UPSC Mains 2019: Israel-Gaza violence erupts after covert op killings

 

Topic: Israel-Gaza violence erupts after covert op killings

Topic in Syllabus : GS Paper 2 : International Affairs

israel - gaza

Context:

Violence has flared between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, a day after seven militants and an Israeli soldier were killed during an undercover Israeli operation in Gaza.

Militants fired 300 rockets and mortars at Israel. One hit a bus, seriously injuring a soldier nearby.

 

Gaza Strip:

  • Gaza Strip is 225 sq.km strip of land.
  • 2 million people live there.
  • Most of the Gaza residents are the refugees of first Arab-Israeli war.
  • It is under an Israeli blockade for over a decade.
  • Recently, Egypt also joined the blockade, practically cutting off the strip from the rest of the World.
  • The flow of goods and people into and out of Gaza is heavily restricted.

 

gaza strip

Current scenario at Gaza strip:

  • Israeli forces have killed seven Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in an apparently botched undercover raid and ensuing firefight that has threatened to destroy a precarious, unofficial ceasefire.
  • An Israeli lieutenant colonel was killed and another officer wounded in the operation on Sunday night in south-east Gaza, the first known ground incursion there by Israeli forces since the last war in 2014.
  • Militants fired 300 rockets and mortars at Israel. One hit a bus, seriously injuring a soldier nearby.
  • Israel responded with more than 70 strikes on what it said were targets belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
  • Three Palestinians, two of them reportedly militants, were killed.
  • The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said nine Palestinians were injured.
  • Meanwhile, Israeli medics said 10 people in Israel were injured.
  • Israeli media later reported that a man was killed after a house was hit by a rocket in the Israeli city of Ashkelon.
  • Israeli Maj Gen Kamil Abu Rukun warned that Hamas “has crossed a red line” and Israel would “continue to respond with an iron fist against all terrorist activity or rocket fire”.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short his visit to France for an urgent meeting with his security chiefs.

 

Recent developments for violence:

  • A Hamas commander and an Israeli soldier were among the dead on recently.
  • Palestinians said an Israeli unit travelling in a civilian vehicle had killed the Hamas commander.
  • According to Palestinian sources, the Israeli unit was about 3km (2 miles) inside the Gaza Strip, which borders Israel, when militants from Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, stopped the car.
  • The group’s military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, said the Israelis opened fire, killing a local commander, Nur Barakeh.
  • The incident is reported to have happened east of Khan Younis, in the south of the territory.
  • A gun battle erupted and Israeli tanks and aircraft opened fire in the area.
  • Six of the Palestinians killed belonged to Hamas and the seventh was a member of the militant Popular Resistance Committees, AFP news agency cited Palestinian officials as saying.
  • The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said a member of the special unit involved was killed and another was lightly wounded.
  • The Israeli soldiers were later flown back by helicopter.

 

Background of Violence in Gaza:

Though the Palestinians don’t have an army, rockets are regularly fired from Gaza into Israel. Israelis living in border towns are used to having to take shelter and adapting their lives to deal with the rockets.

In the years since Israel withdrew its troops in 2005, Gaza has seen several Israeli offensives. Israel says these were aimed at putting a stop to rocket fire.

  • In 2008, Israel sent soldiers into Gaza. An estimated 1,300 people, many of them civilians, were killed in Gaza before a ceasefire was declared; 13 Israeli soldiers also died.
  • In 2012, at least 167 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed during an Israeli operation. After eight days a ceasefire was declared with both sides promising to stop attacks.
  • Most recently in July 2014, authorities said over 2,200 people were killed – most of them Palestinians – and many more injured, during 50 days of violence. A ceasefire was agreed between Israel and Hamas on 26 August.

 

The History of Israel-Palestine Conflict:

  • Jews have been persecuted throughout the history due to their religious beliefs and foreign culture.
  • In 1897, Jews started a movement called a Zionist movement, to escape persecution and establish their own state in their ancestral homeland, Israel. The World Zionist Organisation was created to advocate for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
  • As a result, a large number of Jews started flowing into Palestine and they bought land and started settling down there.
  • By 1916, Palestine came under the British control after the Sykes-Picot Agreement (a secret agreement between Great Britain and France). This led to the division of the old Ottoman Turkish Empire.
  • Later through Balfour declaration, the British foreign secretary James Balfour agreed to the establishment of a Jewish homeland.
  • After Nazis gained power in Germany in 1930s, the Jews influx to Palestine took a major turn with hundreds of thousands of them resettled from Europe to Palestine. Arabs saw this as a threat to their homeland and they fought bitterly with them. As the British Government remained as a mute spectator, violence reached its peak.
  • In 1947, the British Government referred the question of the future of Palestine to the United Nations. UN voted to split the land into two countries. Jewish people accepted the agreement and declared independence of Israel.

 

Why are Israel and Hamas enemies?

  • Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006 and reinforced its power in the Gaza Strip after ousting West Bank-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ rival Fatah faction in clashes the following year.
  • While Mr Abbas’ umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) has signed peace accords with Israel, Hamas does not recognise Israel’s right to exist and advocates the use of violence against it.
  • Israel, along with Egypt, has maintained a blockade of Gaza since about 2006 in order, they say, to stop attacks by militants.
  • Israel and Hamas have gone to war three times, and rocket-fire from Gaza and Israeli air strikes against militant targets are a regular occurrence.
  • Sunday night’s incident comes after apparent progress in an Egyptian- and UN-brokered process to mediate after a series of escalations between the two sides in recent months.
  • More than 200 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by Israeli forces since the end of March – most during weekly protests along the border at which thousands have expressed their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.
  • Israel has said its soldiers have only opened fire in self-defence or on potential attackers trying to infiltrate its territory under the cover of the protests.
  • One Israeli soldier was killed on the Gaza-Israel border by a Palestinian sniper in July.

 

What Israel says?

  • Israel says Hamas is the terrorist group.
  • Several Western Countries also say that Hamas is a terrorist group.
  • The restrictions are in place for security reasons as stated by Israel.
  • Despite international calls and repeated warnings by Rights Groups, Israel has not eased its restrictions on the Strip.
  • The real picture through an impartial international probe is also not taking place. The reason is US blocking the move in the UN Security Council seeking such an inquiry.

 

The solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict:

  • The best solution is a “two-state solution” that would establish Palestine as an independent state in Gaza and most of the West Bank, leaving the rest of the land to Israel. Though the two-state plan is clear in theory, the two sides are still deeply divided over how to make it work in practice.
  • One state solution (only Palestine or only Israel) is not a viable option.
  • Road Map for Peace: The European Union, UN, US, and Russia had released a road map in 2003, which outlined a clear timetable towards a Palestinian state.
  • The democratization of the Palestinian society through which a new credible leadership can emerge is necessary.
  • The need of the hour is to treat this conflict as Israeli-Arab conflict rather Israel-Palestine. As we have seen, conflict is not only between Israel and Palestine but also with other Arab countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Syria etc. All of them should participate in the negotiations and the final agreement should be recognized formally by each one of them along with UN general assembly and Security Council.
  • It is time for the international community to find a just and lasting peaceful solution to the World’s most intractable conflict soon.

 

Sample Question: 

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has its roots in the late 19th century in this context explain the current situation at Gaza strip. Discuss the India’s Stand on Indo-Israel-Palestine Relationship.