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The Gaza conflict: FAQ

As violence between Israel and radical terror groups in the Gaza strip continues, DW looks at the parties taking part in the conflict, why they're fighting, and what the international community is doing about it.

What reaction has come from the international community?

The peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians sponsored by the United States ended in late April, but the US government has now tried to get both sides to commit to a ceasefire. The sooner such a step can be taken, the better it will be for both sides, said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. US President Barack Obama has also offered mediation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The United Nations Security Council on Saturday (12.07.2014) called for a ceasefire and for all parties to respect human rights, while the Middle East quartet's special envoy, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has traveled to Egypt for talks.

The Arab League has also expressed its concern. It scheduled a meeting for its foreign ministers on Monday in Cairo to discuss the conflict.

How is the current conflict expected to develop?

There are many indications that the ongoing violence will continue for at least several more days. Netanyahu said on Friday that he will not give in to international pressure to stop military action in Gaza. He also did not exclude the possibility of sending in ground troops, which Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has called for. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said his country has more "long days of fighting" ahead of it. Israeli military forces have gathered near Gaza's border and are preparing an invasion of the Palestinian Territories.

Israeli military forces load artillery Photo: REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Hostilities between Hamas and Israel have now entered a fifth day

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday expressed his support for a political solution to the conflict and called on both sides to put an end to fighting and stick to the conditions set out in a 2012 ceasefire. The people of Gaza need to be protected, he said. But few are listening to his words in the Gaza Strip, from where radical Palestinians fire missiles into Israel and where most Israeli air strikes have taken place.

What is Hamas and what does it want?

Hamas is an abbreviation for "Harakat al-muqawama al-islamiya," or "Islamic Resistance." The organization was founded in 1987, the year of the first intifada, as the Palestinian uprisings are called. Hamas is a political party as well as a militia, but they have been labeled terrorists by a number of Western states.

The group's charta names the elimination of the state of Israel among its goals. Its long-term aims go even further: Hamas would like to establish an Islamic state that reaches from the Mediterranean Sea to the River Jordan valley. In 2006, the group beat its rival group Fatah in an election. After eight years under the Hamas government, many Palestinians have seen a drop in their quality of life as they suffer from the effects of wars against Israel in 2008 and 2011/2012.

Hamas' popularity has also sunk in recent months. Since the end of June, they and other radical groups have fired rockets into Israel, and fears of an impending war have increased support for Hamas among parts of the Palestinian population.

What other radical groups are in the Gaza Strip and what are their goals?

Second in size only to Hamas, the group Islamic Jihad in Palestine was founded in 1981 and maintains close ties to Iran despite the fact that it is a Sunni organization and Iran is ruled by Shiites. The group refuses to recognize the state of Israel but not Judaism. Islamic Jihad has called for freedom of movement for Arabs in what it sees as Palestine's historic borders. Several thousands people are members of Islamic Jihad.

A ball of fire is seen following an early morning Israeli air strike, on July 11, 2014, on Rafah in the southern of Gaza Strip Photo: SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images

Few observers believe the current fighting will end soon

The Salafists are the third largest group. They are pushing for a "global jihad" with the goal of spreading Islam as far as possible. They have considerably fewer followers in the Gaza Strip than Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The Salafists' goal is to return to the "original" state of Islam, which they understand as a strict form of the religion that does not leave room for varying interpretations of Islam and adheres to a strict view of Sharia law.

Why is the conflict happening now?

There are number of answers to this question, and they depend on perspective. For many, including non-radical Palestinians, the current fighting is merely an extension of Israel's long-term policy of oppression. Many Palestinians do not accept the argument that Israel needs to defend itself from rockets fired from Gaza. "Israel will only further isolate itself and receive sharp criticism on the international stage," Palestinian newspaper Al Quds wrote on Saturday (12.07.2014). "Its attacks deepen hate and shrink hopes of peace."

The Israeli government says it is defending the country from rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip. Israeli author David Grossman wrote in an article for Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that anyone in Israel who still believed in peace was considered naive by the vast majority of Israelis. "One could say that the right has not only vanquished the left: It has vanquished Israel," Grossman wrote.

Pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi, published in London, wrote that the conflict began as a territorial one, but the longer it lasts the more it has turned into a conflict that threatens to feed off itself. "Jews, Arabs, Israelis, and Palestinians are in danger of falling into an extremely dangerous situation where hooligans and extremists are out for blood and revenge."

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