Hamas and Israel agreed on a 72-hour ceasefire which started today morning at 8 AM local time and will continue till Friday morning. On what would’ve been Operation Protective Edge’s 29th day, the numbers are as follow:
• 1,717 Palestinians dead – 85 % of which are civilians ( According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, last updated on August 3)
• About 10,000 Palestinians wounded
• Two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker dead
• 64 IDF soldiers dead
Numbers talk, but the dead are not mere figures. They are people who were supposed to be leading and fulfilling lives: A toddler who took his first steps a couple of weeks ago. A boy who liked collecting seashells by the shore of Gaza. A young woman who recently got engaged. A mother who enjoyed the sight of her smiling children.
But the toddler was burnt and only a disfigured little black corpse, blotched in red remained. The young boy was killed by the shore as he played with his friends, and only the sea knows the last words he said as his hands touched its waters for what he did not know was his last time. The woman’s fiancé lay dead under iron and stones, and she wept as his sweet voice echoed in her ears while she held her golden engagement ring close to her chest and traced its delicate cold figure with her hands . And the smiling children, they wept, too, as they clutched the vivid vermilion hands of their still mother and watched her eyes slowly roll back into their sockets.
The majority of Gaza has been turned to rubble. Its infrastructure is collapsing. Its only power plant, bombed on the 29th of July by Israeli forces, needs a year to repair, and 5 – 8 power plants out of 10 that conduct electricity from Israel have been disabled, some by Hamas’ rockets. Hospitals continue to suffer from medical equipment shortage and weak sanitation systems. UN schools are overcrowding as 11% of Gaza’s populations has been displaced.
The situation has been called a humanitarian crisis. Both sides have been accused of war crimes. The international community remains divided between condemnation of Israel, support of Israel, condemnation of both Hamas and Israel, or silent watch.
Assaults on Gaza date back to 1967 and the words of late Prime Ministers calling to “get rid of Gaza’s Arabs” and inhibit “the increase of the Arab population in Israel” seem to remain alive and in practice. Israel claims its right for self-defense when questioned about the motives behind all the operations it has led on Gaza since the elections of Hamas in the first Palestinian elections in January 2006.
The “self-defense” excuse is wearing out though– that is if the excuse was justified in the first place, for in accord with the International Law: the use of force is allowed without Security Council authorization in exactly one case: in self-defense after informing the Security Council of an armed attack, until the Council acts. Israel has not followed this procedure in most of its past operations.
Hamas is recognized to be seeking Israel’s end. The truth remains,however, that Hamas officials had repeatedly stated in the past their readiness for accepting a two-state resolution, a currently far-fetched resolution, but the only one that I believe would work in establishing peace in both Israel and Palestine. Yet, Israel had continuously blocked negotiations. Now I do not rally in full support behind Hamas. Its rockets aimed at civilians violate international humanitarian laws and constitute as war crimes. Its recent statement that “ all Israelis have become legitimate targets for the resistance” horrifies me, and its friend, the Islamic Jihadist Movement , scares the hell out of me. Yet so does the destructive Israel, which has taken the land from its owners by force then ironically established what it calls a “democratic” government and “the most moral army in the world,” both of which carried on with murder, destruction, and oppression in Palestine, and forced a siege on what came to be one of the worst open-air prisons in the world: Gaza.
Currently, Israel continues to blame the death of civilians on Hamas. It claims that Hamas is using the people as humanitarian shields. However, Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch, and reporters from BBC, the Independent, and the Guardian have found no evidence of that. Amnesty International still stated that even if Hamas “direct[ed] civilians to remain in a specific location in order to shield military objectives, all of Israel’s obligations to protect these civilians would still apply.” It has also commented that “although the Israeli authorities claim to be warning civilians in Gaza, a consistent pattern has emerged that their actions do not constitute an ‘effective warning’ under international humanitarian law.”
The recent 72-hour ceasefire seems to be signaling the end of Operation Protective Edge. As much as I wish that the international community will continue with its war crime charges on both Israel and Hamas long after the operation ends, I don’t have my hopes up. All would probably return to “normal” in the next few weeks – the norms being described perfectly by Noam Chomsky in the following paragraphs :
“ For the West Bank, the norm is that Israel continues its illegal construction of settlements and infrastructure so that it can integrate into Israel whatever might be of value, meanwhile consigning Palestinians to unviable cantons and subjecting them to repression and violence.
For Gaza, the norm is a miserable existence under a cruel and destructive siege that Israel administers to permit bare survival but nothing more.”