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What is it with the recent Israel-Palestine conflict?

“Hamas fires rockets at Israeli cities. Israel hits Gaza with airstrikes.”

This is something you must have seen everywhere and it's hard to explain this conflict as it dates back to centuries ago. I have tried to explain the recent conflict in the easiest way by staying as neutral as I can because you cannot pick and choose whose human rights matter more.

Israelis and Palestinians are firing at each other in Jerusalem's Old City near Al-Aqsa. The violence that began as clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians a month ago has now turned into rocket and airstrikes from the two sides.

The recent clashes erupted on April 12, after Israeli police put up blockades to prevent people from gathering in huge numbers at the Damascus Gate Plaza in the part of East Jerusalem that's under Israel's control. The Damascus Gate Plaza has been a popular gathering place for Palestinian Muslims during the month of Ramzan. Israel feared trouble and tried to curtail the gathering.

In the past weeks, violence has escalated over the forced evictions of 6 Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. The Israeli Prime Minister has trivialised the situation as a real-estate dispute”, but the activists and political leaders around the world view these evictions as a part of a systematic effort to displace Palestinians.

This recent escalation has resulted in the worst fighting between Israelis and Palestinians in seven years which got intensified on Tuesday night, as Israeli airstrikes began targeting Hamas’s offices in Gaza City and militants in Gaza fired rockets at the metropolis of Tel Aviv, the southern city of Ashkelon and Israel’s main airport.

Israeli airstrikes toppled most of a massive high-rise building in central Gaza City, in the latest escalation in Israel-Hamas fighting the death toll in Gaza rose to 48 Palestinians, including 14 children and three women, according to the Health Ministry. More than 300 people have been wounded, including 86 children and 39 women whereas according to medical officials, in Israel, five people were killed in strikes on Tel Aviv, Ashkelon and Lod, and at least 100 were wounded.

Why is this happening?

Recent history of the last 70 years if kept apart there’s one thing that has crumpled the situation- Religion.

Jerusalem holds religious and cultural significance for many sects. There has often been violence between these sects claiming the region as their own. Israel settler groups say the Sheikh Jarrah land was owned by Jews before the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The Israeli law allows Jewish Settlers to reclaim such lands, but Palestinians do not have the same capabilities.

To be clear religion isn’t a stand-alone factor, there’s a bigger picture where religion plays the major role.

Let me put it in this way- Hamas, the Islamist militant group that runs the Gaza Strip, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel are an unlikely pair.

For Hamas, the conflict has allowed it to revitalize its claims to the leadership of Palestinian resistance. It framed its rockets as a direct response to a pair of Israeli police raids on the Aqsa Mosque compound, a religious site in East Jerusalem sacred to both Muslims and Jews. In the process, the group presented itself as a protector of Palestinian protesters and worshipers in the city.

For Mr. Netanyahu, the distraction of the war, and the divisions it creates between the disparate opposition parties currently negotiating a coalition to topple him from power, have given him half a chance of remaining in office, just days after it seemed like he might finally be on the way out.

What is more important is that it’s the civilians that are suffering the most. Both sides seized on the charged symbolism of the holy city. The Israeli military code-named its operation Guardians of the Walls, a reference to the ancient ramparts of the Old City of Jerusalem. The militants had their own code name: Sword of Jerusalem.

The UN and other international organisations have called to de-escalate and stop the forced evictions in East Jerusalem.

Underreported casualties, half-truths, biased reports and on top of all this the political leadership issues of Hamas and Prime Minister Netanyahu have contributed a lot to the violence across the region.


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