April 14, 2024

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                      “If there is hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza today”

                                                                                                       -Antonio Guterres

 

 

 

 

 

By: Rini Elizabeth Babu

 

On 21 May 2021, Israel and Gaza after eleven days of deadly confrontation has arrived at an unconditional and mutual ceasefire. Egypt, and Jordan should be applauded for the efforts carried out in close coordination with the United Nations to halt the violence and persuade both sides to begin truce. There are various factors behind this cycle of bloodshed and spoliation between Israel and Gaza and it is significant to investigate the various elements that spiraled this bout of violence.

 

During this year’s Muslim holy month of Ramadan, police prevented Palestinians from gathering in East Jerusalem. Nightly protests erupted which reached their peak when Israeli police stormed a compound that houses the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. 200 people were wounded in clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli police and that really set off a dramatic escalation. The second major factor was the threatened evictions of Palestinians from a majority- Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem called Sheikh Jarrah. Jewish settlers claim that they owned the land before Israel was created and recently an Israeli court had ruled in their favor. Palestinians see the case as an example of decades of ethnic cleansing and the words of Mr. Aryeh King, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, stating it as a part of a wider strategy of installing layers of Jews throughout East Jerusalem explicitly proves the claim of Palestinians. The annual parade on 10 May 2021 as part of ‘Jerusalem Day’, an Israeli celebration of their capture of the holy city in 1967 was another provoking point. Israeli nationalists had previously marched through Muslim neighborhoods and screamed racist chants. Amid boiling tensions, the march was rerouted at the last minute, but events had already spiraled out of control. Watching on from Gaza, Hamas, a hardline Islamist Palestinian militant group that rules inside the enclave, began firing rockets later that day. It triggered an overwhelming response from Israel’s military, the most intense Israeli air strikes post the 2014 Gaza War.

 

The circumstance followed were chapters of crisis and cataclysm. It was a humanitarian emergency that was unfolding. The continuous assault on densely packed neighborhoods in Gaza by Israel Defense Forces left scores dead and destroyed 1000s of homes. On the other hand, Hamas fired 1000s of rockets into Israel killing civilians and wreaking damage across the country. The high-tech defense system of Israel called the Iron Dome intercepted most of the rockets, saving lives by preventing them from hitting towns and cities. The deep imbalance of power and years of neglect left the civilians in Gaza with no protection and there is a catastrophic loss of life.

 

The details of the fourth major conflict between Israel and Hamas are beyond grim. At least 245 people have died on both sides. 233 in Palestine which includes 65 children and 34 women and 12 in Israel. Nine members of one family were killed in al-Shati refugee camp. Five-month-old Omar al- Hadidi was the only survivor. He was found in his dead mother’s arms. Israel claimed it hit the camp to target Hamas officials and their supplies.

 

 

 

 

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More than 6000+ cases of injuries in Gaza and 796 in Israel have also been reported. The fighting has left thousands of Palestinians homeless and forced over 58,000 people to leave their homes and seek shelter in UNRWA schools, mosques, and other places with little access to water, food, hygiene, or health services. The Gaza Strip which had one facility to test Covid-19 cases has been damaged in an air strike. The Israel also did strike on the media complex in Gaza that housed two major media organizations, Associated Press and Al-Jazeera. Israel said that the Hamas was using this building for its operations and though it had promised to provide evidence for this, so far nothing has been produced in the public.  In another air strike, a Palestinian journalist was killed and his father stated that his son never carried weapons but ended with this misfortune. Israeli air strikes have distinctly reduced Gaza to rubble. There are no answers to the question of accountability and it is a shame that despite wars having rules the parties to the conflict did not feel obliged to follow them.

 

 

 

 

 

Image Source: AFP

 

 

Distinction, proportionality and precaution crumbled in the phase of Israeli strategies. Counterterrorism or self-defenses does not provide justification for the indiscriminate attacks and attacks against civilians and civilian property by the Israeli forces that they have unleashed in Gaza during the past eleven days. The indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars from highly populated civilian neighborhoods into civilian population centers in Israel by Hamas is also in clear violation of international humanitarian law.  Consequently, both the parties are guilty of abdicating their commitments under the laws of war.

 

The international community has stepped up to address the need of the hour, to rebuild Gaza and to recuperate the Palestinians. The UN Secretary-General on his informal comments to the media on the ceasefire between the parties, did appeal to the international community to work with the United Nations on developing an integrated, robust package of support for a swift, sustainable reconstruction and recovery that supports the Palestinian people and strengthens their institutions. Egypt has allocated $500 million to rebuild Gaza Strip. US President Joe Biden stated that Washington is committed to working with UN and other international stakeholders to provide rapid humanitarian assistance for the people of Gaza and the Gaza reconstruction efforts. However, he made it clear that we will do this in full partnership with the Palestinian authority in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal.

 

 

The exchange of fire is hopefully over for this period of bombing campaign with the achievement of truce. However, the perplexities around the Israel- Palestine conflict is much more than that and therefore to bring a definitive end to this conundrum, a lot more has to be done. The international leadership remains divided on what to do with this region. The starkest division is seen in the Arab world. It is an embarrassing time for all of them. Morocco, the Sudan, Bahrain recently normalized ties with Israel and now they have condemned the clashes but said very little about the situation in Gaza. Then there are countries like Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, the Maldives and Iran who have vociferously accused Israel of terrorizing Palestinians. The credibility of USA when it comes to its West Asian policy is always under scrutiny. US government is far from an honest broker or neutral bystander when it comes to conflict in the Holy Land. The Hawkish love of Biden for Israel is known to the world since his decades in the Senate as he was famous for his hardcore and unequivocal defense of Israel and its military might. Though Washington came under harsh criticism for the minimalistic approach in the last two weeks, there are also praises for Biden’s ‘quiet intensive diplomacy’ and ‘Arm Around Israel Technique’, pushing Netanyahu to forward towards the ceasefire.

 

While voicing to observe the ceasefire, the UNSG has urged both the sides to address the core issues at the heart of the conflict which include decades of military occupation, political deadlock, grievances and hopelessness. He underscored that they must work towards a resumption of negotiations that will address the status of Jerusalem and other final status issues; end the occupation; and allow for the realization of a two- State solution on the basis of the 1967 lines, UN resolutions, international law and mutual agreements with Jerusalem as capital of both Israel and Palestine to bring the savagery to an absolute end.

 

Gaza has been a perpetual victim of various political interests at stake in the region. The international community despite all the agreements and law has so far been an utter failure to bring any change to the brutal picture of loss and sufferings. The case is so because there is no real political will to put an end to these hostilities. Israel has been an occupying power of Gaza since 1967 and has been oppressing Palestinians for decades. Israel’s apartheid regime is in the mission to remove Palestinians from their land and implant Jewish Zionists in their place. They are the victims of Israeli siege and the Israeli politics to terrorize Palestinians into submission. When it comes to Hamas, they are no less than perpetrators to the human distress in Gaza. The billions of dollars that pours into Gaza as humanitarian aid is feeding mostly the leaders of Hamas and their dirty politics to maintain abusive power by fanning flames of conflict.

 

Image Source: Wion

 

 

Dehumanization of Gazans has been going on for decades and though the degrees of perpetration of crimes may vary, both Israel and Hamas are answerable to people on the ground who have been traumatized for a lifetime. The Gaza onslaught is not a story of the human tragedy unfolded in the past eleven days but the account of 2.2 million human lives who bear the brunt of unaccountable power in the region for the past several decades.