What is currently happening in Palestine



Vivien Zartner

According to iNews, “on Saturday, the 15th May 2021, Israeli air strikes in the heart of Gaza City flattened three buildings and killed at least 26 people, making it the deadliest single attack since heavy fighting broke out nearly a week ago”. Dozens more strikes were carried out on Sunday, the 16th May 2021, and it is suspected that a top commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group in Gaza has been killed.

While these attacks are making front page news, many people may not be aware of what has caused the current violence. According to the BBC, there is a long and unresolved conflict between Israel and Palestine, starting over a century ago. Britain took control of the area known as Palestine, a land inhabited by Jewish and Arab minority, after the ruler of that region of the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire was defeated in WWI. Tensions between the two peoples grew when the international community gave Britain the task of establishing a “national home” in Palestine for Jewish people. For Jews, it was their ancestral home, but Palestinian Arabs also claimed the land and opposed the move.

Furthermore, between the 1920s and 40s, the number of Jews arriving in the land grew, due to many seeking refuge after the Holocaust and fleeing persecution in Europe. However, this increased violence between Arabs and Jews, as well as against the British reign. 

In an attempt to diminish the conflict, in 1947, it was voted by the UN that Palestine should be split into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem becoming an international city. This plan was accepted by Jewish leaders but rejected by the Arab side and therefore never implemented.

As they were unable to solve the conflict, British rulers left in 1948, leaving the Jewish leaders to declare the creation of the state of Israel. This was objected by the Palestinians and a war followed. This resulted in hundreds of thousands of Palestinians feeling their homes to what they call ‘Al Nakba’ (also know as ‘Catastrophe’). “By the time the fighting ended in a ceasefire the following year, Israel controlled most of the territory. Jordan occupied land which became known as the West Bank, and Egypt occupied Gaza.Jerusalem was divided between Israeli forces in the West, and Jordanian forces in the East.Because there was never a peace agreement – each side blamed the other – there were more wars and fighting in the decades which followed” (BBC, 2021).

In 1967 there was another war, which resulted in Israel occupying East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as most of the Syrian Golan Heights, and Gaza and the Egyptian Sinai peninsula. These regions were where many Palestinian refugees lived. Neither they nor their descendants would have been allowed by Israel to return to their homes – Israel says this would overwhelm the country and threaten its existence as a Jewish state.


So, what is happening now?

Currently, Israel occupies the occupies the West Bank and claims the whole of Jerusalem as its capital, whilst the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. The US is one of only a handful of countries to recognise Israel’s claim to the whole of the city.In the past 50 years Israel has built settlements in these areas, where more than 600,000 Jews now live, but the Palestinians say these are illegal under international law and are obstacles to peace, but Israel denies this.

Currently, the conflict over the Gaza Strip – a strip of land between southern Israel and Egypt, is ongoing, and has been occurring for the past fifteen years. The tensions are high between the Israelis and Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank. The threatened eviction of some Palestinian families in East Jerusalem has also caused rising anger.


What will happen in the future?

There are multiple issues which Israel and the Palestinians cannot agree on. “These include what should happen to Palestinian refugees, whether Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank should stay or be removed, whether the two sides should share Jerusalem, and – perhaps most tricky of all – whether a Palestinian state should be created alongside Israel” (BBC, 2021).

Peace talks have been taking place on and off for more than 25 years, but so far have not solved the conflict. So in short, a future peace deal will need both sides to agree to resolve complex issues, but it looks like it will not happen anytime soon.