Israel has reportedly just accepted a five-hour “humanitarian pause” brokered by the UN on the fighting in Gaza—soul-crushingly however, the gesture comes far too late for four Gazan children killed earlier today. Four Palestinian boys, cousins between the ages of 9 and 11, were killed by a shell that landed on the beach near Gaza City where they had been playing. Numerous others were wounded in the shelling, a part of Israel’s bombing campaign begun July 8 dubbed Operation Protective Edge.
The aforementioned hours-long truce will take place tomorrow and allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. And if that strikes you as a minuscule band-aid for an epic atrocity you’d be, um, exactly right.
What Spurned This Latest Round of Violence?
First off, we've got to note that in order to give total historical context, we’d have to start our tale thousands of years ago so for the sake of time let's fast forward to key recent events—specifically June 12, which is the day three young Israeli students vanished on the West Bank. Israel launched a massive manhunt for them and the students were found on June 30, having—horrifyingly—been executed.
With Israeli prime minister Netanyahu proclaiming that "Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay," Israel launched a bombing campaign in Gaza. Then on July 2, a 16 year-old Palestinian, Muhammed Abu Khdeir, was found burned to death near his home—an apparent revenge killing by nationalist Israeli extremists for the murder of the three Jewish students. On July 5, a video of Tariq Abu Khdeir, Muhammed’s 15 year-old Palestinian-American cousin, broke out on YouTube—and it showed the teen being brutally beaten by Israeli police after a Palestinian demonstration in East Jerusalem.
Riots broke out in light of the bombing campaign and violence against the Palestinian teens. Cue Hamas, who chimed in with a wave of 40 rockets on July 8—the first action they have claimed responsibility for since things heated up between Israel and Palestine back in 2012.
Israel responded with rocket strikes in Gaza—an effort, according to Israeli prime minister Netanyahu, to make Hamas “pay a heavy price.”
The Toll of Violence
Unfortunately, it’s primarily Gazan citizens who are paying said price. And heavy it is: the most recent counts hold that more than 200 Palestinians have been killed so far—which tops the 184 killed when violence broke out in 2012. And at least 70% of them are Gazan civilians—30% children. Those also killed today—in addition to the boys playing on the beach—include a 65 year-old grandmother and a 10 year-old boy.
And while the Israeli military claims they have “no intention of harming civilians dragged by Hamas into the reality of urban combat," and consistently warns Palestinian civilians of upcoming bombings through dropped leaflets . . . on the tiny, occupied Gazan strip, there are few places to flee and very little aid available as recourse for the violence and damage to infrastructure.
On the Israeli side, there has also been death—tragically, another civilian died Monday in a rocket strike near the Erez border crossing.
Is There A Resolution In Sight?
Short answer: probably not. An Egyptian cease-fire proposal seemed like the most hopeful bet . . . but it unraveled almost instantaneously.
Unfortunately today also saw a high-ranking Israeli military official saying that there is “a very high possibility for a ground operation” in Gaza. The same official added “if you want to efficiently fight terrorism, you need to have boots on the ground.”
So yeah. If anything, shit's probably going to get a whole lot worse. And soon.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.org