Israel-Gaza Conflict: Causes and Lessons Learned

The Israel-Gaza conflict has its roots in the late 19th century when Zionist movements advocated for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Tensions escalated during the British Mandate period, leading to the UN’s 1947 resolution recommending the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. The creation of Israel in 1948 led to a war between Israel and its Arab neighbours, including Gaza. The 1948 Arab-Israeli War resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, many of whom ended up in Gaza.

This event laid the foundation for the Nakba, a deep-seated grievance among the Palestinian population, which continues to fuel the conflict today. Palestinians in Gaza, who primarily identify as refugees, face severe economic and humanitarian challenges. The Israel-Gaza conflict is intrinsically linked to territorial disputes, with Palestinians demanding self-determination and the end of occupation, while Israel emphasizes its security concerns and the threat posed by militant groups in Gaza.

Gaza, under the Palestinian militant group Hamas, has been under Israeli control since 2007, following a violent takeover. Hamas, a terrorist organization, has frequently clashed with Israel, leading to recurring violence. Rocket attacks by Hamas into Israeli territory have resulted in civilian casualties and triggered Israeli military responses. The people of Gaza have suffered greatly due to a dire humanitarian situation, with the Israeli blockade restricting the flow of goods, leading to severe shortages and deteriorating living conditions. High unemployment rates and limited access to clean water and electricity further exacerbate the crisis. The Israel-Gaza conflict has garnered international attention, with attempts to mediate a resolution made by the United Nations, Egypt, Qatar, and the United States. However, achieving a lasting ceasefire and a comprehensive peace agreement remains elusive due to the complex nature of the conflict.

The conflict between Israel and Palestinians is rooted in territorial disputes, particularly over East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israel’s occupation of these territories since the 1967 Six-Day War has been contentious, as Palestinians seek these lands for their future state. The construction of Israeli settlements in these areas has exacerbated tensions, making it difficult to achieve a two-state solution. Gaza, a densely populated strip of land, has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007, leading to dire socio-economic conditions, high unemployment, and limited access to necessities. This has fueled resentment and desperation among the Gazan population, fueling conflict. The recent conflict was triggered by the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israeli territory by Palestinian militant groups, primarily Hamas. Israel’s response to these attacks has often escalated the situation, resulting in a cycle of violence. The city of Jerusalem, which both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their capital, is a central point of contention. Tensions flared in East Jerusalem, particularly around the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, where Palestinian families faced eviction.

The Israel-Gaza conflict is influenced by internal political dynamics within Israel and Palestine, including leadership changes, divisions, and lack of direct negotiations. The conflict has broader international implications, with regional powers like Iran and Turkey supporting Palestinian factions and the US being a strong ally of Israel. External actors’ conflicting interests have added complexity to the conflict and sometimes hindered diplomatic efforts. The deeply entrenched causes of the conflict make a peaceful resolution elusive. International efforts, including those by the United Nations, the US, and regional actors, have failed to broker lasting peace. Achieving a two-state solution that addresses both Israeli and Palestinian aspirations remains a significant challenge.

The renewed conflict between Israel and Palestinians has added another layer of instability to the Middle East’s instability. This is known as Israel’s 9/11 moment, a moment that will redefine how Israel deals with its security challenges and how regional stakeholders recalibrate their strategies. This is a massive intelligence failure for a nation that has basked in the glory of its mighty security apparatus. It is a shock to people who have somehow been lulled into believing that they have achieved a level of security that their adversaries would find difficult, if not impossible, to breach.

50 years after the Yom Kippur War, a massive rocket attack on southern Israel by Palestinian fighters, undercover, was launched, causing unprecedented scale and impact on the Israeli psyche, despite its covert nature. Israel is facing a “long and difficult war” due to a Hamas attack, with 300 civilians killed, dozens taken hostage, and at least 313 killed in the Gaza Strip. Israeli counter-air attacks have resulted in almost 2,000 wounded, highlighting the ongoing conflict.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is a regional issue that has led to a reassessment of Israel’s military strategy. Hamas has been planning retaliatory strikes and has called on Palestinians and other Arabs to join the action. The Israeli military has ordered a massive reinforcement of troops to counter the threat of multiple fronts opening up. Ground operations in Gaza would be needed to free hostages and decimate the terror group, but this would involve entering difficult urban warfighting terrain where Hamas fighters can easily hide among the civilian population. The Israel-Palestine issue is embedded in wider regional faultlines, with Hamas having the backing of Iran and Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group, also supporting Iran. Israel has responded to Hezbollah in the JabalRus area, and reports of Israeli tourists being killed in Egypt have been reported. Qatar has also held Israel solely responsible for the ongoing escalation due to its ongoing violations of Palestinian rights.

Hamas’ attacks on Israel have sparked global concern, as it aims to establish itself as a key player in the Israel-Palestine conflict and derail the US strategy towards the region. The Biden administration’s push for a rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel in exchange for security guarantees and civilian nuclear technology to Riyadh led to new strategic contours in the Middle East, which were ultimately scuttled by a grand terror assault on Israel. As Israel fights back against Hamas and other terror groups, Saudis face difficulty in normalizing the region due to public disapproval.

This situation teaches lessons for nation-states like India dealing with terrorism, as technological advancements level the playing field for non-state actors, particularly those supported by Iran and Pakistan. Security apparatuses should avoid mirroring their biases and always think the unthinkable to stay ahead of their adversaries. The latest attack reveals Israel’s vulnerabilities, suggesting that the time has come for the nation to reboot its war machinery and rethink its political goals through force.

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