October 7, 2023, was a peaceful Saturday morning in the homes of families across Israel. That was until thousands of missiles fired from the Gaza Strip rained from the sky, exploding on impact into dozens of towns and buildings on Israeli land. Simultaneously, bulldozers mowed down the fence that signified the border between Israel and Palestine.
Hundreds of armed terrorists, both on motorcycles and on foot, swiftly overtook and penetrated miles deep into Israeli land. They terrorized and infiltrated towns along the border, killing civilians and taking others captive. They broke into Israeli homes and killed indiscriminately, leaving a bloody trail of death behind them.
A night music festival where hundreds of young people had partied the night before turned into a bloodbath in the morning as terrorists rode through on motorcycles, shooting and killing at least 260. Those who escaped the initial massacre escaped into the forest as the bloody game turned into a terrorist hunt for prey. The attack quickly shot into international headlines.
Several hours later, the Israeli president, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared war on Hamas.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine has been going on for decades, yet few know the history between the two nations and the causes of the attack on October 7. What is Hamas? Why has Hamas attacked Israel? Why are Israel and Palestine at war?
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A Divided Country
In the early 1900s, Palestine was a country inhabited primarily by three separate cultures - Jewish, Arabic, and Christian - all with religious ties to the location. In 1917, the Balfour Declaration was written, with a statement of British support for the "establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."
This declaration and the British promise (as well as the Nazi persecution and massacring of Jews in World War II) led tens of thousands of Jewish people to immigrate to Palestine. The sudden downpour of Jewish immigrants on land with a barely balanced equilibrium between antagonistic cultures destroyed the stability and created instant conflict between the Jews and the Arabs. Clashes between the two ethnic groups evoked hundreds of deaths on both sides.
Because of these conflicts, the United Nations drafted Resolution 181, also known as the Partition Plan, in which the intergovernmental organization attempted to divide Palestine into Israel and Arab states. On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was established, triggering the first Arab-Israeli War. The war ended in an Israeli victory, with over 750,000 Palestinians being displaced and forced off Israeli land, fleeing the newly founded country.
In 1967, another Arab-Israeli war broke out again, known as the Six-Day War. Over the span of six days, Israel captured Palestinian territory, gaining control over the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Golan Heights from the neighboring countries Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. The war ended with the majority of Palestinians again being forced out of their homes and becoming refugees.
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Founded in the late 1960s, the sole purpose of Hamas, an Islamic militant organization, was to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamic society. Hamas began employing suicide bombing tactics against Israel in 1993, and after gaining power in the Palestinian government in 2005, began waging war against Israel. In 1997, the United States declared Hamas a foreign terrorist organization, and it was cut off from any financial assistance from the U.S. or the European Union.
After Israel and Egypt reconciled, following a 30-year conflict, they worked together to create a blockade against the Gaza Strip that protected Israeli civilians from Hamas. Over the past two decades, Hamas carried out dozens of deadly attacks against Israel, firing thousands of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israeli towns. In return, Israel executed multiple air strikes and employed armed forces in Gaza territory, building fences and barricades that cost billions of dollars. The walls even stretched underground to deter Hamas from attempting to tunnel their way into Israeli territory.
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Hamas' surprise attack against Israel came on October 7, a weekend morning. Thousands of armed terrorists descended from air, land, and sea. Those by land bulldozed over the fences and penetrated into Israeli territory, entering a bloody killing spree.
The terrorists entered towns, broke into homes, and killed indiscriminately. By the next day, at least 700 people were killed, and there were over 2300 civilians wounded. The armed terrorists also took over 100 hostages to be used as human shields and bargaining, with video records of Israeli civilians being dragged from vehicles.
Hamas had infiltrated over 22 locations along the border, including towns as far as 15 miles into Israeli territory. The music festival near the border of the Gaza Strip accounted for over 250 casualties in the Hamas attack. The scene was a massacre, as terrorists rode through on motorcycles, shooting and killing.
After the attack, Israel cut supplies going into Gaza, including electricity, water, and food. They announced a blockade, restricting the movement of people into and out of the area, attracting the attention of humanitarian groups around the world, who are concerned about the conditions in which over 2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip now live. Access to clean water and electricity remains critical in Gaza, with thousands at risk in Palestinian hospitals with no electricity and limited fuel to run on.
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What Happens Now?
The war between Hamas and Israel is far from over, with over 300,000 Israeli armed forces gathering to retaliate against Hamas' attack and thousands of Palestinian civilians in hospitals in Gaza fighting for their lives in dehumanizing conditions. Hamas has threatened to publicly execute each of the 155 hostages taken if Israel does not retreat. Israel will not lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip if Hamas does not release the hostages safely.
Through the Hamas attack, Israel has lost not only civilians - the reputation and trust in their military and intelligence have also been thrown into jeopardy. The purpose of the Hamas attack was to demonstrate to the world that the problems that Palestinians face daily still exist - the Palestinians must be liberated. Israel must respond to Hamas' attack with intensity and force to prove to the world that it is a country that should not be contended with and has the power and strength to exist as an independent nation.
2023, 'Israel Gaza war: History of the conflict explained', media release, BBC News, viewed October 21, 2023
2023, 'What happened in Israel? A breakdown of how Hamas attack unfolded' media release, Al Jazeera, updated October 9, 2023
2023, 'Timeline: A look into the long history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict' media release, ABC News, published October 19 2023
2023, 'Here's why Hamas chose October 7 to launch the bloodiest attack on Israel' media release, World News, updated October 9, 2023
Israel-Palestine Crisis Relief Fund by GlobalGiving - "Conflict is escalating in Israel and Palestine, and thousands of innocent civilians have been killed and injured. Millions are facing a devastating humanitarian crisis. Your donation to the Israel-Palestine Crisis Relief Fund will provide emergency relief and long-term support to people in need."
DoctorsWithoutBorders - Provides medical care to victims of humanitarian crises such as armed attacks and natural disasters, operating in Gaza, where the hospitals there are subject to attacks from Israel, whether directly or indirectly.
Gaza Emergency Appeal by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) - "UNRWA is calling for immediate access to humanitarian aid and urgent funding for food and non-food items for Palestine Refugees in need."
More places to donate can be found here: Andrea Gonzalez-Ramirez, 'How to Help Civilian Victims of the Israel-Hamas War', The Cut, October 16, 2023