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Friday, August 1, 2014

UPDATED. Gaza conflict: Israeli military operation is ongoing as the death toll rises dramatically fast on the both sides and the ceasefire agreement is violated

Israeli military offensive in Gaza
(Image: The Guardian)
Israeli military Operation Protective Edge is ongoing for the twenty fifth day now, as IDF forces continue their ground offensive in Gaza, aiming to target the militants’ bases and facilities and to eliminate Hamas military activity in the besieged enclave. Israeli officials claim they target only militant object and don’t mean to harm any civilians, sending them constantly text messages and dropping the leaflets over Gaza urging people of Gaza to leave their homes and to evacuate for more safe places due to the ongoing military operation, but the tragedy is that there is actually no safe place left in Gaza anymore, as even the hospitals and the schools including those operated by UN and being used as refugees’ camps and shelters are being targeted by the Israeli forces constantly. At the same time Hamas continues to launch the rocket strikes against Israel, firing the rockets and mortar shells into Israeli territory. Israeli Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts dozens of rockets on a daily basis, as Israeli citizens hear the sirens every day, forced to run to the shelters.

Thus, Israeli military operation continues amid heightened and intensified international diplomatic efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement and to stop violence, turning to the negotiations. Despite the mutual hostilities of Hamas and Israel and their unwillingness to reach a ceasefire diplomatic work continues, as Egypt still hopes to mediate the ceasefire, offering the reversed version of its ceasefire agreement, while Qatar, Arab League, UN, USA and other world powers also try to persuade the sides to stop fighting and to reach a ceasefire agreement.

The latest days of the Israeli military offensive in Gaza appeared to be terribly deadly and devastating for the both Gaza and Israel as well. Thus, Hamas fighters continue shelling Israel and attacking IDF soldiers, while IDF is attacking Gaza from air, sea and ground, trying to destroy Hamas military facilities and infrastructure and the network of the underground tunnels. Thus, Israeli officials claim that the operation cannot be stopped at the moment as Israel aims to destroy the tunnels totally. Thus, Israeli Cabinet has declared after a meeting in Cairo that the operation to destroy the tunnels in Gaza will continue regardless of the ceasefires.

A Palestinian man in a destroyed house in Gaza
(Image: Al-Jazeera America)
As the bombings of the Gaza cities continue, Israeli Defense Forces have bombed UN refugee camps, hospitals and even UNRWA schools, sheltering thousands of the refugees and wounded people, who have no place to go and seek the shelter and at least some kind of protection in the UN operated camps and schools. Though Wednesday, 30 July, was marked by one of the most terrible Israeli offensive since the military operation began, as despite the four-hour humanitarian ceasefire, announced by Israel, IDF launched an overnight attack at the UNRWA operated Abu Haseen School in Gaza, sheltering refugees and wounded people. The strike left at least 40 people dead and more than 200 injured, shocking terrible the international community as well. In addition to that later on the same day Israeli forces attacked also a market in the Gaza Shejaja district, which has witnessed the bloodiest attacks recently. This strike was launched during the time of the ceasefire and caught many civilian Gazans unexpectedly, just then the people went out in order to get some food and medicine during the short ceasefire. The market attack left dozens killed and hundreds injured as well.

Egypt as one of the biggest regional powers and a traditional mediator in Palestinian-Israeli conflict, continues its diplomatic efforts in order to reach a ceasefire agreement between the sides and to turn to the next stage, what will include the talks between Israel, Palestine and Hamas. Thus, the next round of talks is expected to be held in Cairo in the nearest future, as Israeli and Palestinian delegations have reportedly arrived in Cairo for the talks. Hamas representatives are expected to join the talks as well, as Hamas' official position is that they won't recognize the results of these talks in case they will be held only between Israelis and Palestinians.

US and UN also mediate the talks, as their representatives also arrived in Cairo. But as Hamas is designated as a terrorist organisation by US and UN, they cannot hold any direct talks with the Hamas members and representatives, thus Egypt claimed to be ready to mediate.

Egypt in its turn trues to push for its inutuan ceasefire proposal offered at the beginning if the conflict, which could be revised by the sides. Egypt ruled by the new President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who has a military background, doesn't show any support of Hamas, as it was in times of the Islamist backed Mohamed Moray, thus the role of Egypt remains a diplomatic one.

Meanwhile, Israel and Hamas have agreed for the 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza to be held since Friday. The ceasefire was offered by US and UN and was accepted by the both sides. It happened hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel is determined to totally destroy the network of the underground tunnels used by Hamas in Gaza, whether there will be a ceasefire it not. IDF representatives in their turn claimed the tunnels could be destroyed during the next several days. Additional reservists were called by the Israeli Army for the Gaza military operation.

But the ceasefire accepted by the both sides and announced on Friday, was violated by Hamas after two hours since it came into effect. Thus, Hamas resumed shelling rockets into Israeli territory, and IDF responded with the fire and continuation of a ground offensive.

Both sides suffer human losses again, as 6 Israeli soldiers were killed during the latest hours. Death toll on the Palestinian side rises as well' as at least 40 people were reported to be killed as a result if the bombing of the area next to Rafah, close to the Egyptian border. Heavy fighting continues in the Southern part if Gaza as well, leaving dozens if people killed and injured, mist of them civilians.

Palestinian Health Ministry and Gaza Emergency Service reported on Wednesday, that 229 people were killed and over 200 people were injured during the Wednesday’s attacks. Nearly 100 people,e were killed on Thursday and in Friday, since the ceasefire was violated.

Thus, since the military operation has begun, Gaza death toll has risen dramatically and rapidly reaching the mark of over 1450 people killed and more than 8500 people injured. Most if the casualties are civilians. According the recent UN estimations and the estimations of the medics working in the area every fourth person killed us a child. Many of the wounded people remain in the critical conditions due to the devastating situation in Gaza including its hospitals. In addition to that recent Israeli strikes have destroyed also Gaza power plant, leaving the entire population of Gaza without electricity supply, what threatens to increase the level of Gaza humanitarian disaster and catastrophe.

Meanwhile, Egypt reopened its Rafah border crossing with Gaza for the short time in order to receive some injured people from Gaza. Though the border still remains closed.

Israeli losses increased as well, as at least three IDF soldiers were killed during the Wednesday’s military operation and 6 soldiers were killed on Thursday and Friday. The total death toll on the Israeli side made 62 soldiers and 3 civilians since the Operation Protective Edge has started. There are also more than a hundred of injured soldiers. There were also reports about one Israeli soldier who was missing and allegedly taken captive by Hamas forces.

There were also reports regarding some disagreements between the Israeli government and Defense Forces regarding the current military operation and its outcomes. In addition to that Israeli Foreign Ministry officials have reportedly advised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to initiate a draft resolution to the UN Security Council to stop the fighting in Gaza. But the Cabinet meeting, held late on the Wednesday’s evening, ended up with a decision to continue the military operation. Israeli Cabinet of Minister declared on Thursday ,obilisation of additional 16 000 reservists for the operation in Gaza to go on, bringing the total number of the IDF solduers partcipating in the operation to 86 000. Thus, Israel seems to be unwilling and unready to end the operation and Gaza offensive at the moment, despite the ongoing talks and consultations with the international powers regarding the ceasefire possibilities.

Destroyed neighborhoods in Gaza
(Image: Times of Israel)
Thus, Egypt traditionally hosts the negotiations between Palestine, Hamas and Israel, trying to mediate ceasefire between them. Palestinian delegation has already arrived in Cairo; Israeli delegation is expected to arrive as well. In addition to that Hamas officials also came to Cairo for the talks. But the situation deteriorates with the fact that while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is calling for the end of hostilities and resuming the talks, both Hamas and Israel seem to be unable to find some common grounds and solutions. Israel insists on the total disarmament of Gaza and Hamas, as Hamas actually threatens Israeli security, while Hamas claims that a ceasefire and talks are impossible, until IDF are in Gaza and Gaza and Palestinian territories are occupied by the Israelis.

Meanwhile, the recent attacks of Israeli military forces against the Gaza citizens sparked shock and outrage in the world. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon strongly condemned these attacks of the schools and hospitals, calling them “outrageous” and “unjustifiable” and demanding an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
US have also strongly condemned Israeli attacks against Gaza, killing many civilians, and called for restraint.

Mahmoud Abbas in his turn addressed UN regarding the recent Israeli attacks and called for the UN officials to recognize Gaza as a “disaster zone” and called on the world powers to take responsibility for the resolving of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, caused by the Israeli attacks, and to support the people of Gaza with the humanitarian aid.