Making Sense of Tragedy:standing in solidarity with Palestinians and supporting immediate medical assistance
Kevin P Clements
NCPACS, University of Otago
There is a major calamity taking place in the Middle East right now. The Israeli army, navy and airforce are laying siege to Gaza- and may even occupy it all or in part-over the next 24 hours. The Palestinian Red Crescent and medical facilities have been unable to cope with the numbers of dead and injured and are in urgent need of new medical supplies I am with this asking all of you to make an immediate contribution towards medical supplies for the Palestinians. Please channel your donations through The Palestinian Welfare Association in the UK. http://www.welfareassociation.org.uk/how-you-can-help/appeals/palestine-emergency-appeal-july-2014/
I cant believe that the world is so mute on this unfolding tragedy. The calls for peace from the UK and the US sound hollow and Israel is once again demonstrating its utter contempt for the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.
What follows is a modified version of an excellent article in the Guardian on Monday the 14th July.
“The facts are these, Gaza City was rocked by a series of large blasts in the early hours of Sunday morning and Israel called on residents of the northern Gaza Strip to evacuate their homes, suggesting a coming attack after its naval commandos earlier launched a brief raid in which soldiers exchanged direct fire with Hamas gunmen.
The death toll passed 160 on Sunday on the Palestinian side, with no Israeli fatalities reported. The United Nations called on Israel and Hamas to end hostilities. But the violence escalated with more exchanges of rocket fire from Gaza and missiles from Israel.
The Israeli air force dropped leaflets on Sunday morning calling for the evacuation. Israel’s military spokesman said troops would begin a “short and temporary” campaign against northern Gaza sometime after 12pm local time (0900 GMT) on Sunday.
The military said four Israeli navy commandos were lightly wounded in a shootout with Gaza-based Hamas fighters as they carried out a raid to destroy a rocket launching site on Sunday morning. It marks the first time the sides have directly clashed since Israel began a devastating bombardment in response to rocket fire. Hamas said its fighters had fired at the Israeli force offshore, preventing them from landing.
Both sides have dismissed calls for a truce and Israel has continued to build up troops along the Gaza border ahead of a possible ground invasion.
The UN security council unanimously urged Israel and Hamas to respect “international humanitarian laws” and stop the loss of life. The 15-member council urged a return to calm “and restitution of the November 2012 ceasefire”, referring to Gaza’s last deadly full-scale conflict.
Israel’s aerial campaign – the largest and deadliest since 2012 – saw strikes start early on Saturday, including one that hit a centre for the handicapped and another that killed two nephews of Gaza’s former Hamas premier, Ismail Haniya.
Rockets fired from Gaza targeted Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, with several intercepted over Israel’s commercial capital and Jerusalem-bound projectiles hitting two southern West Bank cities.
Hundreds of rockets have so far caused no Israeli deaths and many have been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system.
An attack on the northern Gaza Strip hit a centre for the handicapped, killing two disabled women and wounding four, the centre’s director said. “They didn’t understand what was happening and they were so frightened,” Jamila Alaywa said of those inside the care home.
“They fired the rocket and it hit us without any warning.”
Later on Saturday night an Israeli warplane flattened the home of Gaza police chief Taysir al-Batsh and damaged a nearby mosque as evening prayers ended, killing at least 18 people and wounding 50, officials said.
Hamas unleashed a barrage of rocket fire after issuing a rare warning that it planned to fire at the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. Three rockets apparently targeting Jerusalem fell short, hitting Hebron and Bethlehem, the army and Palestinian security sources said, with no reports of casualties.
Of four fired at Tel Aviv, three were intercepted above the city and another hit open ground south of it, the army said. Well over 500 projectiles have struck Israel during the conflict, and on Saturday evening two rockets fired from Lebanon hit uninhabited areas in northern Israel, the army said.
Israel responded with artillery fire.
Amid international efforts to mediate a truce the Egyptian government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s was in touch with both sides, his spokesman said.
Sisi met Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair in Cairo on Saturday to discuss the crisis and later warned any escalation would cause further loss of “innocent lives”.
Washington has said -somewhat pathetically in my opinion- that it is willing to “leverage” its relationships in the region to bring about a ceasefire. The chief diplomats of Britain, France, Germany and the United States are due to discuss how to achieve a truce when they meet in Vienna on Sunday.
There has been little sign that either side is interested in an immediate end to the hostilities, which appeared to be ramping up over Saturday night. The Israeli army said it was sending messages to residents of northern Gaza “urging them to leave their homes for their own safety”.
“It’s unsafe to be near Hamas,” it said.
On Friday Cairo said its efforts to mediate a return to a 2012 ceasefire agreement “have met with stubbornness”.
The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said on Friday that “no international pressure will prevent us from striking, with all force, against the terrorist organisation which calls for our destruction”.
Hamas’s Haniya sounded a similar tone, saying: “[Israel] is the one that started this aggression and it must stop, because we are [simply] defending ourselves.”
The latest conflict unfolded after last month’s kidnap and murder of three young Israelis in the occupied West Bank and the brutal revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists.
Israel cracked down on Hamas, though the Islamist group declined to confirm or deny involvement in the abductions, and Gaza militants hit back with intensified rocket fire.
Israel says preparations are under way for a possible ground incursion, with tanks and artillery massed along the border and 33,000 reservists mobilised out of 40,000 approved by the cabinet. The foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said he expected a political decision on a possible ground operation to be taken by Sunday.”
This is a calamity of appalling proportions. There is blame and impasse on both sides. The United Nations passes resolutions which are ignored with complete impunity by Israel and Hamas. There is a huge asymmetry of power between Israel and Palestine. The Israeli’s have been subject to rocket attacks but have not suffered a single casualty. The Palestinians,on the other hand have been given warnings to evacuate often with just a few minutes notice; they have lost 160 killed and many more injured. They are being subject to the most appalling example of top down state sponsored terrorism. The people of Gaza are sleeping in single rooms fully clothed , so that if they are hit at night time, whole families will die together and they will be buried in daytime clothes rather than night attire. The international community cannot sit idly by and let this calamity unfold with potentially hundreds more fatalities.
In the first instance let us respond to the humanitarian need for medical supplies to deal with the immediate suffering. Secondly let us stand in solidarity with all our Palestinian brothers and sisters as they once again grapple with their relative powerlessness in the face of overwhelming force, Third, lets insist that the United Nations take the lead on getting an immediate ceasefire ( with the active support of the P5 and all other nations concerned about this unfolding tragedy. Finally, let all of us work to ensure that these events do not happen ever again in the land that is home to all the Abrahamic religions. It is a total blasphemy that people of these faiths allow this suffering to take place. It must be stopped sooner rather than later.
This situation is a salutary reminder of why we are all working within the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies to make sure that this tit for tat cycle of endless revenge ceases and is replaced with more positive dynamics.
Salam, Shalom, Fred, Pax, Paix, Peace all.