The Israel-Palestine Conflict
Summary: With the death toll mounting on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the international community is adamantly seeking a cease-fire between the warring parties. Sunday, July 20th, marked the deadliest day in the latest conflict. In Shejaiya, an eastern neighborhood of Gaza city, at least 60 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers were killed. Sunday’s peak in violence stemmed from heightened tensions following more than a week of intense airstrikes and a ground offensive undertaken by the Israeli military. Throughout Gaza, Sunday’s ground offensive killed at least 87 Palestinians, bringing Gaza’s total death toll since the Israeli air offensive started on July 8th to 600 people, with more than 3,000 injured, including more than 100 children. Sunday’s death toll for Israel’s military was higher than that sustained during the entire three-week duration of Israel’s last ground offensive in Gaza in 2008-2009. Thus far, 25 Israeli soldiers and 2 Israeli civilians have been killed.
Late in the evening on Sunday, July 20th, the United Nations Security Council emerged from an emergency session regarding the escalating conflict and expressed serious concern about the continuation of the two weeks of fighting, calling for an “immediate cessation of hostilities.” The UN has reported nearly 100,000 people in 67 shelters, a situation to which the UN has responded by orchestrating an airlift of 45,000 mattresses and 10,000 blankets from Dubai. In response to the effects of increased fighting in Gaza, there was a rare break in attacks as both sides observed a five hour “humanitarian pause” to allow Gazans to stock up on supplies. In a recent release published by Robert Turner, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Director of Operations in Gaza, Turner bears witness to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, noting the challenge of responding to situations of protracted displacement. Other than the services provided by UNRWA and several NGOs, access to health care remains limited and unreliable and infrastructure continues to collapse. UNRWA and numerous other UN agencies and humanitarian organizations remain committed to meeting the humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza.
With the death toll mounting on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the international community is adamantly seeking a cease-fire between the warring parties. Sunday, July 20th, marked the deadliest day so far in the latest conflict. In Shejaiya, an eastern neighborhood of Gaza city, at least 60 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers were killed. Following ten days of intense airstrikes, the Israeli military began a ground offensive on Thursday night in response to an attempted tunnel attack by 13 Hamas militants. Israeli troops have recently been targeting the underground tunnels that connect the Gaza Strip to Israel – tunnels created and used by Palestinian militants to facilitate entry into Israel. Throughout Gaza, Sunday’s offensive killed at least 87 Palestinians, bringing the total death toll since the Israeli air offensive started on July 8th to 600 people, with more than 3,000 injured, including more than 100 children. Sunday’s death toll for Israel’s military was higher than that sustained during the entire three-week duration of Israel’s last ground offensive in Gaza in 2008-2009. Thus far, 25 Israeli soldiers and 2 Israeli civilians have been killed, and Israel recently confirmed that the remains of one of its soldiers had still not been found, coming two days after Hamas’ military wing claimed to have kidnapped a soldier. On the morning of Monday, July 21st, day 14 of the conflict, Israeli military claimed to have thwarted two more infiltrations into its territory via tunnels from Gaza, and killed another 10 militants in response. An Israeli news outlet reported that an unknown number of Israeli soldiers were also killed. In the midst of the destruction, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has promised $47 million in U.S. aid to Gaza.
Israel’s continuation of its offensive comes amid mounting diplomatic pressure for a cease-fire. The increase in fighting over the past two days has led to the uncovering of a central dilemma in Israel’s position. On one hand, Israel has vowed to destroy all of Hamas’ underground tunnels, but it is simultaneously trying to garner international support by embracing cease-fire proposals from Egypt. A senior Israeli military official on Sunday highlighted the challenging line Israel is attempting to toe, saying, “It’s a very difficult question, we have a mission, and we are going to fulfill it – Israel is not going to leave the threats of tunnels beneath the border between Gaza Strip and Israel.” Still, he added, “after 13 days of fighting, and so many casualties, I believe that it’s the right time for all sides to stop.” However, demolishing all of the tunnels is proving to be more challenging than anticipated, as the network is much bigger and more sophisticated than Israel was expecting. According to Lt. Col. Peter Lerner of the Israeli military, six underground tunnels have been destroyed across Gaza in the past day, but a total of 16 tunnels with 43 entry points have been uncovered since Thursday night. Mirroring this challenge is the dilemma that Western countries are facing, as they understand Israel’s right to defend itself, but remain deeply concerned about the mounting number of dead and injured.
Late in the evening on Sunday, July 20th the United Nations Security Council emerged from an emergency session regarding the escalating conflict and expressed increasing unease about the continuation of the two weeks of fighting. Acting council president, Rwandan UN Ambassador Eugene Gasana told reporters that “the members of the Security Council expressed serious concern about the growing number of casualties. The members of the Security Council called for an immediate cessation of hostilities.” The council met at the request of Jordan which proposed a more strongly worded draft resolution for consideration that called for an immediate cease-fire, “including the withdrawal of Israeli occupying forces from the Gaza Strip.” For its part, the United States has sent Secretary of State John Kerry to Egypt to work with the Egyptians, Israelis, and leaders of the Palestinian Authority to bring an end to the fighting and restore the calm that followed a 2012 agreement ending eight days of cross-border violence. The United States’ ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, stated the need for an immediate cease-fire saying, “Start with a cease-fire, and only after hold discussions on the problems at the base of the crisis.” Israel’s justice minister Tzipi Livni, the representative to the American-sponsored peace negotiations with the Palestinians that collapsed in April, has been sending mixed messages the past two days. On Monday, July 21st she said the “demilitarization of Gaza” is essential but is “something we will discuss with the international community the day after…The whole idea of the proposal is to cease the fire, stop the fire. This is the main goal right now.” However, on Tuesday July, 22nd, amid an increase in fighting, she said, “A cease-fire is not near, I see no light at the end of the tunnel.” There are those in Israel like Gilad Erdan, a right-wing member of Israel’s security cabinet, who believe that Israel “must not agree to any proposal for a cease-fire until the tunnels are eliminated.”
The recent conflict, with origins rooted partly in June’s abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers, has only exacerbated the existing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The total death toll has reached 600 people, and the UN has reported nearly 100,000 people in 67 shelters, a situation to which the UN has responded by orchestrating an airlift.
For More Information:
- “Neighborhood Ravaged on Deadliest Day So Far for Both Sides in Gaza” – NY Times
- “Israel Claims Destruction of 2 More Gaza Tunnels” – NY Times
- “Havens Are Few, if Not Far, for Palestinians in Gaza Strip” – NY Times
- “Israeli Military Invades Gaza, With Sights Set on Hamas Operations” – NY Times
- “A Trail of Clues Leading to Victims and Heartbreak” – NY Times
- “In Gaza, Epithets Are Fired and Euphemisms Give Shelter” – NY Times
- “Gaza Crisis: UN Calls for Ceasefire as Deaths Pass 500” – BBC News
- “Israel Launches ‘Ground Phase’ in Gaza Battle” – ABC News
- “What Next for Gaza?” – UNRWA
- “UN Rights Forum to Hold Emergency Session on Gaza – Statement” – Reuters
- “UN Security Council Calls for Immediate Gaza Cease-fire” – VOA News
- “Israel Pounds Gaza Despite International Peace Efforts” – Reuters
- “Israel Confirms One Solider Is Missing in Gaza” – NY Times
- “Israel Is Facing Difficulty Choice in Gaza Conflict” – NY Times