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Israel--Palestine tensions reach new height

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photo credit: European Commission DG Echo
photo credit: European Commission DG Echo

The conflict over the Gaza Strip is nearly fifty years old and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon; the optimism of the peace process and a two state system in the distant memory. Recently the conflict has reached levels unseen for nearly three years with violence now emanating from both sides.

Hostility in the region has been rising for since April when Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas decided to reconcile leading to the breaking down of peace talks between Palestine and Israel. More recent tensions have come from the murder of three Israeli teenagers last month which the Israeli government blamed on Hamas and the supposed revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager in early July. The deaths of all four teenagers have quickly escalated into a much more violent campaign.

Rockets have been fired on both sides leaving thousands in fear of their lives and over 100 more civilians have already dead in the conflict. Thousands have been forced to flee their homes seeking shelter with groups like the UN. The UN are becoming increasingly concerned with the level of refugees in the area believing that around 17,000 people are in their facilities. Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki - Moon expressed his dismay and alarm at the situation on Thursday calling for restraint from Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in regards to future attacks and appealed to Palestine to stop its rockets. In addition to the evacuees many more remain in their homes with intermittent power and limited access to drinking water.

The threat of a ground invasion from Israel into Gaza is still a possibility though one that Israel still insists that it doesn't want to end up in, though rumours remain that Israeli forces are already preparing and may have even began to fight on the ground. Such an attack would be difficult for the Palestinians to defend against and is likely to cost even more lives in the process.

The latest reports suggest that an immediate ceasefire seems unlikely and that things may well need to get worse before the two sides will come to the table. A fact that is confirmed by the news that Israel have recently taken possession of a drone device which is thought to have come from Gaza.

Condemnation of the conflict continues to flood in from around the world; former foreign secretary William Hague added his voice to the discussion on last week when he also called for a ceasefire. Although controversially he added that Israel should be able to defend itself. A ceasefire would also require a mediator and the last time tensions became raised in 2012 it was Egypt's now deposed President Muhammad Morsi. The USA would seem to be the natural mediator in such a conflict but this would involve the US dealing with Hamas, something that it has banned itself from doing.

Demonstrators across the world have taken to the streets to protest against the conflict or in favour of one side or the other. Pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli supporters have turned up in their hundreds to protest from New York to Oslo. However despite all these protests Netanyahu has said that he will continue to defy all international pressure to come to a ceasefire and continue to target "terrorists" in Gaza.

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