Stopping the wolf in Gaza

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Normally the Hamas-ruled Gaza isn’t supposed or expected to be at war with Israel, which Global Firepower says, has the world’s 10th strongest army and artillery for a conventional battle. But then, when did Gaza have any choice. Or when has world diplomacy avoided a ritualistic flare-up in this truncated portion of west Asia where a solution is due since 1948.

According to latest news reports, the current escalation in attacks has seen at least 39 Palestinians getting killed, and over 300 wounded, mostly innocent children and women, since Israel began its aerial bombing on three-side-cordoned Gaza. On the other hand, a rocket attack on 15 November left three Israeli civilians dead and 16 wounded.

Either side may wish to halt the escalation. It may again depend on which side decides not to retaliate to the previous enemy strike. But what appears is that the relentless aerial strikes and rocket attacks will lug either sides into the intense skirmishes for next few days and then, a large-scale ground attack by Israel that will see Gaza pushed into carnage and mayhem just like in the 2009 Gaza attack that resulted in the killing of almost 1,500 people and over 5,500 wounded, some of who died in hospitals later.

Diplomacy to end this unequal war has so far failed with United States blocking efforts at the UN to shape up a resolution that would have condemned Israel. Ironically, the escalation has further polarised the world and media too. There have been accusations of a deliberate attempt in the western media particularly by the BBC and The New York Times to compare Gaza rockets made up of iron pipes and fired by cattle dung and fertilizers with drones, US-supplied F-16 and Apache helicopters. In fact, debates and write-ups focus on “who provoked whom” which has seen most of the western media outlets taking Israel’s position that the aerial strikes are retaliatory. Also, we have a clear idea now over the number of rockets fired by Hamas and other Palestinian factions, but we’ve no figures on the projectiles sent by Israel into blockaded Gaza. Yes, we are being given the number of air raids, but each air raid by an F-16 or an Apache doesn’t mean only a single bomb has been dropped.

Even in the UN, the members failed to reach a consensus because the US blocked all attempts at crafting a resolution that was to condemn Israel. “The essence of the UN Security Council meeting,” says Vijay Prashad of international studies at Trinity College and quoted by The Real News Network, “was that it was paralysis. One has to remember that it was Ambassador Susan Rice who was highly moralistic when the Russians and the Chinese blocked a resolution in February of this year against the Syrian government, and she said that any blood that is spilled henceforth in Syria will be on the hands of the Chinese and Russians. If we follow Susan Rice’s own standard, one should then say that any blood spilled in Gaza after November 4 is on the hands of the United States government…”

The ineffective Arab league which has been at the forefront of condemning the Syrian regime for ‘brutal war’ against rebels and civilians in the state has been already mocked at by the users on different social networking sites for “slow response.” All this suggests that diplomacy hasn’t really halted the escalation.

Prior to the current violence, situation was normal. Gazans, who’re vowing death to Israel, were slowly getting used to living in a land-sea-air blockade before Israel, on 8 November, crossed the border and killed boy who was playing football outside his home in Gaza.The timeline of events that followed suggests fighters of some Palestinian factions immediately blasted a tunnel injuring an Israeli soldier. Later, they targeted an Israeli jeep wounding four Israeli soldiers along the Israel-Gaza boundary. Israel was soon sending artillery shells in a soccer field in Gaza that killed two children. Again an Israeli tank fired a shell at a tent where mourners were gathered for a funeral, killing two more civilians, and wounding more than two dozen. One Palestinian civilian and four Israeli civilians were injured in next projectile exchanges.Egypt was soon brokering the ceasefire deal. Hamas was keen to uphold it. Things remained peaceful for a moment, until when Israel assassinated Ahmad al-Jabari. A rocket in retaliation at Israel killed three civilians. That’s why the current phase of escalation.

However, what angered Egypt the most was the ceasefire it had brokered contained a clause that prohibited Israel from assassinating Jabari, which Netanyahu violated. According to Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin (reported by Haaretz), Jabari had been in the middle of permanent truce negotiations between Hamas and Israel and had played a vital part in those talks. Baskin said that Jabari even prevented a number of recent flare-ups, having realised that the fighting was not “beneficial” to Gaza.

With the UN divided over how to stop this unequal war that is consuming more civilian lives in Gaza than Hamas loyals, Tony Blair, who has been a special envoy to the region attempting to broker a long term two-state solution believes the current situation is a ‘very dangerous moment’ for the entire region. Blair is worried that attention towards Syria has been diverted for a while. But instead, one would want Blair to acknowledge that when Irish Republic Army (IRA) fired mortars into Northern Ireland, London didn’t respond by pounding Irish Republic with F-16s and missiles. It was not sending tanks and naval ships to demolish churches and hospitals to teach the Irish a lesson.

A friend in Tel Aviv argued, “If you can’t kill the wolf, don’t pull its tail.” And “why on earth would anyone start a fight with someone with such superior weaponry, and what sort of friend would cheer them on from the sidelines?” Agreed. But even if Hamas would have stopped sending its rockets into Israel, who would have gambled that Israel wouldn’t invade Gaza. In fact, on 9 March 2012, Israel had already violated an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire by assassinating the head of the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) that later saw 24 getting killed, including at least four civilians, and scores more wounded. As usual, Israel claimed it was acting in self-defense. And even in the latest escalation, it was PRC, and not Hamas, that attacked an Israeli jeep, but in retaliation Israel blamed and assassinated Hamas’ military commander — the man who was trying hard to keep all other warring factions under control. Egypt now stands embarrassed for brokering the truces that were violated by Tel Aviv by crossing into Gaza every now and then to pursue militants for what it trumpets is ‘self defense’. And the worst is just before us.

But still, some opportunity is there before the Israeli ground operation on Gaza begins. The current targeting of Hamas buildings and personnel should stop otherwise it will mean Hamas’ rocket attacks further into Tel Aviv and elsewhere that would in turn offer pretext to Israel to lunch a massive ground attack. In such a scenario, Israeli civilians living close to the border will experience a migration but the situation will be catastrophic for blockaded Gazans.

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