Israel-Gaza conflict: A history of ongoing tensions

President Joe Biden expresses 'support' for cease-fire
Gaza fighting Monday, May 17
Posted at 1:26 PM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 13:42:45-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Gaza Strip has been the scene of an escalation of violence this month between Israel and Hamas that is a result of tensions for decades.

This is the fourth round of major conflict between Israel and Hamas since 2008 in Gaza, which is a self-governing Palestinian territory with around 2 million residents.

Why is Gaza important?

Gaza is located along the Mediterranean Sea between Israel and Egypt and is only 25 miles long and six miles wide.

Gaza was part of the British-ruled Palestine Mandate before the 1948 war surrounding Israel's creation.

When Britain left the region, Jewish leaders declared the creation of the state of Israel, which many Palestinians objected and war followed in 1948.

Gaza came under Egyptian control until 1967.

In the subsequent years, large numbers of Palestinians fled or were driven from Israel and settled in Gaza.

Israel captured Gaza, along with the West Bank and east Jerusalem, in the 1967 Mideast war.

Hamas, a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist organization, was founded in 1987. This is the same year of an uprising in Gaza that also spread to other occupied territories.

Israel withdrew its troops and Jewish settlements from Gaza in 2005 following a second uprising by Palestinians

Hamas won a victory in Palestinian elections the next year, which eventually left the organization in control of Gaza by 2007.

APTOPIX Israel Palestinians
Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes on a building in Gaza City, Thursday, May 13, 2021. Weary Palestinians are somberly marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as Hamas and Israel traded more rockets and airstrikes and Jewish-Arab violence raged across Israel. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Gaza Blockade

After Hamas took power in Gaza, Israel and Egypt implemented a blockade that produced devastating economic impacts on the tiny enclave.

Israel says the blockade is needed to keep Hamas and other militant groups from importing arms. However, rights groups say it is a form of collective punishment.

Because of the blockade, Palestinian residents in Gaza are not allowed to freely leave the territory to travel abroad. This has prompted many to call Gaza the world's largest open-air prison.

"Unemployment hovers at around 50%, power outages are frequent and the tap water is badly polluted," according to an Associated Press report.

Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada, the European Union and other countries. Other nations, including Russia and China, do not label Hamas in this manner. The United Nations General Assembly rejected a U.S. resolution condemning Hamas as a terrorist organization in December 2018.

APTOPIX Israel Palestinians
An Israeli artillery unit fires toward targets in the Gaza Strip, at the Israeli Gaza border, Monday, May 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Heidi Levine)

What sparked 2021 violence?

The latest fighting is being called the most intense Israel has ever had with Hamas, and the worst Jewish-Arab violence in Israel in decades.

Fighting began May 10 when Hamas, claiming to be defending Jerusalem, fired a barrage of long-range rockets toward the city in response to what it said were provocations from Israel. Israel then responded with a series of airstrikes.

The latest conflict came after clashes in Jerusalem among Palestinians, Israeli police and right-wing Jews, according to the Washington Post.

Tensions have been high since mid-April, partly because of efforts by Israeli settlers to evict several Palestinian families from their homes in a neighborhood of East Jerusalem after legal disputes.

In the following days, there have been rocket fire and airstrikes on both sides.

Last week, Israel said it was massing troops along Gaza and called up 9,000 reservists for a possible ground invasion of the Hamas-ruled territory.

When will the fighting end?

Twenty-eight U.S. Senate Democrats signed a statement Monday urging a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

The White House said President Joe Biden expressed "support" for a cease-fire during a call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden also reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks.

The death toll in Gaza is now at an estimated 200 people.