I.O.F. Continues To Batter Palestine – Can The Stalemate Be Broken?

International Middle East Media Center reported on Thursday that the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip demanded accountability from Israel for the relentless human rights violations, crimes, raids, assaults and abuses it continues to commit against the occupied Palestinian territories – especially in the light of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. Issuing a joint statement condemning the Israeli Occupation Forces’ (I.O.F.) continued implementation of the collective punishment policy and tightened closure restrictions on the Gaza Strip (both reinforced since Monday, Aug. 10), they declared that they “will not allow the enemy to continue the unjust siege on [our] people…it is [their] right to express, by all appropriate means, their rejection of the blockade.” As the coronavirus pandemic aggravates Gaza’s humanitarian, health and environmental crisis, the intensifying siege heralds another all-out war.

Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, denounced Israel’s strangling blockade as a “crime against humanity.” With 2 million residents surviving on only four hours of electricity a day, as Israel shut down Gaza’s sole power plan last week, the already-dilapidated health system is put under further pressure to curb the coronavirus spike in addition to its everyday operations, especially as mobility restrictions have to be taken under consideration. He urged the international community to break their silence, curb the Zionist aggression, and intervene to break the blockade of Gaza. The persistence of crimes and human rights violations committed against the Palestinians, he proclaimed, continue do to their normalization and the “absence of deterrent decisions.”

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (P.C.H.R.) have already warned of the catastrophic implications of the siege and outbreak compounding on each other, especially with the 14-year-old illegal and inhumane closure. Palestinians still suffer from relentless demolition of property and facilities, Israeli settlement expansion, and the I.O.F.’s continued excessive use of force. The P.C.H.R. is unable to fully and accurately document violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, given the closure of certain territories and the COVID-19 outbreak has limited fieldworkers’ mobility and ability to conduct field documentation.

Hamas cited past Egyptian mediation to have been “affective,” adding that this may be the time to “think about involving more mediators such as the U.A.E.” However, with new challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic intensifying the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Palestine, perhaps this may be a push for Palestine to change course and proceed on economic incentives. While a détente with Israel might be heretical, such an approach would give Palestine more opportunity and room to pursue state-building progress. For example, while Egypt and Jordan have successful peace treaties with Israel, this does not imply a pro-Zionist sentiment. While such an approach may not address the ongoing dilemma of the occupied territories, a trade-motivated turn might break the stalemate plaguing Palestine’s strangled food supplies, careworn health system, and dilapidated health system.