Prelude to War
The recent declaration of war by Israel against the Palestinian militant group Hamas follows a series of escalating tensions and violent incidents that have plagued the region over the past year. This shocking turn of events, which has resulted in hundreds of casualties, is the most audacious militant operation in years, prompting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take decisive action.
The roots of this conflict can be traced back to a year marked by rising tensions between Israel and Palestinians residing in the West Bank and Gaza. These areas have been under a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2007, exacerbating the plight of the residents and creating a volatile environment. This year, in particular, witnessed a surge in deadly attacks, setting the stage for the current crisis.
Netanyahu’s Government and Its Impact
The situation escalated further due to political developments in Israel. Netanyahu’s efforts to form the most far-right government in Israeli history had already stoked tensions. These internal political shifts added fuel to the already simmering fire, pushing the region closer to the brink of a major conflict.
Hamas Responds: Operation in Retaliation
Hamas, the ruling authority in the Gaza Strip, claimed responsibility for the brazen attacks on Israel. According to Hamas, this operation was a direct response to the prolonged blockade of Gaza, recent Israeli military raids in the West Bank, and the violence at al-Aqsa Mosque, a site of religious significance to both Palestinians and Jews.
The Gaza Strip’s isolation due to the blockade has deeply affected its residents. The operation by Hamas can be seen as an attempt to break free from the suffocating restrictions that have been in place for over a decade.
Al-Aqsa Mosque Unrest
The violence at al-Aqsa Mosque, located in Jerusalem and known as the Temple Mount to Jews, played a pivotal role in escalating tensions. Incidents at this religious site, considered holy by multiple faiths, contributed to the growing unrest.
Incidents Leading to the Current Conflict
As of September 19, before the outbreak of the most recent violence, the region had already witnessed a series of major incidents that foreshadowed the current conflict.
September: A Precarious Situation
Just last month, Israel and Hamas were on the verge of an all-out conflict. The discovery of explosive material hidden in a shipment of jeans, leading to a halt in exports from Gaza, triggered alarm. Both sides engaged in field exercises, and tensions ran high as protests erupted along the separation fence between Israel and Gaza.
A Summer of Unrest
The summer in the West Bank was marked by tit-for-tat attacks involving Palestinian militants, Israeli forces, and Jewish settlers. These confrontations added to the mounting tensions, further destabilizing the region.
Violent Military Raids
Israel conducted multiple military raids in the city of Jenin, alleging plans for attacks on its troops and civilians. These operations resulted in casualties, raising concerns about the escalation.
A Cycle of Retaliation
In a cycle of violence, both sides engaged in retaliatory actions, including attacks and raids. The situation grew increasingly precarious, setting the stage for the recent crisis.
Previous Months: Flashpoints and Violence
In the months leading up to the current conflict, several flashpoints and violent incidents occurred, underscoring the region’s volatility.
March: Tragic Killing
In March, Israeli security forces shot and killed a 14-year-old Palestinian boy on a bicycle, sparking outrage and protests. The incident highlighted the tense atmosphere.
April: Al-Aqsa Mosque Confrontation
During Ramadan, Palestinian worshipers barricaded themselves inside al-Aqsa Mosque. Israeli police’s response, involving stun grenades and tear gas, drew condemnation from international quarters.
May: Airstrikes and Ceasefire
In May, Israel conducted surprise airstrikes in Gaza, targeting Islamic Jihad leaders backed by Iran. These strikes triggered a bout of violence but eventually led to a ceasefire agreement between the parties.
January: Synagogue Massacre and Jenin Operation
The year commenced with violence, including an Israeli military operation in Jenin that resulted in a deadly shootout. The following day, a Palestinian gunman opened fire at an East Jerusalem synagogue, resulting in casualties.
These incidents collectively set the stage for the recent conflict, illustrating the complex web of factors contributing to the ongoing crisis.