Israeli Palestinian Conflict

By Melissa Rockwell

Ramadan is a Muslim celebrated holiday and April 13th marked its beginning. Since then, the pressure between Israel and Palestine has been more intense than normal. The holy city of Jerusalem and surrounding areas have seen several acts of violence and fighting during the month of Ramadan.

On April 13th, Israeli police raided the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and took apart speakers on the western wall where the Israeli president is speaking, Cordesman (2021) reported. Police set up metal barriers in the amphitheater in attempt to keep Muslims from having their nightly Ramadan Gatherings outside the gate. The plaza is a well-known meeting place during the month of Muslim celebrated Ramadan. This ignites the beginning of the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian fighting. Violence and protests broke out reaching the highest point that evening. Over 50 protesters were arrested by Israeli police and Palestinian medics reported that 100 people had sustained injuries.

Conflict continued near the Damascus Gate as thousands left the al-Aqsa mosque after Ramadan evening prayers. More turmoil began Friday night outside of the Old City where Palestinian youth congregated and fought with Israeli police in riot gear and on horses, who were working to break up the crowds. Some of the police were using vehicles to spray the crowds with offensive skunk water to try to disperse them (Reuters 2021).

Anger and violence continued and spread itself into the occupied West Bank. Youth were seen throwing rocks and stones to break security cameras and smash the windows of court buildings. Israeli police and Palestinians continued to tussle throughout the weekend just outside of Jerusalem's Old City. There were hundreds of officers in riot gear distributed around the Old City as violence extended itself through the night, and spread into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Farrell (2021) stated, that many Palestinians convened, throwing bottles, stones, and even burning tires at police on horseback that were sent in to help disband the violent crowd that had gathered which was intent on causing destruction. Later that evening, violence grew into a Palestinian neighborhood that was close by causing damage to many homes and vehicles. Several videos appeared on social media that showed religious Jews being attacked by Palestinians.

Goldman et al. (2021) reported, that on Saturday 36 rockets were fired into Israel by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. Retaliation by Israeli aircraft ensued striking Hamas’s rocket launchers and also their underground infrastructure. There were no casualties reported on the Israeli border or in Gaza. Six of the rockets were able to be intercepted and the rest of them had landed in open areas.

Farrell (2021) further reported, that after international pleas for peace by the United Nations, steps were taken to help ease the tensions between Israel and Palestine. Violence slowly dwindled by the weekend. Celebrations began Sunday night just outside of Jerusalem's Damascus Gate where Israeli police removed the metal barricades that were in place giving entry to the square that marked the center of the nightly Ramadan disputes.

Thousands of Palestinians permeated into the East Jerusalem Plaza with several seen waving Palestinian flags. Israeli police entered into the crowd to retrieve the Palestinian flags. That ultimately ignited more anger between the groups. According to Israeli military, another rocket was fired late Sunday evening by Palestinian militants, however, it missed its mark of Israel and exploded in Gaza (Gross 2021).

Cordesman (2021) reported, that on May 5th, Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in Sheikh Jarrah began fighting again with one another. Sheikh Jarrah has become the center of pressure between Israelis and Palestinians since the raid on the al-Aqsa mosque and as many Palestinians face eviction.

On May 6th, increasing pressure in East Jerusalem and the West Bank proved true when two Palestinians were killed during clashes with Israel Defense Forces.

On May 7th, just as about 70,000 worshippers were ending Friday Ramadan evening prayers at the al-Aqsa mosque Israeli police flood the Temple Mount. Worshippers begin hurling rocks and other things at Israeli police. Stun grenades are fired into the mosque compound ultimately injuring more than 150 Palestinians. Israeli police reported that 3 Palestinians begin shooting towards the main gate of the military base ultimately leaving one of the Palestinians injured and the other two dead.

On May 8th, clashes continue during one of the holiest days of the Islamic year, Laylat al-Qadr (the night of power) which marks the beginning of the Quran first being revealed to Prophet Muhammad by Allah. The clashes result in 80 people being injured.

On May 9th, Hamas issued a warning that Israel’s forces must leave from the al-Aqsa mosque.

On May 10th, in East Jerusalem violent fighting close to the al-Aqsa mosque left almost two dozen Israeli police and hundreds of Palestinian protesters injured.

On May 11th, Israel conducted airstrikes in Gaza in retaliation of the Hamas rocket attacks. Israeli military reported that 15 Palestinian militants had been killed and according to Gaza's health officials, 24 Palestinians were killed to include 9 of them being children.

On May 12th, Israel declares a state of emergency in Lod and sent border police divisions there for support. Continued escalation between Israelis and Palestinians was seen as hundreds of rockets are launched into Israel by Palestinian militants in Gaza. Israel responded to the attack with increased air strikes on the coastal enclave. Palestinian health officials reported 220 people injured and a minimum 35 people had been killed as a result of the Israeli bombing attacks throughout Gaza. Israeli military said at least 17 Israeli citizens suffered injuries. Two people were killed in Ashkelon from rocket fire and another killed in Rishon Lezion that evening.

An Israeli air strike hit a 13-story tower in Gaza City collapsing the structure. The tower block housed offices that Hamas used as well as a research and development unit that worked on rockets and several intelligence offices. Palestinian militants swore retaliation for the airstrike.

Gaza fired more than 200 rockets towards Israel for the Israeli strike on the tower. Al Qidra, a Palestinian Ministry of Health spokesman from Gaza, said that residents are extremely frightened from all of the Israeli air strikes. The majority of the air strikes struck Khan Yunis and Gaza City. Around 500 rockets had been fired into Israel in the past 2 days by Islamic Jihad and Hamas ultimately resulting in the closing of Ben-Gurion, Israel's main international airport.

Many countries in the Middle East did not agree with how Israeli police were responding to the violence in Jerusalem. A call for de-escalation of violence was made by the United States and the European Union. Threats of eviction of Palestinian families that are living in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in Jerusalem, has been one of the primary sources of tensions. The UN human rights experts have verbalized their concerns towards Israel's forceful response to the East Jerusalem protest. The UN denounced Palestinian rocket shelling as well as Israeli airstrikes on Gaza.

On May 13, Gaza health officials reported that early in the morning a 10-story building, the al-Jawahera, was hit but there were no casualties and a 3-story residential building was also hit resulting in the death of three individuals. Israeli military reported that since the start of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict 5 Israeli citizens had lost their lives. The Gaza Strip was being constantly bombarded by Israeli airstrikes and artillery shells. Air and ground forces were deployed to attack the Palestinian enclave. The first day of Eid-al-Fitr, a Palestinian religious holiday, began with merciless aerial bombardment. The Gaza Health Ministry said that over 580 people had been injured and 81 adults and 28 children had been killed.

According to the Israeli Army, hundreds of rockets from Gaza were fired at Tel Aviv and several locations in Israel (Gold 2021). Palestinian citizens of Israel and Jewish Israelis continue to have riotous confrontations in cities throughout Israel. Three more rockets were fired from Southern Lebanon in Israel's direction heightening the risk of possible escalation. Attacks in Northern Gaza by Israeli forces caused hundreds of Palestinians to leave their homes. Many people were injured in these airstrikes and many of the roads were damaged making it difficult for ambulance services to reach the area. Hady Amr, the United States deputy assistant secretary for Israeli-Palestinian affairs, met with Israeli-Palestinian officials in attempts to put an end to the violence in Gaza (Cordesman 2021).

On May 14th, the United States Security Council is in line to discuss the situation. Air and ground strikes continue being carried out by Israel’s military in retaliation. The death toll continues to rise as 8 people including a woman and a child had been killed in Israel and the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza had reported a minimum of a 119 Gazans had been killed including 31 children and 19 women.

On May 15th, warning sirens continued to be heard in Tel Aviv as well as other parts of Southern Israel, as rockets from Gaza attack Israeli cities. According to the United Nations Refugee agency, 10 people were killed, eight of them being children. All of them were from the same family and died when the al-Shati refugee camp was struck. Two rockets hit in Ramat Gan killing 1 person.

May 16th, a girl was evacuated from the rubble of a building that had been destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza’s al-Rimal.

On May 17th, diplomatic efforts had not helped with the situation. According to the Gaza Strip Ministry of Health at this time more than 212 Palestinians were dead and more than 1400 had been injured.

By May 18th, for the first time President Biden showed support towards the cease-fire between Israel and Palestine, however did not make known an immediate need to put an end to the violence. International pressure and demands made by several democratic lawmakers for an immediate cease-fire were expanding. Efforts to create a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants continued as Israel air strikes throughout Gaza and rockets being fired into Israel are seen.

Four rockets were launched at Israel from Lebanese territory. Israel fired heavy artillery back at the Lebanese target. In Ramallah, an Israeli military checkpoint Palestinians burned tires as Israeli troops fired tear gas. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported that 3 protesters had been killed and over 140 Palestinians were injured. The Israeli army reported that 2 soldiers had been wounded in the leg by gunshot.

On May 19th, efforts to create a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants continued as Israel air strikes throughout Gaza and rockets being fired into Israel are seen. Bombs were dropped on Hamas tunnels during the night according to Israeli Defense Forces and 250 rockets were launched from Gaza towards Israel. The death toll in Gaza at this time was 228, 64 of those being children. Israel's death toll is 12 with 2 of those being children. According to a senior Israeli military officer over 60 miles of underground tunnels had been destroyed as well as striking 80 rocket launchers and killing at least 130 militants.

On May 20th, Gaza launched 80 rockets during the night and those came to an end as ceasefire talks begin making progress.

Nierenberg (2021) reported, that on May 21st after almost two weeks of bloodshed and leaving over 200 people dead there was successful mediation done by Egypt, and Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire that went into effect at 2am. So far, no violations of the cease-fire have been reported. Hamas reported that Israeli airstrikes resulted in 248 dead Palestinians dead this includes a total of 66 children as well as 35 women. It is also estimated that these air strikes injured more than 1,900 Palestinians.

One key discerning factor of Israeli-Palestinian conflict centers around human rights and violations of war. Hamas rocket attacks particularly aimed populated areas and the sheer level of Israeli airstrikes that were conducted on an already struggling region. The international laws of war acknowledge that during conflict some civilian casualties cannot be avoided. However, it is also the responsibility of the warring parties to be able to recognize between civilians and enemy combatants at every moment. Laws of war are also are put in place to safeguard civilian objects. Direct attacks are prohibited on places of worship, homes, apartments, medical facilities, hospitals, schools, and cultural monuments except if they are being utilized for military purpose.

The recent fighting has resulted in over 90,000 Palestinians being displaced and a copious number of civilian buildings damaged or completely demolished also a lot of Gaza’s infrastructure had been destroyed. In a report given by the IDA there were 1,500 targets hit and Gaza fired 4,360 at Israel that approximately 3,400 of those landed in Israel, 680 landed inside the Gaza Strip, and 280 into the sea (Cordesman 2021).

Nothing good came from the violence. Neither side has found a resolution to the problem and considering the amount of Palestinian civilian casualties and the damage done in Gaza by Israel's attempt to stop Hamas’s rocket attacks and defend itself leaves little to support the idea of being able to make any kind of real progress towards a permanent solution.

East Jerusalem was conquered by Israel in the War in 1967, which was then later unilaterally annexed. Even though Jerusalem is not internationally recognized as the capital of Israel, the Israeli government recognizes it as such. On the other hand, the Palestinians believe that Jerusalem is a crucial part of the future of the Palestinian State and believe that it is imperative to attain it.

According to Cordesman (2021), what is currently considered Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) includes part of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza City. There are around 6.8 million Palestinians living there. Jewish Israelis occupy the OPT as well. The Israeli government works to help Jewish Israelis uphold control of Israel including the OPT. Israeli settlers went to court in October 2020 where the Israeli magistrate ruled in favor for the eviction of Palestinian families. Throughout the years Israel aimed for cultural dominance all the while violating Palestinian human rights and continue to strategically oppress them.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has continued to deeply affect the Middle East for over 70 years now. The current ceasefire agreement that is recognized by both sides is at best a fragile agreement. Looking back at the history of disputes between Israel and Palestine it is clear to see and understand the repetitious disagreements and violence that plague the two; and while it is nearly impossible right now to predict when any further outbreak of violence will happen or how long the ceasefire will last. Since there has been no solving of the problem it can only be a matter of time for the violent disputes to begin again. With ideas about who should be entitled to claim Israel still debating gives each side the opportunity to gather more arms and defenses and use political extremism to push further towards resistance.

Since the ceasefire warning signs of polarization can be seen within several popular demonstrations (Cordesman 2021). Ultimately this will lead to more riots and advanced weaponry as well as military tactics. The fighting between Israel and Palestine creates political apprehensions and tensions. The disagreements are likely to create division amongst neighboring states which can already be seen in Egypt, Jordan, and other smaller nations that are in the Arab world. The issue is being exploited by Iran, Syria, and the Hezbollah to support the Palestinian cause. Furthermore, countries like Russia, China and Turkey are using it as a strategic advantage for themselves.

A clear violation of international laws of war and the violation of human life only illuminates the level of conflict between the two. A disregard for law shows that nothing is off-limits between two groups. Without any sanctions being placed upon them it only makes a statement that other countries agree with such violations. The fact remains that further escalation can be seen. While the question that remains is when. While if any kind of agreement seems too difficult to achieve and is something that will never be done without an attempt the Middle East will continue to be weakened thus ultimately compromising the entire region.

Resources:

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Nierenberg, Amelia. “Your Friday Briefing.” The New York Times. The New York Times, May 20, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/20/briefing/israel-hamas-cease-fire-gaza.html.

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