Since the October 7th horrific Hamas attack on the southern kibbutzim and villages of Israel, in which more than 1,400 Israelis, including many civilians, were killed and some 240 Israelis, including many civilians, were captured and taken to Gaza as hostages and POWs, the Gaza Strip has been under intense Israeli airstrikes and massive bombardment, causing heavy casualties and destruction to one of the most densely populated areas on earth. The death toll is constantly increasing, and as of October 29th had exceeded 8,796 deaths, including some 2,290 women and more than 3,648 children, of whom 2,200 are school children, as well as 78 schoolteachers. In addition, hundreds of thousands of apartment buildings and houses have been destroyed, and over a million people have been left homeless.

At the same time, rockets are still being fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israeli towns and cities from north to south, causing new victims and new destruction. Except for the psychological impact, the number of Israeli casualties and the extent of the destruction is almost nothing compared to the huge toll in human life and wanton destruction that Israel is inflicting on the Gaza Strip, which is so densely populated that shells sow death and destruction wherever they fall, even if they are not directed against a specific target.

This is not the first time such an exchange of rockets and bombing has happened. There have been successive rounds every few years during which Hamas launched rockets at Israel while Israel responded with airstrikes, ground missiles, and artillery or incursions into the Gaza Strip. Each time the fighting stopped after having caused massive destruction and thousands of casualties in Gaza, but without the launch of a political process aimed at finding a political solution to the conflict. The result has always been that the door to the next round was left open because the root of the conflict has not been addressed, the occupation has continued, and the absence of a political solution has dominated the scene.

Israel Bent on Annihilating Hamas

According to Israeli leaders, the goal of the counterattack launched by the Israeli army is to “liquidate and uproot the Hamas movement from the Gaza Strip and put an end to the threat it poses to Israel.” To calm down the internal critics and pressure, the Israeli political leadership has been making declarations that it will not allow a return to the situation that prevailed before the Oct. 7th attack and that it will put an end to the Hamas military and political infrastructure and leadership.

There is no doubt that the current round differs from previous rounds, and it will be the last of them not only because of internal political considerations and partisan claims in Israel urging the government to put an end to this threat for the last time, but also for other regional and international factors related to the success of Israel in portraying Hamas as Da’esh (ISIS), presenting itself as the victim of Da’esh terror by comparing the October 7th attack with 9/11 and building an international alignment led by the United States to support its fight against Hamas. The direct involvement of the U.S. and the international, European, support means that the war cabinet formed after Saturday’s attack will be supported by a wide national government coalition and will advance its plans to achieve its declared goal of eliminating Hamas.

As the war on Gaza continues, the death toll of Palestinian civilians is on the rise, there are 3900 children killed and 8067 children injured, and 1250 children are reported missing under the rubbles. While confirmed number of women killed is 2500, from a total of 9488 victims. (Figures updated on 4.11.2023)- Photo: Reuters

International Community Supports Israel

The success of the Israeli Government in recruiting international public opinion and governments against Hamas, in portraying Hamas as ISIS, and in presenting the results of the October 7th attack as a new Holocaust against the Jews made the United States, as well as leading European countries including Germany, France, the UK, and the EU, declare bluntly that they support Israel’s response and consider it a legitimate act of self-defense, supporting Israel not only in words but also with military and financial aid. 

Fears that the fight between Israel and Hamas will develop into a regional conflict are still valid, in spite of the U.S. deterrent action of sending warships, military aid, and troops off the shores of Israel. 

By deploying aircraft carriers in the region and putting commando units on alert ready to join the war, the United States is behaving like a partner in the war and not like a superpower obliged to maintain international security and stability through United Nations institutions as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. It is dealing with Israel like Ukraine of the Middle East, providing it with weapons, equipment, and political and economic support and mobilizing an international coalition to support Israel! 

The active U.S. involvement is placing the region on the brink of a volcano that could erupt violently if an Israeli ground invasion of the Gaza Strip will try to force the population of Gaza to cross the border to the Egyptian side, to ethnic cleanse the Gaza Strip of its Arab population and prepare the ground for its annexation to Israel, or to turn it into a buffer zone under Israeli control and claim that its purpose is the annihilation of Hamas.

Israel’s Disproportionate Response

The Hamas attack on October 7th, with all the understandable condemnation of the violence used against Israeli civilians, women, children, and elderly people, does not justify what Israel is doing now to innocent Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Israel’s actions cannot be considered self-defense, because they are part of cycle in a long chain of attacks and counterattacks between the two sides on the one hand and because there is no proportion between the attack and the response. And in all cases, it should be clearly said that all acts of violence against civilians, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, color, or national affiliation, should be strongly denounced and condemned. 

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict did not start with the Hamas attack on October 7th, and it should be admitted that the failure of the international community to implement all relevant resolutions of the UNSC during the last 75 years and settle this conflict led to this attack and to the continued deterioration of the situation between Israel and the Palestinians. The U.S., by using its veto, is responsible for encouraging Israel to continue ignoring international legitimacy and proceeding with its colonial activities in the occupied Palestinian land. The question remains: Will Israel succeed in putting an end to the threat facing its southern regions, or will it fail and, consequently, deepen the conflict, complicate the problem, and push the region into a vicious bloody circle? It must be understood that if this war does not end in a political horizon conducive to a peace settlement, it will mean endless rounds of fighting, even if Israeli succeeds in forcing a substantial portion of Gaza inhabitants to flee beyond the border to the Egyptian side, as it intends.

No End to Conflict Without Justice for Palestinians

Israel and the United States have to understand that the problem does not lie with Hamas or the Islamic Jihad or Fateh. It lies in the self-evident fact that the Palestinian people have national rights and aspirations and that without providing justice to them and addressing these rights, the conflict will continue with no end. The historical crime that was committed against the Palestinian people by trying to uproot them from their homeland in 1948, and which is still going on must stop. Otherwise, the Palestinian people will continue their struggle until they achieve their national rights in their own state living in peace, dignity, and security like any other people.

It should be noted that they have expressed on more than one occasion their readiness for a territorial compromise recognizing Israel within the 1967 lines, in return for recognizing their right to a state alongside the State of Israel on the 4th of June 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and mutually agreed land swaps to facilitate a realistic solution to the conflict. The Arab Peace Initiative, which was endorsed by the Arab League Summit in Beirut in 2002, and adopted later by all Muslim countries that are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, provides a good basis for such a settlement to the conflict. 

Today we are living in difficult days, not only for the Palestinians but also for the Israelis. No matter how much death and destruction the Israelis heap upon the Palestinians in Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank, they will not enjoy security and stability unless they are achieved for the Palestinians, too. Both are in the same boat. 

Today what is required of America and the international community is to comply with truth, justice, and the logic of history, which confirms that a people who stands on its feet and demands its right to freedom and independence cannot be oppressed.

Transition From Conflict to Conciliation

Today we are required to stop this bloody madness and get out of this cycle through a political initiative based on the Palestine Liberation Organization assuming responsibility for managing the Gaza Strip, strengthened and empowered by the participation of all Palestinian national and Islamic factions, under the auspices of an international body composed of representatives from the Arab League and the UN, through a transitional phase of placing the Palestinian state-to-be under international protection to guarantee a peaceful transition from conflict to conciliation. The peaceful transition from the stage of violence to the stage of security and stability should address all the causes that generate violence and destabilize security and stability in the region, primarily the Israeli settlement project and the occupation.

There is no doubt that the entrance to that stage must be through an immediate ceasefire followed immediately by releasing Israeli civilian hostages in exchange for Palestinian female prisoners and Palestinian children, ensuring the safety of the prisoners on both sides. This must be followed by intense and serious negotiations to exchange all prisoners from both sides, closing this file and entering into a new covenant. We must enter a new phase of confidence-building measures with active international involvement, conducive to an era of dedication to healing the wounds of the past and building a future of peace and prosperity for the benefit of the two peoples. After all the horrors that have been experienced by both sides, it must be understood that war is not the solution. Peoples are invincible, and truth and justice are what prevail in the end. 

What is needed is a solution that ends the occupation and fulfils the national aspirations of the Palestinian people while addressing Israel’s legitimate security needs instead of using security arguments to justify Israel’s annexation of Palestinian territory or its violation of the right of the Palestinian people to live in peace and security in a sovereign state of their own alongside the State of Israel in harmony and mutual coexistence. This may seem like a dream that does not relate to reality, but all great works begin with a dream that finds someone working to turn it into reality.