Israel Palestine conflict: why is there fighting in Gaza - and history of violence explained

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Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said military operations will continue with ‘full force’ as militants bomb Hamas headquarters

Israel has continued its bombardment of Gaza, with president Benamin Netanyahu promising that the airstrikes will continue at “full-force”.

On Monday morning warplanes unleashed a series of heavy airstrikes at several locations of Gaza City as the country's prime minister suggested the war against Hamas would continue.

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Explosions rocked the city from north to south for 10 minutes early on Monday in an attack that was heavier, on a wider area and lasted longer than a series of air raids 24 hours earlier in which 42 Palestinians were killed.

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have mounted in recent days (Getty Images)Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have mounted in recent days (Getty Images)
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have mounted in recent days (Getty Images)

That was the deadliest single attack in the latest round of violence between Israel and the Hamas militant group that rules Gaza.

In a televised address, Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel's attacks were continuing at "full-force" and would "take time".

In just one week, this latest round of fighting between the bitter enemies has seen the death toll rise over 200, with 197 Palestinians including 58 children and 34 women.

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Israel has reported 10 dead at the hands of rockets from Hamas militants in Gaza, with a greater number of casualties prevent by the presence of their state of the art Iron Dome defence system.

What is behind the violence?

The current eruption of violence began a month ago in Jerusalem, where heavy-handed Israeli police tactics during Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers ignited protests and clashes with police.

Violence has erupted after after days of mounting tensions between Palestinians and Israeli authorities in the Old City of Jerusalem, the emotional ground zero of the conflict.

Hundreds of Palestinians and about two dozen police officers have been hurt over the past few days amid the worst religious unrest in years.

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The holy site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, is considered the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam.

The compound is the epicentre of the conflict and has been the trigger for rounds of Israel-Palestinian violence in the past.

This year Jerusalem Day clashes with the holy month of Ramadan, with religious sensitivities heightened. This, paired with the eviction of Palestinians from the predominantly East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah has resulted in three nights of violence across Israel, with both Palestinians and Israelis carrying out reprisal attacks.

East Jerusalem is at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict with the Jewish state effectively annexing the area in 1980. Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the future capital of an independent state.

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What is the latest?

On Sunday Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel "wants to levy a heavy price" on the Hamas militant group, flanked by his defence minister and political rival, Benny Gantz, in a show of unity.

He said: "we are acting now, for as long as necessary, to restore calm... It will take time,"

Hamas pressed on with their own attacks, launching rockets from civilian areas in Gaza toward civilian areas in Israel.

One slammed into a synagogue in the southern city of Ashkelon hours before evening services for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, Israeli emergency services said, with no injuries reported.

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The hostilities have repeatedly escalated over the past week, marking the worst fighting in the territory that is home to two million Palestinians since Israel and Hamas's devastating 2014 war.

"I have not seen this level of destruction through my 14 years of work," said Samir al-Khatib, an emergency rescue official in Gaza.

"Not even in the 2014 war."

Israel's airstrikes have levelled a number of Gaza City's tallest buildings, which Israel alleges contained Hamas military infrastructure.

Among them was the building housing The Associated Press Gaza office and those of other media outlets.

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History of conflict

The roots of the conflict go back 100 years, when Britain took control of the area known as Palestine after the ruler of the area was defeated in World War One.

At the time, the land was inhabited mostly by Arabs, with a Jewish minority population.

Tensions between these communities began to rise when Britain was implored by the international community to create a homeland in Palestine for Jewish people.

Jewish people considered the area their ancestral home, laying historical claim to the land, but Palestinian Arabs opposed the move, saying they had a claim to the land.

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The number of Jewish people in the area grew between the 1920s and 40s as Jews fleeing the Holocaust in Europe sought a new homeland.

During this time, violence against British rule, and between Jews and Arabs, also grew.

After World War Two, in 1947, the UN voted for Palestine to be split into separate Jewish and Arab states.

It was at this point that Jerusalem became an international city.

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The vote was accepted by Jewish leaders, but Arab leaders rejected the plan and it was never implemented.

Unable to solve the issues, British rulers left the area in 1948 and Jewish leaders subsequently declared the creation of the state of Israel.

The move angered Palestinians, causing a war in which troops from nearby Arab countries invaded.

The war led to thousands of Palestinians being forced out of their home, and by the end of the conflict, Israel were in control of the majority of the territory.

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Jordan occupied land which became known as the West Bank, while Egypt occupied Gaza.

The city of Jerusalem was left divided between Jordinian forces in the East and Israeli forces in the West.

There was never a peace agreement made between the sides, meaning wars and fighting have followed ever since.

Most Palestinian refugees and their descendants settled in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

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In another war in 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and most of the Syrian Golan Heights, the Egyptian Sinai peninsula and Gaza.

Though Israel has now pulled out of Gaza, the UN still regards the territory as occupied.

Israel continues to occupy the West bank and claims the whole of Jerusalem as its capital.