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The Compass

Ratings don't last.  Great journalism does. - Dan Rather

The Compass

Ratings don't last.  Great journalism does. - Dan Rather

The Compass

A Closer Look At the Gaza Conflict

What is happening and why are people fighting?
A deeper look at the territory at the source of conflict.

As the conflict between Israel and Palestine continues to escalate, it is important to separate the reality of what is going on and the countless misinformation being spread. Before knowing the gruesome details of the current ongoing conflict, it is important to understand the history behind their conflict. Simply put, it is the conflict between nationalist movements among the Jews and Arabs, but the past plays a major factor in the current events. Historically, there were seven major Arab-Israeli wars: the 1948 Palestine War, the 1956 Suez War, the June 1967 Six Day War, the 1969 War of Attrition, the October 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1982 Lebanon War, and the 1991 Gulf War.

The Middle East is where many major religions originated: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. They have always shared their territory and lived amongst one another under the Ottoman Empire without war until British colonialism drastically changed the dynamics of the region. After the Ottoman Empire fell during the First World War, the League of Nations approved to have Great Britain act as Palestine’s Administrator. Originally, they were only supposed to have power over Palestine until the League of Nations became a fully independent nation. However, that point was never reached.

Due to a rise in anti-Semitism throughout the mid-20th century in Europe, Jewish people were forced to immigrate to the Middle East, specifically Palestine. A movement began that described the re-establishment, development, and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel. This is known as Zionism. The goal was to create a desired home in Palestine and bring Jewish people back to where their religion was born.

After the Second World War, in 1948, the United Nations (UN) adopted a resolution to partition the Palestinian region into two states: one Jewish/ Israeli and one Arab/ Palestinian. The Jewish community agreed with the Partition plan; however, it was rejected by the Arabs. This led to a civil war and the end of the British Mandate and the birth of the state of Israel. On the same day, May 14, 1948, other Arab forces, such as Jordan, Syria, and Egypt joined the Palestinian Arabs in attacking the formerly Palestinian territory. This joint military invasion launched the beginning of the First Arab-Israeli War which lasted 9 months. The first war ended with Israel gaining significant territory over Palestine and 750,000 displaced Palestinians.

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The conflict continued in 1956 with the Suez Crisis, also known as the Second Arab-Israeli War. The Suez Canal has always been an important part of the world as it is one of the most significant trade routes from Asia and the Middle East to Europe. Therefore, the one controlling it benefits severely economically. In 1956 the Suez Canal had been controlled by both Great Britain and France. They promised to help fund the Aswan Dam on the Nile River, which fell through. Therefore, supported by the Soviet Union with both arms and money, Gamal Abdel Nassar, the former President of Egypt, ordered the Suez Canal to be nationalized. He argued that tolls from the ships passing through the Suez would pay for the Aswan Dam. This led to the Second Arab-Israeli War when Israeli forces with Great Britain and France launched an attack against Egypt with the goal of a regime change in Egypt. This, however, failed significantly and poised as the decline of Britain’s colonial powers in the Middle East.

The third Arab-Israeli war, or the Six Day War, sometimes even known as the June War was the result of the Suez Crisis. It was a turning point in the century-long conflict between nations. In 1967 Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem from Jordan and Egypt. The war led to more than 20,000 Palestinian casualties and fewer than 1,000 Israeli casualties.

The War of Attrition was a continuation of the conflict between Israel and Egypt over the Suez Canal and the Aswan Dam. It officially started in July 1967 and ended in August 1970. Nassar, Egypt’s former President, declared an official ceasefire with Israel and momentarily the official beginning of the War of Attrition. They heavily bombarded Israeli forts and the access to their roads, air raids, and ambushed Israeli territory. The estimated death toll lies at 726 people, civilians and soldiers combined.

Known as the Yom Kippur War or the October War, Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack against Israel on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. That is the holiest day in Judaism and its purpose is to wash away their sins and find reconciliation with God. Egypt’s goal was to gain back the territory that they had lost in both the Six-Day War and the War of Attrition. More than 2,600 Israeli people died with a total estimation of 8,000-18,500 dead. Israel ultimately won the attack and got back their lost ground, but only after the United States supplied them with military support. Abraham Rabinovich, who is the author of The Yom Kippur War: The Epic Encounter That Transformed the Middle East, described the Yom Kippur War as “both the greatest military victory Israel has ever had” and the “most traumatic event in Israel’s history,” according to Time Magazine. Finally, in 1979, Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David Accords, which was a peace treaty that stated the official end of the 35-year tension between the nations. While the Yom Kippur War did not immediately affect the Palestinian and Israeli conflict, it played a significant impact on further land reduction of Palestine. The Sinai Peninsula was given back to Egypt, which was formerly Palestinian territory.

Furthermore, the tension between Israel and Palestine continued. Palestine furthered for self-government and self-determination, urging the Israeli government to comply. The first Oslo Accord, or Oslo I, stated the agreement that both Israeli and Palestinian leadership saw and recognized each other. In addition, they pledged to end their decade-long conflict.

However, the Oslo Accords did not end their conflict. On the morning of October 7th, 2023, the Palestinian resistance group, Hamas, launched 5,000 rockets from the Gaza Strip against Israel. The attack started on the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah on Shabbat, and a day after the 50th anniversary of the start of the Yom Kippur War, which also began with a surprise attack. Hamas stated that this attack was a response to the “desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque”, which is in the center of Jerusalem’s Old City. The event, which transpired in the first week of April 2023, was a sudden unprovoked attack on Palestinian people who were praying in the Mosque. This caused anger among Muslims and led some radicals to be a part of Hamas. In addition, the attacks are a reaction to continued Israeli settlements, violence, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli government stated that over 1,400 Israelis and foreigners died in the attack, most of them civilians. On the day after the first attack, October 8th, 2023, the Israeli government officially declared war on Hamas. Since October 7th, 2023, at least 9,000 Palestinians (3,600 of which are children) and 1,400 Israelis have died. 

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