The death toll in Gaza reached 217 on Tuesday, including 63 children and 36 women, and a further 1,500 injuries, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The United Nations (UN) also said that 58,000 people have been displaced by Israel’s oppression on the Gaza Strip.
Thousands of people around the world went to the streets in support of Palestine. The World Health Organisation (WHO) just called for a humanitarian pause in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
In addition to the incessant bombings on the Gaza Strip, live bullets were used against Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank. Whilst Palestinians are calling out Israel’s actions and restrictions, Israel says it is only acting to “protect itself from Palestinian violence”.
The conflict has escalated since the start of Ramadan, the holy Muslim Month celebrated in April 2021. The threatened eviction of some Palestinian families in East Jerusalem has also caused anger among the population.
But what is the cause of such violence in Palestine?
The conflict between Israel and Palestine has been going on for years. To understand it, we have to take go back to WWI.
Tensions in Gaza: How Did it Start
After WW1 and the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Britain took control of the area known today as Palestine. The area was occupied by a Jewish minority and an Arab majority. With the rising tensions between the two groups, Britain was given the task to establish a “national home” for the Jewish community in Palestine. The Palestinian Arabs opposed the move and claimed ownership of the territory.
Between the 1920s and 1940s, after the Holocaust in WWII, the Jewish population in Palestine grew and so did the conflicts and violence between Jews and Arabs. Later in 1947, the UN voted for Palestine to be split into Jews and Arabs, with Jerusalem being “an international city”. This agreement was rejected by the Arabs. When the British left Palestine in 1948, Jewish leaders took over and declared the creation of the state of Israel. This led to the Arab-Israeli War in 1948, when five Arab countries invaded the territory.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced out of their homes in what they call Al Nakba, or the “Catastrophe”. When the war ended in 1949, Israel took control of most of the territory. Jordan became known as West Bank, Egypt occupied Gaza and Jerusalem was divided between Israeli and Jordanian forces.
It is important to note that this war never ended with an agreement, so more conflicts arose in the following decades. Later in 1967, Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Golan Heights, Gaza, and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula.
The Palestinian populations and their descendants now live mostly in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Israel does not authorise these people to return to their homes, in defense of the Jewish state.
Israel still occupies the West Bank and it claims Jerusalem as its capital. Palestinians claim for a Palestinian state and East Jerusalem as its capital. In the past decades, Israel has built settlements in these areas, where more than 600,000 Jews now live. Palestinians say these are illegal under international law, but Israel denies this.
Today, the Gaza Strip is ruled by Hamas, a Palestinian militant group that is in constant tension with Israel. In a way to stop weapons from getting to Hamas, Israel and Egypt have restricted control in Gaza’s border. Even though peace talks have been discussed, Israelis and Palestinians never came to an agreement and the conflict seems far from over.
When is this going to end?
There are a number of issues on which Israel and the Palestinians cannot come to an agreement. The endless tension between Palestinians and Israelis is causing horrible consequences for the population in Gaza and the death of many innocent people. At least 21 women were killed as a result of gender-based violence in Israel against Palestinian citizens.
Especially for children, surviving this violent conflict is extremely traumatic. In the past week, 52 Palestinian children were killed, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. In a video that went viral on social media, a girl in Gaza emotionally asks: “what do you expect me to do? Fix it? I’m only 10.”
In Gaza, more than 40% of the population are children under 14 years old. “Frontiers in Psychiatry” published a study that found that nearly 90% of Palestinian children and teens experienced personal trauma.
According to experts, hope is fundamental for mental wellbeing. Jennifer Leaning, a senior research fellow at the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard, said that the population in Gaza struggles to find hope.
“These children don’t see how that’s going to mean anything. … These older kids slip into this sullen depression, and/or militancy. There’s a hopelessness that makes them do risky things. What is happening to the children is actually in the worst interest of anyone who seeks peace between Israel and Palestine.”
How to help?
You can find here a list of charities that help the victims of the conflict and support the population with emergency medical treatment, food, and shelter.