THE CONFLICT IN GAZA
by Fr. Shay Cullen
The death toll is at least 1,360 Palestinians killed, mostly civilians, women and children, and hundreds more have been injured. 58 Israelis killed, 56 soldiers, 2 of them civilians. 16 Palestinians were killed when an Israeli shell hit a UN school where 3000 refugees were sheltering. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said “all available evidence say that it was an Israeli strike.”
A day of shame for Israel, said a UN spokesperson. Another 100 Palestinians were killed last Wednesday, 30 July, mostly children in a playground, others killed as they slept. The Israeli air strikes continue and 86,000 troops will be deployed against the Hamas militants in the Gaza strip who are firing hundreds of homemade rockets into Israeli territory without causing any significant damage, most are shot down.
Far be it from me to try analyze the complexitieChi@#co!472$s of the conflict in Gaza. Excuse an oversimplification and a very brief glimpse of the history. It’s a fight that has its roots in the shiploads of Jewish immigrants and refugees arriving in Palestine fleeing the aftermath of WWII and the Holocaust. They fought the occupying British colonial power in a guerrilla war and they used acts of terror bombing the David hotel. Eventually, the British withdrew and the Israelis took-over Palestine driving out many thousands of the original Palestinians whose land it rightfully was. This is an injustice, say the Palestinians and demand they get back their land. The Israelis founded the State of Israel claiming they had a Biblical right to all of Palestine.
The original Palestinian inhabitants became refugees in Lebanon and Gaza and were driven onto the West Bank of the Jordan where today, the Palestinian authority rules. A land of exile they say but under the control of Israel. The rest of the people are contained in the Gaza strip and isolated which was occupied by the Israelis until 2005.They still block all borders. Egypt controls the southern border. The Palestinians are demanding an independent state, side by side with Israel, but a peace agreement cannot be reached.
In the Gaza strip, a militant group of Sunni Islamic resistance fighters named Hamas violently opposed Israel and has been in violent conflict with them since the 1990’s. They are marked as a terrorist group and took over the Gaza strip but recently made a political pact with the Palestine West bank government. After the recent abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers this year and the torture and burning alive of a Palestine boy, as apparent revenge by some Israelis, the latest conflict broke out when Hamas began firing rockets into Israel yet again.
The one thing that Israel has in abundance is fire power, deadly, mostly accurate, powerfully devastating, murderous and most of the 1,360 Palestinians have been killed by bombs, shells and crushed and buried alive under the collapse of homes and public building. The alleged deliberate shelling and bombing of homes and houses, schools, hospitals and shelters in a massive bombardment is a possible war crime according to a UN body. Israel denies targeting civilians.
Can the invasion of Gaza and massive killing of so many Palestinians by Israel be justified? It’s an exercise in self-defense, the Israelis say, and they must eliminate the enemy who is firing rockets into Israel. The Hamas organization says they have a right to self-defense too against the invading force. That’s the weakness of the Israeli position, they are invaders as they were in 2009 when a similar invasion was launched.
Hamas is the sworn enemy of Israel and the most pernicious thorn in its foot. It is out gunned, out shot and out bombed. It does not have a good reputation, it is an organization that denies the right of Israel to exist although it says it is open to long terms peace deal. It has been condemned as a terrorist organization and has delivered murder and mayhem on Israelis over the past years. It too may have committed war crimes by concealing its rockets in civilian areas.
It’s unguided and wild firing of rockets into Israel has killed very few Israelites and destroyed hardly any buildings. The Iron Dome anti-rocket protection shield over Israel gives it a high degree of protection. The alleged Israeli retaliation by massive force and indiscriminate violence is disproportionate, many say. Hamas fighters have killed 56 Israeli soldiers and 2 civilians as of this writing.
Hamas fighters and the Palestinians civilians are trapped and blockaded into a narrow strip of land, no way in or out, cornered with their back to the sea from where Israeli war ships are shelling them also. It is far from being a fair fight. They are totally surrounded and being squeezed into a tight circle which now is becoming a killing ground for civilians and all.
The lifting of this blockade is one of the main demands of Hamas and why it will not easily agree to a cease-fire, nor can it ever appear to surrender. Hamas fighters have concealed its rockets in the civilian areas simply because there is nowhere else to hide them. But that cannot be justified either and may be a war crime if they prevented civilians from fleeing the area.
War like this is totally devastating and achieves nothing but greater human suffering and terrible destruction. This is a war of hatred and loathing. Both sides have a irreconcilable hatred against the other and Israel, by far the greater overwhelming power, is determined to destroy Hamas and their rocket firing capability and destroy the underground tunnels which Hamas has built to infiltrate Israel.
Killing thousands of civilians to destroy homemade rockets that have little, effective destructive power is not morally right, the Israelis need a better, intelligent and wiser solution. Violence will not solve this, it only creates more victims and thousands of revenge seeking Palestinians.
The best of all would be to do justice and make a just peace. They must give the Palestinians their historical rights. Just as Israel wants its right to exist and to be recognized, so also the Palestinians want their free state too. It seems an impossible stalemate but we pray and hope that the killing on both sides will stop and a lasting peace will, one day be reached. [firstname.lastname@example.org ; http://www.preda.org ]
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