Israel-Palestine escalation: what happened and are we heading towards another war?

By Annabelle Saba
MENA Analyst

In the last few days, the Gaza strip has seen its police buildings, Hamas controlled neighbourhoods and apartments blocks heavily bombarded.  At least 83 Palestinians and 6 Israelis have been killed since the offensive began on 10 May, with more than 400 people wounded as of 13 May.

This is by far the most intense escalation between Israel and Palestine that we’ve seen since the 2014 seven-week Israeli War on Gaza. But why now?

Many Palestinian families have been faced with forced expulsions from their homes in recent months, with anger mounting within the communities of occupied East Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah, where numerous evictions have taken place in favour of pro-settler organisations. Palestinians are facing their displacement from the city of Jerusalem, and specialists on the topic argue that Jerusalem is trying to retain a majority Jewish identity in the city. Most recently, protests and riots have steadily increased since the month of April between Palestinians and Israeli settlers, since a mass of evictions were approved by the Israeli court and denied appeal at the Supreme Court.

On 7 May, thousands of Muslim worshippers attending the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem stayed behind to protest against these evictions, and were then faced with heavy retaliation by Israeli police, which fired rubber bullets and stun grenades, wounding more than 200 Palestinian protestors in the process. With escalations mounting during the weekend, Israeli security forces led a sudden raid on the Al-Aqsa compound on 10 May, this time firing tear gas and sound bombs at worshippers, wounding more than 300 Palestinians and 20 Israeli officers in the process.

After the dramatic scenes witnessed in the Al Aqsa compound, Hamas gave an ultimatum for Israel to remove its security forces from Al-Aqsa compound and Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood on the same day. By early 11 May, Hamas had launched some 200 rockets towards Israel, targeting Jerusalem and killing at least two Israelis. Israel also retaliated by hitting apartment buildings and Hamas operational bases in Gaza, with the Palestinian death toll climbing to 83 since the start of the week.

In spite of international calls to de-escalate the situation by major world leaders and the UN, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear that “This is just the beginning. We’ll hit them like they’ve never dreamed possible”, according to a speech he made on Wednesday. Since the start of the attacks, Israel has managed to kill a number of senior Hamas military figures, including Gaza City commander, Bassem Issa.  Hamas leader Ismail Haniya has also expressed a strong willingness to retaliate back, stating that “The confrontation with the enemy is open-ended.”

Many analysts and international bodies are particularly worried about this sudden escalation. Many describe this as the beginning of a war. It is argued that both Israelis and Palestinians have faced a fatigue regarding the long-standing political situation and that both sides are slowly abandoning the diplomatic route, which clearly has not worked over the decades. With Israel consistently breaching International law with impunity and Palestinians repeatedly going unheard, a tragedy like this was bound to occur.

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