The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is one of Islam’s holiest structures. Built thousands of years ago, the mosque is an architectural wonder that sits on a 35-acre piece of land in old Jerusalem. Unfortunately, the site has been a source of conflict between Muslims and Jews for many years in history.
It is not a wonder that the current Israeli-Gaza conflict began. On May 10, 2021, Israeli security forces stormed the mosque and fired rubber bullets on Muslims who were coming from their Ramadhan prayers. The attack attracted a response from Hamas that controls the Gaza strip who fired seven rockets on Israel.
In the days following the incident, Israel responded by firing missiles over the Gaza strip in what has now evolved into a war and a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. While the international community has called for a ceasefire in the situation, many people have questions lingering over the same. For example, why is the Gaza strip so important and who is Hamas? This article provides brief answers to these questions.
What is the Gaza Strip?
The current Israeli conflict can be traced back to the Jewish holocaust after WWII. Jews freeing Germany wanted their own country. As a result, they fled to what was then Palestine and occupied a large part of it. However, the Arabs who were the original occupants and surrounding Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan opposed the move. As a result, Arabs and Jews went into war in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948.
After the conflict, Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip, a 140-stretch mile area bordering Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea, while Jordan took control of the West bank. Arab refugees fleeing the newly formed Israel settled in the Gaza strip. In 1967, Israel took control of the Gaza strip in what was known as the six-day war. However, following negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Israel left Gaza to Palestine’s control in 2005.
The PLO did not hold control over Gaza for long. In 2007, Hamas a radical Islamist group opposed to the PLO’s decision to recognize Israel as a sovereign state won the elections and took control of the Gaza strip. Their victory split Palestine into two; the Hamas controlled Gaza strip and the PLO controlled West Bank.
Image courtesy: BBC
Who is Hamas
Hamas is an Islamist Militant Group that was formed in 1987 to prevent Israel from occupying the Gaza strip. Though the group parades itself as a liberation army for Palestinians, major governments in the West classify it as a terrorist organization.
Unlike the West Bank, which is largely a demilitarised zone, Hamas weaponry and military power have been growing over the years. The group is thought to be financed by Qatar and Turkey. Moreover, the group is thought to have smuggled most of its weaponry and rockets from Egypt through underground tunnels.
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Impact of the war
Since the beginning of the conflict, Hamas has fired over 2300 rockets, about a 1000 of these were intercepted by the Israeli military while 380 fell onto the Gaza strip. Israel on its part claims to have killed over 200 people, most of whom the Israel Defense Forces claim were enemy combatants.
However, the Palestine Health Ministry has disputed Israel’s reports claiming that over 130 out of the 200 people killed by Israel were women and children. Besides death and destruction of property witnessed in Gaza, a humanitarian crisis is looming.
Gaza is a poor region and the population depends on international aids. Unfortunately, because of the war and blockades placed by Israel and Egypt in the region, poor civilians are at risk of malnutrition, starvation and disease.
Feature Image: The New York Times