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Israel-Palestine: The history of war, cause of conflict and the chronology

By FnF Desk | PUBLISHED: 21, May 2021, 12:08 pm IST | UPDATED: 21, May 2021, 12:15 pm IST

Israel-Palestine: The history of war, cause of conflict and the chronology The Isaraeli-Palestinian conflict is an ongoing struggle since mid 20th century. The conflict has been one of the most enduring conflicts of the world and yet there is no amicable solution that has been found.

The conflict has been ongoing for more than a 100 years between Jews and Arabs over a piece of land between Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea.

Israel is the world’s only Jewish state. It is located to the east of the Mediterranean Sea. Palestinians are the part of Arab population hailing from the land under Israel generally referred to as Palestine. They wish to establish a state by that name entirely. So the major fight is over the land and the control over it.

It was between 1882 to 1948, when the Jews from around the world gathered in Palestine. This movement came to be known as Aliyahs.

Then in 1917, Ottoman Empire fell after World War 1 and the UK got control over Palestine.

The Balfour Declaration was issued after Britain gained control with the aim of establishing a home for the Jews in Palestine. However during that period the Arabs were in majority in Palestine.

Jews favoured the idea while the Palestinians rejected it. Almost 6 million Jews lost their lives in the Holocaust which also ignited further demand of a separate Jewish state.

Jews claimed Palestine to be their natural home while the Arabs too did not leave the land and claimed it. The international community supported the Jews.
   
It was in the year 1948 that Britain lifted its control over the area and Jews declared the creation of Israel. Although Palestinians objected, Jews did not back out which led to an armed conflict.

The neighboring Arabs also invaded and were thrashed by the Israeli troops. This made thousands of Palestinians flee their homes.This was called Al-Nakba, or the "Catastrophe".

Israel had gained maximum control over the territory after this came to an end. Jordan then went on a war with Israel and seized control over a part of the land which was called the West Bank, and Egypt occupied Gaza.

Jerusalem was divided between Israel in the West, and Jordan in the East. However, no formal peace agreement was signed, each side continued to blame each other for the tension and the region saw more wars.
 
Israeli forces captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank, various areas of Syrian Golan Heights, Gaza and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula in the year 1967.

That time Palestinian refugees and families lived in Gaza and the West Bank, along within the border areas of neighboring Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

They were not allowed to return after the Israeli forces captured the areas as they considered it a threat to Jews.

In this fourth war between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers, the Islamic militant group has fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israel, some hitting deeper in Israeli territory and with greater accuracy than ever before.

The unprecedented barrages reaching as far north as the seaside metropolis of Tel Aviv, coupled with drone launches and even an attempted submarine attack, have put on vivid display a homegrown arsenal that has only expanded despite the choke hold of a 14-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade.

“The magnitude of (Hamas) bombing is much bigger and the precision is much better in this conflict,” said Mkhaimar Abusada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza City. “It's shocking what they've been able to do under siege.”

Israel has argued that the blockade — which has caused severe hardship for more than 2 million Palestinians in Gaza — is essential for preventing a Hamas arms build-up and cannot be lifted.

Here's a look at how, under intense surveillance and tight restrictions, Hamas managed to amass its cache.

From Crude Bombs To Long-Range Rockets

Since the founding of Hamas in 1987, the group's secretive military wing — which operates alongside a more visible political organisation — evolved from a small militia into what Israel describes as a “semi-organized military."

In its early days, the group carried out deadly shootings and kidnappings of Israelis. It killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, which erupted in late 2000.

As violence spread, the group started producing rudimentary "Qassam" rockets. Powered partly by molten sugar, the projectiles reached just a few kilometers (miles), flew wildly and caused little damage, often landing inside Gaza.

After Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Hamas assembled a secret supply line from longtime patrons Iran and Syria, according to Israel's military.

Longer-range rockets, powerful explosives, metal and machinery flooded Gaza's southern border with Egypt.

Experts say the rockets were shipped to Sudan, trucked across Egypt's vast desert and smuggled through a warren of narrow tunnels beneath the Sinai Peninsula.

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In 2007, when Hamas fighters pushed the Palestinian Authority out of Gaza and took over governing the coastal strip, Israel and Egypt imposed their tight blockade.

According to the Israeli military, the smuggling continued, gaining steam after Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist leader and Hamas ally, was elected president of Egypt in 2012 before being overthrown by the Egyptian army.

Gaza militants stocked up on foreign-made rockets with enhanced ranges, like Katyushas and the Iranian-supplied Fajr-5, which were used during the 2008 and 2012 wars.

A Homegrown Industry

After Morsi's overthrow, Egypt cracked down on and shut hundreds of smuggling tunnels. In response, Gaza's local weapons industry picked up.

“The Iranian narrative is that they kick-started all the missile production in Gaza and gave them the technical and knowledge base, but now the Palestinians are self-sufficient, said Fabian Hinz, an independent security analyst focusing on missiles in the Middle East.

“Today, most of the rockets we're seeing are domestically built, often with creative techniques.”

In a September documentary aired by the Al-Jazeera satellite news network, rare footage showed Hamas militants reassembling Iranian rockets with ranges of up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) and warheads packed with 175 kilograms (385 pounds) of explosives. Hamas militants opened unexploded Israeli missiles from previous strikes to extract explosive materials. They even salvaged old water pipes to repurpose as missile bodies.

To produce rockets, Hamas chemists and engineers mix propellant from fertilizer, oxidizer and other ingredients in makeshift factories. Key contraband is still believed to be smuggled into Gaza in a handful of tunnels that remain in operation.

Hamas has publicly praised Iran for its assistance, which experts say now primarily takes the form of blueprints, engineering know-how, motor tests and other technical expertise. The State Department reports that Iran provides $100 million a year to Palestinian armed groups.

The Arsenal On Display

The Israeli military estimates that before the current round of fighting, Hamas had an arsenal of 7,000 rockets of varying ranges that can cover nearly all of Israel, as well as 300 anti-tank and 100 anti-aircraft missiles.

It also has acquired dozens of unmanned aerial vehicles and has an army of some 30,000 militants, including 400 naval commandos.

In this latest war, Hamas has unveiled new weapons like attack drones, unmanned submarine drones dispatched into the sea and an unguided rocket called “Ayyash” with a 250-kilometer (155-mile) range. Israel claims those new systems have been thwarted or failed to make direct strikes.

The Israeli military says its current operation has dealt a tough blow to Hamas' weapons research, storage and production facilities. But Israeli officials acknowledge they have been unable to halt the constant barrages of rocket fire.

Unlike guided missiles, the rockets are imprecise and the vast majority have been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defense system. But by continuing to frustrate Israel's superior firepower, Hamas may have made its main point.

“Hamas is not aiming for the military destruction of Israel. Ultimately, the rockets are meant to build leverage and rewrite the rules of the game,” Hinz said. “It's psychological.”

Here is a timeline of some of the most important events in Israel and the Palestinian confrontation

1987 – Hamas is created at the start of the first Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Two years later, Hamas carries out its first attacks on Israeli military targets, including the kidnap and murder of two Israeli soldiers.

1993 – After years of violence, the first Oslo Accord, aimed at establishing peace between Israel and the Palestinians, is signed. Hamas opposes the peace process, and seeks to derail it with bus bombings and gun attacks in Israel.

2000 – Israel and the Palestinians fail to reach a final agreement in the peace process at a summit in the United States in July 2000. Two months later, Palestinian protests over a visit by Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon to Al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem – known to Jews as Temple Mount, because it was the site of ancient Jewish temples, and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary – develop into a Second Intifada.

2001-02 – Hamas carries out a series of suicide bombings in Israel, including killing 21 Israelis outside a Tel Aviv disco in June 2001, and 30 Jewish celebrants at a Passover seder dinner in Netanya in March 2022. Four months later, Hamas’s military commander Salah Shehadeh is killed in an Israeli airstrike, and Israel starts a siege of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

March-April 2004 – Israeli airstrikes kill Hamas co-founder and spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and co-founder and political leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, in Gaza within a month of each other. The Hamas leadership goes into hiding and the identity of Rantissi’s successor is kept secret.

Aug. 15, 2005 – Israeli forces start a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, captured from Egypt in the 1967 Middle East war, abandoning settlements and leaving the densely populated enclave under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

Jan. 25, 2006 – Hamas wins a majority of seats in a Palestinian legislative election. Israel and United States cut off aid to Palestinians because Hamas refuses to renounce violence and recognise Israel.

June 25, 2006 – Hamas militants capture Israeli conscript Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid, prompting Israeli airstrikes and incursions. Shalit is finally freed over five years later in a prisoner exchange.

June 14, 2007 – Hamas takes over Gaza in a brief civil war, ousting Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the West Bank.

Dec 27, 2008 – Israel launches a 22-day military offensive in Gaza after Palestinians fire rockets at the southern Israeli town of Sderot. About 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis are reported killed before a ceasefire is agreed.

Nov 14, 2012 – Israel kills Hamas’s military chief of staff, Ahmad Jabari, and eight days of Palestinian militant rocket fire and Israeli air strikes follow.

July-August 2014 – The kidnap and killing of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas leads to a seven-week war in which more than 2,100 Palestinians are reported killed in Gaza and 73 Israelis are reported killed, 67 of them military.

March 2018 – Palestinian protests begin at Gaza’s border with Israel against its blockade of the enclave. Israeli troops open fire to keep them back. More than 170 Palestinians are reported killed in several months of protests, which also prompt fighting between Hamas and Israeli forces.

May 7, 2021 – After weeks of tension during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Israeli police clash with Palestinian protesters near Al-Aqsa Mosque over a legal case in which eight Palestinian families face losing their East Jerusalem homes to Jewish settlers.

May 10 – After a weekend of sporadic violence, hundreds of Palestinians are hurt in clashes with Israeli security forces at Al-Aqsa compound, Islam’s third holiest site. After demanding Israel withdraw its security forces from the compound, Hamas fires a barrage of rockets from Gaaa into Israel. Israel hits back with airstrikes on Gaza.

May 11 – The death toll mounts as the aerial bombardments continue. A 13-story residential building in Gaza collapses after being hit during an Israeli airstrike. Palestinian militants launch rockets deep into Israel.

May 12 – The United States announces it will send an envoy to the region. Israel’s military kills a senior Hamas commander in Gaza during more hostilities.

May 13 – Israeli airstrikes and militant rocket fire continue, and violence worsens in mixed communities of Jews and Arabs in Israel. Synagogues are attacked and clashes break out in some towns.

May 14 – Israel uses warplanes, tanks and artillery against a network of Palestinian militant tunnels under Gaza in an operation that is followed by more Palestinian rocket salvoes.

May 15 – An Israeli airstrike destroys a 12-storey tower block that housed international news media organisations, while Palestinian militants fire rocket salvoes at Tel Aviv.

May 16 – Several homes are destroyed by an Israeli airstrike on the densely populated enclave that Palestinian officials said killed 42 people, including 10 children, as rocket attacks on Israeli towns persist.

May 17 – Israeli missile attacks kill top Islamic Jihad commander Hussam Abu Harbeed and hit a seven-storey office building that the military said was used by Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas. Rockets fired by the militants hit a synagogue in the Israeli town of Ashkelon and an apartment block in Ashdod.

May 18 – The United Nations humanitarian agency says nearly 450 buildings in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or badly damaged, including six hospitals and nine primary-care health centres. Around 52,000 have fled their homes, with most sheltering in UN-run schools.

May 19 – Israel says around 4,000 rockets have been launched at it from Gaza, most intercepted by missile defences and some 600 falling within the enclave. US President Joe Biden urges both sides to de-escalate the violence.

May 20 – Both sides resume their attacks but ceasefire talks intensify. Israeli authorities say 12 people have been killed so far in Israel and that it has killed around 160 militants. Health officials in Gaza say 232 Palestinians have been killed, including 65 children, and more than 1,900 wounded.

May 20 – Hamas and the Israeli cabinet issue statements saying a truce has been agreed.