On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas terrorists from Gaza launched “a surprise assault that killed at least 1,400 Israelis,” according to The New York Times. The same report details that Israel has retaliated with airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, which has resulted in about 2,800 Palestinians being killed.
Despite Israel regaining control of its south and the territory bordering the Gaza Strip on Oct. 10, 2023, conflict between the two are far from over.
Background of conflict
The region has over a century of conflict history, stemming from when the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I. With the Balfour Declaration in 1917, the UK tasked themselves with establishing a “national home” for Jews in Palestine, their ancestral home. However, Palestinian Arabs, who had occupied the land for centuries since, strongly opposed this formation.
Throughout the next few decades, more and more Jews migrated to the land to escape persecution in Europe as the Nazis rose to power and executed the Holocaust. To combat the rising tensions and violence against British rule and between the Jews and Arabs, the UN voted to split Palestine into separate states for the Jews and Arabs in 1947, per a BBC analysis of the region’s conflict history. Jewish leaders supported this, but Arabs rejected the proposal, and it was never implemented.
The same analysis details the creation and declaration of the State of Israel by Jewish leaders in 1948 after Britain withdrew. Jews who were suffering from persecution and violence all over the world now had what they believe to be their ancestral homeland as a safe haven to return to.
When the Six-Day War broke out in 1967, Israel occupied several territories in the area, including Gaza and the West Bank, and many Palestinians were forced out of their homes.
Currently going on
A recent update posted by The New York Times details the evacuation order Israel’s military issued to northern Gaza which may be “a potential precursor to an Israeli ground invasion of the territory.”
The UN warned that relocating over a million citizens across Gaza would lead to “devastating consequences.” According to the same report, Hamas has called for “worldwide demonstrations to oppose Israeli actions in Gaza.”
There have been rumors that Hamas forces have been engaging in horrific acts on civilians, such as decapitating babies, but on Thursday, Oct. 12, an Israeli official told CNN, “There have been cases of Hamas militants carrying out beheadings and other ISIS-style atrocities. However, we cannot confirm if the victims were men or women, soldiers or civilians, adults or children.”
Among the over 1,400 dead and 2,900 injured in Israel are at least 27 deceased American citizens. Additionally, the same ABC News report detailed a US statement that “an undetermined number of Americans were taken hostage.”
In response, the US has begun to take action. “We’ve deployed the world’s largest aircraft carrier to the Eastern Mediterranean. We’ve bolstered the presence of U.S. fighter aircraft in the region,” said US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken at a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Oct. 12. “We’re providing other support as well.? We continue working closely with Israel to secure the release of the men, women, children, elderly people taken hostage by Hamas.”
Secretary Blinken also explained that over the course of his trip to Israel, he would be “pursuing intensive diplomacy throughout the region to prevent the conflict from spreading.”
After Hamas’ call for “worldwide demonstrations to oppose Israeli actions in Gaza,” US cities have increased security. There are no “specific or credible terror threats right now” that private US intelligence agents are aware of; however, the same report details that escalations in Israeli and Palestinian conflict have historically acted as a catalyst for violence against Western Jewish communities — specifically in the form of public demonstrations near Jewish community centers, houses of worship and government facilities.
In Salt Lake City, police patrols at local Jewish and Muslim community centers have heightened. As SLCPD wants to ensure residents’ safety, it was explained that there is not currently any known threat, and the increased police activity is strictly precautionary. This also comes after reports that a 24-year-old Utah man was killed while attending a music festival that was raided by Hamas militants on Oct. 7.
Despite the SLCPD denying the presence of any known threat, local synagogues all over Utah were evacuated the morning of Oct. 8, as pro-Palestine rallies took place, likely in response to Hamas’ call for outward support. Three Utah synagogues were even recipients of bomb threats within the state, according to KUTV. Officers confirmed there were no bombs after investigating the buildings.
Relevance to UVU
In response to the events between Israel and Palestine both regionally and internationally, an email was sent out to the “UVU Campus Community.” The statement, sent out Oct. 13, said, “Our hearts go out to the people of Israel and Gaza as this devastating conflict continues in the Middle East. The levels of pain, suffering, and destruction are incomprehensible.”
The email reached out to students who were both “experiencing this situation in very personal ways” and those who have just been seeing horrific scenes in the media about the travesty. “Wherever you are emotionally, and regardless of how you’re personally responding to this situation, we offer the support of UVU’s leadership teams and resources to help you cope.”
The message was signed by UVU’s President, Astrid S. Tuminez; the President of the Faculty Senate, Wioleta Fedeczko; the President of UVU PACE, Daniel Delgadillo; and the UVUSA President, Zac Whitlock.
They reminded everyone of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”
Finally, the message provided several resources for UVU students, faculty and loved ones who need additional support. For students, visit UVU’s Well-Being Website, Virtual Crisis or Mental Health Support, and Bias Education Support Team. For mental health or crisis services, it suggests “call 801-863-8876 or visit SC 221 and specifically ask to meet with a crisis therapist.” Students are also welcome to visit a prayer and meditation space at the UVU Reflection Center in SL 122.
“We pray for an end to this conflict and peace for our neighbors in the Middle East,” the UVU Presidency concluded their email.
Updates from the week of Oct. 16
Tensions between Israel and Palestine have been exponentially increasing since the terrorist group Hamas launched the initial Oct. 7 invasion acted as a catalyst for nearly a century of deeply rooted conflict.
On Oct. 17, CNN reported the aftermath of what was previously thought to be a blast on a Gaza hospital, which killed hundreds. The report also details Israel’s response to the incident, which involved shifting blame to a Palestine Islamic Jihad group over a “failed rocket launch.” This attack came only days after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to eradicate the terrorist group and declared that “Every Hamas terrorist is a dead man.”
Even before the hospital attack, Gaza had been undergoing tremendous struggle from the inside. The territory’s infrastructure is overwhelmed and failing to support the hundreds of thousands of displaced citizens. Many Gazans have also grown desperate for food and water as the supply dwindles and they await humanitarian support.
US President Joe Biden visited Israel on Oct. 18 with what CNN described as a goal to “demonstrate staunch support for the country, while also pressing for ways to ease humanitarian suffering in Gaza.” Part of Biden’s trip to the Middle East was supposed to include a summit with the leaders of Jordan and Egypt, as well as with a Palestinian authority. The summit has since been canceled.