The prospect of war threatens the heart of the Mediterranean after a surprise attack was launched by the militant group Hamas on Israel’s southern border. 

Israel is the home of Jerusalem, a holy site for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. While on the surface this may seem to be a point of unification for these Abrahamic religions, it has led to much division as each faith has perpetually sought to take the “holy land” for itself from medieval to contemporary times. 

Following the aftermath of World War II, the Jewish state of Israel was founded on the unique basis of it being the only Jewish state in the world. It is important to mention that while there has always been a population of Jews in modern-day Israel, much like the United States, it is predominantly a nation made up of immigrants who have poured in over the years. These immigrants who would come to be known as Israelis were made up of Jews who were either previously displaced or coming of their own volition from countries such as Russia and Poland.

Israel’s founder and first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, acknowledged that a necessary prerequisite for the foundation of Israel was taking it away from the people who were previously governing it, the Palestinians. 1948, the year of Israel’s historic founding, was marked by the displacement of nearly one million Muslim and Christian Palestinians from their homes either to surrounding countries such as Lebanon, Jordan or overseas to places such as the United States. Palestinians today refer to the event as “Al Nakba,” or “The Catastrophe.” Not all the Palestinians immigrated, with about five million of them living in the West Bank and Gaza today

Gaza, a strip of land off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, has been the primary area of dispute during Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. This is due to the fact that Gaza is home to the Islamic militant organization Hamas. Hamas was officially designated as a terrorist group in 1997 by the United States. Rather than seek diplomacy, Hamas’ mission has been to militarily destabilize in order to ultimately “reclaim” what they deem to be stolen Palestinian land from the Israelis. 

It was this radical belief that sparked their latest attack in the form of the codename “Operation Al Aqsa Flood” on Israel in the early morning of Oct. 6, 2023. 

This attack was conducted via land, sea and air. The Gaza border wall was bulldozed over, the coastal city of Zikim was attacked by boats and missiles targeted various locations within Israel. Israeli military bases were not the only targets of the operation. Israeli settlements were directly attacked and hundreds of Israeli hostages military, police and civilians alike were taken hostage by Hamas. 

The Israeli government was quick to launch a counteroffensive in the form of “Operation Iron Swords.” This was marked by Israel’s defense minister Yoav Galant declaring to have ordered “a complete siege on the Gaza Strip… There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed… We are fighting human animals and we will act accordingly.” 

While there has been no ground invasion of Gaza by Israeli troops as of now, aerial attacks from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have neutralized several Hamas bases of terror and leveled Gazan residential complexes as well. 

In response, Hamas spokesperson Abu Obeida issued a statement declaring that “Every time our people are targeted by enemy warplanes without prior notice and massacred in their homes, such crimes will be met with the live, televised execution of enemy prisoners.”

This frightening prospect coupled with the fact that this conflict has led to over a thousand lost lives on each side has led many to believe that the United States may soon get involved. Israel has long been the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East since they first formed relations in 1949. As such, Israel has received over $300 billion in foreign aid from the United States—the most out of any other country, primarily for military purposes in order to protect from terrorist attacks and any other threats to its sovereignty. 

President Joe Biden reiterated America’s stance of “standing with Israel” and followed up by pledging that the U.S. would provide Israel with “all appropriate means of support” moving forward.

The Gulf country and Hamas ally Yemen immediately responded with a threat to join in on the ongoing conflict if the United States directly intervenes in Gaza. Such a development could lead to a full-scale war in the region as the conflict already threatens to seep out of Gaza with neighboring country Lebanon having traded missile fire with Israel at its northern border (resulting in several deaths and injuries) in recent days.     

Iran, another ally of Hamas, has historically provided Hamas with military and financial support in past conflicts but currently there is no conclusive evidence of their involvement. . Countries including Iraq, Venezuela, North Korea, Qatar and Pakistan have also voiced their support for Hamas’ actions. Conversely, the aforementioned United States along with Canada, the European Union, Argentina and India have all voiced their support for Israel. 

While Hamas was the chief proponent of this attack, nearly every political party within Palestine has issued a statement of approval and encouragement for the group’s actions, complicating prospects of any imminent peace talks.