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

Seventeen Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip over the course of four days, starting April 7 after Israel began bombarding the Strip following the injury of two Israelis from a missile fired from the coastal enclave. On April 9, three Hamas activists were killed when an Israeli air strike targeted their car south of Rafah.

On April 8, nine Israeli air strikes and artillery fire killed nine Palestinians among them several unarmed civilians. A mother and her daughter and an elderly man were killed in the attacks in Khan Younsi and Gaza City. In justification for the death of civilians, a statement from the Israeli army said that the military, “"regrets that the Hamas terrorist organization chooses to operate from within its civilian population, using it as a 'human shield'."

A day earlier, four Palestinian fighters were killed in the first of Israel’s air strikes following a Palestinian missile launched in the direction of Beer Saba’, which struck a school bus and injured two Israelis. Hamas' armed wing claimed the attack, saying it was an "initial response" to Israel's assassination of three of its members on April 2. On April 4, one Palestinian died from wounds sustained in an earlier Israeli shelling.

Israel’s escalation of attacks on Gaza continued in spite of a ceasefire agreement declared by Gaza’s factions on the evening of April 7. The de facto government run by Hamas announced the ceasefire after meeting with the different armed groups.

The violence also comes in tandem with Justice Richard Goldstone’s partial retraction of his report on Gaza’s Cast Lead invasion in 2008-2009, which he claimed Israel had not intentionally targeted Palestinian civilians. Palestinians have sharply criticized Goldstone for his sudden change of heart, citing the possibility of offering Israel a green light for further invasion into Gaza.

Israel, on the other hand has praised Goldstone and is now pressuring the United Nations to retract the report altogether. On April 8 however, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Israeli President Shimon Peres during a meeting in New York that the UN would not be retracting the Goldstone Report despite the latter’s pressure to do so.

Ban was not, however, uncritical of the Palestinians either. On April 7, he condemned the rocket fire, “which hit a school bus and injured two Israeli civilians", calling for an immediate end to the fire, according to his spokesperson. He also expressed concern for what he said were “reports of civilian casualties from Israeli operations in Gaza” calling for maximum restraint.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, issued a strict warning to the Palestinians. “We hope this situation will be contained but we will not shy away from taking all the necessary action, offensive and defensive, to protect our country and to protect our citizens," he said during a visit to Prague.

While Gaza tends to its dead and injured, in the West Bank and Jerusalem Israel continued to approve the construction of settlements in clear disregard of international condemnation. On April 3, the Israeli Committee for Zoning and Planning discuss a new settlement plan for the construction of 942 settlement units in Gilo between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

"Israeli settlement activity anywhere in occupied territory, including in east Jerusalem, is illegal and contrary to the roadmap," said Richard Miron, spokesperson for United Nations peace envoy Robert Serry.

On April 4, the US also voiced its disapproval. “The United States is deeply concerned by continuing Israeli actions with respect to settlement construction," read a State Department statement.

Settlement construction is not the only concerning development in the West Bank, unfortunately. On April 3, UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunnes said Israel reached another record high for Palestinian house demolitions in the month of March. According to UNRWA figures, he said 76 homes were demolished in March compared with 29 in January and 70 in February.

Furthermore, on April 6, Israeli occupation forces rounded up 100 women in from the village of Awarta, near Nablus in Israel’s ongoing investigation of the Itimar killings last month. Most of the women were released hours later.

On April 4, renowned Palestinian-Jewish filmmaker and director Juliano Mer-Khamis was gunned down outside the Freedom Theater in the Jenin Refugee Camp by an unidentified gunman. Palestinian security forces later arrested and charged a member of the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in connection with the murder. Mer-Khamis, born to a Palestinian father and Jewish mother, established the Freedom Theater in 2006 in the Jenin camp. His mother, Arna, first set up the theater in the late 1980s for children in the wake of the first Intifada.

Zakaria Zubeidi, former Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades commander was co-director of the Freedom Theatre with Mer-Khamis. On April 5 he said the murder had been carefully planned. "This was an organized action, not out of anger or rage over the theater's activities or because of a personal quarrel with Jule," he said. "We will have no mercy on whoever harmed the man who led the Freedom Theatre. ... We will not forgive this."

On the diplomatic front, President Abbas travelled to Cairo on April 7 to meet with the new Egyptian government and speak about reconciliation efforts with Hamas. Abbas has yet to travel to Gaza to meet with the Hamas government there even though both sides say the offer still stands.

After her meeting with Netanyahu, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Israel to make progress in the peace process. She stopped short, however, of saying Germany would recognize a Palestinian state.

"We feel that there should, and there could, be progress made by the autumn, by September 2011," Merkel said. "When it comes to the question of recognizing a Palestinian state, I repeat again that Germany is working for there to be a two-state solution," she maintained.

"Unilateral recognitions therefore definitely do not contribute to achieving this aim ... This is our stance now and it will be our stance in September.”

Finally, on April 5, a group of former Israeli security chiefs drafted a plan they said could be used to pressure Netanyahu's government to renew peace talks with the Palestinians. The plan urged Israel to agree to Palestinian statehood in Gaza and in nearly all the West Bank, including east Jerusalem; possible financial compensation for Palestinian refugees; and dividing control over Jerusalem. The plan also calls on Israel to completely withdraw from the Golan Syrian Heights in exchange for regional security guarantees and economic projects.

"We look forward to hearing more about the Israel Peace Initiative and believe it could make a positive contribution to the pursuit of peace," the US State Department said in a statement. Netanyahu has yet to comment on the initiative.

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