On July 8, while the world enjoyed the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, 6,554 miles north-west of Sao Pauolo, the Gaza Strip in Palestine came under attack from Israel. In the days following, the latest Israel-Palestine conflict since 2012 escalated further as Israel continued to carry out extensive air raids on the Gaza strip in an operation the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) terms “Operation Protective Edge” – where the Israeli military has deployed 1,500 soldiers across Gaza in response to a series of events in the region that triggered the conflict in June – including the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens and the murder of a Palestine teenager just days later.
The Israeli offensive – now condemned by many in various parts over the world – is in response to the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas firing more than 40 rockets into parts of Israel from the Gaza Strip on July 7, in response to the murder of the Palestine teens. The violence escalated further when the IDF began preparations for fighting inside of Gaza whilst Hamas struck Israel with rockets.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine is now on its 22nd day and has claimed over 900 lives – most being those of women and children. Last week, new information surfaced, claiming that the Israeli military is now targeting Palestine hospitals after 5 people were confirmed dead and 70 wounded due to a bombing at the al-Aqsa hospital in the central town of Deir al-Balah, making it the third to be hit since the conflict began. According to various news reports, Israeli leaders claim that Hamas is hiding weapons in hospitals.
On day 16 of the conflict, all flights to and from Ben Gurion Airport in Israel were suspended as Israeli forces continued to invade the Gaza Strip while diplomats from all over the world, including the United States Secretary of State John Kerry, arrived. Kerry defied the Federal Aviation Administration ban by flying into the region, arriving as part of continued efforts to broker a ceasefire between Palestine and Israel. According to Palestinian State Department officials, upon his arrival in the region, Kerry left immediately for Jerusalem to meet United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon to try and convince Hamas to accept an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire plan to which the organisation has already refused.
A senior political leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniya (who recently had his home bombed in an airstrike), is insisting on a full lifting of the Israeli blockade that was enforced in 2006 and the release of those detained in the Palestinian territory, the West Bank. The blockades were enforced to cut off food, supplies, war material and communications to Palestine. Haniya was talking on television when he said, “We cannot go backwards, to a slow death.”
Hamas is an Islamic Resistance Movement operating in Palestinian territories. The movement holds a majority in the Palestinian Parliament and was founded partly with the aim of liberating Palestine from Israeli occupation after Zionists conquered territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the Six Day War of 1967. Zionists formed part of the national movement of Jews that supported the creation of a Jewish homeland in the territory they defined as the Land of Israel.
Hamas has since been determined to “re-establish” an Islamic state in the area that is now known as Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Hamas considers itself a movement protecting the interests of Palestinians although it is considered a terrorist movement by the United States, Canada, Japan, Israel and most of the European Union.
The long string of recent Palestine-Israel conflicts started back in 2008 with Operation Cast Lead, also referred to in the media as the Gaza War: see timeline here . The Gaza War between Palestinian militants and Israel began on 27 December 2008 and ended on 18 January 2009. The figures released of the resultant casualties of Operation Cast Lead are widely disputed, though non-profit organisations B’Tselem and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights place the number at 2808. The Israeli Defense Force and the Palestinian Ministry of Health placed the numbers at 1166 and 1440 respectively.
This conflict was followed four years later by Operation Pillar of Defense, an 8-day strike during which Ahmed Jabari, chief of the military wing of Hamas, was killed. Officials from Gaza estimated that 133 Palestinians were killed during the offensive. Among the 133 killed, they estimated that 79 were militants, 53 were civilians and one was a policeman.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal broke his silence on the on-going conflict on 23 July this year and gave a defiant speech directed at Israel live on TV from Qatar. Meshaal emphasized that his Islamist movement would not agree to a ceasefire. Meshaal made it clear that Hamas would not lay down its weapons even if Israel too disarmed. This was in response to Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu‘s declaration that Israel wants to see Hamas disarmed after the conclusion of the war.
On July 27 however, Hamas agreed to a 24-hour humanitarian truce in the Gaza Strip which started at 2pm local time. The spokesperson of Hamas, Sami Abu Zuhri, on Sunday said the group took the decision after studying a UN proposal for a ceasefire and because of the Eid Mubarak celebrations that started on 28 July.
The Israeli-Palestine conflict has ignited mixed reactions across the international community. In 2012, The African National Congress (ANC), called on all South Africans to support the programmes and campaigns of the Palestinian civil society which seek to put pressure on Israel. Last week, the ANC reiterated its stance on the conflict when the party released a statement on their Facebook feed on supporting President Jacob Zuma’s Special Envoy to Israel and Gaza to register South Africa’s concerns on the escalating violence in the Middle East.
This ANC statement comes after Zuma expressed his shock at the on-going violence and bashed Israel for the killings of Palestinian civilians. “The latest developments in that region are shocking and cannot be ignored by freedom and peace-loving people worldwide. The ANC strongly condemns the launch of the ground invasion of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli Defence Force. The disproportionate killing by the Israeli forces has to date resulted in the deaths of close to 300 Palestinians with almost 2 000 civilians injured,” Zuma lashed.
On July 16, the United States President Barack Obama came out in defense of Israel insisting that Israel has the right to defend itself but also expressed concern for the civilian casualties that have occurred during the crossfire. “As I’ve said repeatedly, Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks that terrorize the Israeli people. There’s no country on earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets. And I’m proud that the Iron Dome system that Americans helped Israel develop and fund has saved many Israeli lives,” Obama said.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine dates back as far as the late 1800s but the current conflict was sparked by the killing of Three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped in Gush Etzion on the West Bank. Naftali Fraenkel(16), Gilad Shaer(16) and Eyal Yifrah(19) were found murdered in a field north-west of Hebron in the West Bank. On June 15, the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu made an accusation claiming that Israeli teens had been kidnapped by Hamas, to which Hamas denied. While in search of the abducted teens before their bodies were discovered, the IDF arrested more than 300 Palestinians including Hamas leaders in an operation they termed Operation Brothers Keeper. Five Palestinians were killed during the operation.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine has affected dozens of children, to get involved in helping save some young lives visit the Palestine Children’s fund on http://www.pcrf.net/
Editor’s note: Please note that the Israeli-Palestine conflict is a highly contested global event that is debated upon all over the world. Due to this, there exists a great deal of historical reference, information, analysis and viewpoints to which Live reporter Tshepang Tlhapane could not discuss in a single article. For more information and analysis, Live SA recommends the use of the embedded links in this article and further reading on the subject. If you feel there exists added information, critical viewpoints and interesting dynamics to which you would like us to be made aware, please contact Live VIP Editor Lee Molefi and reporter Tshepang Tlhapane at the Live offices. Thanks
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