Palestine’s Hamas launched a large-scale assault on Israel, unleashing a barrage of rockets from Gaza and sending fighters across the border. In response, Israel declared itself “on a war footing” and launched its own strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza. Reports from Israeli media indicated gun battles between bands of Palestinian fighters and security forces in southern Israel.
To understand the gravity of the situation, we need to rewind to Israel’s significant withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in August 2005. This unilateral move, occurring 38 years after Israel had captured Gaza from Egypt during the Middle East war, involved the abandonment of settlements and left the enclave under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
January 25, 2006, marked another critical juncture when Hamas secured a majority of seats in a Palestinian legislative election. The victory prompted Israel and the United States to cut off aid to Palestinians due to Hamas’s refusal to renounce violence and recognize Israel.
However, tensions continued to mount as on June 25, 2006, Hamas militants captured Israeli army conscript Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid from Gaza. This incident led to Israeli air strikes and incursions. Shalit would only regain his freedom more than five years later in a prisoner exchange.
The situation escalated further on June 14, 2007, when Hamas seized control of Gaza in a brief civil war, ousting Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who resided in the West Bank.
December 27, 2008, witnessed Israel launching a 22-day military offensive in Gaza in response to rocket attacks on the southern Israeli town of Sderot by Palestinians. The conflict resulted in the reported deaths of about 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis before a ceasefire was finally agreed upon.
Fast forward to November 14, 2012, when Israel targeted and killed Hamas’s military chief of staff, Ahmad Jabari. This assassination set off eight days of intense rocket fire by Palestinian militants and Israeli air strikes.
July to August 2014 marked a seven-week war triggered by the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas. During this conflict, over 2,100 Palestinians were reported killed in Gaza, and 73 Israelis lost their lives, with 67 being military personnel.
In March 2018, Palestinian protests began at the fenced border between Gaza and Israel. Israeli troops opened fire to deter protestors, leading to the reported deaths of over 170 Palestinians in several months of protests. These demonstrations also sparked conflicts between Hamas and Israeli forces.
May 2021 witnessed weeks of escalating tension during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Clashes erupted between hundreds of Palestinians and Israeli security forces at the Al Aqsa compound in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam. Following demands for the withdrawal of Israeli security forces from the compound, Hamas launched a barrage of rockets from Gaza into Israel. Israel retaliated with air strikes, resulting in 11 days of violence that claimed the lives of at least 250 people in Gaza and 13 in Israel.
August 2022 saw at least 44 people, including 15 children, killed in three days of violence. This violence began with Israeli air strikes targeting a senior Hamas commander. Israel justified these strikes as a pre-emptive operation against an imminent attack by the Iranian-backed militant movement, aiming to eliminate commanders and arms depots. In response, Islamic Jihad fired more than 1,000 rockets toward Israel, with Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system preventing significant damage or casualties.
Jumping to January 2023, Islamic Jihad in Gaza fired two rockets toward Israel after Israeli troops raided a refugee camp, resulting in the deaths of seven Palestinian gunmen and two civilians. These rockets triggered alarms in Israeli communities near the border but caused no casualties. Israel responded with air strikes on Gaza.
Finally, in October 2023, Hamas launched its most significant attack on Israel in years, surprising the world with a combination of gunmen crossing the border and a heavy rocket barrage. Islamic Jihad announced that its fighters had joined the assault. Israel’s military declared itself “on a war footing” and reported conducting strikes targeting Hamas in Gaza, along with mobilizing reservists.
As this timeline illustrates, the Israel-Palestine conflict has been marked by a series of significant events, including military offensives, elections, abductions, and ceasefires. The recent escalation underscores the enduring nature of this complex and deeply rooted conflict, as both sides continue to grapple with historical grievances and political divisions.