Israel’s war on Gaza in 10 explainers

The big picture on a rapidly escalating conflict that now threatens to blow up into a regional conflagration.

A woman in Gaza holds her 3 year-old son
A woman holds her three-year-old son, Ekrem Salih Abu Shemale, who died after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, Gaza on October 26, 2023 [Abed Zagout/Anadolu via Getty Images]

As Israel’s war on Gaza continues into its fourth week, it can be difficult to keep pace of events, grappling with the multiple dimensions of a rapidly escalating conflict that has already caused so much devastation.

Since Hamas launched its lightning attack on southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,405 people and taking at least 200 hostages, Israel unleashed the full force of its firepower on besieged Palestinians in the Gaza Strip – more than 7,000 people have now been killed and the death toll rises almost every hour.

Amid the chaos, a battle of narratives is also being waged, pitting Israel’s backers in the West against Palestinians and Middle Eastern nations that watched this catastrophe unfold at close quarters for the past 75 years. In this hot conflict, history matters.

Al Jazeera has been tackling the big questions about this asymmetrical war, to help you make sense of it.

Take a look at 10 must-read explainers:

What’s the Israel-Palestine conflict about?

The conflict did not start with the Hamas attack on October 7. It didn’t even start with the creation of Hamas.

As a first stop, we suggest our simple guide to the Israel-Palestine conflict, from Arthur Balfour to the Nakba. We walk you through landmark developments decade by decade, with video and visuals, to decode the decades of injustice, dispossession, displacement and humiliation that have brought the region to this moment.

"Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" demonstrations in Gaza in 2019
More than 70 years after the Nakba (catastrophe), protesters gather to attend ‘Great March of Return’ and ‘Palestinian Land Day’ demonstrations at the Israel-Gaza border in eastern Khan Younis, Gaza on March 30, 2019 [Ashraf Amra/Anadolu]

What is Hamas?

You’ve read the reports on the group’s shock attack of October 7, the worst in Israel’s history. But what does the name “Hamas” actually mean? And how did this group, designated as a terrorist organisation by a number of countries, come to administer the lives of 2.3 million people in the Gaza Strip? What are its links with Iran, Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah?

What is the Palestinian Authority?

Hamas might control Gaza, but the West Bank is governed – notionally, at least – by the Palestinian Authority (PA). The pair had a civil war, which led to the PA losing control over Gaza in 2007. Governing the shrinking West Bank, the body has all the trappings of a state, but no real power. Many are now asking what its future might be after the war.

The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat [Getty]
The late Yasser Arafat, president of the Palestinian Authority from 1994 to 2004 [Getty Images]

Beyond Hezbollah: The history of tensions between Lebanon and Israel

As the war escalates, it is possible that Israel may end up doing battle not only in Gaza and the West Bank, but also on its northern border with Hezbollah in Lebanon. With the threat of a regional war looming, Justin Salhani traces the history of tortured relations between Israel and Lebanon, going right back to 1948 and the creation of Israel.

How Israeli bombing turned Gaza’s desperate situation into a ‘catastrophe’

How did we get here? In three weeks, Israel’s intense bombing campaign has turned much of Gaza to rubble, killing thousands. But, as Indlieb Farazi Saber explains, the enclave was already struggling under a 16-year blockade before bombing turned an existing humanitarian disaster into a “catastrophe”.

INTERACTIVE Gaza before after-1698313229
(Al Jazeera)

Why reopening the Egypt-Gaza Rafah crossing is crucial amid Israeli bombing

The Rafah border crossing has a central role in enabling humanitarian aid to enter Gaza and for trapped people in Gaza who want to leave to escape to safety. But who controls this border? Why have negotiations been so tricky? And what are the implications of throwing it open? Al Jazeera’s Maziar Motamedi explains all.

What is Israel’s narrative on the Gaza hospital explosion?

The first casualty of war is truth. In the hours after the al-Ahli hospital explosion, which killed at least 400 people, Israel’s jumbled and verifiably faked version of events cast serious doubt on its claims that the disaster had been caused by a misfired rocket from Palestinian Islamic Jihad. But, as Al Jazeera explains, sowing confusion is all part of the playbook.

Palestinians take part in a protest in support of the people in Gaza, after hundreds of Palestinians were killed in a blast at Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza that Israeli and Palestinian officials blamed on each other, in Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
Palestinians take part in a protest in support of the people in Gaza after hundreds of Palestinians were killed in an explosion at Gaza’s al-Ahli Arab Hospital in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on October 18, 2023 [Raneen Sawafta/Reuters]

How the Israel war, blockade affect the mental health of Palestinian children

Al Jazeera’s Indlieb Farazi Saber asks psychologists about the mental toll that war exacts on its youngest victims — many of whom, in Gaza, have barely survived after being buried under rubble from buildings brought down by Israeli missiles.

How does trauma manifest in children? And do they stand any chance of recovery?

Is Israel violating the laws of war meant to protect children?

How are abuses against children even allowed to happen? Countless numbers of children have lost their homes, face shortages of food, water and medicine, their education disrupted for the foreseeable future. Areesha Lodhi explains how the Geneva Conventions, the basis for the laws of war, apply to children.

An injured Palestinian kid sits on a stretcher waiting to receive medical care at Nasser Hospital after Israeli airstrike in Khan Yunis, Gaza
An injured Palestinian boy sits on a stretcher waiting to receive medical care at Nasser Hospital after an Israeli air strike in Khan Younis, Gaza, on October 26, 2023 [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency]

Israel-Gaza war: Which international actors can play peacemaker?

How will this war end? In the immediate aftermath of Hamas’s brutal attack and Israel’s no-limits counteroffensive, Al Jazeera took a look at the diplomatic chessboard to explain who might play a role in making peace. As the situation escalates, positions have oscillated. But the broad brushstrokes of alliances in the making are set out in this explainer.

Source: Al Jazeera