Defiance and devastation


Arms race: Israeli tanks on their way to Gaza. Washington is now under mounting international pressure to halt lethal arms supplies to Israel, including from the United Nations Human Rights Council. — Reuters

MORE than six months on, Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza shows no sign of abating. With over 33,000 Palestinians killed and more than 75,000 injured by Israel’s relentless military assaults, almost two-thirds of Gaza’s infrastructure lies in ruins and 1.9 million people have been displaced.

Little humanitarian assistance is reaching desperate Pales-tinians facing famine amid continued Israeli bombardment, even during the Eid celebration. No place is safe in Gaza while raids and killings also continue in the occupied West Bank.

Israel’s recent air strike on foreign aid workers of an international charity delivering food in central Gaza prompted widespread international condemnation, compelling Israel to claim it was “an unintended strike” and order an investigation. US President Joe Biden also expressed outrage, saying Israel had not done enough to protect civilian lives.

At the same time, chilling details have emerged about the condition of Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa, after the Israeli army pulled out following a two-week operation. It left behind a trail of death and destruction with hundreds of dead bodies found in the hospital complex and surrounding areas, where many Palestinians had sought refuge. Eye witnesses said the hospital was left in shambles with an Al Jazeera correspondent reporting “There is no life here. The complex is in ruins and cannot be revived.” All this being the result of Israel’s deliberate destruction of Gaza’s health sector.

By continuing its military operations, Israel has defied the will of the international community reflected in the call for a ceasefire by the resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on March 25. It was the first time in the six-month war that the UNSC finally demanded a ceasefire, albeit only for the remaining period of Ramadan then.

This was near unanimous with 14 of 15 UNSC members voting in favour. The United States abstained but did not use its veto unlike during the three previous ceasefire resolutions. The American stance signified a tentative policy shift. However, US opposition to a “permanent ceasefire” meant the ceasefire call was confined to just the month of Ramadan.

Israel has refused to comply with this resolution anyway, in line with its long-standing record of defying innumerable other UNSC resolutions on Palestine over the decades. And now Ramadan has ended. Israel continues to show utter disregard for global opinion that has for months demanded the war be ended.

Arguably, the United States is the only country Israel would listen to and which has leverage with Tel Aviv. But in an election year, the Biden administration made little effort in the past six months to mount pressure on Israel to change course.

There are signs now that this is changing. Opinion in the United States has shifted significantly against Israel. The latest Gallup poll released last month found the majority of Americans disapprove of Israel’s actions in Gaza. Disapproval among Democratic voters is even higher, at 75%.

Domestic and global opinion as well as the dire situation on the ground seems to have weighed in with Washington for Biden to call, for the first time, for an immediate pause in the war.

Washington is now under mounting international pressure to halt lethal arms supplies to Israel, including from the UN Human Rights Council.

In Israel itself public protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been intensifying with calls for his resignation and early elections. Demonstrators have been demanding the government secure the release of hostages in Hamas custody.

They have also demanded the war should be ended to bring hostages home.

Losing support at home, Netanyahu’s government ordered an air strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, which killed several members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, including a commander.

This marked an obvious effort to drag Iran into a regional war. While Tehran has vowed to retaliate, it has little to gain from a direct conflict, which would also shift attention away from Gaza.

Iranian leaders know this is an Israeli trap to provoke Tehran into taking military action to draw in the United States and pitch it against Iran. But this incident shows how Israel is escalating on every front as it has also launched missile strikes in eastern Lebanon.

With UN action having failed to halt Israel’s war on Gaza and Washington unable or unwilling to restrain Israel, the question is what have Muslim countries done to mount pressure on Israel to stop it from continuing ethnic cleansing and committing war crimes?

Arab and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation countries have been active at the UN pushing for a ceasefire resolution. Egypt and Qatar, along with the United States, are mediating talks in Cairo between Hamas and Israel for a durable ceasefire and release of hostages, though this has yet to yield an outcome.

Still, Muslim countries have fallen way short of the expectations of Muslims across the world. Nor has their response matched the catastrophic situation on the ground. – Dawn/Asia News Network

Maleeha Lodhi is a former ambassador to the United States, United Kingdom and the United Nations.

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Gaza , Israel war , ceasefire

   

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