The toll Operation Pillar of Defense (Pillar of Cloud in Hebrew) is taking on Gaza’s population is unimaginable to most Americans, but Twitter is changing that. As information flows from Gaza City, Beit Hanoun, and Khan Younis the pain, suffering, and senseless death of innocent men, women, and children cannot be denied. More than half of the 105 Palestinians killed during the last seven days of this operation have been civilians, including children. What previous urban warfare, including Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, has taught us is that it is impossible to conduct war in densely populated areas without killing innocent civilians in the process.
No pinpoint military gadgetry will prevent disbursed shrapnel from making their way into the bodies of children, women, and men whose only crime is living in Gaza – a small strip of land that has been called the world’s largest open-air prison. Gaza’s wounded include people who took refuge in their homes, children at play, farmers on their farms and the list goes on, and on, and on. Staff at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), a Grassroots International partner, are closely monitoring and reporting on the situation on the ground despite the risk to their personal safety. They do so because continued impunity for Israel would only deepen the violence already inflicted on so many.
As we reached out to our partners in Gaza during this difficult time, we learned of staff fleeing their homes with their family in tow because continuous bombardment made it too dangerous to stay. For one partner in particular, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), “the Deputy General Director had his home hit. Thank God he and his family had evacuated the home days earlier.” We learned that there is no safe haven in Gaza because Israel is bombing by land, sea, and air. We learned that for Gazans sleep is now an elusive luxury.
The people of Gaza have spent the past seven days in complete fear, not knowing if the next IDF missile will hit them, a neighbor, or a family member in pursuit of what Israel deems a “legitimate” target. As Israel bombs military and civilian infrastructure alike, it’s becoming clearer that its definition of legitimate target is slowly encompassing the entire Strip. According to reports out of Gaza, a civilian building hosting Palestinian and international media has been hit three times, drones have bombed an ambulance with medical personnel inside and another drone killed a taxi driver hired by a journalist. These are just a few incidents in addition to the numerous pictures of dead and injured civilians flowing out of Gaza.
At this point it no longer matters who started this, the more important question is who will end it? It seems Israel is poised to escalate this operation into a ground invasion (which will be even more disastrous), while Hamas’ military wing is launching rockets into Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Both sides are now set on a dangerous path from which it will be difficult to extricate themselves while saving face. It now falls on the international community to reel back Israel and Hamas from the edge. While international governments have a role to play, so too do their citizens. In the United States, it means calling President Obama (202-456-1111)to urge him to demand that Israel and Hamas enter and abide by a cease-fire agreement. And, signing on to this letter asking President Obama to not allow taxpayer funded arms to Israel to be used to violate Palestinian human rights and kill Palestinian civilians.
Photo: Courtesy of PCHR