And on it goes. The endless war between Palestine, Hamas, and Israel witnessed another deadly day as Hamas launched a series of missiles indiscriminately into Israeli civilian area, killing 7 people and drawing the condemnation of a human rights group. As part of an 11-day missile campaign against Israel, Human Rights Watch (HRW) acting Middle East and North Africa director Eric Goldstein said “Palestinian armed groups during the May fighting flagrantly violated the laws-of-war prohibition on indiscriminate attacks by launching thousands of unguided rockets towards Israeli cities.”
HRW differentiates between military and civilian targets, stating, “Under international humanitarian law, or the laws of war, warring parties may only attack military objectives. They must take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians. Deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects are prohibited – claims by Hamas and other armed groups that rockets launched against Tel Aviv and other population centers were a response to unlawful Israeli attacks suggest that they were deliberate attacks on civilians.”
In a similar fashion, HRW issued a report in July that accused the Israeli military of carrying out war crimes as a result of three Israeli airstrikes that it said killed 62 Palestinian civilians. As reported by SFGATE, HRW said “there were no clear military targets in the airstrikes and said Israel had not taken sufficient precautions to avoid civilian casualties.” According to HRW, “Israeli authorities reported that Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups launched more than 4,360 unguided rockets and mortars toward Israeli population centers between May 10 and 21.”
The violence is part of an ongoing conflict between Israel, caused by a nexus of multiple unresolved political incidents. As reported by The Daily Signal, “A confluence of events provided convenient pretexts for the violence. Political tensions surged ahead of Israel’s annual Jerusalem Day celebrations, commemorating the capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. A long-simmering real estate dispute in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, involving four Palestinian families living on Israeli-owned land, was due to be resolved by an Israeli court.”
The current conflict erupted on May 10 when Hamas fired a barrage of rockets toward Jerusalem in response to what they perceive as Israel’s aggressive policing at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and the eviction of multiple Palestinian families from their homes to accommodate Jewish settlements. As reported by the AP News Service,” Israel has said it struck over 1,000 targets in the Gaza Strip during the fighting, while Hamas launched more than 4,300 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel, including barrages directed at major population centers around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.”
In Lod, a city where Jews, Christians, and Muslims typically peacefully coexist, residents find themselves caught up in the larger turmoil stemming from the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians over disputed land in Jerusalem. As NPR reports,“There has been street violence, and houses of worship have been set on fire. In an extraordinary move, Israel has sent paramilitary troops from the occupied West Bank to the area.”
The mayor of Lod, Yair Revivo, is worried civil war is in the making if tensions cannot be resolved. “The day after, we still have to live here together,” he added. Back in May, two people were killed in a Hamas missile attack; one of them was Arab. Revivo captured the sad irony, saying, “Hamas missiles do not differentiate between Jews and Arabs.”
Meanwhile, the rhetoric is heating up on multiple fronts. UN’s human rights office (OHCHR), weighed in on the controversial occupied territories, stating, “ . . . we wish to emphasize that East Jerusalem remains part of the occupied Palestinian territory, in which International Humanitarian Law applies. The occupying Power must respect and cannot confiscate private property in occupied territory, and must respect, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.”
Saleh Higazi, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International warned, “The evidence gathered by Amnesty International paints a damning picture of discrimination and ruthless excessive force by Israeli police against Palestinians in Israel and in occupied East Jerusalem.” And Hamas spokesperson Abu Ubaida said in a recorded statement to Arab residents of Jerusalem, “Your sacrifice is the fuel for the revolution for our people and the liberation of our land.”
However, not everybody sees it that way. Some people believe that Hamas is equally treacherous with their own people, using them as a sort of human bargaining chip to gain power, even as they undermine their own people’s civil liberties. James Phillips, a senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation writes, “Hamas seized the opportunity to exploit the crisis by posing as a guardian of Palestinian civil and religious rights, despite the fact that it systematically represses Palestinian human rights in Gaza. Hamas flags proliferated at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque on May 10, which was occupied and barricaded by Palestinian militants who battled Israeli police.”
Alan Dershowitz, an American lawyer known for his work in U.S. constitutional law and American criminal law, agrees, stating, “Hamas is a terrorist organization that commits a double war crime every time it fires a rocket at Israeli civilians while using its own civilians as human shields. Israel is a democracy that goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid hurting the civilians who Hamas hides behind.”
In order for peace to be restored, Israel and Palestine must find a way to negotiate the settlements issue. As Zaha Hassan, a human rights lawyer and a visiting fellow at Carnegie said, “There is not a single Palestinian who doesn’t know what it means to have their home taken or threatened to be taken.” And it is also true that Israeli families should not have to worry about rocket attacks. As Sagi Assaraf, 31, a medical engineer and resident of Tel Aviv put it, “In the end they are people who just want to live in peace and quiet.”
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