The decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians reemerged into an armed and violent one at the beginning of this month. On the 6th of May protests organized by the Palestinian population took over some parts of Jerusalem, as the Supreme Court of Israel made public the decision of evicting Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah. This neighborhood situated in east Jerusalem is inhabited predominantly by Palestinians. This was followed by the presence, on the 7th of May, of Israeli police forces at the al-Aqsa Mosque, in the Old City of Jerusalem, where tens of thousands of Palestinians were present. According to Palestinians, riots were organized by the police. Eventually, both parts became violent and 200 Palestinians and 17 police officers were injured after the event.
The conflict extended to the Gaza Strip, to the West Bank, and to other mixed-cities, where Palestinians and Israeli cohabitate. Still, the harshest confrontations took place in Gaza and Jerusalem, with the former being the most affected until now. Buildings, homes, and schools in Gaza have been severely damaged. In the Israeli-inhabited territories, the situation looks better, as their advanced technologies can defend them from the attack coming from Palestinian-controlled lands, especially from Gaza. In this respect, Israel managed to intercept approximately 90% of the bombs and rockets launched by their rivals.
In the days that have passed since the violence unfolded between the two sides, approximately 250 Palestinians, including 66 children, and 12 Israeli people, 2 children, and 10 adults lost their lives. Also, more than 1900 Palestinians have been seriously wounded. But the consequences are much more far-reaching. With homes and schools destroyed or left unfunctional, especially in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians are concerned over the process of reconstruction of their cities. According to UNWRA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, 66 000 refugees have left their homes during the attacks and went to schools for protection. In addition, 50 schools in Gaza have been damaged by airstrikes, so far.
As the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, stated numerous times that Israel will not back off, but, instead, they will continue to attack the Palestinian territories, aiming to make them pay a heavy price for what is happening, hopes for a ceasefire started to fade. In the same respect, the Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, clearly declared that no ceasefire will be accepted by Israel anytime soon. Still, due to international pressures and to Egypt’s intervention in the conflict, a ceasefire has been approved both by Israel’s Security Cabinet and by Hamas.
The implication of external actors and the pressure exercised by them, especially over Israel, has helped in making steps forward to reconciliation. The United States, the European Union, and the United Nations have repeatedly called for both sides to put an end to their violent actions, while trying at the same time to advance a ceasefire, as fast and as effectively as possible.
An example of action in this sense is the meeting between the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah. The two officials met in Paris and discussed, making efforts towards a peaceful resolution between Israel and Hamas, which would be led by Egypt.
Another example is the meetings that the US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli-Palestinian Affairs, Hady Amr, engaged with Israeli officials, as well as, with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority President. The meetings took place on different days. At the same time, the US President, Joe Biden, told Benjamin Netanyahu that “significant de-escalation” is expected from them, to put an end to the confrontations with Hamas. The White House reported that they “had a detailed discussion on the state of events in Gaza, Israel’s progress in degrading the capabilities of Hamas and other terrorist elements, and ongoing diplomatic efforts by regional governments and the United States.” The discussion took place on Wednesday, the same day when the Israeli prime minister declared: “We’re not standing with a stopwatch. We are taking care of the operation’s objectives. […] Previous operations lasted a long time, so it is not possible to set a timeframe.” Referring to Hamas, the prime minister said: “You can either conquer them — and that’s always an open possibility — or you can deter them. And we are engaged right now in forceful deterrence, but I have to say, we don’t rule out anything,”
The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, called for a ceasefire at the special meeting of the UN General Assembly. He also expressed the sorrow felt for the lives and destinies of children in the Gaza Strip: “The past 10 days have witnessed a dangerous and horrific surge in deadly violence in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly Gaza, and in Israel. […] I am deeply shocked by the continued air and artillery bombardment by the Israeli defense forces in Gaza. If there is a hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza.”
The European Union, through Josep Borrell, the European High Representative for Foreign Affairs, established some priorities and called for immediate de-escalation and a cease-fire. Unfortunately, no written conclusions were implemented as unanimity could not be reached: 26 out of 27 states ministers agreed, only Hungary did not. The official stated: “The priority is the immediate cessation of all violence and the implementation of a cease-fire … The second is to consider that the upsurge of violence in the last days has led to a high number of civilian casualties, deaths, and injuries, among them a high number of children and women and that this is unacceptable.”
On the 20th of May, the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has been approved by both sides. The Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire was accepted unanimously by Israel’s Security Cabinet. It entered into force at 2 AM on Friday.
The announcement of the ceasefire was followed by celebrations in Gaza, with Palestinians taking over the streets and waving flags. Both sides claim victory over the 11 days of fighting. The situation has remained the same as before, Gaza is still under the control of Hamas and Israel continues to impose a blockade over the region. The only difference is made by the damages and casualties on both of the camps. In terms of casualties, this clash is the most serious one since 2014.
The ceasefire was welcomed and praised by numerous political and military leaders around the world, from UN and EU officials to heads or representatives of different countries, such as the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, China, Iran, the United Kingdom, and Germany, but not only.
The ceasefire in Gaza resists, despite new clashes between Palestinians and Israeli people in East Jerusalem. The violence took place mainly near the al-Aqsa mosque, the place where the first major clash between the two sides took place at the beginning of the conflict.
As the truce in Gaza was accepted by both sides, Palestinians are heading home from the shelters where they stayed during the airstrikes. In addition, humanitarian aid from the United Nations is set to arrive soon in Gaza.
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