On October 7, 2023, the military wing of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), the group that governs the Palestinian territory of Gaza, breached the barrier that has surrounded the densely-populated area for the last 16 years, preventing the free flow of people and goods. The militants then launched an attack on 22 nearby Israeli settlements, towns and military bases, killing at least 1,400 civilians and soldiers, and taking at least 199 hostages.
Many governments around the world have condemned the attack as a war crime and act of terror, while other governments expressed their concern and called for calm, or blamed Israel for setting the stage for these attacks to take place.
In response, Israel launched a large-scale aerial attack on Gaza, and on October 8, 2023, the Israeli cabinet issued an official declaration of war against Hamas. One day later, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered a “complete siege” of Gaza, stating, “there will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed.”
Israeli army attacks in the first week of aggression killed over 2,700 and injured over 10,850. Israeli bombing campaigns in Gaza are ongoing, while Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel.
The human toll of this conflict has been immense and continues to climb. In addition to the tragic loss of life and the staggering number of injuries, the conflict has resulted in widespread displacement and a profound disruption of daily life. With the supply of vital life resources brought to a halt, Gaza’s population of more than 2.5 million find themselves trapped and in grave danger. Israel has also ordered more than 1.1 million of Gaza’s residents to flee northern Gaza in anticipation of a ground invasion, a move the UN says could breach international law.
The siege has been condemned by peace activists on all sides of the conflict, international humanitarian organizations, and many governments, some of which have characterized it as collective punishment.
What started this cycle of violence?
Gaza, an enclave on the eastern Mediterranean coast, is bordered by Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the east and north.
Since 2007, Hamas has de facto governed the enclave following its legislative election victory, much to the discomfort of the international community. No elections have occurred since, leading to frustration among Gaza's Palestinians who are denied the right to vote locally.
Since Hamas took control of Gaza, Israel, with the support of Egypt, has imposed a continuous land, air, and sea blockade on Gaza. Human rights organizations including the Israeli B’Tselem, refer to the prevailing situation as “the largest prison on earth.”
Israel exercises absolute control over crucial aspects of life in Gaza, including the movement of food, water, medical supplies, and people, through land crossings connecting Gaza to the outside world, and has consistently bombed the area since 2006, showing little regard for the lives of civilians, who are trapped there with nowhere to go.
Moreover, Israel has played a pivotal role in imposing a siege, displacing, killing, and imprisoning Palestinians by supporting the ongoing aggression of settlers and the military. This is coupled with discriminatory laws and actions, forming what Human Rights Watch characterizes as an apartheid system that directly affects Palestinians’ everyday life.
According to the Associated Press, Hamas cited several motivations for the attack, including Israel’s 16-year blockade of Gaza, increased incidents of violence at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Israeli raids in the Occupied West Bank, escalating Israeli settler assaults against Palestinians, and the expansion of illegal settlements.
Since its inception in 1988, Hamas, has conducted numerous rocket attacks on Israel, as well as bus bombings and suicide attacks on Israelis. These acts have contributed to the group’s designation by the United States, the European Union and others as a terrorist organization.
Israel’s aerial bombardment of Gaza has led to the devastation of entire neighborhoods, and whole generations of families. Adding to their plight, Israel has sealed off all the crossings from Gaza, and repeatedly targeted the Rafah crossing — the sole exit connecting Gaza to Egypt.
As Gaza runs out of drinking water and food, its residents endure darkness and an information blackout. Talks of a ground invasion loom, threatening to exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation.
Global Voices and our partners will cover the current developments of the situation in the region and provide analyses of the scene on the ground. If you have any suggestions or would like to contribute a story, please contact Mariam A., Global Voices’ Middle East and North Africa Editor.
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