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News analysis: Why has the Palestine-Israel conflict erupted now?


A new round of Palestine-Israel conflict has broken out after a surprise attack by the Gaza-based Palestinian armed movement Hamas on Israel on Saturday. With Israel launching strikes on Gaza in response, this fresh round of violence has already resulted in the deaths of at least 500 people across both sides.

This confrontation, the largest one between the two sides since May 2021, has aroused concerns from different parties around the world, including China, which has urged all relevant parties to remain “calm.”

Read more:

Reactions from global leaders pour in after attacks on Israel

The reasons behind the recurrence of lengthy clashes in the Middle East region lie both in problems that have been left over from history and in the recent changing situations in the region, according to experts.

What happened?

Hamas fired thousands of rockets and sent dozens of fighters into Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip in an unprecedented surprise attack at dawn on Saturday during the Jewish high holiday of Simchat Torah.

At least 300 Israelis were killed by the attack, Israeli media reported.

“We are in a war,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address, declaring a mass army mobilization.

Mohammed al-Deif, a leader from Hamas, announced on Saturday the beginning of a new military operation, “Al-Aqsa Flood,” against Israel via a brief recorded statement.

As retaliation, Israel launched an offensive called “Swords of Iron,” and Netanyahu told residents of the besieged enclave to “leave now” as Israel’s forces “will turn all Hamas hideouts into rubble.”

Dozens of Israeli warplanes flew into various areas of Gaza and targeted 17 sites and four headquarters of the Hamas, killing over 232 and injuring nearly 1,700 in the area, according to an update from the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza.

‘Growing despair’

The attack by Hamas follows a period of heavy fighting in the West Bank, with stepped-up Israeli raids, Palestinian street attacks and assaults by Jewish settlers on Palestinian villages.

Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli military raids this year, according to UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland.

“The assault, launched at a time when the interests of the Palestinian people in the West Bank are constantly being encroached on by Israel, serves to strengthen the cohesion of its grass-roots organization in the Gaza Strip,” Dong Manyuan, a researcher on Middle East issues at the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), told CGTN.

“Meanwhile, by inflicting losses on Israel, the attack can divert the discontent of the people in Gaza who have suffered the repeated aerial bombardments and give them hope,” Dong added.

Hamas said in a statement on Saturday that the offensive is a response to the desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and increased settler violence.

Conditions for Palestinians have worsened under the hard-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Peacemaking has been stalled for years.

“For a very long time, Israel constantly violated the rights of Palestinians, and the Palestinian people felt that their Arab brothers have no interest in their survival, which has bred growing despair in their minds,” said Li Guofu, another expert on Middle East issues from CIIS.

Palestine question ‘far from being resolved’

Saturday’s assault also comes at a crucial moment, as Israel and Saudi Arabia were moving closer to what they called a “historic” normalization of relations. In late September, Israeli Tourism Minister Haim Katz landed in Saudi Arabia for a UN event, becoming the first Israeli minister to lead a delegation to the kingdom.

“If Saudi-Israeli diplomatic relations were realized, this would undoubtedly have an impact on the restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people, given the influence of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East,” Li told CGTN.

“Hamas has demonstrated in a shocking way that the Palestinian question is far from being resolved and that the Palestinian people’s demands for a homeland of their own have not yet been fulfilled,” he noted.

Echoing Li, Dong said that Hamas intends to prevent countries like Saudi Arabia from getting closer to Israel, lest the Palestinian question become even more marginalized. “Hamas now wants to highlight the importance of the Palestinian question and draw international attention to it,” he said.

The surprise Hamas offensive also comes 50 years and a day after Israel’s Arab neighbors launched a coordinated surprise attack that began the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

(Cover: Palestinians inspect the rubble of a building after it was struck by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza, October 7, 2023. /CFP)



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