Understanding Gaza: The History That Fuels the Conflict

Tuesday, March 26, 2019 |  David Lazarus

This 140-square-mile stretch of land located along the Mediterranean coast between Egypt and Israel has endured decades of protest, military operations and violence.

Hamas this week was again pummeling Israeli towns and even launched three long-range missiles towards Tel Aviv, Israel’s most densely populated area.

Here is how the conflict over the region has played out over the last 70 years.

Egypt controls Gaza after Israel’s War of Independence

On May 14, 1948, Israel officially declared independence, establishing the first sovereign Jewish nation in over 2,000 years. One day later, war broke out between Israel and five Arab countries—Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon.

During the war, tens of thousands of Palestinians fled Israel towards Egypt hoping to return to their homes thinking that Israel would be destroyed by the Arab armies. Egypt denied them entry and forced them to remain in the Gaza Strip. At the end of war Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip.

Israel regains control during the Six-Day War

Egypt controlled Gaza until the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel seized the Strip, along with Jerusalem and all the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria. This began a period of relative quiet, with the coastal enclave being placed under Israeli military governance. Israelis and Palestinians were now free to travel back and forth between Gaza and Israel-proper for work, medical services and even friendship.

In 1987, the first riots of the Palestinian intifada began in the Gaza Strip one day after a traffic accident in which an Israeli truck accidentally crashed into a station wagon carrying Palestinian workers home from work in Israel. Palestinians saw the accident as a deliberate act of retaliation following the terrorist killing of an Israeli in Gaza several days before.

The 1995 Oslo Peace Accords between the PLO and Israeli leaders called for Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and most parts of Judea and Samaria. In 2005, the last Jews were forcibly evacuated from Gaza and their agricultural settlements were dismantled.

Hamas seizes control

Soon after Israel's "disengagement" from Gaza, Hamas, an offshoot of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood, seized control in a bloody coup against the Palestinian Authority, leading to an increase in violent attacks against Israel. Since then, Hamas has occupied Gaza and turned it into a launching site for vicious protests, bombings, terror tunnels, burning Israeli lands and other acts of terror including recent long-range missile attacks on the Jewish state's largest population centers. These rockets and bombs are smuggled into Gaza through Egypt by anti-Israeli terror groups in other countries, such as Iran.

There have been three major attempts by Israel to stop Hamas terror and rocket fire from Gaza since 2005. Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009) and Operation Pillar of Defense (2012) were in response to rocket fire over the Gaza-Israel border, while the kidnapping and murdering of three Israeli teenagers by two Hamas members sparked a seven-week campaign known as Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Palestinian protests and bombings on the rise

On March 30, 2018, Palestinians in Gaza organized what they called the "Great March of Return," an attempt to smash through the border and enter Israel en masse. Terror attacks, bombings, rockets and the burning of Israeli lands have escalated since May 2018, when the US Embassy relocated to Jerusalem. These violent protests continue until today, culminating in this week’s rocket fire on Israeli towns and cities.

Israeli military forces, including tanks and large numbers of ground forces, are now gathering along the border with Gaza. Up until a fragile truce went into effect overnight, the Israel Air Force pounded Hamas headquarters and military installations around Gaza City.

With Israeli elections just 14 days away, politicians are stumbling over each other to offer a long-term solution to the Gaza attacks. Some are calling to reoccupy Gaza, others to dismantle Hamas. Itamar Ben-Gvir of the right-wing Jewish Empowerment party called for Israel to return to Gush Katif, the bloc of Gaza Jewish communities evacuated in 2005.

This week also marked the first time that Gaza’s Palestinian residents have risen up in a major public protest against their Hamas overlords.

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