Tips for Thought

The current conflict in Israel escalated significantly last Saturday of October 7, 2023, when Palestinian militant groups led by Hamas launched a large-scale invasion and offensive against Israel from the Gaza Strip. This offensive, Operation al-Aqsa Storm, broke through the Gaza–Israel barrier and forced entry via the Gaza border crossings into nearby Israeli settlements and military installations​. The following day, Israel declared a “state of war” as fierce fighting ensued in several areas across southern Israel. This declaration came in response to what was termed a surprise attack by Hamas​​.

The Israeli government formally declared war and greenlighted “significant military steps” to retaliate against Hamas for its surprise attack​​. In the wake of these events, the fighting has caused a notable number of casualties. More than 200 Palestinians and nearly 30 Israelis have been reported killed so far this year, surpassing the entire death toll of the previous year​. The conflict escalated as Hezbollah claimed responsibility for mortar strikes from Lebanon into the occupied Shebaa Farms, to which Israel responded with artillery strikes​​.

The ongoing conflict has not only resulted in a significant death toll but also heightened regional tensions as Palestinian fighters continue to battle Israeli military forces across various areas. The situation has caused international concern and drawn attention to the longstanding and complex Israel-Palestine conflict. Amidst the turmoil, the death toll continues to rise, and the region remains embroiled in heightened military confrontations.

This longstanding conflict has deep roots.

They were traced back to over a century of political, territorial, and ethnic discord. The focal point of the contention lies in the diverse claims to historic and strategic territories, including parts of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. The origins of the conflict are often traced back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the Zionist movement sought to establish a national homeland for Jews in Palestine, then part of the Ottoman Empire. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 and subsequent mandate of Palestine to Britain by the League of Nations after World War I further fueled tensions, as waves of Jewish immigrants arrived in Palestine, clashing with the local Arab population.

Post World War II, the United Nations approved the partition of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, with Jerusalem as an international city in 1947. However, the Arab states rejected the UN plan leading to the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948, following which Israel declared independence. Over the decades, several wars and uprisings ensued, notably the Six-Day War in 1967, where Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, further entrenching the territorial disputes. The Oslo Accords in the 1990s aimed to foster a peaceful resolution, creating a framework for Palestinian self-governance, but failed to lead to a lasting solution.

The recent flare-up in violence continues the cycle of conflict in the region. A range of factors including the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, political discord among Palestinian factions, and sporadic outbreaks of violence from both sides has exacerbated it. The situation is further complicated by international geopolitics, regional actors’ interventions, and a broader Arab-Israeli conflict framework. The tragic recurrence of hostilities reflects the unresolved core issues at the heart of the Israel-Palestine dispute, emphasizing the urgent need for a sustainable peace process to address both peoples’ longstanding grievances and aspirations.

How to stay safe while traveling?

In light of the recent escalation of conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip, it’s crucial for American tourists to stay informed and exercise caution when considering travel plans to the region. The conflict has led to Israel declaring a “state of war”​. Here are some pieces of information for those contemplating travel to Israel or the neighboring areas:

Stay Updated. Regularly check travel advisories from the U.S. Department of State and other reputable sources for the most recent information on the security situation in Israel and the surrounding regions.

Consider Alternative Destinations. Given the ongoing conflict and the potential for further escalation, it might be prudent to consider alternative travel destinations until the situation stabilizes.

Travel Insurance. Ensure your travel insurance covers cancellations or delays due to geopolitical issues. It’s advisable to get a comprehensive travel insurance policy that covers medical emergencies, evacuation, and other unforeseen events.

Stay Connected with the Embassy. Register with the U.S. embassy or consulate through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive updates and stay connected in case of an emergency.

Avoid Conflict Zones. If travel to Israel or neighboring areas is unavoidable, steer clear of known conflict zones, especially near the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank. Adhere to any travel advisories and instructions issued by local authorities and the U.S. embassy.

Maintain Situational Awareness. Stay informed about the local situation by following news outlets and keeping in touch with the embassy. Avoid crowds and demonstrations as they can turn violent without warning.

Seek Local Guidance. Consult with local tour operators, hotel staff, and other knowledgeable sources for the latest safety advice and updates on the ground situation.

Health Precautions. Besides the conflict, the global health scenario requires travelers to adhere to health advisories and take necessary precautions against infections and diseases.

Have a Contingency Plan. Always have a backup plan in place, including knowing the location of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, local emergency numbers, and having an exit strategy if the situation deteriorates.

Respect Local Sensitivities. Be mindful of the local culture, political sentiments, and religious beliefs. Demonstrating respect and understanding can go a long way in ensuring a safe and enjoyable trip.

By staying informed and prepared, American travelers can better navigate the complexities of the current Israel conflict while ensuring their safety and well-being during these turbulent times.

Takeaway

The recent escalation of conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip has highlighted the urgency of finding a lasting resolution to the decades-long dispute between Israelis and Palestinians. The conflict, which has resulted in significant casualties and heightened regional tensions, is rooted in complex historical, political, and territorial claims. While a range of factors, including the expansion of Israeli settlements, political discord among Palestinian factions, and sporadic outbreaks of violence from both sides, have exacerbated the conflict, it is important to note that the core issues remain unresolved.