This article has been updated to take into account the latest developments on the issue.
UPDATES (29 July)
-Prime Minister says Israel is ready for a long conflict. Benjamin Netanyahu declared yesterday that his army would be ready for a long conflict against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. "We need to be prepared for a lengthy campaign. We will continue to act with force and discretion until our mission is accomplished," he said.
-Hamas symbols targeted. A missile was fired against Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, and other targeted government offices and headquarters of Hamas.
-Clashes resumed despite an unofficial few hours long truce for the start of Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr that marks the end of Ramadan.
-After 22 days of conflict, more than 1,100 Gazans and 56 Israeli have died, among which 53 soldiers and 3 civilians. Children were killed after heavy fighting in a park as well as in a hospital, each side blaming the other as responsible.
UPDATES (28 July)
- Ceasefire asked by UN for end of Ramadan. The conflict has entered its 21st day, and the death toll has reached 1100 lives on the Palestinian side, and 46 on the Israeli side. Last night, the UN Security Council asked for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, "to accept and fully implement the humanitarian ceasefire into the Eid period and beyond” they said.
A 26 hours truce took place on Saturday, giving time to civilians to go back to their homes and evaluate the destructions caused by military strikes.
Throughout Saturday and Sunday, Hamas and Israel successively proposed ceasefires which were rejected by the other part.
Khaled Mishal, Hamas’ leader in exile in Qatar declared that "[Hamas members] are not fanatics. [They] are not fundamentalists. [They] are not actually fighting the Jews because they are Jews per se. [They] do not fight any other races. [They] fight the occupiers."
UPDATES (24 July)
-US lift ban on flights to Israel. The American Federal Aviation Administration announced this morning that the ban imposed on flights from and to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv would be lift. This should be effective during the day.
- Death toll increases. On the Palestinian side, 718 people have been killed while the Israeli army declared that three more soldiers have been killed in combat inside Gaza. 32 soldiers have been killed so far.
UPDATES (23 July)
-Death toll rises on 6th day of ground offensive. Eleven Israeli soldiers were killed on Monday and the number of soldiers dead reached 29 today. On the Palestinian side, the death toll increased to 644.
-Flights to Tel Aviv suspended. After a rocket attack on the city of Yehud, located close to the Ben Gurion International Airport, the US Aviation Administration decided to launch a 24-hour ban on all US flights coming from and going to Israel. The European Aviation Safety Agency also recommended European companies to suspend their flights, while Air France-KLM, Lufthansa and Easy Jet notably already did so.
-US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived this morning in Israel to call for a ceasefire after his visit to Cairo.
-UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay declared during an extraordinary meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that chances were great that war crimes have been committed by Israel in Gaza in the last two weeks. Punitive house demolitions and killing of civilians may underline an excessive use of force by Israel in the conflict, she explained. She asked for "every one of these incidents [to] be properly and independently investigated."
The ground offensive launched by Israel in the Gaza strip on 18 July has led to an escalation of the death toll on both Israeli and Palestinian side. So far, 28 Israeli soldiers were killed while the Palestinian death tolls steadily reaches 600. The United Nations children’s agency, Unicef declared that a third of them were children. The bombardment of the city of Shejaiya in Gaza city on Sunday 20 July led to the death of about 60 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers, making it the bloodiest day since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge. United States Secretary of State John Kerry and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon met today in Cairo, in order to reactivate the 2012 ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
An Israeli soldier missing
The ground offensive that started four days ago officially aims at stopping rocket firing by destroying the numerous underground tunnels that Hamas has built in order to move within Gaza without being seen, as well as to reach Israeli cities undetected. Although since Thursday, 13 tunnels and 39 entrances have been discovered, the operation’s casualties have multiplied as the ground operation widened alongside continued air raids. The current Israeli death toll has reached 28 soldiers and 2 civilians, which is three times as much as during Israel’s last ground operation in Gaza in 2008-2009. In addition, a soldier was declared missing after the attack of an armoured personnel carrier in the Shejaiya offensive, and his kidnapping was claimed by Hamas.
On the Palestinian side, the amount of rocket fired from Gaza onto Israel has decreased by 30% since the beginning of the ground operation, declared a senior Israeli officer. Nevertheless, former Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh claimed that “the Palestinian resistance will meet the demands and expectations of the Palestinian people” since “the ground operation is a declaration of failure on the part of the enemy aerial war against Gaza.”
The probability of a truce was reinforced on Saturday 19 July when Hamas uncovered the list of conditions necessary to accept a ceasefire with Israel. It includes the removal of the Gaza blockade that has existed since 2006, the reopening of the frontier with Egypt, freedom of movement for Gaza people at the frontier with Israel, and the liberation of Palestinian prisoners. These demands were approved by the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Ramallah. Its secretary general Yasser Abed Rabbo declared that “If Gaza is broken, all Palestinians will be broken.”
Calling for a ceasefire in Cairo
Ban Ki-moon and John Kerry arrived both in Cairo last night with a clear objective : reactivating the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that had been signed in 2012. Negotiations should accelerate under the leadership of Egypt, who had already proposed a truce on 14 July, that was however rejected by Hamas. During the previous eruption of violence in Gaza in November 2012, Egypt played its traditional role as mediator. At the time, the Muslim Brotherhood in power had used its ideological ties to Hamas to achieve successful negotiations. However, the current situation is very different today as the Muslim Brotherhood has been evicted from the political scene in Egypt.
The Arab League’s secretary general declared that Hamas should agree to the Egyptian truce proposal but only at the condition that Gaza borders with Egypt, closed since August 2013, are reopened. This element was included in the 2012 ceasefire agreement as well as the end of Hamas rocket firing on Israel and Israeli bombing on Gaza.
Following the UN Security Council’s call for an immediate cessation of hostilities on Sunday night, Barack Obama expressed on 21 July his serious concern about the increasing death toll on both sides. While reaffirming its support to Israel and its right to defend itself, he is hopeful that the two sides can reach an agreement. Similarly, John Kerry declared in Cairo that Israel’s military offensive was "appropriate and legitimate” but its consequences on civilians are of deep concern.
Bigger concerns were raised by Israeli human rights organisations, who called for a ceasefire as “entire families have been buried under rubble, and streets lie in ruins. The number of refugees is rising: tens of thousands of people have nowhere to go and no safe haven." The United Nations declared that 100.000 people had already fled their homes since the beginning of the operation. They added that the international laws of war had been breached thoroughly during the recent clashes, especially as combatants and civilians are not distinguished properly.
Thousands of civilian protestors gathered in European cities such as Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Amsterdam in the last few days in order to denounce what they perceive as an “aggression” by Israel. Rallies in Paris degenerated into violent clashes with the police and around 30 people were arrested for disturbing public order during the demonstration.
Author : Laura Gounon