Once again, the steady violence that passes for “normal” in Palestine and Israel has escalated to alarming proportions. After months of rocket exchanges between militants in Gaza and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), the situation rapidly deteriorated in the past 24 hours. Grassroots International joins the growing chorus of voices calling for an end to violence from both sides, a return to negotiations for a just and lasting peace, and enforcement of international human rights and humanitarian law as outlined by the Geneva Conventions.
Already we have seen too much killing. As of this writing, increased attacks have resulted in at least 10 civilian deaths in Gaza and 3 civilian deaths in Israel, and many more injured. Israel is currently mobilizing ground troops to accompany its aerial operation entitled “Pillar of Defense” (“Pillar of Cloud” in Hebrew) which included the extra-judicial killing of a Hamas military leader. The Israeli navy is also bombarding Gaza from the sea. Even some in southern Israel, well within range of missiles fired from the Gazan side of the border, point out the futility of continued bombing. In a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak, residents of Sderot and Gaza Vicinity communities made their position clear: We, members of ‘The Other Voice’ from the communities near the Gaza Strip, urge the Government of Israel to stop playing with our lives, and immediately open diplomatic contacts with the Hamas government! We are tired of being sitting ducks in a shooting range serving political interests. Missiles from there and bombing from here do not protect us. This country has tried long enough, over years, the games of war and of brute force. Both sides have paid, and are still paying, a high price of suffering and loss. It’s time to talk and strive for long-term understandings which will enable citizens on both sides of the border to live a normal life. Thus far, Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip have disproportionately affected civilians and civilian infrastructure, and a ground campaign would exponentially increase civilian casualties. As was the case during Operation Cast Lead, this operation is stretching the capabilities of Gaza’s severely weakened medical infrastructure already under stress from the ongoing illegal blockade. Gaza’s hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of Palestinians injured by Israeli rocket fire. In light of this escalation in violence and its impact on civilians, we condemn both Israel and Hamas for their willingness to use violence instead of dialogue. We are calling on both sides to show restraint by observing a cease-fire and taking meaningful steps toward a negotiated resolution to the underlying cause of this conflict, the Israeli occupation, including the siege of Gaza. Furthermore, we call on the international community and, specifically, the United States, to intervene on behalf of the 1. 6 million people in Gaza who are being punished collectively. As an ally and major funder of Israel’s military-industrial complex, the United States must demand that Israel rein in its military power, currently being deployed against a captive population in what amounts to collective punishment. A just and lasting peace in the region requires recognition that the playing field is far from even in this conflict. Israel possesses far greater military and economic might. And for that matter, Israel illegally occupies a growing majority of Palestinian land and water resources, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Until that fundamental injustice is rectified, injustice will spill over into violence and counter punches, ultimately benefiting no one and leaving all of us in a vicious cycle of escalating violence. And the largest number of victims continues to be Palestinian civilians, including, children and women caught in the crossfire. Photo: The Israeli air force struck a UN building during the assault on Gaza in 2008-09. ISM Palestine/Wikimedia Commons