Palestine continues to bleed
Ghada Sabateen (47) was shot at by Israeli forces when she was crossing a military checkpoint near the village of Husan, in the occupied West Bank. She was a partially blind widow, with six children. She used to live with her elderly parents and children after the death of her husband. She neither attacked the Israeli forces, nor did she possess any arms or weapons.
Muhammad Hassan Muhammad Assaf, a 34-year-old legal adviser, had just dropped his nephews off to school and was standing by the roadside in the city of Nablus when an Israeli bullet hit him. He was shot in the chest and succumbed to his injuries. Assaf was a legal adviser Palestinian Authority's committee against the wall and settlements, according to media reports.
In Husan, a 16-year-old boy, Qusai Hamamrah, had been killed by Israeli forces after they suspected him of throwing Molotov cocktails at the Israeli aggressors.
In another operation in Silwad, 18-year-old Amer Elyan, was killed by "a live bullet in the chest" that was fired by the Israeli army.
So far, five Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank in various reprisal operations carried out by the Israeli forces, in the aftermath of attacks in Israel that had left 12 Israelis dead. During the corresponding period, Israeli forces had killed 16 Palestinians, including assailants, as per an AFP estimate.
And there is a reason behind the emboldened aggression by the Israeli forces: The "full freedom" granted to them by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, "There are not and will not be limits for this war. We are granting full freedom of action to the army, the Shin Bet [domestic intelligence agency] and all security forces in order to defeat the terror… Every murderer knows we will find them, everyone who helps a terrorist should know that they will pay a heavy price."
And in a nightmarish repetition of the attacks on the Al-Aqsa mosque by Israeli forces last year, in the early hours of April 15, the Israeli aggressors swooped in on the worshippers who had gathered at the mosque to offer their morning prayers. According to media reports as of the time of writing this article, 59 Palestinians have been badly injured in the violence that ensued.
During Ramadan last year, clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces had escalated to an 11-day full-fledged Israeli attack on the besieged Gaza Strip, claiming the lives of 232 people, including 65 children. The tensions started with issues of forced, illegal relocation of Palestinians from their ancestral homes and of multiple attacks on the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Since the beginning of 2022, 36 Palestinians have been killed by Israel, as revealed by the Palestinian health ministry.
While the multiple attacks on Israel that took place recently are condemnable in the strongest possible terms, the disproportionate Israeli reprisal killing of civilians in the name of counterterrorist operations in the West Bank is by no means acceptable. It is a gross human rights violation of the Palestinian people. This is what in a civilised nation would be called "war crimes."
Israel has so far killed some of the assailants. With the help of their sophisticated surveillance technology, that they are so well-known for, they can easily isolate and identify the actual criminals and bring them to justice. Instead, Israel has chosen the path of bloody atrocities, killing innocent civilians at their whims. And given the highly anti-Palestinian approach of the sitting Israeli PM, who has in the past boasted about killing Palestinians ("I have killed lots of Arabs in my life—and there is no problem with that.") and even suggested, "I will do everything in my power to make sure they never get a state," one should not expect a peaceful resolution of the present crisis. In fact, Israel, under no leadership, wants to have a peaceful solution, because ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and encroachment of their lands is at the core of Israeli policies, given Israel was born out of the 1948 Nakba.
Israel has and will always deny the Palestinians their right to self-determination. And the international community, especially Israel's allies—that is, the West, led by the US—will remain silent over the atrocities they commit against the Palestinians.
Over the years, the US has found ways to support the apartheid actions of Israel. The US and its allies have provided Israel with arms, funds and support on international platforms, despite Israel having committed major human rights violations and war crimes in Palestine.
And the West continues to embolden an already reckless Israel, while the arms dealers continue to get rich with innocent blood on their hands.
While there is fear that these ongoing reprisal operations might result in further escalation of violence with the Palestinians now protesting Israeli brutality, the international community is as usual doing almost nothing to put a stop to this mad mayhem by Israeli forces.
And when the Palestinians will rise up in an organised manner—because when pushed into a corner, they will have no other way to defend themselves and their right to life and dignity—and Israel will unleash a full-fledged assault on Palestine, the international community will say: Israel had the right to defend itself. But then, what about the Palestinians?
The innocent people of Jenin or Nablus did not carry out the attacks in Israel. So why this disproportionate response? Why these ruthless killings? Why the desecration of the Al-Aqsa mosque, a place so important to the sentiments of the Palestinians?
What Israel is trying to do now is perhaps provoke the Palestinians to respond through violence, so that they can complete this year's "quota" of mass killing of Palestinians in the name of self-defence. It is a shame the international community, including the OIC and the Arab League, is doing nothing, just as it has done nothing in the past, to stop Israeli aggression against the Palestinians, or to ensure the Palestinians' right to self-determination. Perhaps, even for them, it has become business as usual.
There might be another Intifada, another round of ethnic cleansing, and the Palestinians will suffer and perish, and the human rights bodies and international community will watch the bloody horror unfold in silence; and they will be responsible as much for the bloodbath as Israeli itself.
Tasneem Tayeb is a columnist for The Daily Star. Her Twitter handle is @tasneem_tayeb