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Months of Israeli provocation gave rise to Hamas attack

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

October 7, 2023

Today’s attacks on Israel by Hamas brought condemnation from around the world, and rightly so. Every attack on civilians should be condemned, and no loss of innocent life can be justified. There is never an excuse. Yet given Israel’s unrelenting provocations in recent months the Hamas response should have been predictable.

Israeli attacks against Palestinians have increased to alarming levels in 2023. According to UN data, at least 227 Palestinians were killed by Israelis in the first nine months of this year and more than 8,500 injured. Deadly raids on refugee camps in Jenin, Nablus and Jericho have claimed at least 57 lives and wounded hundreds. Israel has fired attack helicopters and drones into civilian neighborhoods. Israeli settlers have rampaged through Palestinian towns, causing untold property damage and killing Palestinians.

Displacement of Palestinians has skyrocketed as illegal Jewish settlers and the Israeli army confiscate Palestinian land in the West Bank and destroy their homes. Hundreds of children and others are held in Israeli jails without charge. Palestinian religious institutions have been invaded and vandalized. Shepherds and farmers have been attacked, fields burned, wells intentionally polluted.

This displacement affects both Palestinian Christians and Muslims. In March, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz carried the headline “Anti-Christian hate crimes soaring this year.” In August, the Jerusalem Post statedDozens of incidents, ranging from spitting to vandalism to assault, have been committed by extremist Jews against Christians and their sites this year.” Partners for Palestine knows a Christian family near Bethlehem whose farm has been attacked and is threatened by the illegal settlements that surround it.

Israeli police have repeatedly invaded Islam’s holiest site in Jerusalem, arresting worshipers. Thousands of Jews have carried out provocative tours of the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, and on October 4, dozens of Israeli settlers invaded the mosque compound and carried out “Talmudic prayers,” in violation of long-standing agreements.

A similar incident in April resulted in hundreds of worshipers injured by Israeli police attempting to clear the mosque for Jews to enter. Police conducted two raids on the mosque that day, smashing doors and windows and beating worshippers with batons. Days later, the far-right Jewish supremacist group Lehava led hundreds in a march through Jerusalem chanting "death to Arabs." Fringe groups in Gaza fired rockets at Israel in response and Israel retaliated.

Hamas had repeatedly warned that it would not stand by while the Al-Aqsa Mosque is threatened. In May 2021, Israeli raids on the mosque prompted Hamas to fire rockets toward Jerusalem, triggering an 11-day conflict with Israel in which 243 Palestinians and 12 Israelis were killed. Israel’s leaders knew the anger the raid just days ago would stir.

Al Aqsa was not the only trigger. Two million Gazans have been trapped under a brutal blockade in the world's largest open-air prison for sixteen years with electricity limited and food, medicine and drinkable water scarce. Vomiting and diarrhea are common since 97 percent of freshwater is unfit for human consumption, and raw sewage pours into the sea. Israel’s repeated bombings have destroyed infrastructure and homes and killed thousands in this densely crowded enclave. It is from this hellhole of human misery created by Israel that the Hamas fighters come.

All people of conscience should condemn this war, but no one who’s been paying attention should be surprised. Only when equal human rights for all who live in the region are guaranteed will Israelis and Palestinians be able to live in peace.

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