— -- Fighting between Israel and Hamas has entered its third week and left much of Gaza City damaged from heavy shelling by the Israel Defense Forces.
The conflict broke out on July 8, when Israel launched "Operation Protective Edge" in response to Hamas launching rockets toward Israel.
Since the conflict began, 1,423 Gazans have died and 8,265 have been injured while 59 Israelis have died, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry and IDF, respectively.
What's the Latest?
Israel has been criticized by the United Nations and other world leaders for bombing a U.N.-sponsored school sheltering civilians in Gaza. The United States has condemned the shelling of the school, but added that there were weapons being kept there.
This week, the IDF called up 16,000 additional reservists to join some 65,000 that were already fighting, a sign that the mission could be expanded further. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel will not stop the operation in Gaza until all of the tunnels constructed by Hamas leading from Gaza to Israel have been destroyed.
The U.N. has said a quarter of Gaza’s population is displaced, with 225,178 Palestinians in 86 U.N. shelters.
What Is Gaza and Who Controls It?
The Gaza Strip is a Detroit-sized area on the border with Egypt up against the Mediterranean Sea that is one of the most densely packed places on Earth with 1.8 million people living in just 139 square miles. Technically part of the Palestinian Authority, it has been governed since 2007 by the militant group Hamas.
Hamas, which rejects the existence of Israel, recently agreed to form a unity government with the other main Palestinian political faction, Fatah. The new Palestinian Unity Government recognizes the state of Israel. But the outbreak of current hostilities pitting Hamas against Israel has left the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority on the sidelines.
What Sparked This Violence?
Tensions were ignited in June when three Israeli teenagers, one with American citizenship and all seminary students, were kidnapped while hitchhiking in the West Bank and killed. They were kidnapped on June 12 and their bodies were discovered June 30. Israel accused Hamas of kidnapping the three teens, which the militant group denied. Within days, Israel arrested more than 300 Palestinians, many of them members of Hamas. At least 10 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,000 private homes were raided.
On the night the boys' bodies were found, a barrage of rockets were launched from Gaza at Israel and Israeli warplanes carried out numerous air strikes in Gaza.
On July 2, a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and burned to death in apparent retaliation. The death triggered riots in East Jerusalem, a largely Palestinian area. Three Israelis have been arrested and charged with his death.
The attacks quickly escalated. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have fired rockets with a reach that Israel had not previously seen, with air raid sirens going off as far away as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. Many of the missiles have landed in desert areas or been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system.
Who Are the Key Players?
Hamas controls the Gaza Strip and is considered a terrorist group by Israel and the U.S. But while there is no Israeli military presence inside Gaza anymore, the effective control of Gaza’s sea, air and borders is under Israeli control.
The Israeli Defense Forces are the military arm of Israel and are well armed and exceptionally large given Israel’s population. Most Israeli residents must go through compulsory military service and are automatically enrolled in the IDF’s reserve forces.
Benjamin Netanyahu is the prime minister of Israel. After the Israeli teens were found dead, he said they were victims of "terrorists" and "human animals." When the Palestinian teen was found murdered, he telephoned the boy's father and said the murder was "abhorrent." Three Israelis have been indicted for the murder.
What Is Notable About This Outbreak of Violence?
The current fight comes after almost two years of relative calm between Israel and the Palestinians and just months after the latest round of peace talks collapsed.
The technology being used by both sides is more advanced than in earlier periods of violence. Hamas has publicly claimed responsibility for using a drone, and went on to say that it actually has two types of drones: one to gather intelligence and another to fire munitions. Hamas has been able to reach cities that are much further north in Israel than they ever have before, instilling a new fear for Israeli residents. Israel claims some 5 million people now live within striking distance of Hamas’ newest rockets.