Israeli officials say that 32 of its soldiers have died in the fighting so far.
“Last night was really the worst night ever since the war began,” Gaza journalist Abir Ayoub told Israel’s YNET TV July 22. “F16s, gunboats and tanks were shelling at the same time.”
The Israeli Defense Forces “keep asking people to evacuate to a specific area, then they change the area,” she said, referring to text messages and leaflets dropped by the Israeli forces prior to their attacks on populated areas. “Forty-three percent of the places in Gaza are under their no-go zone.” People “fled with no food, no clothing,” she said.
The Israeli government launched sea and air attacks July 8 and then invaded Gaza July 17. The assault began in retaliation for the firing of dozens of rockets by Hamas and other Islamist groups into Israel, after hundreds of Palestinians were arrested by Israeli police following the lynching of three Jewish youth in the West Bank in late June.
On July 2, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian, was lynched. The Israeli police arrested six Israeli Jews for his murder.
Hamas’ rocket attacks on civilians and its support for the killing of the three Jewish boys made it politically easier for Tel Aviv to launch its murderous assault, and was clearly designed to provoke it. At the same time Hamas uses Gaza’s population as human shields, placing missile launchers and other arms in mosques, schools, and U.N. centers and trying to keep residents in targeted areas. Its strategy is to maximize the number of civilians killed by Tel Aviv to gain world sympathy.
From July 8 to 23 the Israeli military carried out 3,250 airstrikes. Hamas and its allies have lobbed more than 2,100 rockets and mortars. Most of the wildly inaccurate, low-grade projectiles are destroyed by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. Hamas missiles have killed three civilians in Israel — Ouda Lafi al-Waj, a Bedouin Arab who lived in the Negev; a Thai migrant farmworker in Ashkelon; and Dror Chanin, an Israeli Jew.
The Israeli government says it will continue the assault until it has wiped out Hamas’ military capacity and destroyed its tunnel network.
Gaza, 25 miles long and just a few miles wide, is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.
Israeli forces occupied Gaza for 38 years, after capturing it in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. They withdrew in September 2005 but retained control of its borders and airspace. Thousands of Gaza residents were no longer able to work in Israel. After Hamas wrested control of Gaza from Fatah in 2007, Israeli authorities imposed even greater restrictions on trade and travel. The population is heavily dependent on aid from the U.N.
Successive Egyptian governments, including under the previous Muslim Brotherhood-led regime, have cooperated with Tel Aviv’s crackdown on the Egypt-Israel border. Cairo has only opened its border crossing into Gaza at Rafah for 17 days this year.
Hamas has become increasingly isolated since it took control of Gaza in 2007. It has less backing than ever from Arab governments in the region, and its repression of political dissent, attempts to ban “un-Islamic” behavior, and corruption and destructive course under the pretense of “armed struggle” has cost it support among working people.
Declining support for HamasAccording to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, in 2007, 62 percent of residents in Gaza and the West Bank had favorable views of Hamas. Another survey conducted in April-May this year indicated views of 53 percent were negative, and in Gaza, 63 percent.
“Thousands and thousands identify with the struggle of Palestinians in Gaza, it’s a legitimate struggle,” Salah Mohsen, media director for Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said by phone from Haifa July 21. “A demonstration here July 19 was attacked by pro-invasion counterdemonstrators with stones and empty bottles, injuring several people.”
The military conflict has stoked tension between Jewish and Arab workers in Israel.
“In factories with both Jewish and Palestinian workers, arguments and divisions exacerbate along nationalistic lines,” Shay Cohen, organization secretary of Koach La Ovdim (Democratic Workers’ Organization), said by phone from Haifa July 21. “Some of the feeling of solidarity has been eroded. The large majority of the Jewish population is behind the campaign. Among the Palestinians here there are those who protest and there are those who keep their heads low in face of the nationalistic campaigns.”
In the West Bank, which is run by Fatah, demonstrations in solidarity with the people of Gaza have been blocked and demonstrators arrested by the Palestinian Authority police.
“Almost all the protests have been inside Israel,” Wehbe Badarne, director of the Arab Workers Union in Israel, said by phone from Nazareth July 19. More than 410 Palestinian citizens of Israel have been arrested since July 5 for protesting the assault on Gaza, according to Adalah. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “has stopped them from happening in the West Bank,” Badarne said.
“There is no military victory to be found here,” Badarne continued. “The Israeli government has to talk to Hamas as the elected representative of the people of Gaza, it cannot rout it. It is in the interest of everyone to find a political solution.”
The Militant also tried to reach Sameer Mahal, a carpenter in Gaza who the paper spoke with in 2012. But Badarne said Mahal had been killed the week before when an Israeli airstrike hit his family’s house.
A cease-fire proposal by the Egyptian government July 14 was accepted by Tel Aviv, but rejected by Hamas on grounds that they weren’t consulted and it didn’t meet their demands for release of imprisoned members of the group and opening border checkpoints.
NY protest: ‘End Israeli assault on Gaza’
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