IDF SoldierMan, oh man. To say there's crap going on in the Middle East is ... well, it's pretty accurate, and also, an understatement. Have you been hearing about Israel, Palestine, Hamas, and the Gaza Strip in the news recently?

So what the heck is going on? It's complicated, to say the least. Tensions are high and death tolls rise as two fundamentally opposed groups continue to be at war with one another. So who's on the right? That's a matter of perspective.

Warfare is full of propaganda and rumors, so it's almost impossible to stay neutral. It's also important to try and understand both sides of the equation, even if you don't agree with it. That being said, here are 8 things you need to know about the Middle East conflict and what's going on between Israel and Palestine, from a pro-Israel observer.

What's the big picture? Palestine believes Israel has no right to exist, so they do everything they can to destroy it. Israel does everything it can to protect its borders and citizens. The question really seems to be -- do Israel's counter attacks go too far?

Are the West Bank and the Gaza Strip the same thing? Nope, but they're both Palestinian territories. The Gaza Strip is led by Hamas, while the West Bank is led by Fatah. Both groups are predominantly Sunni Muslim, however, Hamas is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the U.S., Canada, Egypt, Jordan, and the European Union.

Wait, who is attacking whom? Well, Hamas is almost always shooting rockets into Israel. They don't recognize Israel as a sovereign nation, and believe the Israelis are occupying land that rightfully belongs to Palestine. Periodically it escalates, and Israel asks them to stop, since you know, they don't like their civilians being attacked. Being internationally recognized terrorists, Hamas refuses. Every few years, Israel launches an defense attack to keep Hamas at bay. This one is called Operation Protective Edge, and it was instigated when Hamas started sending people through their tunnel system into Israel to kill Jews. They also sent a donkey bomb, just FYI.

Well OK, but isn't Israel being a little harsh here? Since there aren't very many people outside of the Gaza Strip that would defend Hamas in general, sympathizers usually latch onto the Israel is over-killing it bandwagon. After all, they've taken to air, land, and sea to destroy the Gaza tunnels, and there have been many civilian casualties, including women and children.

What's Israel's goal? Israel is not looking to occupy Gaza, nor are they looking to kill Palestinians. The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) dropped leaflets, made phone calls, knocked on doors, and told everyone to get out of the way. They gave them ample warning to go buy provisions if they wanted to barricade themselves in their homes for up to two weeks. Once they are done destroying the tunnels, they'll leave, and Hamas will have to regroup, and the whole thing will more likely than not happen again in a few years. If their goal was to wipe out the Palestinians in Gaza, they'd do it and be done with it.

What's the death toll thus far? As of Tuesday, July 22, more than 600 Palestinians and 29 Israelis have lost their lives.

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What does President Obama think about all of this? Last week he reaffirmed his "strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself" by taking out the terror tunnels. By Sunday, he was raising "serious concern about the growing number of casualties." It's hard to tell where exactly he stands on the issue. He did send Secretary of State John Kerry to Cairo this week to talk about a possible cease-fire, so there's that.

When will it finally end? Given history ... it will end when Israel feels like it's adequately defended itself from imminent Hamas terrorist attacks, and not a moment sooner.

Do you think Israel is going overboard with the defense attacks against Hamas?

 

Image via Israel Defense Forces/Flickr