After nearly 50 days of fighting which took over 2,000 lives, the conflict in Gaza reached a cease-fire on Aug. 26.
This conflict may have begun on July 8 in the West Bank after three Israeli settlers were found dead and Israel blamed Hamas, a political organization in Gaza. It could have started when Israeli settlers retaliated to the killings by murdering a young Palestinian child, but the root cause of this current situation is engrained deep within the history of this Mediterranean area.
Issam Nassar, professor of Middle Eastern history, said the beginning of this conflict can be traced to World War II. In 1947, the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into two separate states, one Jewish (current Israel) and one Arab (current Gaza).
The UN partition plan divided the country so that each state would have a majority of its own population, although a few Jewish settlements would fall within the proposed Arab state while hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs would become part of the proposed Jewish state.
“Israeli expelled a large number, most Palestinians, from Israeli and the territories it conquered in 1948,” Nassar said. “Many of them ended up in Gaza. So, the Gaza strip is populated large almost 90 percent are refugees from the 1948 war.”
The Arab-Israeli war in 1948 resulting in Israel retaining the area the UN had recommended for the proposed Jewish state and took control of nearly 60 percent of the area allocated to the proposed Arab state including the West Bank and Gaza.
Proportionally, the Gaza strip is 139 sq. miles with a population of 1.8 million people, making it the most densely populated area in the world. Israel, on the other hand, is 8,019 sq. miles with a population of roughly 8 million.
Israeli occupied Gaza again in 1967 and ran it as an occupied territory with very limited rights, Nassar said. In 2007, Israel besieged Gaza blocking them by sea, land and air. In fact, in 2002 Gaza’s airport was destroyed by Israel, Nassar said.
The restricted access allowed not many goods to get into or out of Gaza and often times power outages occur. Israel sees a Palestinian state as a threat.
It was around 2006 Hamas was elected as the majority in the Palestinian legislative election. Hamas is a political party which has strong Islamic ties and wishes for Israel to be replaced as an Islamic state, according to Hamas’s charter.
The cease-fire, mainly sponsored by the bordering country of Egypt, allowed for Gaza to be able to fish along the Mediterranean, Nassar said. Concurrently, Hamas called for a seaport, an airport in Gaza and Israel’s call for demilitarization of the coastal territory.
As well, another term is an exchange of Israeli soldiers’ remains for Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
The fighting may have concluded for now and peace was sought, but until the root issue of this decades-old conflict is confronted, the issue may not be resolved.