Violence Escalates in the Long-Running Israel-Palestine Conflict

Rising Israel-Palestinian tensions have continued to escalate since last Monday. At least 140 Palestinians, 40 of whom were children, were killed by Israeli air strikes following Gaza’s Hamas firing rockets into Jerusalem. Eight Israelis have been killed. Hamas’ rockets came after 305 Palestinians and 21 Israeli police officers were injured when the Israeli Police stormed the holy al-Aqsa Mosque. Worshippers had fortified themselves in the Mosque in anticipation of Israeli nationalist activity.

Recent days have seen mob violence within Israel, with individuals beaten for being Arab or Israeli. A building in Gaza home to the Associated Press and Al Jazeera was destroyed by Israeli air strikes. It allegedly housed Hamas offices.

Earlier, Israeli Police had largely curtailed an Israeli nationalist march from going through the Damascus Gate flashpoint entrance to the Old City. Recent days have also seen clashes over a potential eviction of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem. The United Nations has stated that the forced evictions could constitute a war crime. These interconnected events all come during Islam’s holy month of Ramadan and Israel’s celebration of Jerusalem Day, when it captured Jerusalem in 1967.

Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital, a rivalry dating back thousands of years. After numerous wars following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, each side views the other as enemies. Such sentiments are often deepened by the media and politicians. Young people on both sides are indoctrinated into hardline views, while youth unemployment in Palestine averaged 62.65% between 2009-2020.

Indeed, recent years have seen a worsening of the plight of Palestinians. The Gaza strip has been blockaded by Israel for over a decade, causing 80% of its population to rely on humanitarian aid. Israel’s nationalist Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has facilitated continued expansion by Israeli settlers into the West Bank. This has been identified as a breach of international humanitarian law. The US Embassy also moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem under former US President Donald J. Trump, sparking protests. Many of Palestine’s traditional Arab and Gulf State allies have forged closer ties with Israel in recent years. Meanwhile, Israel is a world leader in combating Covid19, whereas Palestine’s health system has been crippled and vaccines are scarce.

In October 2019, Israeli forces killed 34 peaceful protests in Gaza and injured 1,883. Last year saw a total of 135 Palestinians killed and over 15,000 injured. The Human Rights Watch has found Israeli forces implement repeated unlawful attacks. These cause significant civilian casualties, destruction of important infrastructure and breach basic human rights. 2019 saw ten Israelis killed by Palestinian attacks and 120 injured. The numbers show how Palestinian’s are disproportionately harmed, yet both sides suffer under the status quo.

A long-term project of dialogue, cooperation and compromise must be initiated by both sides. Hardline factions must back down, with both sides committing to protecting civilians. International actors should help facilitate this, but not attempt to determine the issue for Israelis and Palestinians. In the short-term, the road ahead may get more bloody if both sides do not de-escalate. Nonetheless, another Intifada can still be avoided.