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Israeli forces continue attack on Gaza Strip: Why are Israel and Palestine at war?

The threat of Israeli invasion looms in Gaza as military officials confirm that attacks have escalated after a week of bombings and mob violence in the region.

Israeli forces continue attack on Gaza Strip: Why are Israel and Palestine at war?
Fatima Shbair Getty Images

In the early hours of Friday morning Israeli officials confirmed that their armed forces had initiated another military offensive in the contested Gaza Strip, further escalating the conflict after a week of heavy civilian casualties.

The full extent of the offensive is not yet clear but the New York Times quotes Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, as confirming that “there are ground troops attacking in Gaza, together with air forces as well.” He later clarified that Israeli forces had not actually entered Gaza.

The Israeli military has faced global condemnation for its role in the fighting in recent days, coming as the Islamic festival of Ramadan moved towards Eid. Here’s what we know so far about the latest development.

What has caused the recent fighting in Gaza?

The most recent burst of fighting is thought to have broken out on Monday evening when the Palestinian Islamic group Hamas began a campaign of long-range artillery attacks on the Israeli-held city of Jerusalem. Israel responded with a barrage of attacks from the air and the conflict has escalated from there.

The following days have been filled with sustained military attacks on both territories with casualties reaching into the hundred already. AP report that Gaza’s Health Ministry has announced the death of 109 Palestinians as a result of the conflict, which includes 28 children and 15 women. There have been 20 confirmed deaths amongst the Hamas and other Islamic militant groups, while seven people have been killed in Israel.

Fears that Israel will attempt to invade Gaza Strip

The 140-square-mile territory which occupies a relatively small area along the Mediterranean Sea is one of the most contentious patches of land in the world and has been the subject of conflict for decades. The area was controlled by Egypt until 1956, when it was taken by Israeli forces, and has been a melting pot of social, political and religious dispute ever since.

The area around the Gaza Strip is considered a Holy site by all three major Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) and has been the subject of conflict for centuries.

The most recent eruption of violence emanated from Jerusalem around a month ago, when Israeli police were criticised for using excessive force in their handling of Palestinian families during Ramadan. There were clashes at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque as Arabs and Jews in Israel fought for their rights in the contested lands of the ancient city.

The most recent spell of fighting is considered the most serious and violent to be seen in decades, with violence centring around the city of Lod on Thursday evening. The region appears increasingly unstable after a spate of four inconclusive Israeli election in just two years, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clinging to power for the time being.

President Joe Biden has confirmed that he has spoken to Netanyahu about de-escalating the conflict in the region, but called those attempts “a work in progress.”

Biden added that he wants to “get to a point where there is a significant reduction in attacks, particularly rocket attacks that are indiscriminately fired into population centers.”