The military operation launched by Israel in response to a terrorist attack by Hamas in early October is gaining momentum. The ground troops of the Israeli army have surrounded the city of Gaza and are trying to achieve the main goal: to destroy Hamas. But is it still possible to justify the victims on the side of Palestinian civilians?
What you will also hear in today’s episode at 5:59
- Why, according to analyst Jakub Záhora, is Israel’s progress in the Gaza Strip not adequate towards civilians.
- For what reason it is necessary to be cautious in receiving information from both sides of the conflict.
- And how the situation in Gaza can develop in the event that Israeli soldiers succeed in eliminating Hamas.
More than a month ago, Hamas militants invaded the territory of Israel, and their terrorist attack subsequently exacerbated the long-standing Middle Eastern conflict. Since then, thousands of people have died in total, including many civilians. In addition, Hamas is still holding Israeli hostages, which it uses as a weapon in negotiations. And while the airstrikes have not stopped, the fighting has been taking place on the ground to some extent since the start of the Israeli offensive in mid-October.
“Now the operation has really moved into urban combat, during which the city of Gaza was encircled and fighting is already taking place in the streets or on its outskirts,” Jakub Záhora from the Institute of Political Studies of the Faculty of Social Sciences of Charles University describes the procedure of the Israeli army.
Almost every day, new major news comes out of the conflict. On Tuesday, for example, the Israeli army said it had captured a Hamas base in the northern part of the Gaza Strip and had also reportedly reached the “heart” of Gaza City. The day before, the Ministry of Health in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, announced that more than 10,000 people had already died in Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip.
Nevertheless, Záhora points out that the media and the public should approach all information coming from warring rivals with caution. Most of such reports cannot be independently verified, and none of the parties can be completely trusted, according to him. Which is said to be true in every war.
From the analyst’s point of view, there is a tendency in the Czech media to significantly question the news coming from the rulers of Gaza, while those from the Israeli government are taken as fact. “It is a big asymmetry in the skepticism with which we approach information from the Palestinian side, namely Hamas, and information from Israel. It is necessary to realize that Israel is also at war and it too has a very clear agenda,” Záhora points out.
What is reasonable in war
In any case, it is clear how hard the new escalation of the long-standing conflict is hitting civilians.
Israel first faced the unprecedented attack in early October, when the number of civilian victims of Hamas terror reached the highest number in Israeli history. “It is historically significant also in the context of the history of the Jewish people. Indeed, not since the end of the Second World War, i.e. since the Holocaust, have so many people of Jewish origin been murdered in one day,” explains the analyst.
But criticism of Israel and its behavior in the Gaza Strip is also gradually growing. And also according to Záhora, some of his actions are disproportionate: “The main principle of humanitarian law is the principle of proportionality, when you can also target civilian targets if it brings a military advantage. But it’s a matter of interpretation because you have to measure future military gain against civilian losses. (…) And according to what we know, roughly a third of the houses in the entire Gaza Strip have already been destroyed and the civilian losses are very high. And this is an indication that Israel is not paying enough attention to them.”
Water and electricity are missing
Another moment for which Israel receives criticism was the interruption of the flow of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip at the beginning of the current conflict. “This was clearly a collective punishment against the entire Palestinian population of Gaza, not only against Hamas,” Záhora believes.
After pressure from the UN, the World Health Organization (WHO) or its traditional allies, including the USA, Israel is allowing some trucks with humanitarian aid into the war-affected area, but the situation remains critical. Roughly two million civilians in the densely populated area lack water, food, electricity, and there are also interruptions in internet and telephone connections. And this, according to Záhora, affects the conflict significantly and on several levels.
“Israel’s goal is to cripple Hamas’ communications. Another effect is that Palestinian civilians, for example, cannot call an ambulance and cannot contact their loved ones. This is a dire humanitarian impact,” says an expert on Israel and Palestine. And he points out that this telecommunications darkness only increases the problem of how to obtain reliable information about the war in the Gaza Strip.
A peaceful solution to the conflict?
Israel is currently taking similar steps, which in certain respects contradict humanitarian law, with one main goal: to eliminate Hamas and its rule over the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Netanyahu even mentioned on Monday to American television ABC News that when this happens, he will ensure that the Gaza Strip is no longer a danger to Israelis.
However, according to Záhora, the scenario of what will happen after the end of the fighting is not yet clear. It also remains in play that the territory will be taken care of by the Palestinian Authority, which now operates in the West Bank, or that there will be some form of international supervision, in which Egypt, for example, could participate.
“However, I fear that any peaceful or at least pragmatic solution between Israelis and Palestinians is buried for decades,” Záhora thinks. According to him, it will not be possible to simply erase the events of the last month and the bitterness felt on both sides.
In the 5:59 podcast, you will also find out if the West Bank can become the next battleground in the region or if there is a debate in Israel about what is permissible and what is not in the war with Hamas. Listen in the player at the beginning of the article.
Editor and Co-Editor: Matěj Válek, Dominika Kubištová
Sound design: David Kaiser
Sources of audio samples: ČT24, TV Nova, CNN Prima NEWS, YouTube – ABC News
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