Israel has launched repeated night-time bombing campaigns in Gaza for over a week in retaliation to Gazan incendiary balloons and rockets which caused fires in Israeli territory. No deaths were reported on either side. Israel imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Gaza, currently ruled by Hamas. This has blocked the delivery of much needed food and fuel leading to the shutdown of Gaza’s only power plant on Tuesday, leaving the two million inhabitants with four hours of electricity a day. Fire from Gaza aims to pressure Israel to transfer Qatari financial aid to the strip. However, as a punitive measure for Gaza, the incendiary balloon attacks and unrest along the Gazan-Israeli border last Saturday, Israel has also shut down access to Gaza’s fishing zone directly affecting Palestinians employed in the fishing sector. Israel warns Hamas that it is risking escalations and ‘war’ if explosive balloons are not stopped.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated his reasoning for the prolonged attacks: “There will be a very heavy price for the balloon terror. We will not suffer this, we will act and exact a heavy price.” While Israeli President Reuven Rivlin states “this is not a game… If they want war, they will get war”. Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, insisted that Israel was not honouring their truce to ease the blockade and thus allowing the Palestinian people in Gaza to experience a slow death by blockade. Egyptian mediators have held talks with both sides to restore calmness but no agreement has been made. A Palestinian official states “calm can only come if Israel agrees to demands presented by Hamas”. A spokesperson for UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinians, Adnan Abu Hasna stated that Israeli warplanes struck overnight leaving no reported casualties but an unexploded missile inside a UN-run school where children has just returned after COVID-19 suspensions. Israel is looking into this claim.
This is the most serious escalation in months and mediators desperately need to ramp up de-escalation efforts before this continues. With little coverage in the mainstream media, there should be public outrage. Physical violence on both sides is not the answer but silence by the international community is complicity. International communities need to speak up and condemn the violence, and cease exporting arms that lead to this violence. The international community should also call for negotiations to lift the Israeli blockade. Not only does the blockade limit food but it limits medicine and fuel needed to run hospitals. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned that the reduction of the daily electricity supply from eight hours to three or four hours increased the burden on hospitals. This is particularly harrowing during a global pandemic. A report by the International Crisis group says that an epidemic in the Gaza strip would be calamitous if restrictions by Israel are not loosened.
Since 2007, Hamas and Israel have fought three wars and multiple smaller skirmishes. Despite a truce last year backed by the UN, Egypt and Qatar, and both sides honouring an informal cease-fire in recent months, clashes happen sporadically. According to the World Bank, more than half of the two million population of the Gaza Strip live in poverty. A diplomatic agreement this week between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel, brokered by the US, neglects and condones Palestinians’ experiences of bombing by Israel and allows the nation to avoid taking responsibility for its actions.
Of course, violence is not the solution and so neither side can be condoned for their actions. However, de-escalation tactics from the international community is needed instantly. Particularly, the media and global politicians’ silence, if not rectified, means complicity.
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