Violence in Gaza and Israel escalates despite calls for peace
The death toll has risen to 23 Palestinians as Israeli military continues attacks on the Gaza Strip. Among the dead are at least 6 children and a pregnant woman. Peace activists sympathetic to both sides want officials to find a non-violent end to the conflict.
Rockets fired from Gaza targeted the city of Jerusalem Friday for the first time. The increased offensive by Hamas may pave the way for Israeli forces to unleash a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military has already called up 16,000 reservists. Ori Nir, an Israeli-American spokesperson for Americans for Peace Now said the Israeli state has the right to protect itself.
âThe question is, how do you do it and how do you make it sustainable? How do you make both Israelâs deterrence and Israelâs ability to live in some type of arrangement â Iâm not talking about long-term peace at the moment, but at least in some kind of security arrangement with its neighbors in Gaza over the long run. If youâre trying to base your relationship with your neighbors only on military power and only on military deterrence, weâve seen in the past â weâve seen for many, many years now, much more than a decade â that itâs not sustainable.â
Instead, Nir said the two sides need to work toward a peaceful resolution to their conflicts.
âIf Palestinians, particularly Hamas in Gaza, want to better their lots what they ought to do is to engage in diplomatic negotiations with Israel in order to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once and for all from its roots in a comprehensive manner that will address all outstanding issues between Israelis and Palestinians.â
According to Nir, thatâs not happening. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have limited access to basic necessities like water and electricity. Tampa Bay area peace activist Bettejo Indelicato has traveled to Palestine on humanitarian missions. She hasnât been to Gaza, but said people living in the coastal strip donât even have access to decent medical care.
âThe medical facilities in the West Bank are adequate, in Gaza they are not because they canât get supplies in. Which, to think about whatâs happening right now itâs horrifying that the people are coming to the hospital injured and they literally donât even have bandages.â
During an interview on WMNFâs Radioactivity this morning, David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee called Hamas a terrorist group and likened the situation in Gaza and parts of Israel to Nazi Germany.
âThis is not an issue of asking whether Nazi Germany during the Second World War has enough food or electricity or water, this has to do with being clear about who the aggressor is. Hamas is a jihadist group, belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, is being armed with weapons from Sudan and Iran, it has the goal of annihilating the state of Israel. Again, Israel left Gaza seven years ago, gave people the first chance in their history ever, ever to govern themselves. They opted for Hamas. Hamas is on the U.S. terror list. Again, letâs be clear who weâre talking about and Hamas seeks not to build Gaza, but rather to destroy Israel.â
But Haim Shaham, consul-general of Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico had more sympathy for the plight of Palestinian civilians.
âThey are being hijacked and their lives are being made extremely difficult because the Hamas has taken over control of that area. They have very little control over their own destiny and theyâre in this car they canât get out of and itâs being driven off a cliff.â
And activist Indelicato claims the rocket attacks on Israel arenât acts of terror by Hamas, but rather a necessary response by leadership in a territory bereft of food and water.
âThey are trying to defend their population which we say that Israel has the right to defend themselves, so why is the Gazans not allowed to defend themselves when, in fact, Gaza really poses no threat to Israel.â
Leaders on both sides of the conflict responded to the situation Friday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a press conference Friday that his armed forces are taking action to protect Israeli citizens.
âRather than build a better future for the residents of Gaza, the Hamas leadership backed by Iran, turned Gaza into a terror stronghold. They fired thousands of rockets at our cities, at our towns, at our civilians, at our childrenâ¦.no government would tolerate a situation where nearly a fifth of its people live under a constant barrage of rockets and missile fire and Israel will not tolerate the situation.â
But Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas equated the attacks on the Gaza Strip to the Jewish stateâs continued oppression of Palestinian people. Abbasâs statement during a press conference Friday was translated by Al Jazeera English.
âThere is no doubt that this aggression in addition to occupation in the West Bank are all the same old headlines that Israel is turning a blind eye to our rights and our endeavor to have our independent state established. We hope that Israel will understand that security cannot be achieved without peace. If there exists peace, there is security and stability. Without security no one can enjoy peace and without peace no one can enjoy security.
U.N. Chief Ban Ki-Moon has urged Hamas to stop their attacks and Israel to show maximum restraint. But according to Haim Shaham, consul-general of Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico, Israel will only stop bombing Palestine when Palestine stops bombing Israel.
âThis is really a no brainer, OK. Itâs very simple what Israel wants. Israel wants to protect the lives of its civilians and they are being endangered by a constant flow of rockets that are being fired by Hamas from Gaza into our cities. The rockets stop when the operation stops. The rockets continue, the operation continues and we just have to turn the volume up until the Hamas listens.â
Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil visited Gaza Friday in solidarity with Palestinians. Egypt negotiated a temporary cease fire for his visit, but it didnât last long. Both sides claimed the other violated the terms of that agreement. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn issued a statement Friday saying, âMy thoughts and prayers are with the people of Ashdod and for everyoneâs safety.â Tampa and Ashdod, Israel are Sister Cities and Buckhorn visited Israel last year. Peace activists in Tampa are holding a candlelight vigil in solidarity with Palestinians Friday evening at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park from 4:30 p.m. until 6 p.m.comments powered by Disqus