On October 7, the Palestinian militant group Hamas from the Gaza Strip launched a surprise attack in Israel, killing more than 1,400 people, including civilians and soldiers, and took more than 200 hostages. 

According to USA Today, as Hamas infiltrated the country by land, air, and sea, the nation’s Iron Dome missile defense system failed to deflect some of the rocket attacks.

In response, Israel declared war and launched a military attack on Gaza, bombarding the Gaza Strip with air strikes.

Israeli airstrikes have already devastated many civilian areas, and the death toll in Gaza is growing amid a spiraling humanitarian crisis

Israel also imposed a “total” blockade on Gaza — blocking access to fuel, water, electricity, food, medical supplies, and other goods.

PBS reports that the Israel-Hamas war has become the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides. As of day 20 of the war, more than 7,000 Palestinians have been killed so far — which is more than three times the number killed in the six-week-long Gaza war in 2014, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, mostly in the initial attack.

To understand the Israel-Hamas war, it’s important to know the long-standing history and relationship between Israel and Palestine. 

1967: Six-Day War

In 1967, during what is known as the Six-Day War, Israel conquered Gaza, the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula, parts of East Jerusalem, and the Golan Height

The Six-Day War began a decades-long Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and the  Palestinians living there.

Beginning in 1970, Israel established settlements and military installations in the occupied Palestinian territories West Bank and Gaza. Palestinians were also treated as a cheap source of largely manual labour inside Israel. 

1987–1993: The First Intifada

In 1987, Palestinians responded to the treatment of the Israelis by staging an intifada, or an uprising against Israeli oppression. The Palestinians engaged in a series of demonstrations and nonviolent actions like mass boycotts, civil disobedience, Palestinians refusing to work jobs in Israel, and attacks (using rocks, Molotov cocktails, and occasionally firearms) on Israelis, according to PBS. The protesters were met with violence from Israeli security forces

The First Intifada went on until 1993 when Israeli and Palestinian leaders began negotiating a peaceful end to the conflict. This eventually led to the signing of the Oslo Accords, which allowed Palestinians to self-govern in the West Bank and Gaza.  Israel agreed to withdraw its security forces from those areas and in exchange the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was declared a representative of the Palestinian people as a result of the Accords,  recognized Israel’s “right to exist in peace,” according to the United States Department of State.

2000 – 2003: The Second Intifada

In 2000, there was a  Second Intifada that resulted in the deaths of more than 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis. Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip and withdrew its settlements and military forces from the region in 2005, but the territory has still remained effectively under Israeli occupation.  Israel ceded control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, and vacated four Israeli settlements in the West Bank. 

2006: The Hamas takeover of Gaza

The following year, in 2006, Palestinian militant group Hamas won an election to control the Gaza Strip. “Amid a violent split with the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, the Islamist movement assumed control of the territory the next year,” the news source Vox recounted

2007 Now: Israel Imposes Blockade

Hamas led an armed takeover of Gaza in 2007, prompting Israel to impose a blockade on Gaza which the Palestinians have lived under for the last 16 years. 

The blockade greatly restricts the people of Gaza, so much so that human rights groups have called the territory an “open-air prison.” 

According to the United Nations, 81% of the population in Gaza lives in poverty with food insecurity plaguing 63% of Gaza citizens. The unemployment rate is 46.6%, and access to clean water and electricity remains inaccessible at “crisis” levels, the agency said. 

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) states that “blockade is enforced through violence. Israeli military incursions into Gaza occur weekly, Israeli forces fire into Gaza daily, and bombings of Gaza occur regularly.”

Throughout the years, Hamas and Israel have continued to engage in combat. The UN reports that roughly 6,400 Palestinians and 300 Israelis have been killed in the ongoing violence since 2008, not counting the recent fatalities.

Israel and Hamas are now involved in their worst outbreak of violence in decades with the death toll continuing to rise on both sides. 

The Israel-Hamas war has brought renewed attention to the region’s conflict resulting in nationwide protests.