Why are Israel and Hamas at war? A basic explainer.

A picture taken from a position near Sderot along the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip shows smoke billowing during an Israeli bombardment on the northern Palestinian territory on Nov. 21, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images)
9 min

Israel and Hamas have been at war for more than six weeks. Over 11,100 Palestinians had been killed as of Nov. 10 — one out of every 200 people in Gaza — according to its Health Ministry, which says it can no longer provide an official death toll because of the intensity of fighting and repeated communication breakdowns. At least 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 assault on Israel, the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.

Here is a basic explainer of the reasons behind the current war between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls the Gaza Strip.

Israel-Gaza war

U.S. naval forces launched three additional strikes against Houthi forces in Yemen on Friday morning, targeting anti-ship missiles, according to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. In the Gaza Strip, internet and cellphone communications were gradually restored, ending a week-long outage that kept most of the territory’s 2.1 million people cut off, amid a war and humanitarian crisis.

Pakistan launched retaliatory strikes Thursday on militants in Iran, its Foreign Ministry said, as tensions in the Middle East appeared to be spreading.

Oct. 7 attack: Hamas spent more than a year planning its assault on Israel. A Washington Post video analysis shows how Hamas exploited vulnerabilities created by Israel’s reliance on technology at the “Iron Wall,” the security barrier bordering the Gaza Strip, to carry out the deadliest attack in Israel’s history. Stock traders earned millions of dollars anticipating the Hamas attack, a study found.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict: The Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has a complicated history. Understand what’s behind the Israel-Gaza war and read about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.