets launched at Israel from Gaza
- 56 Israeli deaths
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