Less than four years after the last ground invasion, Gaza and Israel are at war again. Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) has been ramping up rocket fire into Israel from Gaza in recent months. On November 14, Israel launched a massive assault on Gaza, Operation Pillar of Defense, which killed a top leader of Hamas, Ahmed al-Jabari. That was the beginning of current round of all out conflict in a region that is no stranger to war.
War has defined the land that is currently Israel for millennia. However, in 1922 it took a new face. With the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire was left with the task of instituting a new government in the region. They decided to issue the Palestinian Mandate.
Under the mandate, a region was delineated which contained what is now Israel and Jordan. The mandate also called for the creation of a Jewish homeland. The land under British rule was split between the Palestine Mandate and the Emirate of Transjordan. Jewish immigration was encouraged to the British ruled Palestine Mandate.
The Arab population of the Palestine Mandate resented British rule and feared that the increasing Jewish presence would lead to the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Many conflicts flared up during this time period, most notably one over communal religious rites to the Wailing Wall in 1928.
By the end of WWII, Britain looked to relinquish control of the Palestine Mandate. The United Nations developed a partition plan that would divide the regions of the Palestine Mandate into two States, a primarily Jewish one and a primarily Arab one. Under the plan, Jerusalem was designated as an international zone. Publicly, the Palestinian Jews accepted the UN partition plan, although they hoped to expand the borders allotted to the Jewish state. The Palestinian Arabs rejected the plan along with the surrounding Arab states.
As the plan was adopted and the British evacuated, war broke out between Israel and Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq. By the end of 1949, the war ended and an armistice was signed between Israel and the Arab states. The boarders of Israel included the west half of Jerusalem and most of the rest of current Israel. East Jerusalem and the West Bank were controlled by Jordan, the Golan Heights were controlled by Syria, and the Gaza strip was controlled by Egypt. However, the independent Arab Palestinian state envisioned in the partition plan was never created.
Borders changed again after the Six Day War in 1967. Israel, after fighting for its very existence, won in a surprising show of force and prowess. Israel now took control of the West Bank, Golan Heights, Gaza Strip and all Jerusalem. However, they did not annex them but put them under military control after facing international pressure. Several attempts at a peace agreement between Israel and the surrounding Arab states broke down. At this point several Arab states drafted the Khartoum Declaration, which included a policy of “…no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel.”
The region remained tumultuous throughout the time and in 2005, Israel withdrew troops from the Gaza strip and West Bank, giving the regions semi-autonomy and self-governance. This came as part of a peace deal brokered over many years. Gaza remained under land and naval blockade, however, and the ability to travel and trade was severely limited.
In 2007, the political party Hamas took control of Gaza from the Fatah party of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which controls the West Bank. Since then, the more militant Hamas have been firing rockets into south Israel and staging other attacks. Israel instituted a blockade around Gaza in 200In late 2008 and early 2009, Israel launched a ground invasion of the Gaza strip in an attempt to destroy Hamas’ military capability. This action faced international condemnation and eventually a cease fire was brokered.
Despite the ceasefire, hostilities on both sides continued. They recently reached a boiling point, resulting in the current events. It is not clear what this round of conflict will yield, but with the events of the Arab spring and Syrian Uprising, the face of the middle east is changing rapidly.
The Wall Street Journal Bus Bomb Rocks Tel Aviv: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324352004578132521181044286.html?mod=WSJ__LEFTTopStories
Time Magazine, The Gaza Strip: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1870148,00.html
BBC News, Gaza Strip: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5122404.stm
The Wall Street Journal, Death Toll Rises as Top Militant is Targeted: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323353204578128553409185788.html?mod=WSJ_hps_LEFTTopStories
The Wall Street Journal, Turkey Criticizes Israel’s Gaza Offensive: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323713104578130903263564818.html?mod=WSJ_hps_LEFTTopStories
The Wall Street Journal, EU calls for Immediate Gaza Ceasefire: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323353204578129090828956734.html?mod=world_newsreel
Yale Law School, The Palestine Mandate: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/palmanda.asp
The Wall Street Journal, Hamas Says Cease-Fire Deal ’Close’; Clinton heads to Region: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324352004578130311173538452.html
Israel Science, The History of Palestine: http://www.science.co.il/History-Palestine.php
Middle East Research and Information Project, UN Partition Plan: http://www.merip.org/palestine-israel_primer/un-partition-plan-pal-isr.html
The Six-Day War: http://www.sixdaywar.org/
The Guardian Why Israel Went to War in Gaza (2009): http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/04/israel-gaza-hamas-hidden-agenda
The Congressional Research Service, Israel and Hamas: Conflict in Gaza (2008-2009): http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/R40101.pdf