The centuries-long conflict between Israel and Palestine is deeply rooted in war, ethnic violence, and ethnic cleansing. During the most recent wave of violence in the West Bank in July 2023, the Israeli military fatally shot an alleged Palestinian gunman. Deir Hidham, a motorist traveling in a town west of Ramallah, was stopped by Israeli soldiers for questioning before he was said to have thrown a grenade and fired shots at the soldiers. His death follows a high-intensity Israeli military operation last week in the Jenin refugee camp targeted towards Palestinian militants. The raid killed 12 Palestinians and left thousands of others seeking refuge. Since the spring of 2022, Israel has escalated their military raids, including during the search for homemade explosives, during a demonstration in the West Bank, followed by the shooting of an Israeli soldier by a Palestinian dissident.
On the military offensive in Jenin in July 2023, Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said the goal of the operation was to destroy and confiscate weapons of specific targets. Some are calling it the largest operation in the west bank in the last two decades. While the IDF stands by the claim that their campaign in Jenin seeked not to hold ground, but to target members of terror organizations such as the Islamic Jihad and Hamas, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh claims it is just another example of Israel’s attempt “to destroy the camp and displace its people.”
“Palestinians reject such claims, saying the violence is a natural response to 56 years of occupation since Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war,” according to NPR.
Many civilians were caught in the crossfire while the military blocked roads within the camp, placed snipers in houses and buildings, and even killed civilians within the firing line. Nearly 3,000 people were evacuated from the camp to hospitals, said the Palestinian Red Crescent. Electricity and water supplies were even cut off by the Israeli military, making telephone communications and access to news outlets challenging for civilians. Many Palestinians accuse Israel of committing war crimes in their attempt to destroy the Jenin refugee camp, a Palestinian stronghold where Palestinian descendants were dispossessed to after Israel’s independence in 1948.
Jenin has also become a site of carnage produced by a large number of militants, who fostered a deepened hostility towards Israel after the second intifada in 2000. What started as a people’s protest quickly erupted into a deadly terrorist insurrection against Israeli citizens in the Old City of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip. The protests were provoked by an uprising led by Likud party leader Ariel Sharon when he stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Over 1,000 Israelis were killed during the second Intifada.
For an extended period, there has been ongoing conflict in the Middle East over the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai and Golan Heights. Israel took control of four territories after their preemptive victory in the 1967 Six Day War between Israel and surrounding Arab countries, including; the West Bank from Jordan, the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria. Some of these territories still remain under Israeli occupation, including the West Bank which houses Jenin refugee camp in the North, and the Gaza Strip which is also a notorious home for many Palestinian militants associated with Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. These armed resistance groups are a growing threat to Israel, and Israel has been known for responding to these threats preemptively with great force and violence. According to Al Jazeera, “Human rights groups have frequently called out Israel’s violations of international law in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.” By employing a combination of measures such as restricting Palestinian movement, curbing freedom of association, and conducting raids on civilians, the Israeli military continues to use an oppressive and discriminatory system of governing Palestinians in the Occupied Territories (OPT).
Spearheaded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a coalition consisting of six right-wing and ultra-Orthodox political parties, the Israeli government has actively pursued policies that contribute towards the practices of apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and forced evictions in the OPT. This approach has drawn international criticism from the United Nations, European Union, Amnesty International, and others. Despite the criticism, the Israeli government and military, under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, remains consistent in their procedure concerning the Palestinians. Consequently, the region faces the potential for perpetual violence, with no peace-agreements, two-state solutions, or resolution in sight. The absence of such will leave the region in its current and long-lasting state of contention.
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