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What is the nature of the conflict between Hamas and Israel in Gaza?

Since early October, Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas have been engaged in conflict. The hostilities began with an unprecedented attack by Hamas gunmen from Gaza, resulting in the deadliest incident in Israel’s history. In response, Israel launched a military campaign, causing thousands of casualties in the Palestinian territory.

During the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, gunmen stormed across Gaza’s border, firing thousands of rockets. The attack led to the death of 1,200 people on that day, with over 100 more succumbing to their injuries later. The victims included children, the elderly, and 364 young people at a music festival. Additionally, more than 250 individuals were taken as hostages by Hamas, and evidence of rape and sexual violence during the attacks has been reported.

Hamas, which became the sole ruler of Gaza in 2007, has an armed wing with an estimated 30,000 fighters. The group, officially known as the Islamic Resistance Movement, seeks to establish an Islamic state in place of Israel, rejecting Israel’s right to exist. Hamas justifies its attacks as responses to what it perceives as Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people, including security raids on the al-Aqsa Mosque and Jewish settlement activity.

The conflict has seen repeated wars between Hamas and Israel, with both sides engaging in airstrikes and ground invasions. Hamas is designated as a terrorist group by various countries, including Israel, the US, the EU, and the UK. Iran provides support to Hamas through funding, weapons, and training.

In response to the Hamas attack, Israel initiated a massive campaign of air strikes on Gaza, aiming to destroy Hamas and secure the return of hostages. A ground invasion followed three weeks later, targeting northern Gaza initially and later extending to southern Gaza. The conflict has resulted in significant casualties, with more than 26,000 Palestinians killed and tens of thousands injured, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry. The IDF claims to have killed about 9,000 Hamas fighters, in addition to more than 1,000 attackers inside Israel, while over 200 Israeli soldiers have been reported killed. The ongoing conflict has led to extensive damage and destruction of homes and buildings in Gaza.

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