The Gaza Conflict: Occupation, Rockets and War Crimes

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With yet another Gaza conflict, Israelis and Palestinians are far from reaching a lasting peace settlement.

Background

The Gaza Strip, a densely-populated Palestinian enclave with 1.8 million people, has once again been a scene of violence, death and destruction since July 8. At the time of writing, Operation Protective Edge, an Israeli military offensive on the Hamas-controlled territory, has killed over 840 Palestinians and caused thousands of injuries, mostly civilians. Israel has lost 35 soldiers and three civilians, including one foreign national.

Since the war between Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian factions began, Gaza has been hit by thousands of Israeli airstrikes, while rocket fire into Israel has not come to a halt. After earlier Israeli military operations in Gaza, including Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense in 2008-09 and 2012 respectively, the latest conflict has seen Israel Defense Forces launch airstrikes on the Palestinian territory and then a ground offensive.

The conflict erupted after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank in June. Israeli officials accused Hamas of abducting them, without presenting evidence, while the latter denied having any involvement. In response, Israel conducted mass raids in the West Bank, with hundreds of Palestinians arrested, including Hamas members who were previously released under an earlier prisoner swap.

Amid these raids, and the murder of a Palestinian teenager, non-Hamas-affiliated factions fired rockets into Israel, which were followed by Israeli airstrikes. As tensions mounted, Hamas claimed responsibility for rocket fire for the first time in 20 months. A bloody war was the result.

The international community has attempted on several occasions to broker a durable truce. While there have been humanitarian ceasefires over the course of the conflict, both sides have failed to reach a consensus over a long-term agreement.

Demands for Palestinian officials include lifting the siege on Gaza, which has been in place since 2007; the freeing of prisoners; and the re-establishment of the territory’s air and sea ports. Israeli officials have called for Gaza to be demilitarized.

Why is the Gaza Conflict Relevant?

The conflict’s causes must be seen in a wider context involving two key issues. First, the Gaza Strip has endured a land, sea and air blockade by Israel and Egypt since 2007, a year after Hamas won elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and consists of political and armed wings. Israel, the US, the European Union, Egypt, Canada and Japan consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization, while QatarTurkeyRussia and Iran do not.

While Israel disputes that Gaza can be considered as occupied territory after its withdrawal in 2005, the blockade severely limits the movement of people and goods into and out of the territory. The United Nations still considers Gaza to be occupied land. Israel has occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967.

Both Israelis and Palestinians have accused each other of war crimes in the current conflict, while UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay stated: “There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes.”

Second, in April, US-mediated negotiations between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Israeli government broke down over several issues, including Israel’s refusal to release Palestinian prisoners; the PA’s signing of applications to 15 international treaties and conventions; the establishment of a Palestinian unity government; and Israeli settlements in occupied territories.

During the nine-month negotiations brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the Israeli government advanced the construction of more than 13,850 new housing units in the West Bank. Settlement expansion has been a major obstacle to a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law.

Both Israelis and Palestinians have accused each other of war crimes in the current conflict, while UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay stated: “There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes.”

With no end in sight to the violence, Palestinian ambitions to join the International Criminal Court, and an expected UN inquiry into war crimes and human rights violations, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will remain in the headlines.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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2 Replies to “London Gaza Demo: Voices From the Street”

  1. The British media, and in particular the BBC almost ignored this protest completely.
    And yet being there I realised how very big and how very passionate this march was.
    I have finally totally lost faith in the BBC as an unbiased news organisation.
    Please continue this important journalism.
    I will be making a contribution.
    Thank you,
    Martin.

  2. After decades of safety, relaxed and comfortable as we are today, those of us who grew up during the Blitz, relate immediately, with a certain intimacy, to the victims, particularly the children, who are engulfed and consumed every day by the horrors exploding upon them in the present conflicts in Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, and Libya : – simply the starkest acceptance of murder and madness today that politicians seem unwilling to stop.

    How many bags of oats, body parts or corpses is it going to take to tempt the The Four Horsemen to reign in? Who will stop these massacres?

    It is impossible for the layman to discover the jockeys, those shady puppeteers who always ensure they remain incognito, but the facemen, their steeds, sired during the time of Blair and Bush are well known as Obama, Netanyahu, Haniyeh and Cameron. with the bits firmly clenched between their teeth, all these mounts on current form would be destined for the knacker’s yard of Humanity, were there a spirit called Justice in the universe.

    The casino called the ballot box, might suggest a punt if you wish to make yourself heard, but please, oh please, no matter your political persuasion, don’t let them play the faux democracy card yet again, roll out the standard paragraph platitudes and then tell you that they have a mandate and it’s what we voted for (and get stuffed for another four years). I counsel you to not mistake my well earned scepticism as cynicism.

    At grass roots level, I know that within the electorate, the ignored majority, are of the opinion that the blame for this failure to address the situation in a purposeful and humanitarian manner can be laid at the door of those, nationally and internationally who determinedly fog the issue and continue to pretend on the one hand to promote some Utopia of a multi-cultural society, with no regard to society’s inherent social differences, religions, history and geographical environment, while on the other hand, when it suits them, extol the virtues and independence of different cultures.

    For example,why should, say, the Scots desire to break away be tolerated, indeed celebrated, and the Slavs or the Palestinians be bombed ? Or, why should Israel benefit from an American Patriot shield and not extend a no-fly zone over Gaza, compliments of a couple of American aircraft carriers off the coast. Possibly the fate of the USS Liberty in 1967 provides one explanation. Or how what were then termed rebels in Libya were able to call upon the RAF to bomb their country to democracy. A shining example for aggressors in today’s war zones – America and Britain today closed their embassies and advised their compatriots to leave asap.

    I suggest that the concept of the geopolitical Nation State as engineered by professional career politicians is to blame and the solution to present aggression will only come about if it is turned on its head and emphasis is placed on the legitimacy of ethnic and cultural boundaries. The map of the world cries out to be redrawn.

    With hindsight and nigh on 80 years at the University of Life, and coincidentally a soldier in BCFK during the Korean armistice, it is unsettling now to sense how Nations drifted into WWI and WW2 and how we are in grave danger of drifting into global war again.

    Something needs to be done, urgently. The UN needs taking by the scruff of its neck. (The template used by the United Nations in 1950 when BCFK provided what was then the British Commonwealth’s contribution at the time needs dusting down, amending to include the participation of China, Russia and others this time and an international ‘police’ force therefrom sent to create and enforce buffer zones.)

    Without immediate action, how long does anyone seriously believe that one side or the other in one of these conflicts will not use nuclear weapons? Without the full scale intervention of the major nations the world will become a cinder. Apocalypse awaits.

    Diplomacy cannot be relied upon. We have no Diplomats ! Witness the intemperate language today of our Ambassador to the USA and the crude attempt to divert opprobrium on Putin in a different sphere entirely. We shall rattle the sabres and send an armoured column to Poland no less, with no mention that it was the West’s attempts to coerce Ukraine into joining Nato that started that particular merry-go-round. Yes, I know an innocent civilian airliner has since been shot down and I do fervently hope the guilty one’s will be punished. To round this off, there are doubts of course about the manner in which the present “democratic” government in Kiev was installed and the USA’s role then.

    Anyhow, the indisputable fact is that children and innocent civilians continue to be maimed and die. Pictures will be harder to come by now as Israel obliterated Gaza’s news facilities last night, along with incinerating hundreds of people. Ironic, coming from a people whose forbears suffered Auschwitz and who gained the admiration of the world for their fortitude. I am sure that Israeli families feel the pain of all families either side of the divide today and my sympathies and those of my family must be with them too as it is with all the war zones families worldwide.

    Any ceasefire will only last as long as the next one for sadly the seeds of bitterness have been so widely sown. The question is not who is to blame but what can be done ? At the very least the powers that be should disband the PR/media dept, stop the claptrap, abandon all thoughts of commercial sanctions, which will not work but will simply act as a provocation and apply all their energies into formulating a strike force for peace.

    These thoughts bring to mind a certain inevitability of passage of time, expressed in the words,

    “And so, to the end of history, murder shall breed murder, always in the name of right and honour and peace, until the gods are tired of blood and create a race that can understand. ~George Bernard Shaw, ”

    We do not have the time to wait for the gods but have no wish to see the end of history, do we ?
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