Trouble near Gaza

image Several people were killed on May 31 when Israeli Commandos stopped six ships that were heading from Cyprus to Gaza. The ships were carrying about 600 people (most of them from Turkey) along with supplies such as toys, clothing, and building materials, for people living in Gaza. When the ships were about 80 km (50 miles) off Gaza’s coast, the Commandos boarded one of them by climbing down from helicopters on ropes. The Commandos say they were attacked first by the folks on the ship, but the people on the ship say the reverse. The Israelis captured all the people on the ships, but they were later released.

For centuries, Jews and Palestinians have both lived in the same geographical region (today the country is called Israel and used to be called Palestine). Since that region is “home” for both sets of people, they have strong disagreements about who should get to live where. In 1947, the United Nations, an international peace organization, proposed splitting the country into two regions – one for the Jews and one for the Palestinians. They didn’t agree, and fighting broke out. By the time the initial fighting was over, the Jewish people had created a country called Israel (in 1948). A large percentage of the Palestinian people fled to neighboring countries (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt). Today, most of the Palestinians live in two separate regions – the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, both of which are next to Israel.

ship The Gaza Strip is a small piece of land (about a quarter the size of London, UK) along the Mediterranean Sea between Israel and Egypt. A group called the Hamas controls the Gaza Strip. One of Israel’s problems is that Hamas keeps firing rockets into Israel which hurts its citizens and towns. Israel controls most of Gaza Strip’s land borders and also its water border. Since 2007, Israel has had strict restrictions on what and who can go into Gaza or come out, and does not allow things that can be used against it. But the people in Gaza say they are in desperate need for simple things like pipes for sewage. In the last couple of years there have been other boats that have come to deliver aid to Gaza, and have been stopped by Israel. But this was the first time that it resulted in the loss of lives.

Image Credits: Globalsecurity.org for Israel map