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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Updated: Israel continues its massive military operation in Gaza, as death toll rises on the both sides and amid continuous international efforts to broker ceasefire

IDF tanks during ground offensive in Gaza
(Image: Reuters)
Israeli Defense Forces continue their massive Operation Protective Edge in Gaza for the second week already. The operation is aimed at destroying Hamas military bases and facilities and to destroy militant leaders of Hamas and Al-Qassam Brigades, threatening security of the citizens of Israel. Though the death toll among the ordinary Palestinians living in a densely populated besieged Gaza grows rapidly as a result of Israeli bombings and the ongoing ground offensive carried out in the area.

Despite the hopes for the ceasefire and calls of the Arab leaders and international officials to halt the violence and to start the talks, the military operation of Israeli forces continues and turms into the next stage, as IDF started their ground incursion in Gaza, using all kinds of troops and weapons including infantry, navy, aerial strikes, artillery and tanks. These attacks are aimed at destroying the militant bases and infrastructure in Gaza and destruction of the numerous underground tunnels used by Hamas for smuggling and militant activities, according to official Tel-Aviv.

Rescuers working in Gaza during an Israeli assault
(Image: National Post)
Hamas in its turn shows its determination to continue the fight and continues shelling Israeli major cities with the rockets. Israeli Iron Dome anti-missile systems intercepted the majority of these rockets, but there was at least one Israeli civilian killed in one of the attacks.

As the attempts to achieve the ceasefire agreement have failed so far, the fierce fight continues in Gaza, leaving scores of dead and hundreds of wounded and destroying the homes and infrastructure of the poor Gaza region. Egyptian proposal of the ceasefire was accepted earlier by Israeli government but rejected by Hamas, but Egypt continues its efforts in order to achieve the ceasefire and to turn the crisis into a diplomatic field, offering the talks for the conflicting sides.

Rescuers working in Gaza after Israeli strikes
(Image: Haaretz)
Since IDF ground offensive has started, Gaza suffered from the biggest human lives losses since the beginning of this conflict, as dozens of people were killed and hundreds were injured on Saturday, and Sunday, 10 July, turned into one of the bloodiest days in the history of Gaza since the latest five years. Israeli joint military forces started their operation in the district of Shejaiya, close to Gaza city, early in the morning of Sunday, shelling the district with the rockets, missiles and with the tanks as well. Death toll has risen to at least 60 people during Sunday and left medical workers assisting the wounded in a terrible shock. Death toll has risen to more than 150 people in Gaza during Sunday and left more than 500 people injured. Most of the casualties were civilians, with many children and women. The IDF were pounding Gaza leaving hundreds of the houses destroyed and burying people under the rubbles. Doctors and rescue workers working in the area reported hundreds of bodies lying right in the streets.

The hospitals of Gaza are filled with the people and are almost out of medicine and medical supplies, in addition to that emergence cars couldn’t take to the site in order to take the wounded people to the hospital. That’s why a two hours humanitarian ceasefire was requested on Sunday in order to let the medics and rescuers to transport the wounded people to the hospitals, to remove the dead bodies from the streets and to help the affected people to evacuate somewhere, though there is actually no safe place for the people of Gaza.
But this ceasefire, guaranteed by Israeli forces, was violated by Hamas, and the fight resumed.

Heavy battles continue on Monday as well, leaving dozens of people dead and hundreds inujured and destroying heavily Gaza's civilian infrastructure. IDF though claim that this ground offensive seems to least for a couple of next days only and that it is expected to be not so long.

Though on Wednesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a meeting with the Cabinet and Defense Ministry in order to discuss the possibility and the options of expanding the ground offensive in Gaza, as Hamas' conditions for the ceasefire cannot be acceptable, and Hamas in its turn also doesn't show the signs of willingness the reach an agreement regarding the ceasefire.

Israeli aerial strikes in Gaza
(Image: International Business Times)
Meanwhile, massive Israeli shelling of Gaza and military iffensive are ongoing as more than 355 Palestinians were killed since the beginning if the IDF ground incursion in Gaza. Thus, the total death toll in Gaza reached more than 695 people since the beginning of the military operation. There are more than 4500 people injured. Nearly 2000 of houses of the Palestinians living in Gaza were destroyed, living more than 100 000 people displaced, seeking for refuge, according to the UNRWA spokesperson. The tragedy of Gaza cannot be described, as the whole families were killed in the terrible attacks and thousands of people have lost everything they had. The most terrible thing that the majority of casualties are among the civilians, despite Israeli statements that IDF doesn’t target civilian sites and that they warned people to evacuate.

Israel in its turn declares that those people killed during the latest attack in Shejaiya district  and in other parts of Gaza knew very well that it was Hamas fault as Hamas actually uses the ordinary people as the human shields.

In addition to that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Sunday during the meeting of the Israeli cabinet that Israel is defending itself and that this defense operation is supported by the international community.

People of Gaza near the destroyed building
(Image: UN)
Thus, USA President Barak Obama declared that US supports Israeli right to defend its territory and its people, but he expressed his deep concern over the massive civilian casualties in Gaza. US State Secretary John Kerry in his turn also called for restraint and he is expected to arrive in Cairo in the following days in order to participate in the talks between Israel, Palestine and Hamas and to help to mediate the ceasefire.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his turn met on Sunday, 20 July, with the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal for the talks, hosted by Qatari government in Doha. Thus there is still a hope for a ceasefire and some kind of agreement in order to resolve the crisis politically and to stop this brutal military operation.

Destroyed houses in Northern Gaza
(Image: Global News)
At the same time, Egyptian proposal for the ceasefire and the terms of agreement between Hamas and Israel is still on the table, as there is still hope to achieve the consensus and to find a common solution. In addition to that several other ceasefire proposals of the ceasefire and the following solution of the Gaza problems appeared during the latest days, including the ceasefire proposal by Shaul Mofaz, mentioning the neccessity of the immediate halt of violence and all the hostilities from the both sides, imposing the programs of the improving of economical and social conditions of the people living in Gaza and the following talks between Palestine, Israel and also Hamas. In addition to that that plan mentiones also the necessity of the Gaza disamament. Though it is still unclear whether Hamas will accept this or some pther proposals of the ceasefire. Official Israel in its turn remains defiant as well, continuing its aerial strikes combined with the massive ground offensive, despite terrible death toll among the Palestinians of Gaza and despite an increasing number of killed Israeli soldiers.

UN Security Council has held an urgent meeting regarding the situation in Gaza and issued the statement calling for Hamas to stop shelling the rockets at Israeli territory and urging Israel to respect human rights of the Palestinians of Gaza and to be more responsible while launching the military operation, as the numbers of the casualties in Gaza, especially among the civilians, most of whom are children, is really shocking. 
IDF soldier following the rocket attack of Hamas in Israel
(Image: Times of Israel)

According the the reports of UN and human rights organisations, Israeli strikes hit numerous civilian sites and destroyed Gazan infrastructure, and the recent strikes hit also the hospitals and other humanitarian fascilities as well, causing a wave of international outrage and massive pro-Gaza rallies all over the world.

UN also declared that Israel may have benn committing war crimes in Gaza during the latest military operation, as the majority of those killed are civilians and non-combatants. UN calls for Israel the excercuse restraint and to respect human rights in the region. US in its turn supported Israeli right for self-defense, but expressed also serious concern over the huge amounts of casualties among the civiluans . Both US and UN call for the necessity of the immediate ceasefire talks and of the disarmaments of Hamas and all other militant groups of Gaza, leading to demilitarization of the region. 

Thus, US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived on Wednesday, 23 July, in Israel for the talks, despite the US and European ban of flights over Israel for the closest days. The talks are ongoing, and Mr. Kerry declared that there is some progress in them, while the fierce battles between the IDF and Hamas forces are ongoing.Bit later on Wednesday he left Israel, as there was no consensus reached, as both sides seem to be not ready for the agreement. But the international leaders continue their efforts to stop the violence in the region, as US John Kerry headed to Cairo in order to discuss the following steps. UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon is also in the region now.

Meanwhile, Israeli death toll has risen as well, as the recent battles left 35 people dead, especially after several Hamas fighters broke in into Israel on the South, using the network of the underground tunnels, which Israel aims to destroy, and fought with the IDF soldiers. Intense battles continue, as IDF traget these tunnels and try to destroy Hamas military facsilities and network in Gaza, according to the official statements. 

The situation remains extremely tense in the region, as several Hamas fired rockets fell close to Tel-Aviv International airport. Several US and European airlines companies closed temporary the air space above Israel, cancelling and rescheduling their flights. The no-flight zone above Israel will last for at least 24-36 hours, according to the airlines' officials.