The 2023 Israel–Hamas war, also referred to by some as the “Sukkot War”, is a significant escalation in the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The war began on 7 October 2023 with a coordinated surprise offensive by Palestinian militant groups led by Hamas against Israel. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the events leading up to and during the war:
Origins of the Conflict:
The conflict between Israel and Palestinian groups, especially Hamas, has deep historical roots. The Gaza Strip and Israel have been in conflict since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, followed by Hamas’s victory in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and its subsequent takeover of Gaza in 2007. This led to an extensive blockade of the Gaza Strip by both Israel and Egypt. The blockade, which Israel defends as a necessary measure against “terrorism”, has been criticized by international rights groups as collective punishment.
Immediate Precursors to the War:
Several events in 2023 heightened tensions between Israel and Hamas. There were violent clashes around the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a significant religious site in Jerusalem, and an increase in settler attacks that displaced many Palestinians. In September 2023, Israel discovered explosives in a shipment of jeans from Gaza, leading to heightened tensions. Days before the major attack, Egypt reportedly warned Israel of an impending “explosion” of the situation.
The Outbreak of War:
On 7 October 2023, Hamas launched what it termed “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood”, firing over 5,000 rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip within a 20-minute span. Simultaneously, around 2,500 Palestinian militants infiltrated Israel, attacking military bases and massacring civilians in neighboring Israeli communities. The most devastating of these was the massacre of 260 people at an outdoor music festival near Re’im. Israel responded with retaliatory strikes and formally declared war on Hamas the following day.
Hamas cited several reasons for their attacks, including the blockade on Gaza, continued Israeli settlements, settler violence, the desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and restrictions on movement between Israel and Gaza.
The international community had varied reactions. At least 44 countries denounced Hamas’s actions as terrorism. However, many Middle Eastern countries pointed to Israel’s longstanding occupation of Palestinian territories as the root cause of the conflict. The United Nations and numerous countries called for an immediate ceasefire, and human rights groups expressed concerns about potential war crimes committed by both sides.
The 2023 Israel–Hamas war is a tragic escalation in a conflict with deep historical roots. As the war continues, the international community grapples with how to respond and mediate a resolution that addresses the longstanding grievances of both sides.