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August 6, 2014

Israel withdraws troops from Gaza on second day of ceasefire


A 72-hour cease-fire between Israel and Hamas has lasted for much of a second day as leaders from both sides arrive in Cairo, Egypt to discuss a lasting cease-fire.

Israel has now withdrawn all ground troops from Gaza, saying that their mission to destroy Hamas-built tunnels that lead from Gaza into Israel is largely completed.

Palestinian and Israeli leaders arrived in Cairo yesterday to begin discussing a long-term cease-fire plan to bring an end to a month of violent fighting.

Gaza is bordered by Egypt, Israel and the Mediterranean Sea. 1.8 million people live there, a higher population density than most places in the world.

Hamas is both a political and military Palestinian group. In 2006, it won the majority of seats in the Palestinian parliamentary elections, and it has governed Gaza since 2007. Many nations consider Hamas a terrorist organization, including Israel, the U.S., Canada, Egypt, Jordan and the European Union. The group denies the existence of Israel and has vowed to use armed tactics to destroy it.

Israel has occupied Gaza since 1967, when it captured the territory from Egypt in a conflict commonly known as the Six Day War. It also won occupation of other regions with Palestinian populations, including the Sinai, West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.

Hamas has existed since 1987 and has grown in popularity in recent years. After the group won a majority in the Palestinian Parliament over Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, it pushed Fatah out of Gaza.  However, Fatah still controls the West Bank.

The latest violence began on June 12 when three Israeli teenage students were kidnapped and killed while hiking in the West Bank. One of the students was an American citizen. Israel has accused Hamas of kidnapping the teenagers, but Hamas denied the accusation. Fighting broke out after the teenagers’ bodies were found on June 30.

Nearly 1,900 Palestinians and more than 60 Israelis have been killed in the conflict, according to an Aug. 5 United Nations report. The majority of Palestinian deaths were civilians.

The U.S., an ally of Israel, has stated that it supports Israel in its mission to defend itself against Hamas. However, Israel has received much criticism for shelling civilian-heavy areas, particularly a U.N. school that was serving as a shelter. The U.S. said in a statement it was “appalled” by the attack, which killed 10 people.

Warm up questions
  1. Where is Gaza?
  2. Where is Israel?
  3. What do you know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Discussion questions
  1. How have historical events contributed to the current conflict?
  2. There is a lot of distrust between Palestinian and Israeli factions. How could both sides communicate to build trust?
  3. Both Israelis and Palestinians would be able to write long lists of horrible things the other side has done. What would need to happen for the two sides to produce a plan for peace in the region?
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