The spark that ignited the fire
The latest escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza began on May 10, when Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, fired rockets at Jerusalem. This was in response to Israeli police storming the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a holy site for Muslims and Jews, and clashing with Palestinian worshippers. The police action came after weeks of rising tensions and protests over the planned evictions of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem that is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians.
The deadly toll of the fighting
Since then, the conflict has spiraled into a deadly exchange of fire, with both sides launching hundreds of airstrikes and rockets at each other. According to health officials, at least 212 people have been killed in Gaza, including 61 children and 36 women, and more than 1,400 have been wounded. In Israel, 10 people have been killed, including two children, and hundreds have been injured. The United Nations has warned that the situation is heading towards a full-scale war, with a humanitarian crisis looming in Gaza.
The international response and mediation efforts
The international community has expressed alarm and urged both sides to de-escalate and end the violence. The United States, Israel’s closest ally, has repeatedly affirmed its support for Israel’s right to defend itself, while also calling for a ceasefire and expressing concern for civilian casualties. President Joe Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and dispatched a senior diplomat to the region to mediate. Other countries, such as Egypt, Qatar, Turkey and Russia, have also tried to broker a truce, but so far without success.
The internal challenges facing both sides
The conflict has also exposed the internal divisions and challenges facing both Israelis and Palestinians. In Israel, the violence has triggered mob attacks and clashes between Jewish and Arab citizens, raising fears of a civil war within the country. The unrest has also complicated the political situation, as Netanyahu’s rivals suspended their efforts to form a new government that could end his 12-year rule. In Gaza, Hamas faces growing pressure from its population, which suffers from poverty, unemployment and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt. Hamas also competes with Abbas’ Fatah party, which controls the West Bank and has postponed the first Palestinian elections in 15 years.
The root causes of the conflict
The current crisis is the latest episode in a long and bitter conflict that dates back to the creation of Israel in 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homes. Since then, the two sides have fought several wars and failed to reach a lasting peace agreement. The core issues of the conflict include the status of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees, the borders and settlements of a future Palestinian state, and the security and recognition of Israel.
The prospects for peace
Despite the calls for calm and the mediation efforts, there seems to be no end in sight for the violence. Both sides have vowed to continue their attacks until their demands are met. Netanyahu has said that Israel will not stop until it restores deterrence and security for its citizens. Hamas has said that it will not cease fire until Israel ends its aggression and lifts the siege on Gaza. Meanwhile, the civilian population on both sides suffers the consequences of the war. The question remains: how long will this cycle of violence last, and what will it take to break it?