The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is the ongoing struggle between Israelis and Palestinians that began in the mid-20th century over the disputed territory of the West Bank and Gaza. Despite plans for peace and a two-state agreement, violence re-erupted in September 2015 after clashes at a Jerusalem holy site, and the situation remains bleak. In response to their shrinking territory, a number of terrorist organizations have risen up out of Palestine and threaten the safety of Israeli citizens. After a wave of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in 2015, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that Palestinians would no longer be bound by the Oslo Accords.
Between March 30 and May 15, 2018, Palestinians conducted weekly demonstrations at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. While most of the protesters behaved peacefully, some stormed the erimeter fence and threw rocks. According to the United Nations, 183 demonstrators were killed and over 6,000 were wounded by live ammunition. More recently, another escalation of the Gaza–Israel conflict escalation began on May 3, 2019, after two Israeli soldiers were injured by sniper fire from the Gaza Strip. In response, the Israeli Air Force carried out an airstrike, killing two Palestinians. Soon hundreds of rockets were launched from Gaza at Israel while the Israeli Air Force struck numerous targets within the Gaza Strip and increased its troop presence near the Israel–Gaza barrier. Despite the formal ceasefire, facilitated by Egyptian mediators, that went into effect on May 6th, airstrikes and bouts of violence still crop up near the border.
Primary Terrorist Presence in Israel & Palestine (CIA World Factbook):
- Hamas: Also known as the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas is a Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist organization that was officially founded in 1987 and listed as a foreign terrorist organization in October 1997. The group formed out of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and calls for the establishment of an Islamic Palestinian state. Hamas rejects all agreements between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel. As well as being chiefly responsible for a number of terrorist attacks on Israel, Hamas’s methods and military tactics have greatly harmed the Palestinian people at the same time.
- Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ): This Iranian-inspired Islamic militant group primarily seeks to derail the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and eliminate Israel from the region. Listed as a terrorist group by the U.S. since 1997. Unlike Hamas, it does not participate in the political process.
- Palestinian Liberation Front (PLF): The PLF aims to enhance its networks in the West Bank and destroy the state of Israel. In 1967 it merged with two other groups to form the PFLP (see below) but then split away and was re-established in the mid-1970s. It is a U.S.-listed terrorist organization.
- Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC): An armed Salafi jihadist group, with ties to al-Qaeda and ISIL, which is active in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and in the Gaza Strip. The U.S. listed them as a foreign terrorist organization in August 2014.
- The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP): Formed in 1967 when the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), a small-armed splinter group allied to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, merged with two other groups, the Arab Nationalist Movement-affiliated Heroes of the Return (abtal al-awda) and the Young Avengers. It is a secular Marxist-Leninist revolutionary socialist organization and the second-largest of the groups forming the Palestinian Organization (PLO). The PFLP currently considers both the Fatah-led government in the West Bank and the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip illegal because elections to thePalestinian National Authority have not been held since 2006. It has been listed as a terrorist group by the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia and the EU.
Other Groups Engaged in the Conflict:
- The United States: In May 2019, the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which it declared the capital of Israel, triggering Palestinian protests. In addition, the U.S. cut funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA). In August, the U.S. cut all funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)—previously up to $350 million per year—which provides critical services, including education and health care, to children in the West Bank and Gaza.
Human Rights, Humanitarian and Refugee Crises:
- According to Human Rights Watch, security services of the Palestinian Authority (PA) have arrested dozens of journalists, activists and opposition members, tortured detainees, and dispersed nonviolent protests.
- As of November 19, 2018, lethal force by Israeli forces resulted in the killing of 252 and injuring of 25,522 Palestinians in Gaza, OCHA reported.
- As of October 31, 2018, Israeli authorities held 5,426 detainees for “security” offenses based on secret evidence without charge or trial. Almost all are Palestinian. Israeli soldiers and police and Israel Security Agency officers subjected Palestinian detainees, including children, to torture and other ill-treatment with impunity, particularly during arrest and interrogation.
Other restrictions on Humanitarian Aid:
- In 2018, Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA) which was then signed into law by President Donald Trump. This act allows Americans to sue those receiving foreign aid from their country in U.S. courts over alleged complicity in "acts of war" (Lawfare). Under the act, if Palestinians receive U.S. Aid, the Palestinian Authority could be compelled to pay millions of dollars in compensation to families of American victims of past Palestinian attacks.
Palestine in Recent News:
- May 6, 2019: Israel and Gaza Militants Agree to Cease-fire After Weekend of Violence, Washington Post
- May 6, 2019: Why Do Israel and Gaza Keep Fighting? New York Times
- May 20, 2019: Palestinian leaders say U.S. ‘Peace to Prosperity’ summit slights them, Washington Post