The History Behind Gaza Conflict

In many ways, the conflict between Israel and Hamas was inevitable -- ever since Hamas took control of Gaza from moderate Palestinian forces 18 months ago. CBS News Correspondent Sheila MacVicar reports.


Tens of thousands in the Muslim world protested Israel's continuing bombardment in Gaza and chanted, "Down with Israel."

In Cairo, where the Egyptian government had been key in brokering the now-collapsed ceasefire, people called for an end to cooperation with Israel.

If history has shown us anything, getting any cooperation over Gaza has been nearly impossible, reports CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar.

Thirty miles long, at most ten miles wide, and twice the size of Washington D.C., Gaza is one of the world's most densely populated places.

It was ruled by Egypt until captured in the 1967 War. Gaza was occupied by Israeli soldiers until three years ago.

When Israel unilaterally withdrew, it left behind a vacuum filled by Hamas, the Islamist group which does not recognize Israel's right to exist. Hamas is now the elected leadership of Gaza.

"The Israelis, as far as they're concerned, what they face with Palestinian resistance and in particular from Hamas, is in their book no different than what the United States faces from al Qaeda," said Rosemary Hollis, a Middle East expert at City University London.

Since 2005, Hamas militants and their allies have launched more than 6,000 rockets at Israeli targets. Ten people have been killed.

As candidate Barack Obama discovered when he toured the frequently hit Israeli town of Sderot last summer, however crudely ineffective the attacks, people did live in fear.

"If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that," Obama said on July 23.

But the violence was not one-sided. Israel carried out targeted killings. And more importantly for the people of Gaza, it imposed and tightened an economic blockade that cut off supplies of food, medicine, and even electricity.

The theory was that would encourage Palestinians to reject Hamas. It didn't work.

Unwilling to talk to Hamas, with Israeli elections coming soon and no serious prospects for peace, Israel did what it has done before and vows to continue.
  • Sheila MacVicar

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