By Kayode Adebiyi
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, perhaps the most complicated and longest-continuing political and military conflict in the world, reignited on October 7 when Hamas attacked Israel.
According to Israeli authorities, trouble started when Hamas militants from Gaza fired thousands of rockets into towns and cities in southern Israel.
It was also reported that the militants broke through the heavily fortified border fence with Israel, killed more than 1,400 people, including civilians and soldiers, and took 199 hostages.
It was the first time that Israel faced a direct attack of that scale on its territories since the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
Also notable is that, although Hamas had taken Israeli hostages before, this was the first time it was kidnapping scores of hostages, including women, children and the elderly.
Hamas claimed the attack was in response to Israeli attacks on Palestinian women, the desecration of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and the ongoing siege of Gaza.
Palestinian officials say Israel’s retaliatory assault on Gaza has killed at least 2,750 people and injured more than 9,700 in what Israel refers to as “Operation Swords of Iron”.
As acknowledged by conflict resolution experts, it is characteristic of such perennial and deeply dividing conflict to have many sides to its escalation.
While those who support Israel are calling the current round of the conflict an unprovoked terror onslaught requiring a tough response, those who are sympathetic towards the Palestinians criticise Israel for its high-handedness.
The term ‘collective punishment’ has since gained wider use to describe what some call a heavily disproportionate response by Israel in terms of the scale of retribution.
Between October 7 and 12, Israel dropped 6,000 bombs on the densely inhabited Gaza, an equivalent to the total number of airstrikes on Gaza during the entire 2014 Israel-Hamas conflict, which lasted 50 days.
Israel has also ordered a complete siege on Gaza, blocking the delivery of electricity, food, fuel and water until the hostages taken are freed.
The International Committee of the Red Cross defines collective punishment as criminal punishment and other types of sanctions, harassment, or administrative action taken against a group in retaliation for an act committed by an individual/group who is considered to form part of the group.
“Such punishment therefore targets persons who bear no responsibility for having committed the conduct in question.
“International humanitarian law prohibits collective punishment of prisoners of war or other protected persons for acts committed by individuals during an armed conflict,” it says.
And that is exactly what pro-Palestinians have accused Israel of committing.
However, those who believe that Israel has the right to defend itself against external aggressors say this latest round of the Israel-Hamas war was provoked by Hamas.
They also say that the hostage-taking of scores, some of whom are foreign nationals, has complicated Israel’s response. With Hamas confirming that some hostages have been killed by Israeli bombings, the situation becomes even more dire.
Experts say what started as a United Nations vote in 1947 to partition land in the British mandate of Palestine into two states – one Jewish, one Arab – has become a conflict of global concern that has defied solutions.
When the State of Israel was created on May 14, 1948, it sparked the first Arab-Israeli War, which displaced 750,000 Palestinians when it ended in 1949.
The war also led to the division of the territory into three parts: the State of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.
In 2006, the Palestinian side was fractured by conflict between Fatah, led by the traditionally dominant Palestinian Authority, and its later electoral challenger, Hamas, a militant group.
One expert said Israel cannot be fully exonerated from the monster Hamas has come to be since it took over Gaza in 2007.
“History shows that Israel saw the group as a way of undermining support for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, although it has always denied encouraging the rise of the Islamist movement in Gaza.
“Mujama al-Islamiya, the group which eventually birthed Hamas, was recognised as a charity by Israel.
“Israel also approved the creation of the Islamic University of Gaza by Mujama al-Islamiya, which many argue eventually became a breeding ground of support for Hamas,” he said.
Since it gained control of Gaza, Hamas and Israel have fought five wars. Experts warn that the continued Israel-Hamas subplot in the overall Israeli-Palestinian conflict further undermines peaceful resolution.
Also, those who seek a lasting solution to the conflict warn that the continued instigation by powerful countries on both sides has so far derailed all attempted peace plans.
Violence between Israel and Palestine particularly escalated in recent times, with international media reporting that the number of Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank by Israeli forces in 2023 is the highest in nearly two decades.
Equally, the number of Israelis and foreign nationals killed in Palestinian attacks this year has been unprecedented, compared to previous years.
But there is a reason why the continued onslaught on Gaza should worry all, regardless of affiliation.
The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated places on earth, with some 2 million people jam-packed in the 140-square-mile territory, so much that Human Rights Watch labelled it an “open-air prison” in 2022.
Many neutrals have therefore suggested that the two-state solution is the best hope for peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Enshrined in the Oslo Accords, the two-state solution established a peace process through a mutually negotiated resolution.
In exchange for recognition of Israel and its citizens’ right to live in peace, the Oslo Accords centered on the process of establishing Palestinian self-governance in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The agreement was derailed when Israel’s 1996 election brought Benjamin Netanyahu to power, a hardline and outspoken critic of the agreement.
Events of the past few weeks have shown that just as two wrongs don’t make a right, the insistence on two rights, analysts say, have turned out wrong. And deadly so.
With hostilities raging, concerned analysts have suggested that the international community should seek out a mutually-negotiated and sustainable resolution to the conflict.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)