Trouble in the Middle East: The Gaza Strip Crisis

 

The Gaza Strip crisis intensified last Saturday when Israel targeted the headquarters of Hamas leaders and other key facilities in Gaza, on the fourth day of Israeli air strikes in the territory. Prime Minister Ismail Haniya's office was among the buildings destroyed. At least thirty-nine Palestinians and three Israelis have died since Israel killed Hamas's military chief on Wednesday the 14th. Israeli military spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said two hundred targets had been hit overnight. As tension mounts Israel put seventy-five thousand reservists on stand-by amid speculation of an impending ground invasion as militants in Gaza continue to fire rockets into Israel. 

However, for now it remains a waiting game to see what each side does next. Israel has inflicted a considerable amount of damage on Gaza and whether or not they intend to go ahead with a ‘second phase’ remains unclear. They have not articulated what it plans to do with people fearing that they will launch a ground invasion. Eliminating Hamas altogether would be futile and undoubtedly cost many more Israeli and Palestinian lives.

Western leaders and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have appealed for both sides to stop the violence. On Friday, President Barack Obama reiterated US support for Israel's ‘right to defend itself’. Mr Mursi, the Egyptian President, called the Israeli raids ‘a blatant aggression against humanity’ and promised that Egypt ‘will not leave Gaza on its own.’

 

So where is the Gaza strip and where do these tensions originate from?

The Gaza Strip is a piece of land on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea that borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the east and north. The population of the Gaza Strip is about 1.7 million people. A large percentage of the population are Palestinian refugees who fled to Gaza as part of the 1948 Palestinian exodus following the Arab-Israeli War. It acquired its current boundaries at the cessation of fighting, which was confirmed by the Israel-Egypt Armistice Agreement on 24 February 1949. The Agreement declared that the demarcation line was not to be an international border and the Gaza Strip continued to be occupied by Egypt. Israel captured and occupied the Gaza Strip in the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel maintained control of the airspace, territorial waters and border crossings apart from the land border with Egypt. In 2005 Israel unilaterally disengaged from Gaza leaving the Palestinian authorities with complete administrative authority. Since July 2007, following the 2006 Palestinian legislative election and the Battle of Gaza, Hamas has functioned as the ‘de facto’ ruler in the Gaza Strip, forming an alternative Hamas Government in Gaza.

 

Image Credits: The New York Times and The Guardian