Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalates into all out war
“There is nothing new under the sun.” The old adage certainly describes the current escalation of conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians in Israel and the adjoining Gaza Strip, currently managed by the militant Islamic group, Hamas. This past week has seen the most current flareup of hostilities. What triggered this current escalation? Since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, there have been three full scale wars and numerous skirmishes lasting days or weeks. The current violence was triggered by some heavy- handed actions by the Israeli police and aggressive Jewish nationalists. Israeli police blocked off the Damascus Gate, popular as a gathering place for Arabs during Ramadan. The action sparked protests. Also, an attempt by Jewish settlers to evict longtime Arab residents of Sheikh Jarrah, an Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem inflamed the situation, leading to violent clashes with Israeli police. Palestinians resent the Jewish settlements in areas they have previously occupied. They feel like they are literally being pushed into the Mediterranean Sea and that they have no recourse than to fight back, often literally with sticks and stones.
This current escalation of hostilities between Israel and Palestine is now being fought on two fronts: the border between the two as well as within Israel itself as Israelis and Palestinians within Israel are erupting into street violence. Palestinian citizens of Israel have long resented being treated as second-class citizens, and it only takes a spark to ignite these simmering resentments into open warfare. Hamas is attacking Israel daily with rockets while Israel is responding with aerial bombing attacks targeting Hamas residences and its extensive tunnel network. Inevitably there are civilian casualties on both sides.
Israel has created an “iron dome” missile defense system which very effectively defuses most incoming missile strikes from Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Israel has for years blockaded the Gaza Strip, causing frustration and desperation on the part of the Palestinians which eventually erupts into hostilities, such as the current crisis. Israelis have retaliated against the Palestinians with precision bombing, aimed at targeting Hamas leaders and Hamas tunnels, but has inevitably resulted in many civilian casualties as well. Entire buildings have collapsed in the Gaza strip, and numbers of fatalities and injuries escalate hourly. Barring some international intervention, it is hard to see how the history of these ancient enemies will be resolved. The politics of the region are extremely complicated and offer no clear solution agreeable to all the involved parties.
This small geographic center is holy to three major religions, Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem, site of the ruins of Israel’s last temple is also the site of Islam’s most revered site, the al-Aqsa Mosque or the Dome of the Rock as it is commonly called. For Christians, the area is revered because Jesus Christ centered much of his ministry in this area. Conflict is nothing new in this region. Many through the ages have offered solutions, none of which are viable to both sides. Past US presidents thought that a two-state solution would solve the problem, but efforts to promote that have failed. So, periodically, flare-ups or out and out warfare has erupted throughout the years. The current problems can probably be traced back as far as 1948 when Israel became a state once again, promising homes to millions of Jews, especially from war-torn Europe after millions were exterminated in the German Holocaust.
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Photo Credit: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona, Unsplash.com