Explainer: Why has conflict flared up in Israel and Gaza?

The West Bank Wall between Israel and Palestine. Photo: 123rf

The skies above Israel and the Palestinian Territories are again alight with explosions. The death toll is climbing and there is no end to the fighting in sight.

This is the latest eruption of long-running tensions that date back to conflict over the establishment of Israel and the displacement of Palestinians. It is the worst violence since 2014, and there are warnings it could escalate into “full scale war”.

There is a long history of occupation, oppression and violence in the region and it’s impossible to explain it all in one concise article. But we can provide some background to explain what’s happening at the moment and to contextualise the position of the relevant sides.

An abbreviated history of the region

The region we’re talking about is between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, below Lebanon and north of Egypt.

Like many places on Earth, the history of the region is complex and bloodied. It has been ruled by many different powers over centuries, but Arab people have lived there throughout.

Most recently – and we’re talking the past few hundred years – the area now known as Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories was ruled by the Ottoman Empire, and after World War I, the United Kingdom.

There’s no straight line that can be drawn between religious groups in the area. It’s home to a mix of religions, nationalisms, ethnicities and geopolitics.

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