Thursday, 7 December. 2023
Your Key to Palestine
The Palestinian Initiatives for The Promotoion of Global Dialogue and Democracy

The Palestinian death toll of Israel’s onslaught into Gaza has risen to 810, with the military offensive marking the end of its second week on January 9. With the majority of those killed categorized as civilians, questions regarding Israel’s contravention of international humanitarian law are finally coming to the fore. On January 9, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for “credible, independent and transparent” investigations into what she said were possible violations of international law in Gaza, saying some of the Israeli army killings appear to have “all the elements of war crimes”.

Indeed, the stench of war crimes has only worsened in the Gaza Strip over the last week, with heinous atrocities being carried out by Israeli troops there on a daily basis. In the Zaytoun Quarter of Gaza City on January 4, 30 Palestinians were killed in one house by Israeli shelling. On January 6, at least 45 people were killed and hundreds others injured when the Israeli air force bombed an UNRWA school in Jabaliya where shell-shocked Gazans had taken refuge.

This last incident enraged not only Palestinians, but the UN agency as well. Contrary to Israel’s claims that Hamas fighters were hiding in the school and had launched projectiles from it, UNRWA's Chris Gunness begged to differ. "Hundreds of people were taking refuge in the school from the fighting. We have given all our GPS coordinates to the Israeli army - we have told them exactly where all our facilities are in the Gaza Strip and all of our facilities are clearly marked. So it should have been quite obvious where the UN facilities are,” he said. Three UNRWA schools were hit during Israeli military strikes in the course of 24 hours.

Furthermore, on January 8, an UNRWA driver was killed near Beit Hanoun when the truck he was driving was struck by an Israeli missile. UNRWA later halted its operations in Gaza in protest of the targeting of its employees and facilities. On January 10, UNRWA resumed operations after it said it received Israeli assurances that their employees would not be targeted.

The United Nations is now calling for an independent investigation into whether international humanitarian law has been broken. The UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories Maxwell Gaylard also had a warning to give. “These tragic incidents need to be investigated, and if international humanitarian law has been contravened, those responsible must be held accountable," he said.

The Zeitun incident has also enraged OCHA, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, according to its statement on January 9. “From 3 to 7 January, the IDF prevented medical teams from entering the area to evacuate the wounded. In of the one gravest incidents since the beginning of operations, according to several testimonies, on 4 January Israeli foot-soldiers evacuated approximately 110 Palestinians into a single-residence house in Zaytoun (half of whom were children), warning them to stay indoors. Twenty-four hours later, Israeli forces shelled the home repeatedly, killing approximately 30. Those who survived and were able to walked two kilometers to Salah Ed Din Road before being transported to the hospital in civilian vehicles.” One hundred Palestinians were killed on that day, January 6.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has also voiced growing concern for the situation in Gaza, saying on January 6 that injured Palestinians are dying while waiting for ambulances that can’t reach them because of Israel’s military strikes. Despite a three hour lull in attacks on January 7, purportedly to allow humanitarian aid into the Strip, the Israeli army has continued to pound Gaza and has not even allowed people to bury their dead. An estimated 50 corpses were found buried under the rubble on January 7, all of which had been there for days because rescue workers could not reach them.

In one particularly horrifying incident, four children were found barely alive near their dead mother in a Gaza City home razed to the ground by Israeli attacks. The children were taken to hospital, suffering from extreme dehydration and starvation, and absolutely terrified.

Dozens of homes were demolished in Rafah on January 8 after Israeli forces dropped leaflets calling on the citizens to evacuate their homes before strikes. Also on January 8, a Palestine TV photojournalist was killed along with his mother and wife in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City.

As such, the death toll continues to rise as Israel continues its air and ground strikes on Gaza, pounding everything from schools, universities, mosques, police centers, football stadiums and homes virtually around the clock. On January 9 an Israeli airstrike seriously damaged a building complex in Gaza City that housed the media and production studios of more than 20 media organizations. On the same day, Palestinian journalist Ala Mortijar was killed by an Israeli shell, which also completely destroyed his home. The first international, a Ukranian woman, Olivera Al Jarou, who was married to a Palestinian physician, was killed by a tank shell in Gaza City along with her infant son. Her daughter Yasmine, remains in critical condition.

Throughout Friday January 9, people took to the streets around the world to protest Israel’s ongoing aggression against Gaza. In Palestine, thousands of people demonstrated in Ramallah, Jerusalem, Hebron, Bilin and Nablus, particularly after Friday prayers. The Aqsa Mosque was virtually closed to most worshippers, with Israel imposing a closure of the West Bank for 48 hours in anticipation of protests. Only Palestinians over 50 were allowed entry in the Aqsa Compound and only those from Jerusalem. Anyone under that age was barred entry. Only residents of the Old City were allowed inside it during the morning. Nonetheless, a women’s demonstration took place after prayers, calling for an end to the massacres in Gaza. The women proceeded to Damascus Gate, where they were surrounded by Israeli police and border guards. Demonstrations broke out in other Jerusalem areas as well, such as Ras Al Amoud. Rallies and protest demonstration also took place around the world, with large demonstrations in Tokyo, Amman, Ankara and other Arab and European countries.

In the meantime, amidst the carnage diplomatic wheels are turning ever so slowly. A UN Security Council Resolution was finally passed on January 8 after days of mulling, but it was rejected outright by Israel, which said it would continue its air and ground strikes in Gaza until its “objectives are reached.” Less than 12 hours after the resolution was passed, Israeli strikes killed an additional 29 Palestinians, with Israel declaring that its operations would be “widened”. Resolution 1860 was passed with 14 votes and an American abstention. While the Palestinian Authority praised the resolution, claiming optimistically that it would halt Israeli attacks on the people of Gaza, Hamas dismissed it completely, saying the “interests of the people were not taken into consideration.”

In a nutshell, the resolution “"stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire leading to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza." The Israeli diplomatic-security cabinet rejected the solution, saying, "The IDF will continue to act in order to attain the objectives of the operation - to bring about a change in the security situation in the south of the country - this in accordance with the plans that have been approved upon embarking on the operation."

The resolution comes on the heels of Egyptian and French efforts to bring an end to the bloodshed in Gaza. On January 9, Hamas officials traveled to Cairo to discuss a ceasefire proposed by Egyptian and French Presidents Husni Mubarak and Nicolas Sarkozy earlier in the week, which Hamas has neither rejected nor accepted. Hamas has maintained that any ceasefire agreement must entail an end to Israeli attacks on the Strip, a lifting of the siege, and the opening of borders including the Rafah crossing.

Egypt is also reportedly talking with Israel. Media reports, however, suggest that Egypt is refusing to deploy international troops at the Rafah Crossing as a means of facilitating a border agreement. President Mahmoud Abbas is also in Cairo in an attempt to bring about a ceasefire in Gaza.

In the meantime, Israel is continuing its propaganda campaign, claiming the massacres in Gaza are on Hamas’ heads, and not theirs. So far 10 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the fighting, according to Israeli army sources, while three Israeli civilians have died in rocket attacks by Palestinians. According to the Israeli military, 20 homemade projectiles landed in Israeli territory on January 9 and four Grad missiles were shot 40 kilometers into Israel near Beer Sheva.

Furthermore, on January 8, three Katyusha rockets were fired from Lebanese territory and struck the Israeli city of Nehariya, No injuries were reported and no Lebanese-based faction has yet to take responsibility. Hizbollah has denied any involvement in the incident.

January 9 also marked what Hamas says is the end of President Abbas’s term in office. While Hamas members in Gaza have said that it is no time to enter into arguments about the legitimacy of Abbas’s position as PA president, Osama Hamdan, a Hamas spokesperson in Lebanon, said the movement would no longer consider Abbas as president. Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad has also said this is no time for such discussions, saying all efforts should be focused on ending the suffering of the people of Gaza. President Abbas has also called on Hamas and all Palestinian factions to return to the table for reconciliation talks, saying that “national unity is the most sacred weapon we possess.”

The US has, unsurprisingly, taken its position on the Gaza carnage, alongside is closest ally, Israel. In addition to its abstention on the Security Council resolution, US President George Bush said his county strongly backs Israel’s right to “self defense”. On January 5 he chimed that any ceasefire must also include a complete halt of Hamas rockets.

Apparently the US House of Representatives takes its cue from the president. On January 9, the House passed a resolution by an overwhelming majority of 390-5 "recognizing Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza". The senate passed the resolution a day before.

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