On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas, the organization that governs the Gaza Strip, launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing over 1,400 people. Hamas claims to have taken over 200 hostages in the Gaza Strip and has released videos of the hostages. The Israeli military retaliated by ordering a complete siege and bombarding Gaza, killing at least 5,000 Palestinians as of Oct. 23.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has declared war on Palestine and vowed to crush Hamas. On Oct. 13, Israel called on all Palestinians to evacuate, but many fear that they will not be allowed to return to their homes at the end of the war. President Biden visited Israel on Wednesday, Oct. 18, in an attempt to forestall a worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza and prevent the Israel-Hamas war from spreading. The United States supports Israel’s right to defend itself and President Biden condemned Hamas while warning Israel against occupying Gaza. Additionally, both Russia and China have released statements calling for an end to the fighting.
The actions taken by Hamas and Israel during the 2023 Israel-Hamas war break humanitarian law, says Volker Türk, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Over 2 million people in Gaza are currently without electricity, water, or food. No aid is allowed to enter the Gaza Strip, though Israel asserts that “food, water, and medicine would begin to flow to Gaza through Egypt”.
To summarize the complicated history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, here is a timeline of major events:
1917: During World War I, the British Government issued the Balfour Declaration of 1917 to announce its support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. At this time, Palestine is an Arab majority and Jewish minority.
1920-1940: More Jewish people flock to Palestine as they flee persecution in Europe. This caused more violence between Jews and Arabs.
1947: The United Nations votes for Palestine to be split into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem becoming an international city. Jewish leaders support this plan while Arab leaders reject it.
1948: Britain withdraws and Jewish leaders create the State of Israel, meant to be a safe haven for Jews fleeing persecution as well as a national homeland for Jewish people. The day after Israel declared statehood, five Arab countries attacked Israel, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced out of their homes in what they call Al Nakba, or the “Catastrophe.”
1949: The fighting ends in a ceasefire with Israel controlling most of the territory.
1967: Israel occupies East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as most of the Syrian Golan Heights, Gaza, and the Egyptian Sinai peninsula. Most Palestinian refugees and their descendants live in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as in the neighboring countries of Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Israel refused to allow them to return to their homes in Palestine.
1967-2005: Israel occupied Gaza in the 1967 war and stayed to build Jewish settlements until 2005. Israel withdrew both its troops and settlers in 2005 but retained control over Gaza’s airspace, shared border, and shoreline. The UN still considers the territory occupied by Israel.
1987: Hamas was created at the beginning of the first Palestinian uprising, growing out of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its goal is an Islamic fundamentalist Palestinian state.
1996: The Palestinian Authority cracks down on Hamas after a series of Hamas-orchestrated suicide bombings in Israel kill more than 50 people.
2001: The U.S. State Department lists Hamas on its official list of terrorist groups.
2004-2006: A series of bombings, suicide bombings, and explosions take place and kill Israelis. Hamas claims responsibility.
2006: Hamas won a landslide victory in the Palestinian legislative elections. The governments of the United States and Canada say they will have no contact with the Hamas-led Palestinian government. Hamas kicked out representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization and took over Gaza.
2010-2023: Fighting continues between Hamas and Israel while the Trump administration relocates the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018, a move that is supported by Israeli leadership but condemned by Palestinian leaders.
Although peace talks between Israel and Palestine occurred between the 1990s and 2010s, there have still been outbreaks of violence. Israel has occupied both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since 1967, the legality of which has been put into question by the UN General Assembly. Additionally, due to travel restrictions imposed on the people of Gaza since 2007, it has been described as an “open-air prison” with over 65% of Gazans living below the poverty line and a 46% unemployment rate.