Monday’s fighting produced up to ten more casualties, eight of which reported to be children, according to BBC. Casualties came from both Al-Shifa Hospital and Al-Shati Refugee camp. The latest exchange of fire comes during the beginning of Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim celebration commemorating the end of the holy month of Ramadan. As has been so often the case, during the most recent flare up of Israeli-Hamas fighting civilians have felt the overwhelming majority of the consequences, with an alarming number of victims being children and families. The number of Palestinians killed since the beginning of ‘Operation: Protective Edge’ on July 8th has reached over 1,000. These numbers have lead to the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issuing a statement calling for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Hamas endorsed the holiday cease-fire, but Israel isn’t ready to put operations to a halt until it achieves its goal of eliminating Hamas from Gaza. Ron Prosor, Israeli ambassador to the U.N. stated that on five separate occasions Israel had agreed to cease-fire negotiations and on all occasions, Hamas had broken the agreements. Prosor summed up Israel’s stance on any further peace talks: ‘…quiet will be met with quiet.” For all intents and purposes, the cease-fire Ban wanted was never achieved.
Gaza’s size and population density have been abused by both the IDF and Hamas and contributes to the high amount of civilian casualties. The strip is home to 1.8 million within 139 sq. miles of territory. There is a blockade separating Gaza from Israel, and Egypt, who view the Palestinians as ‘brothers’ but who’s new government refuse to support Hamas, have closed their border to the region as well. Ban Ki-moon describes the situation in Gaza: “The people of Gaza have nowhere to run. They are trapped and besieged on a speck of land. Every area is a civilian area. Every home, every school, every refuge has become a target. The casualty and damage figures also raise serious concerns about proportionality.” Jeffery Goldberg, writer for The Atlantic, outlined several reasons why he believed that Israel is winning militarily, but losing on a much larger diplomatic scale. One important insight outlined in the article was that Hamas baits Israel into killing civilians, and Israel will usually take the bait. Baiting Israel allows Hamas to destroy Israel’s image and simultaneously cultivate hatred and vengeance. Hamas will antagonize Israel with a rocket strike and Israel will retaliate by destroying tunnels or key infrastructure that Hamas intentionally built around populated neighborhoods. Netanyahu fired at Hamas claiming their tactics used the civilians in Gaza as ‘human shields’.
The people of Gaza find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. Hamas taunts Israel knowing the casualties will be largely civilian. The IDF unfettered by the huge amount of civilian casualties in Gaza. Because Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel, it gives Israel the right to defend itself, a right that members of the international community recognize. Regardless of this, the U.N. condemn their tactics. Israel is upset that the international community is not doing more to dislodge Hamas from Palestine and Hamas is angry that they do nothing to punish Israel for its disproportionate aggression against the Palestinians. Hamas is vindicated through claiming that they bring justice against the murders of Palestinians. Israel gets to flex their muscle under legitimate circumstances and prove that they will not tolerate aggression against them.
If Israel stopped the airstrikes would Hamas stop rocket attacks? And vice versa? Israel said it would not stop operations until it has won against Hamas but in order to save countless civilian lives the use of rockets and highly destructive missiles has to be put to a stop in the Gaza Strip. If the conflict could be limited to ground operations innocent lives could be saved. Several questions must be asked, however. If air and missile strikes were no longer a part of the battle, what sort of upper hand would Hamas have? An increase in ground forces would also be more of a West Bank style occupation which limits the livelihood of the people in Gaza, but isn't that better than the overwhelming casualties created by airstrikes?. The situation presents a lot of difficult decisions that have to be made with outcomes that are less than adequate, but it has to be started somewhere.
A conflict has arisen between peace and justice. Those who fight have lost sight of the people they fight over and between. At a time when the people of Gaza are supposed to be celebrating, they find themselves lost and in mourning. The people now need to make a decision which their leaders seem unwilling to make, do they want peace or justice? Very often we don’t get both.