SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Politicians and government officials of the United States are keeping watch on the Middle East as a war intensifies between Israel and the militant group Hamas.

As it all plays out, you may be wondering — what led to this violence?

Timothy Schorn, an international studies professor at USD, says Israel has been practicing a policy of containment of the Gaza Strip for the last quarter century. The Gaza Strip and West Bank are made up of mostly Palestinian Arabs while Israel proper is largely Jewish.

“The problem we confront is that, to a great extent, neither side recognizes the legitimacy of the other living there,” Schorn said.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war on Hamas after the militant group attacked Israel from the Gaza Strip on Saturday. While that attack was considered a surprise, Schorn says the fact that it happened shouldn’t come as a shock.

“It’s {Gaza Strip} an area that is incredibly densely populated. It is an area with extremely high unemployment and poverty rate,” Schorn said. “It has no port, no airport, all of that has been destroyed. Gaza fisherman are not allowed to go out very far to fish. So it is essentially an enclosed prison camp.”

United States officials have been quick to show support for Israel since the fighting began.

“The United States sees Israel as a very, very strong and strategic ally. Our relationship with Israel goes back to Israeli independence when President Truman believed that we had a responsibility to protect the Jewish people in the aftermath of the Holocaust,” Schorn said.

Schorn says the U-S will show support to Israel by sending weaponry and ammunition support.

“I think any American action, any American activity of boots on the ground would be very limited. I think if we were going to do that, it would be training and support staff for particular weapon systems,” Schorn said.

He says it’ll be interesting to see how the United States and other western countries support Israel while also helping Ukraine in it’s operation against Russia.

“We already know that a number of western countries were starting to run low on supplies — military equipment, ammunition,” Schorn said.

Schorn’s teaching interests center around Middle Eastern Politics. He has visited both Israel and the Gaza Strip a number of times.

“For me, the humanitarian cost is distressing. The fact that Hamas killed so many civilians indiscriminately is quite distressing. The knowledge that so many Gazans, non-combatants, are going to be killed by Israeli attacks is distressing,” Schorn said.

He hopes Americans can find a way to be supportive of Israel while also understanding the perspective of the Palestinians.

“I find it distressing as well that so few Americans know the background to this conflict and that essentially we ignore any of the Palestinian concerns and we ignore essentially the Palestinian casualties that are going to be occurring,” Schorn said.