These are the key players in Palestine-Israel conflict

Mourners carry the body of Muntaser Za'aqiq who was killed by Israeli forces, during his funeral near Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank October 10,2023. Picture: Yosri Aljamal/ Reuters

Mourners carry the body of Muntaser Za'aqiq who was killed by Israeli forces, during his funeral near Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank October 10,2023. Picture: Yosri Aljamal/ Reuters

Published Oct 10, 2023


After what was deemed by the worldwide community as a ‘surprise attack’ by Hamas on Israel at the weekend, reports have emerged on casualties, injuries and organisations speaking out.

While we are quick to pick a side, it is important to know who they are and what they do.

What is Palestine?

Palestine was among the former Ottoman territories placed under UK administration in 1922, and sources throughout the Ottoman period are full of references to a place called Palestine (Filistin).

In 1988, the State of Palestine was established following a Palestine National Council meeting in Algiers.

Palestinians also use the name Palestine as an umbrella term for the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

What is Israel?

In a bid to quell tensions, the United Nations partitioned Palestine into two independent states, one Palestinian Arab and the other Jewish. This was called Resolution 181 (II) of 1947, also known as the Partition Plan.

On May 14, 1948, one of the two envisaged states proclaimed its independence, and thus the State of Israel was created.

Who is Hamas and who is leading it?

The Hamas movement was founded in Gaza shortly after the start of the Intifada.

The movement was started as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. It created a military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, in a bid to pursue an armed struggle against Israel and liberate Palestine.

Hamas has been the de facto ruler in the Gaza Strip since 2007, after defeating President Mahmoud Abbas’ long-dominant Fatah party in parliamentary elections.

Who is Fatah?

When Hamas is mentioned, it does not take long before Fatah is mentioned. As Hamas rules the Gaza Strip, Fatah has ruled and is ruling the West Bank.

Like Hamas, Fatah says it is also working towards building a Palestinian state on the territories that Israel occupied in 1967.

Fatah was founded by several people, most notably the late president of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, aides Khalil al-Wazir and Salah Khalaf, and Mahmoud Abbas, who is the current president of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

What is the difference between Hamas and Fatah?

In terms of ideology, Hamas is Islamist, while Fatah is secular. For their strategy towards Israel, Hamas tends to use armed resistance, whereas Fatah opts for negotiations. In terms of objectives and recognition of Israel, Hamas does not recognise Israel but accepts a Palestinian state on 1967 borders, and Fatah recognises Israel and wants to build a state on 1967 borders.

Who is the PA?

As established earlier, Mahmoud Abbas is the current president of the Palestinian Authority (PA). But who are they? The PA, formally the Palestinian National Authority, is the governing body of the Palestinian autonomous regions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

They were established in 1994 as part of the Oslo Accords peace agreement between Israel and the PLO.

The PA is governed by an interim constitution known as the Basic Law.

The president is elected directly to a four-year term, with a limit of two terms. The president is the commander in chief of the security forces, manages foreign relations, has the power to veto legislation, and may issue decrees when the legislature is not in session.

What is the PLO?

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was established in 1964 and is believed to be the embodiment of the Palestinian national movement.

It is an umbrella organisation comprised of numerous organisations of the resistance movement, political parties, popular organisations, and independent personalities and figures from all sectors of life.


Although Hezbollah is not based in neither Palestine nor Israel, Hezbollah gets mentioned a lot in the context of this conflict.

Hezbollah was founded by Iran's Revolutionary Guards in 1982 to fight Israeli forces that had invaded Lebanon.

Lebanon's Hezbollah said it targeted Israeli military positions in the disputed Shebaa Farms on Sunday, saying it was acting in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Who is IDF and who is leading it?

Israel Defence Forces (IDF) represent all of Israel's military forces. It was established in 1948, after the State of Israel was officially established. It consists of three service branches: the Israeli Ground Forces, the Israeli Air Force, and the Israeli Navy. The IDF is headed by the Chief of the General Staff, who is subordinate to the Israeli Defence Minister.

Who are the key members of the Israeli right wing government?

After the Hamas attack on Israel, there are a few people who have been very vocal. Benjamin Netanyahu is Israel's prime minister. Netanyahu vowed that "though Israel did not start this war", they "will finish it".

As part of its retaliation against Hamas, Israel has mobilised 300,000 troops.

Yoav Gallant is the Israeli Defence Minister. He was recently in headlines after he said authorities would cut electricity and block the entry of food and fuel as part of “a complete siege” on Gaza, which is expected to affect 2.3 million people.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich is a West Bank settler who heads the hardline Religious Zionism Party. Smotrich opposes Palestinian statehood, and he has spoken out again against Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, condemned LGBTQ activists, and called the justice system too liberal. He also oversees the Civil Administration, which approves settlement building in the West Bank and controls important aspects of Palestinians' lives.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir heads the far-right Jewish Power Party and has secured an expanded cabinet ministry in charge of police. He has his sights on establishing “law and order” for all citizens. Ben-Gvir opposes Palestinian statehood and advocates the dismantling of the interim Palestinian Authority government.

Who are the Zionists?

The word Zionists has been thrown around a lot when speaking about this issue. It should be noted that Zionists and Jews cannot and should not be used interchangeably.

Zionism refers to the Jewish nationalist movement whose goal is the creation and support of a Jewish national state in Palestine. It is believed that Zionism originated in eastern and central Europe in the latter part of the 19th century.