What You Need to Know About the Current Israel-Gaza Conflict

What You Need to Know About the Current Israel-Gaza Conflict

By: Asma Ahmed

 

The first thing you need to know about the current conflict between Israel and Gaza is that it is not a battle between equals.

Perhaps nothing better symbolizes this disparity than a popular Twitter and Instagram hashtag that has emerged among the youth in Tel Aviv: the #rocketselfie, which shows young Israelis smile for the camera as they wait in bomb shelters, or as they relax at the beach or drink beer at a birthday party while sirens echo through the streets, warning of incoming Hamas missiles—most of which are shot out of the sky by Israel’s sophisticated defense machinery.

If you are an Israeli and you hear an air-raid warning, you have your bearings about you well enough to take a selfie. There is a high likelihood that once the sirens turn off, your home will still be standing and you will still be safe. So you are able to post your picture to Instagram as you walk out of the bomb shelter or take another swig from your bottle or catch a few more rays of sunshine, before going about the rest of your day.

If you are an Israeli citizen, you can download a warning app on your smartphone that tells you exactly which city is being targeted, at what time.

If you are a Palestinian in Gaza, you are warned of an imminent Israeli airstrike in the form of a smaller bomb, blasted onto the rooftop of a building only a few seconds before the barrage begins. Or, as the Israeli Armed Forces (IDF) have vaunted in an effort to paint their barbaric actions with some varnish of humanity, you receive a telephone call warning you of the incoming barrage. Never mind that those telephone calls come less than three minutes before the attacks begin, as reported by CBS News and confirmed by residents of Gaza.

If you are a Palestinian in Gaza, all you can do is run. This only makes you a moving target, because how far can you get in three minutes? What happens if you are elderly, ill or a child and cannot physically flee from a targeted region? And essentially, where can you go? You are trapped in a tiny enclave of land bordered largely by Israel—from which direction the bombs are coming in the first place—Egypt, and the Mediterranean Sea.

Such is the stark daily reality faced by over 1.8 million Palestinians crowded into the Gaza strip, most of whom are highly malnourished, living in overcrowded refugee camps and ghettos with rudimentary telephone lines, no proper roads or infrastructure, two-thirds without access to the sewage system. This is a group of highly vulnerable people that have been weakened by five decades of unrelenting political oppression, occupation, displacement and blockades at the hands of Israeli forces.

The situation in the Gaza strip has only worsened since the launch of the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge on July 8, 2014. This deadly offensive was spurred by the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June 2014 for which Hamas was blamed (an assertion that was never proven), leading to the arrest of 350 to 600 Palestinians. In an act of senseless vengeance following the Israeli teenagers’ disappearance, a 16-year old Palestinian boy was kidnapped, tortured and burnt alive by Jewish settlers and his 15-year old cousin badly beaten by Israeli security forces.

Operation Protective Edge has led to strikes on over 3, 250 targets in Gaza; as of July 30, 2014, at least 1, 325 Palestinians have been killed and over 7, 200 injured—a number that rises hourly. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs, at least 827 of those killed were civilians, of whom at least 243 were children, 131 were women and 54 were elderly. The fact that three-fourth of those dead in Gaza are civilians, along with the UN’s report that one child has been killed in Gaza every hour for the past three days should be evidence enough of the Israeli army’s indiscriminate cruelty and utter disregard for human life, in its violation of every international human rights law in the book.

On the other side, 53 Israeli militants have been killed, along with 2 civilians. Most of the military deaths occurred after the IDF launched a ground operation in Gaza on July 17, 2014.

The disparity in numbers is hard to ignore, and it only further highlights how uneven the playing field is. Israel boasts one of the world’s most active battle-trained armies that includes a navy, ground and air forces, and a 57 billion-dollar military budget that has been used to develop cutting-edge technologies such as the Merkava main battle tank, Achzarit armoured personnel carrier, the Galil and Tayor assault rifles— and most significantly— the Iron Dome, a highly sophisticated, partly US-funded air missile defense system that has succeeded in intercepting most Hamas rockets.

Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza have no navy, no air force, and no air-defense system. Hamas and its crudely made rockets are their only shred of defense against Israeli occupation and intimidation. In the past month alone, over 4,205 Palestinian homes have been destroyed and a staggering 240, 000 Palestinians have become displaced, seeking shelter in United Nations refugee facilities, 92 of which have been damaged by Israeli shelling, and where water and sanitation supplies are running dangerously low. Currently, 80% of Palestinian civilians receive only two hours of electricity per day. The recent destruction of Gaza’s only power plant by Israeli shelling has only exacerbated the desperate situation, affecting food and water availability.

Yet the slaughter continues, revealing Operation Protective Edge to be a misnomer at best. In reality, this is not a case of militants killing militants. It is a campaign of brutality where militants kill civilians, targeting their homes, hospitals and places of worship.

Victims of this inhumanity include Ahed Bakr, aged 10, Zakari, 10, and two boys named Mohammad, aged 9 and 11, all four killed by shelling from an Israeli Navy gunboat as they ran for their lives on a beach in Gaza.

In a separate incident, four children were killed by Israeli missiles as they fed pigeons on the roof of their home. A picture has emerged of their tiny dead bodies piled onto one mortuary slab. It is a chilling sight.

There are other examples. A strike on a charitable association for disabled people in Gaza which left at least two women dead, and four others wounded. An attack on Al-Farouk mosque, which reduced it to a pile of rubble. The shelling of Al Aqsa Hospital which killed at least five people and injured over 60, destroying two entire floors, including much-needed medical beds and equipment for the inpouring of injured Gazans. Photos from the destroyed hospital show injured and dead Palestinians lying on the floor, covered in dust, blood and debris as their relatives helplessly weep. A shocking video showing an unarmed young man being shot to dead by Israeli snipers as he desperately searches for his family. 25 members of the same family killed, including three pregnant women, when Israeli missiles struck their house.

There are many, many others. Nameless, faceless corpses lying in piles of blood and flesh around the Gaza strip. Children battered and brutalized. Entire families wiped out while the world looks on.

The IDF’s justification for this slaughter is a tired, oft-repeated old story; it claims that mosques and hospitals are being used by Hamas to store missiles and call civilian casualties that occur as a result of subsequent shelling a “tragic inevitability.” In a futile effort to wash away the blood of civilians from its hands, the IDF also makes the ridiculous and unsubstantiated claim that Hamas uses Palestinians civilians as human shields.

Human life cannot possibly be so cheap. But tell that to the group of Israelis who gathered on a hill in Sderot to cheer as they watched bombs being launched into Gaza, like spectators at a fourth-of-July fireworks event, even threatening CNN reporter Diana Magnay who was covering the story. Magnay, appalled at the actions of the group, who she referred to as “scum,” was quickly booted off her assignment and sent to Russia, having been reinstated since then due to public outcry.

News media outlets across the world would do well to follow Magnay’s suit and call it like it is. It is inaccurate and poor reportage to whitewash the acts of barbarism being exacted over innocent women and children, to ignore the glaring inequality between Israeli and Palestinian civilians and militants, to divorce the current situation in Gaza from its bloody historical context, and to place the same amount of weight on Israelis and Palestinians when reporting on the “Israel-Gaza Conflict.”

There is no Israel-Gaza conflict. Only the senseless and disproportionate slaughter of Palestinians civilians by a powerful, well-known bully, with the support of other powerful, well-known bullies, in the name of “defense.”

 

 

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