UPON expiry of the 24-hour UN-brokered truce, Israel has resumed its naval, air and ground attack on Gaza since Sunday morning, despite Hamas's announcing a 24-hour ceasefire.
During the short-lived lull in hostilities, what Gaza residents, humanitarian and rescue workers and foreign journalists saw was mind-boggling. It was as if demons were let loose to demolish big buildings and concrete structures literally into dust. Those were mostly civilian structures -- -- residential buildings, schools, hospitals, even UN-shelters -- that came under the savage attack of the Israelis. Trapped in a small strip of land hardly 139 square miles in area, washed by the Mediterranean sea on the West, surrounded by hostile Israel along its 32 miles long border on the East and North and a less than 7 miles long border with not-so-friendly Egypt on the Southwest, the 1.8 million-strong Gazans have practically no escape route to flee or place to hide when attacked. So, whenever Israel launches its mission to exterminate with its overwhelming firepower against the population of this densely populated enclave purportedly to chastise what they term 'terrorist Hamas,' it is the unarmed civilians -- men, women and children -- who pay the ultimate price .
As the corpses of defenceless women, children and men pile up, the Israeli leaders gloat over the carnage as their success in punishing the elusive 'terrorists.' As if as an irony of history, the Jewish leaders of Israel take a sadistic pleasure in reenacting a new version of 'pogrom' on the Palestinian populations in Gaza, in the West Bank or elsewhere in the Middle East. One may recall that throughout history, the Jewish people themselves were subjected to untold sufferings in their various European ghettoes at the hands of their tormentors in those countries through the extermination campaigns called 'pogroms.' Such pogroms against European Jewish communities continued from the 14th until the 19th centuries. Even as late as in the '30s and early '40s of 20th century (between1933 and the fall of Hitler in Nazi Germany in May 1945), the horror was again revived that saw the deaths of millions of Jewish people. What a strange lesson the Israeli Jewish leaders have learnt from history! The once persecuted have now turned against a people who never meant any harm to the Jewish people. This is a treachery of historic proportions.
But pampered by the US and other Western powers, the Israeli rulers have long been trampling with impunity all international laws and conventions while carrying out their killing missions against the Palestinian people. Unsurprisingly, they thought nothing of shelling two Red Crescent ambulances that killed a medical staff and injured another critically. Even the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for the area admitted that such attack on ambulances, hospitals and medical workers constituted a serious violation of the law of war. But who cares? As long as the Western powers extend their unqualified support to Israel, it will go on trampling all international norms on self-defense grounds.
A very convenient kind of self-defence, indeed! You enter a civilian settlement of the Palestinians with your planes, drones, tanks, APCs, bombs and missiles, massacre them at will and try to justify it as an act of self-defence! However, the civilised (!) world never hesitates to express their worries at civilian casualties. But nothing more than that. No effective steps to stop them from killing Palestinians and destroying their settlements.
This time the Israeli campaign's explicit target has been to destroy the 'tunnels' the Hamas militants built and have been using to fire rockets from as well as to sneak into Israeli territory to launch surprise raids against them. The Israelis could have rather blamed the Gaza people, not just the Hamas or Islamic Jihad militants, for digging the tunnels. What else can the human beings encaged in that enclave called Gaza do other than dig tunnels to smuggle in food, fuel, medicines, construction materials and other daily necessaries they need to survive when the Israelis have sealed all their (the Gazan's) openings to the outside world through a seven-year-long blockade since Hamas won Gaza election in 2006? The opening on the southwestern border with Egypt has also been sealed with the ouster of the first-ever elected government in Egypt led by Mohammed Morsi in July 2013. In fact, these tunnels are but the lifelines of the Gaza residents. Small wonder Hamas, as part of its condition for any lasting ceasefire in the ongoing resistance war, has demanded a permanent end to the blockade that Israel has been keeping in force on its borders.
It is the fourth big Israeli offensive into Gaza since Hamas assumed power in that territory. In all such campaigns, Israel's losses (in terms of civilian or military casualties) have remained very minimal compared to that suffered by the Palestinians. But in this latest campaign that started since July 8, some 46 Israelis have been killed among whom 43 were soldiers. The number of Palestinian deaths, on the other hand, has crossed 1060. But compared to the past, this is the highest number of casualties that the Israelis have suffered. Evidently, the Israeli ground offensive is facing stiff resistance from Hamas fighters. The massive demonstrations by Palestinians in the West Bank against Israel's atrocities in Gaza have also dealt a blow to Netanyahu's game of using the hostilities between PLO and Hamas to his advantage. If Netanyahu still believes in a two-state solution as a way to lasting Middle East peace, he must immediately stop this war and withdraw his forces from Gaza. Otherwise, he will go down in history as the villain who destroyed that possibility.
The writer is Editor, Science & Life, The Daily Star.