Explained: Why Israel And Hamas Engage in Never Ending Arm Conflict?

In the heart of the Middle East lies a longstanding conflict between Hamas, a militant Palestinian organization, and Israel, a nation entrenched in the region. This enduring strife is characterized by a cycle of violence, with intermittent intense confrontations followed by fragile periods of peace. In this analysis, we delve into the intricate web of reasons why Hamas and Israel repeatedly find themselves entangled in armed conflict.

Israel Vs. Hamas Major Armed Conflicts:

ConflictStart DateEnd Date
1948 Arab-Israeli WarNovember 1947July 1949
1956 Suez CrisisOctober 29, 1956November 7, 1956
1967 Six-Day WarJune 5, 1967June 10, 1967
1973 Yom Kippur WarOctober 6, 1973October 25, 1973
1987-1993 First IntifadaDecember 9, 1987September 13, 1993
2000-2005 Second IntifadaSeptember 28, 2000February 8, 2005
2006 Lebanon WarJuly 12, 2006August 14, 2006
2008-2009 Gaza WarDecember 27, 2008January 18, 2009
2012 Gaza-Israel ConflictNovember 14, 2012November 21, 2012
2014 Gaza WarJuly 8, 2014August 26, 2014
2021 Israel-Palestine CrisisMay 10, 2021May 21, 2021
2023 Hamas-Israel ConflictOngoingOngoing

Here are the number of causalities in those armed conflicts on both sides:

ConflictNumber of Israeli CasualtiesNumber of Palestinian Casualties
1948 Arab-Israeli War6,37315,000-20,000
1956 Suez Crisis231231
1967 Six-Day War77620,000-35,000
1973 Yom Kippur War2,6888,000-18,500
1987-1993 First Intifada1601,162
2000-2005 Second Intifada1,0533,000-5,000
2006 Lebanon War1211,191-1,300
2008-2009 Gaza War131,166-1,417
2012 Gaza-Israel Conflict6177
2014 Gaza War672,251
2021 Israel-Palestine Crisis13256
2023 Hamas-Israel ConflictAt least 40At least 160

Now let’s look at the core reasons why two parties repeatedly engaging in a perpetual armed conflict:

I. Territorial Disputes

Gaza Strip: A Flashpoint of Conflict

The Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas, is at the epicenter of the territorial dispute. Israel’s blockade on Gaza since 2007 is a pivotal factor that has exacerbated tensions. This blockade has restricted the movement of goods and people, leading to dire economic consequences for the inhabitants of Gaza and intensifying the resentment towards Israel.

Historical Context: Seeds of Conflict

The conflict traces its origins to the development of Israeli settlements in Gaza, igniting the First Intifada from 1987 to 1993. The Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation during this period marked a turning point, giving rise to Hamas as a militant Islamist group. The emergence of Hamas further fueled the territorial conflict, creating a lasting cycle of violence and hostility.

Escalation of Violence: A Reactive Cycle

The armed conflict has been characterized by repeated cycles of violence. Hamas has resorted to rocket attacks and other offensive measures against Israel, viewing these actions as a response to the ongoing occupation and blockade. Israel, in turn, has responded forcefully, employing artillery bombardments and airstrikes to target Hamas and other militant groups. This reactive cycle of violence has resulted in significant loss of lives and widespread destruction within the region.

Dilemma of Strategic Response

Dealing with Hamas in Gaza poses a strategic challenge for Israel. The need to strike a balance between deterring Hamas from attacking and avoiding actions that may topple the regime creates a strategic dilemma. This dilemma underscores the delicate nature of the conflict, where any misstep in response could have far-reaching consequences.

Impact on Conflict Dynamics:

The territorial disputes, with a focal point being the Gaza Strip, significantly influence the dynamics of the conflict. Israel's sustained blockade since 2007 has heightened tensions by restricting the flow of goods and people, causing profound economic strain on Gaza's residents and amplifying animosity toward Israel. Historically rooted in Israeli settlements, particularly during the First Intifada, the emergence of Hamas as a militant group further exacerbated the territorial discord. The conflict's progression is marked by cyclic violence: Hamas responds to perceived occupation and blockade with attacks, prompting assertive Israeli countermeasures. Balancing a strategic response to Hamas, an influential yet reactive entity, epitomizes Israel's enduring diplomatic challenge in effectively managing the conflict.

II. Political and Economic Pressures

Political and economic pressures play a pivotal role in the ongoing armed conflict between Hamas and Israel. These pressures are intricately woven into the fabric of the conflict dynamics, significantly impacting the stability and escalation of tensions in the region.

Economic Blockade: A Catalyst for Conflict

The imposition of an economic blockade by Israel on Gaza since 2007 has been a catalyst for the conflict. This blockade severely restricts the movement of people and goods, leading to dire consequences for the Gaza population. The scarcity of basic goods and services has devastated the economy, forcing a staggering 80% of the population to rely on humanitarian aid for sustenance. The economic blockade has created a fertile ground for discontent, breeding animosity and exacerbating the already strained relations.

Smuggling Tunnels Closure: Economic Fallout

The closure of smuggling tunnels from Egypt to Gaza, which Hamas heavily relied upon for revenue and essential goods unavailable through regular trade, has dealt a significant blow. This move by Egypt in 2014 deprived Hamas of a crucial revenue source. The resulting economic strain and loss of revenue fueled increased violence, amplifying the conflict dynamics and rendering a resolution more elusive.

Political Instability: A Contributing Factor

The struggle for political primacy culminating in Hamas’ takeover of Gaza in 2007 has perpetuated political instability within the region. The infighting between Hamas and Fatah, along with the absence of a national election since 2006, has further destabilized the political landscape. This persistent instability has contributed significantly to the ongoing conflict, hindering effective dialogue and resolution efforts.

Oppressive Measures

Israeli authorities resorting to oppressive and indiscriminate measures during hostilities and protests in Gaza has added another layer of complexity to the conflict. The launch of three large-scale military offensives since 2008, resulting in civilian casualties and destruction of infrastructure, has intensified the hostility. Moreover, Hamas’s transformation into a hybrid actor, embodying characteristics of both a terrorist organization and a pseudo-state, has created challenges for Israel in dealing with the group. Balancing the use of force to deter Hamas without destabilizing the regime represents a delicate strategic dilemma for Israel.

Impact on Conflict Dynamics:

Political and economic pressures are critical in the Hamas-Israel conflict. Israel's economic blockade on Gaza since 2007, severely limiting movement and goods, has escalated tensions. The closure of smuggling tunnels compounded economic strain. Political instability, arising from Hamas' takeover and electoral gaps, hampers resolution efforts. Israeli measures during conflicts add complexity. Hamas' transformation into a hybrid actor poses a strategic challenge for Israel. Balancing force to deter Hamas without destabilizing the regime remains delicate. Addressing these pressures diplomatically is crucial for easing the conflict's intensity and finding sustainable solutions.

III. Religious Tensions

Religious tensions have emerged as a potent and volatile factor contributing to the armed conflict between Hamas and Israel. The significance of Jerusalem, a city sacred to both Jews and Muslims, has made it a focal point for religious disputes, exacerbating the already intricate conflict dynamics.

Jerusalem: A Religious Flashpoint

Jerusalem holds profound religious significance for both Jews and Muslims, making it a symbolically charged focal point of the conflict. The religious attachment to this ancient city adds a layer of complexity to an already intricate conflict.

Clashes at Holy Sites: Heightening Tensions

Incidents of clashes at holy sites, notably the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, have significantly heightened tensions. These clashes, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan, have ignited violent confrontations, resulting in injuries and casualties. The significance of the Al-Aqsa Mosque to Muslims and its proximity to the Western Wall, one of the holiest Jewish sites, further underscores the religious complexities at play.

Jerusalem Day Celebrations: Provocative Actions

Jerusalem Day celebrations, a national holiday marked by provocative flag parades through Palestinian neighborhoods in the Old City, have intensified religious tensions. These celebrations, often led by Jewish nationalists, have fueled anger and resentment among Palestinians. The perception of such events as provocative and insensitive deepens the rift, contributing to the ongoing conflict.

Eviction Efforts: Fueling Discontent

The court effort by a Jewish settler group to evict Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, has added another dimension to religious tensions. This move, viewed by many Palestinians as part of a broader strategy to change the demographic makeup of the city, has fueled discontent and further entrenched divisions.

Ultra-Orthodox Synagogue Attack: Escalation of Conflict

An attack on an ultra-Orthodox synagogue in West Jerusalem, resulting in the deaths of four Jewish-Israeli men at the hands of two Palestinian assailants, marked a particularly alarming escalation. This attack triggered a sharp rise in tensions between the two communities, intensifying the religious fault lines within the conflict.

Impact on Conflict Dynamics:

Religious tensions, primarily focused on Jerusalem's deep spiritual significance for both Jews and Muslims, significantly shape the conflict's nature. This city, laden with symbolism, becomes a focal point of contention. Clashes at sacred sites, notably the Al-Aqsa Mosque, escalate tensions, sparking violent confrontations. Events such as Jerusalem Day celebrations heighten sensitivities, deepening the rift. Efforts to evict Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah amplify discontent, further entrenching religious differences. Tragic incidents, like the synagogue attack, accentuate the conflict, underscoring the pivotal role of religious aspects in this intricate and enduring struggle.

IV. Hybrid Adversary

Hamas, evolving into a hybrid adversary combining features of a terrorist organization and a pseudo-state entity, has significantly altered the dynamics of the conflict. This transformation has added a layer of complexity, making it challenging for Israel to devise a strategic approach. Understanding this hybrid nature is essential for comprehending the intricate conflict dynamics and formulating effective strategies for peace and stability.

The Hybrid Nature of Hamas

Hamas has transformed from a conventional, irregular adversary into a hybrid entity that possesses elements traditionally associated with state actors. This transformation is marked by a dual identity – part terrorist organization and part pseudo-state. This hybridization has equipped Hamas with capabilities and strategies that pose a unique challenge for Israel.

Strategic Quandary for Israel

The emergence of Hamas as a hybrid adversary has placed Israel in a strategic dilemma. While Israel needs to exert enough force to deter Hamas from attacking, it must carefully calibrate its actions to avoid destabilizing the regime or inadvertently triggering a power vacuum in the post-conflict scenario. Achieving this delicate balance is crucial for maintaining stability and minimizing potential fallout.

Israel’s Reluctance for Decisive Victory

Israel’s strategic approach toward Gaza has been characterized by a reluctance to pursue a decisive military victory. Although Israel possesses the military capability to defeat Hamas, it refrains from overthrowing the organization to avoid the possibility of a more radical entity taking control. The fear of a power vacuum and the complexities of governance after such an overthrow underscore the nuanced considerations involved in dealing with Hamas.

Political Instability and Hybrid Adversary

The political instability in the region since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007 has been exacerbated by the organization’s hybrid nature. This instability is marked by an internal civil war between Hamas and Fatah, further impeding the prospects of political resolution. Hamas’s dual role as a political entity and a militant organization intensifies the internal struggle, contributing to the ongoing conflict.

Impact on Conflict Dynamics:

Hamas' shift to a hybrid adversary, blending aspects of a terrorist group and a quasi-state, has complicated the Israel-Gaza conflict dynamics. Israel now faces a strategic challenge, seeking a delicate balance between deterring Hamas without destabilizing the regime or risking a power vacuum post-conflict. This careful approach stems from concerns about potential radical replacements and the complexities of governance after any significant change. The hybrid nature of Hamas amplifies political instability in the region, adding to the hurdles in reaching a diplomatic resolution.

V. External Support

External support has played a significant role in fueling and sustaining the armed conflict between Hamas and Israel. Various countries, notably Iran, Turkey, and Qatar, have provided financial aid, weaponry, and political backing to Hamas, amplifying the challenges in resolving the conflict. Understanding the extent and nature of this external support is crucial for devising effective strategies for conflict resolution and stability in the region.

Iran: A Key Benefactor for Hamas

Iran emerges as one of Hamas’s principal benefactors, providing substantial financial support, weaponry, and training to the organization. This support includes an estimated annual contribution of $100 million to Hamas, as well as other Palestinian groups labeled as terrorist organizations by the United States. Iran’s involvement in the conflict is further underscored by reports confirming Tehran’s supply of weapons used by Hamas against Israel. Training provided by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has enabled Hamas to develop its missile capabilities. Iran’s support significantly enhances Hamas’s military capacity and further exacerbates the conflict dynamics.

Turkey: Political Support and Accusations

Turkey, under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership since 2002, has extended political support to Hamas, although it claims its involvement is only political. However, accusations of Turkey funding Hamas’s terrorism through diverted aid from the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency persist. Turkey’s political backing, regardless of its financial extent, amplifies Hamas’s international standing and contributes to the conflict’s intractability.

Qatar: Financial Aid and Sanctions Evasion

Qatar has provided substantial financial aid to Hamas, further complicating the conflict dynamics. Notably, Qatar has been accused of aiding Hamas in evading sanctions, highlighting its active involvement and the challenges in enforcing international restrictions. Qatar’s financial support enables Hamas to sustain its activities, deepening the conflict’s longevity.

US Aid: A Multifaceted Approach

The United States’ involvement adds a layer of complexity to the conflict, as it provides aid primarily directed towards government and humanitarian programs in the region. Aid flows were restructured in 2007 after Hamas’s violent break from the Palestinian Authority and subsequent control of the Gaza Strip. The United States, designating Hamas as a terrorist organization, maintains a delicate balance between providing humanitarian aid and addressing its concerns over Hamas’ militant activities.

Impact on Conflict Dynamics:

The external support extended to Hamas significantly impacts the conflict, further complicating resolution efforts. Iran's substantial military and financial aid bolsters Hamas's capabilities, intensifying the violence and making resolution more challenging. Turkey and Qatar's support, whether political or financial, amplifies Hamas's standing, prolonging the conflict and impeding diplomatic progress.

The protracted conflict between Hamas and Israel is a multifaceted interplay of historical, political, economic, religious, and external factors. The struggle for territorial control, economic and political pressures, religious tensions, Hamas’s evolution as a hybrid adversary, and external support all contribute to the ongoing cycle of violence. Addressing this multifaceted conflict necessitates a nuanced approach that comprehensively considers these aspects.


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    News Desk at EU Intelligence Publishes EU-focused current affair news on Politics, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Corruption, Lobbying, Military & War.

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