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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Israel renews its offensive in Gaza after Hamas violated the humanitarian ceasefire, as the death toll in Gaza is over 1,000

Israeli strikes in Gaza
(Image: Ahram-Online)
Israeli Defense Forces continue massive Operation Protective Edge aimed to eliminate the activities of Hamas and militant Islamist groups in Gaza for the nineteenth day, as the ground incursion lasts for the ninth day, bringing more and more deaths to the people of Gaza, mostly civilians, and deteriorating the situation in the region, as the death toll rises on the both sides.

The end of the week was marked by the massive protests and rallies in support of Gaza and against Israeli military aggression, as Israeli forces targeted many civilian neighborhoods, destroying civil infrastructure and killing dozens of people, including the entire families. IDF strikes and tanks attacks carried out on Saturday and Sunday, 19 and 20 July respectively, turned into the real bloodshed for the Palestinians in Gaza and for the Israelis as well. Thus, angered and outraged Palestinians marched against Israeli aggression in West Bank, in Ramallah and in Jerusalem late on Thursday, as the massive rallies continued on Friday and on Saturday as well.

Hundreds of Palestinians marching in the West Bank were attacked by the Israeli security forces and also by some local settlers, shooting at the Palestinians. These attacks left 9 people killed and dozens of wounded, as Israeli military and security forces arrived at the scene and interfered, tear-gassing the protesters and opening fire on them. Clashes erupted between the Palestinian protesters and police and security forces on Friday as well, as more than 3000 people have marched from the Palestinian Ramallah to Jerusalem, demanding an end of the massacre of the Gazan civilians.

Friday, 25 July, clashes of Israeli Army hit numerous hospitals and humanitarian facilities in Gaza, including the UNRWA hospitals, schools and refugee camps, killing several people and leaving many injured, including the UN workers as well. These attacks sparked an international outcry and led to the UN Security Council emergency meeting over the situation in Gaza and Israeli assault.

Destroyed houses in Gaza
(Image: Ahram-Online)
International powers and officials are trying to reach a ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israeli officials, as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived recently in the region in order to discuss the options of a ceasefire and to mediate the talks between the sides. Egypt and Qatar also continue their diplomatic efforts to mediate the truce and to bring the conflict back into the political and diplomatic field, stopping the terrible violence in the region. Though, all these efforts and several ceasefire proposals failed so far, being rejected either by the Israeli authorities or by Hamas.

Palestinian Fatah and several other political factions in their turn called for the numerous rallies and protests to continue, protesting the Israeli aggression.

Meanwhile, the massive military campaign continues, as IDF officials claim they’ve destroyed numerous underground tunnels used by Hamas militants for smuggling and infiltrating Israeli territory. Many military bases and depots were also reported to be destroyed, as well as dozens of the Hamas militants.

Though the terrible kidnapping and the further killing of the three Israeli teenagers, that actually fuelled the current conflict, appeared to have nothing to do with Hamas. Israeli officials accused that time Hamas of abducting the teenagers and arrested nearly 800 of its members in Gaza, angering Hamas and provoking it to start attacks and to fire the rockets, what justified then the beginning of a massive Operation Protective Edge, as Israel continues to declare that this operation is actually self-defense. Thus, Israeli officials have confirmed on Friday, that according to the results of the investigation, the teenagers’ kidnapping and killing was linked to sole local criminal cells and had nothing to do with Hamas, so Hamas wasn’t actually involved. But it didn’t change the satiation a lot, as the military operation is ongoing, with only short humanitarian ceasefires.

Thus, Friday’s proposal of John Kerry to immediately end the violence and military operation and to start the negotiations between Hamas and Israel was rejected by the Israeli government, and the operation expanded. As for the casualties and losses, 5 IDF soldiers were killed and 35 injured during the Friday battles in Gaza. Several Israeli soldiers died on Sunday, as IDF resumed its military operation in Gaza after Hamas violated the ceasefire. 10 IDF soldiers were killed during the Manday battles, on 28 July. Thus, the total amounts of the killed Israelis reached 53 persons, as there are also dozens of wounded. More than 138 IDG soldiers were hospitalized.

Palestinian death toll in Gaza has reach the mark of over 1,100 people, as nearly three quarters of these numbers are civilians, including many women and children. UN doctors and international volunteers and medics working in the area report the terribly big number of the killed and critically wounded children they treat at the hospitals. According to their estimation, every fourth killed Palestinian in Gaza is a child. In addition to that, Palestinian Health Ministry and Gaza Emergency Service report, that the number of the injured people is more than 6,500 people, as hundreds of thousands are displaced and have nowhere to go anymore.

Palestinian authorities have filed a complaint to the International Criminal Court accusing Israel of committing the war crimes in Gaza.

Gaza residents walking though the rubble of the houses,
destroyed by the IDF strikes
(Image: Ahram Online)
Meanwhile, despite the world’s and US relatively calm and balanced officials reaction on the Israeli military operation in Gaza and its terrible outcomes, Israel seems to be losing the public relations war outside of USA, as more and more European and world leaders accused Israel of an unprecedented aggression in Gaza, not to mention the numerous pro-Gaza rallies and demonstrations all over the world condemning Israeli military operation in Gaza and occupation as well. Thus, nearly 3,000 of people in Israeli Tel-Aviv have attended a demonstration against Israeli military operation in Gaza and calling to immediately stop it.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has called for an immediate stop of a military operation and of the Israeli occupation of Gaza and condemned Israeli illegal settlements being constructed on the territory of Palestine. Despite his strong critic of Hamas rockets, he also criticized Israeli excessive use of violence against the Palestinians in Gaza and killing of hundreds of civilians.

UN Human Rights Council has gathered on Wednesday, 23 July, for the meeting over the situation in Gaza and voted to form a special commission of inquiry of the alleged war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza. US was the sole “no”-vote country. UN even claimed that Hamas and Israel both could be responsible for the terrible war crimes in Gaza, as most of the victims are innocent civilians, while the number of the killed on Israeli and on Hamas side remains relatively low.

As UN Security Council has also held an emergency meeting over the Gaza issue, special Summit for the Gaza situation and Israeli military operation was held recently in Paris, and it was attended by several Foreign Ministers of the EU, Turkey and Middle East. The participants of the Summit discussed the situation and called for an immediate 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza in order to allow the people of Gaza to receive the supplies, to bring the injured to the hospitals and to bury the dead relatives. Thus, this ceasefire was accepted by the Israeli government and went into effect in the morning of Saturday, as IDF continued destroying the underground tunnels in Gaza.

Later on the international powers called on the sides to extend the ceasefire for another 12 hours, though Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman claimed Israel is ready to extend the ceasefire for several hours but not for 12 hours, as it will only help Hamas to gain its strength. Israeli Security Cabinet is also expected to hold a special meeting late in the night on Saturday in order to discuss the further details of the military operation in Gaza and to discuss also the ceasefire proposal.

Palestinian man sitting in the destroyed street during
the ceasefire
(Image: Ahram Online)
Meanwhile, as for the evening of Saturday, Israeli government agreed to extend the humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza for another 24 hours. Hamas was reported to be ready to accept this proposal as well, but several minutes after the extension of a ceasefire was announced, several mortar rockets were reported to be fired by Hamas into Israeli territory again. Though, Israel refrained from the response at the current stage. But as the rockets continued to be fired by Hamas into Israeli territory again during the night, despite the agreed ceasefire, Israeli Defense Courses continue their offensive in Gaza. Hamas in its turn declared it rejected the current ceasefire, as they demand Israeli troops to withdraw from Gaza in order to give the people the possibility to come back to their homes. There could be no ceasefire without IDF withdrawal, according to the Hamas officials.

Thus, as the situation is critical and tragic in Gaza with the death toll rising rapidly and the real humanitarian catastrophe approaching Gaza, the situation is tense also in Egyptian Sinai, on the borders with Israel. A rocket attack in the city of Rafah, close to the Israeli border, killed four Egyptian children. The rockets were believed to be fired by the Islamist militants, according to the Egyptian authorities. 

Meanwhile, after violation of the ceasefire by Hamas and resumed military operation if the IDF forces in Gaza and growing death toll, Hamas declared to be ready for the new humanitarian ceasefire to start on Sunday. Though Israeli Cabinet officially rejected the Hamas ceasefire proposal, ordering the military operation and attacks to continue.