There is no hope of peace and stability in the foreseeable future in the Gaza Strip after a war broke out between Israel and Hamas. Hamas launched an attack on Israel on October 7, killing around 260 Israeli civilians, including children and women, and abducting around 200. According to Israeli officials, Hamas killed about 1,400 people. In response, Israel has declared a war on the Gaza Strip, launching airstrikes that have killed, so far, around 4,385 Palestinians, including hundreds of children, women and elderly people.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced; many homes, hospitals and mosques have been destroyed. Electricity, water, healthcare, and food supplies have been cut off and more than 2.3 million people sieged. Israel has also blocked humanitarian aid. Chief of UN relief agency UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, has categorically declared that the Middle East is on the ‘edge of an abyss’ as a result of the war between Israel and Hamas. Talking to the BBC, Lazzarini said he fears “the world is now losing its humanity”. He called for uninterrupted humanitarian aid to help the people of Gaza.
The head of UNRWA condemned Hamas’s attack on Israel, calling it a “horrific and barbaric massacre” that had created a “national trauma, a collective trauma in Israel ”. “But this event still does not justify that the war is conducted without any restraint,” he said. “And I do not believe that killing even more civilians is in the interest of the future security and peace here in the region. We are in a situation where more than a million people have been asked to be displaced. So this amounts to collective punishment, and collective punishment is a violation of international humanitarian law.” He added: “We call to the Israelis and to anyone relevant in this conflict to respect international humanitarian law. There is no exception for anyone.” Lazzarini ended by saying that Palestinians are now feeling “a deep sense and feeling of abandonment from the international community” amid the ongoing violence.
It should be noted that Israel was involved in ethnic cleansing and military occupation of Palestinian land before the founding of Hamas. According to Amnesty International: “Israel imposes a system of oppression and domination against Palestinians across all areas under its control.” According to B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories: “The Israeli regime enacts in all the territory it controls an apartheid regime.”
Hamas attacks are a reaction against these Israeli policies. Through these attacks, Hamas has also achieved its target of breaking the rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world, especially Saudi Arabia.
Israel is now in a precarious situation. Many human rights agencies and activists, including Jews, Muslims and Christians, have accused Israel of war crimes after it bombed Gaza and cut it off.
Over 400 Jews and 25 rabbis were among the protestors who gathered to call for a ceasefire near the Capitol, according to Jewish Voice for Peace. Jay Saper told the Washington Post, “We are here to say. Not in our name. We are here as Jews – many descendants of survivors of genocide – to stop a genocide from unfolding in real time.”
A demonstration organised by Na’amod, a group of left-leaning Jews that works against Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and the “crimes of apartheid,” drew several hundred participants in Parliament Square, London. Na’amod said on X, “We will not let our grief be weaponised to justify genocide.”
On the other hand, Israel’s war cabinet has outlined four objectives for “Operation Swords of Iron”: militarily destroying Hamas, eliminating the terrorist threat in Gaza, resolving the hostage issue, and maintaining state boundaries and citizens. Officials acknowledge that they are still debating the best course of action.
The Western world’s reaction to this disaster is very dismaying. Simon Tisdall, a prominent journalist, writes in the Guardian: “Western political disarray, confusion and tentativeness in the face of this unfolding disaster are dismaying. Visitors Rishi Sunak and Germany’s Olaf Scholz, sandwiching Biden, played to audiences at home and, gentle words of caution aside, otherwise played along with Netanyahu. Squabbling senior officials have rendered the EU an almost irrelevant spectator. In the UN security council, a tattered guardian of outraged international law, France and everyone else backed a draft resolution to pause hostilities and overturn Israel’s evacuation order in northern Gaza. But the US vetoed, saying it would tie Israel’s hands. Pathetically, the UK abstained along with Russia – an unfortunate pairing…The biggest fear is that if Israel attacks, Hezbollah in Lebanon will open a second front. Instability is spreading to Iraq and Syria. US pledges of more bombs and bullets for Israel enrage the Muslim world. Meanwhile nobody, not even Biden, knows what is Netanyahu’s post-Hamas, postwar plan. That’s because there almost certainly isn’t one”.
War is not a solution to this bleeding problem. Alon-Lee Green, a national co-director of Standing Together, writes, “since 2005, there have been 16 major military operations launched by Israel against the civilian population in Gaza. None of them brought safety and security to Israelis or Palestinians. None laid the ground to any kind of peaceful settlement – rather, each only planted the seed for the next one. The only way to safeguard the lives and well-being of both peoples, to protect innocent civilians from harm, is through negotiations towards an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, based on UN resolutions, that will end the occupation and secure freedom, justice and independence for both peoples. I want this not only because I stand in solidarity with Palestinians. I want it for myself and my family – it is the real Israeli interest”.