Image source: Getty Images

Hamas armed forces launched an unprecedented attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking about 240 hostage.

The Israeli military responded with air strikes on Gaza and launched a ground offensive. According to the Hamas-led government, more than 15,800 people have been killed in Gaza.

Fighting resumed after the end of a seven-day ceasefire in which Hamas released more than 100 hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinians.

What is the aim of the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip?

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) warplanes carried out strikes across the Gaza Strip while its troops moved through the territory’s north.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had a “clear goal of destroying Hamas’ military and governance capabilities” and freeing the hostages.

He also stated that Israel would have “overall security responsibility” for the Gaza Strip “indefinitely” following the conflict. Israel later said it had no plans to reoccupy the area.

Israel has drafted 300,000 reservists into the operation to increase its standing force to 160,000.

What is happening on the ground in Gaza?

The IDF says it has attacked thousands of targets belonging to Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organization by Israel, Britain, the United States and other Western powers.

It is also said that hundreds of tunnel shafts built under Gaza were destroyed. Hamas has claimed that its tunnel network stretches over 500 km (310 miles).

Several hospitals in the north and the Jabalia refugee camp were involved in heavy fighting.

Since the end of the temporary ceasefire, Israeli troops have advanced into the southern Gaza Strip and taken “aggressive” measures against Hamas and other armed groups around the town of Khan Younis.

Israel claims to have killed thousands of Hamas fighters during the war, including many commanders. More than 390 Israeli soldiers were killed, most of them in the October 7 attack.

According to the IDF, 75 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza since the conflict began.

Who are the hostages and how many have been freed?

During the October 7 attacks, Hamas took about 240 hostages who it said were hiding in “safe locations and tunnels” in the Gaza Strip.

Israel said more than 30 of the hostages were children and that at least 10 were over 60 years old. It was also said that around half of the hostages had foreign passports from 25 different countries.

Due to an agreement brokered by Qatar, a lull in fighting began on Friday, November 24th.

Image source: ATEF SAFADI/EPA-EFE/REX/ShutterstockImage caption:

Large crowds gathered in the occupied West Bank to greet Palestinians released from Israeli prisons

During the seven-day ceasefire, 105 hostages were released in exchange for 240 Palestinians who had been held in Israeli prisons and detention centers.

  • 78 Israeli women and children
  • 23 Thai hostages and one Filipino
  • 3 Russian-Israelis

Hamas released four Israeli hostages before the ceasefire agreement was reached, and another hostage was freed by Israeli forces.

Hamas has said other armed groups are holding hostages in Gaza, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which could complicate future releases.

What is the humanitarian situation in Gaza?

The United Nations has warned that “an even more hellish scenario lies ahead” in the Gaza Strip and that its humanitarian operations may not be able to respond.

According to the Hamas-led government, more than 36,000 people have been injured in Gaza since the war began. It is said that three quarters of them are children and women.

Due to the damage caused by attacks and the lack of electricity and fuel, few hospitals remain operational in Gaza.

Mr. Netanyahu has acknowledged that Israel has “failed” to minimize civilian casualties, but stressed that this is because Hamas is using Gaza’s population as human shields.

Image source, Getty ImagesCaption,

Some schools in the south were converted into makeshift medical facilities

They include hundreds of thousands of people who fled fighting in the north after an Israeli ultimatum and moved south of a river called Wadi Gaza for their own safety.

The Israeli military then released a map that divided the Gaza Strip into grids showing areas where people should go for security reasons.

But Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s international editor, said the map was complicated, contained conflicting information and required a smartphone to access.

The city was home to hundreds of thousands of residents fleeing the fighting in the north. For example, many displaced people seek refuge in the city’s hospitals.

How much humanitarian aid has reached Gaza?

After the Oct. 7 attack, Israel closed its border crossings with the Gaza Strip, preventing usual supplies of food, water, fuel and medicine from entering the area.

Israel blocked all fuel shipments until the end of November, saying the fuel could be stolen by Hamas and used for military purposes.

Without electricity or fuel for generators, hospitals, water pumps and desalination plants, waste and sanitation services, and bakeries cannot function.

According to the United Nations, Israel allowed 1,399 truckloads of humanitarian aid to enter Egypt through Egypt’s Rafah border crossing between October 21 and November 21, compared with a monthly average of 10,000 before the war.

During the ceasefire, hundreds of trucks carrying aid and fuel were allowed to enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing – the only functioning passageway in and out of Gaza. But it was very difficult to bring goods to the north.

Hundreds of foreign passport holders – including some British and US citizens – as well as seriously wounded and sick Palestinians were also allowed to leave, but many remain. The Rafah border crossing remains strictly controlled by Egypt.

What happened during the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7th?

On October 7, hundreds of armed Hamas fighters crossed the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, breaking through the heavily guarded border fence, landing by sea and using paragliders.

The gunmen killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took hostages back to Gaza in a series of raids on military posts, kibbutzim and a music festival.

Previous estimates put the death toll at more than 1,400.

Image source, Getty ImagesCaption,

A young woman kneels at a vigil for the hostages in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv

The attack came at a time of rising Israeli-Palestinian tensions: The year 2023 was the deadliest on record for Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

What is Hamas and what does it want?

Hamas is a Palestinian group that has ruled Gaza since 2007.

The name is an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya, which means “Islamic Resistance Movement.”

The group wants to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamic state.

Image source, EPA image caption,

Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas’s political wing in Gaza, pictured in 2021

Its military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, is estimated to have around 30,000 members.

Since coming to power, Hamas has fought several wars with Israel, firing thousands of rockets into Israel and carrying out other deadly attacks.

In response, Israel has repeatedly attacked Hamas with air strikes and sent troops in 2008 and 2014.

Hamas – or in some cases the al-Qassam Brigades – has been designated a terrorist group by Israel, the US, the EU and the UK, as well as other powers.

Iran supports the group with funds, weapons and training.

Where is the Gaza Strip and how big is it?

The Gaza Strip is a 41 km long and 10 km wide area between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea.

In 2005, Israel withdrew its troops and around 7,000 settlers from the area.

The narrow strip is home to 2.2 million people and is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

Just over three-quarters of Gaza’s population – about 1.7 million people – are registered refugees or descendants of refugees, according to the United Nations.

Before the latest conflict, more than 500,000 people lived in eight refugee camps on the other side of the Gaza Strip.

Israel controls the airspace over Gaza and its coastline and strictly limits the movement of people and goods.

What is Palestine?

The West Bank and Gaza are referred to as Palestinian territories. Together with East Jerusalem and Israel, they were part of a land known as Palestine from Roman times until the mid-20th century.

In 1948, part of Palestine became Israel, which was recognized by the United Nations the following year. The West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza are recognized as Palestine by many countries and bodies, but do not have member status with the United Nations.

Even those who do not recognize Israel’s right to exist still refer to the entire country as Palestine.

He has been chairman of the Palestinian Authority (PA) since 2005 and represents the political party Fatah – a bitter rival to Hamas.

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