On Saturday 12 July, 46 Palestinians were killed in Gaza during raids led by the Israeli army, making it the bloodiest day since the beginning of the Operation Protective Edge on July 8th. Extensive air raids, as well as the deployment of 1,500 Israeli soldiers around Gaza have been answered by the multiplication of rockets launched by Hamas and from Lebanon in the direction of Israel. International reactions have so far failed to consistently condemn any side, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that “no international pressure will prevent [Israel] from using all its power to ensure that Israeli citizens can live in peace”.
Escalation of violence in Gaza
A new series of clashes started after the body of 17 year-old Palestinian Mohammad Abu Khdair was found dead near Jerusalem on July 1st, an event that followed the killing of three Israeli teenagers a few days before. These event sparked violence from both sides. Early opposition between Palestinians and Israeli forces were soon replaced by an organized confrontation between Gaza-based Hamas and the Israeli army, which launched its Operation Protective Edge last week. Israel has since then been bombing Gaza in retaliation for rockets. UN reports confirm that 17.000 Palestinians have already fled their homes to shelter in UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) camps, 147 homes have been destroyed in Gaza, 172 people killed – mostly civilians – and 1230 wounded on Palestinian side.
On the Israeli side, no death has yet been recorded despite the 940 rockets launched from Gaza last week. This is the result of the efficient anti-missile Iron Dome that has been installed in cities near the Gaza strip and the frontier with Lebanon since 2011, intercepting 75 to 90% of the rockets on average and 160 last week. Five rockets were also fired from Syria and Lebanon to Israel without causing casualties.
A diplomatic solution to the escalating conflict has been toppled by Benjamin Netanyahu who considers the military offensive as a way to “restore quiet over a protracted period by inflicting significant damage to Hamas and the other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip”. For its part, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas asked for the United Nations to put the State of Palestine under its international protection system.
Weak international mediation
If international reactions have been numerous, mediation has so far remained limited. The US Secretary of State John Kerry showed his concern while renewing his offer to help mediating a truce between the two sides. His previous attempt in April had been refused by Israel. Civilian protests erupted last week in several world cities such as Paris, Sydney, Hong Kong and New Delhi to oppose the Israeli offensive.
Nonetheless, confusion prevails among the international community regarding the answer to be given to the current situation. The UN was the first to sound the alarm, deploring both the “indiscriminate fire” from Hamas on Israel and the “growing number of civilian casualties”. During an extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday 10 July, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared that “Gaza was on a knife-edge [towards] a full blown war” that it cannot afford.
Despite mediation attempts of the US and Egypt, the UN has so far been unable to foster effective mediation. Egypt was actually the first Arab country to normalize its relations with Israel in 1979, and became an intermediate between Hamas and Jewish State. However, its will to help the Hamas is nowadays limited, because of its alliance to the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been banned on the Egyptian territory.
The European Union has stated today its determination to be in touch with “all parties in the region” after Germany and France successively underlined the right for Israel to self-defence, and the need for self-control from both sides, especially because "the safety and security of all civilians must be of paramount importance".
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper condemned this morning the Hamas’ use of human shields to "further terror in the region", adding that “failure by the international community to condemn these reprehensible actions would encourage these terrorists to continue their appalling actions". The current events once again highlight the European and American proximity to Israel, but also a growing weariness regarding the everlasting Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as the recent destabilization of the Middle East under the ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) strain.
In front of this dead-end, further intervention may come from Turkey and Qatar, which hosts the Hamas leader Khaled Mechaal. French President Francois Hollande and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Ergodan, as well as the United Nations, jointly declared yesterday the need for international mediation in favour of a ceasefire, despite Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement in front of the Knesset that such an event was not on the agenda.
Tanks have been standing at the Gaza border for two days now raising concern about a land military intervention from Tsahal in Gaza in the days to come. In this regard, Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will be visiting Israel today, while the Arab Foreign ministers are meeting in Cairo in order to find a solution to the crisis.
Author : Laura Gounon