‘Nigeria played a key role?’ — Here’s a brief explainer on the Israel-Palestine crisis

The biggest developing international story this week is “Israel Vs Palestine”. But what exactly is the problem and what is happening today? The answer to that question depends on who you ask.

The media reports are very likely to follow a pattern  — pro-Israel or pro-Palestine; pro-Arab or pro-west; Christian or Muslim. It’s a very polarising situation that seems to appear to simply be a struggle for land or space. But it is more; it’s a heritage war.

TheCable attempts to briefly explain what we know so far, and contextualise the role Nigeria has played in the agelong crisis in the region.  Yes, Nigeria is somehow tied to this story, however little that may be.

The Genesis of the 2021 episode

It all started with law suits to evict 300 Palestinians from a neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The Palestinians then began to protest the possible evictions which involved about six families.


At the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, Israeli police forces mounted a blockade around one of the holiest sites in Islam, where some protesters occupied. The site, which is in East Jerusalem, also houses one of the holiest sites in Judaism. It is called the Temple Mount by Jews and Noble Sanctuary by Muslims.

Hence, this site matters to both the Jews and the Muslims. Traditionally, Muslims will gather at these sites to pray during Ramadan. The tensions were brewing, Palestinian protesters were gathering, but on Monday, the broth of fury was ready to be served.

Israeli forces raided Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. This injured hundreds of Palestinians and a good number of Israeli security officials.


This was the genesis of the most recent conflict. The BBC has detailed six reasons the clashes may be happening now.

Hamas responds

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh says the resistance is ready to escalate the crisis

Hamas is a known Islamic resistant group founded in 1987 with the sole aim of liberating Palestine from Israeli occupation. To many Palestinians, Hamas is the saviour. To a vast majority of Israelis, Hamas is the terrorist.

Quick Fact: Hamas in Arabic means Zeal, in Hebrew, it means violence. 

Following the raid in East Jerusalem, Hamas gave a 6pm deadline for Israeli officials to vacate the holy site. That did not happen, so Hamas struck Israel.


How bad? Al Jazeera first reported that Hamas fired seven long-range rockets into Israeli territory. But Hamas said it launched dozens of rockets into Israel. Israeli forces used its Iron Dome Aerial Defense System to intercept at least one of the rockets. Hamas fired more, and injured civilians and killed at least one Israeli soldier.

The date of the strikes is even more significant because it coincided with what is known as Jerusalem day. On May 10, 1967, according to the Hebrew calendar, Israeli soldiers liberated the Old City of Jerusalem, reunifying the “eternal capital” of the Jewish People.

This day is celebrated annually. This year, it is marked by receiving strikes from Hamas.

Israel strikes back, kills Hamas commanders

Gaza in flames

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, who is battling political rivals following his party’s inability to win majority seats to form a government may need victory over Hamas to cement his place as the country’s leader, following the March 2021 election.


He promised to strike back and has done so. Israeli airstrikes has killed at least 67 people in Gaza, including more than a dozen children, according to the latest updates from Gaza ministry of health. Some of those killed are Hamas commanders.

Israel said Hamas has fired about 1,500 rockets. Israel is reported to have fired some hundreds. The violence continues. As of 3am Nigerian time on Thursday, both states were still trading rockets.


The World watches: UN, Russia Vs Arab League

Biden, Putin and UNSC calculated speech of silence

Following the crisis, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) called an emergency meeting on Monday. But made no comments about the attacks.

The Arab League of nation condemned Israel’s attack on Gaza, calling on the UN to “immediately stop the Israeli aggression and provide the necessary protection for the Palestinian people”


On Wednesday, Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, called for de-escalation.

UN to Hamas: “Hamas and other militants’ indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars from highly populated civilian neighbourhoods towards civilian population centres violates international humanitarian law, and it is unacceptable and has to stop immediately.”


UN to Israel: Israeli authorities must “abide by their responsibilities under international law and that Israeli security forces should exercise maximum restraint, calibrate their use of force to spare civilians and civilian objects in the conduct of military operations.”

The US President Joe Biden finally joined the conversation on Wednesday by saying Israel has the right to defend itself. He made no mention of the Palestinians. Israel is a strong ally of the US.

Vladimir Putin of Russia also called for de-escalation while his Turkish counterpart said Israel should be taught a strong lesson. Nigeria is yet to react.

What role did Nigeria play?

Jonathan chose Israel-US relationship over Palestinian-IOC bond

In 2012, a draft resolution was presented before the UN general assembly to accord Palestine a “Non-Member Observer State” status at the UN. 138 of 188 countries voted in favour of Palestine. One of those countries was Nigeria.

In 2011, Nigeria also voted in favour of Palestine becoming a full member of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Nigeria and Palestine are also members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). It would seem like Nigeria is a Palestinian ally.

However, in 2014, another resolution was presented before the UN security council to end Israeli occupation of some of these holy sites and yield them to Palestine. One of those sites is key in the recent battles between Israel and Palestine.

The resolution also sought full UN member status for the country, and Palestine needed nine of 15 votes to get a deal to end Israeli occupation of these sites as soon as 2015 or as late as 2017.

Palestine was sure it would get a vote from Nigeria and some other committed allies. But at the nick of time, Nigeria chose to abstain. Palestine got eight votes and was disappointed Nigeria did not come through to make the ninth vote.

The state therefore could not get the sites back, neither did it gain full UN member status. Netanyahu praised Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s president at the time, for his support.

Conclusion: No end in sight

When does it end? Possibly never going to end. The de-escalation of this current episode may happen soon, but the crisis and land wars between both countries would likely not end in our lifetime.

The conflict has gone on for decades, and in the 70+ years the UN has been around, the diplomatic union has been incapable of ending the conflict. As long as China, France, Russia, US and UK remain permanent members of the UNSC, nothing is likely to change.

If Nigeria voted in favour of Palestine in 2014, would the situation have been different today?

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