The latest bout of violence through the weekend between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fighters holed up in the Gaza Strip is thankfully over. This has not been either the first of such clashes nor will it be the last. The devastating airstrikes by Israel prove if any proof was needed of Israel’s firepower and its deadly use of force on Palestinians, with helpless civilians caught in-between.
At the end of the three days, the score was 44 people killed, including leaders Khaled Mansour and Tayseer Jabari, and 15 Palestinian children, the youngest just five years of age. Despite several rocket launches by the PIJ, there have been no reports of any injury to Israeli citizens. This has been more or less the pattern in most cases.
Israel initiated the attacks with a "pre-emptive" strike against the PIJ on intelligence that it was planning to launch attacks inside Israel. How far Israel’s claims are correct remains unclear as ahead of nationwide elections in November, caretaker Prime Minister Jair Lapid would want to prove his tough stand towards Palestinian militants.
Whatever the reason for the strike, the US and its western allies have backed Israel’s right to self-defence and are doing whatever it takes to protect its citizens.
The Palestinian -Israeli problem remains one of the long-running unresolved conflicts that has persisted since the end of the second world war. The collective guilt at allowing the extermination of six million Jews by Hitler has led to an understanding of Israel’s need for security. This also led to the building of a homeland for the Jews, in lands belonging to Palestinians. The conflict had its origins there with Israel the main beneficiary of the settlement and with successive right-wing governments encroaching on more and more Palestinian lands. In the process, the rights of the Palestinians have been trampled on. The world is strangely silent on that.
Since the Oslo Accord of 1993 broke down, no serious or sustained efforts at getting Israel to live up to its commitment or to giving the Palestinians a fair deal were attempted. Till PLOs charismatic leader Yasser Arafat was alive, the Palestinians' cause found resonance across several developing nations in Asia and Africa. But today the world has somehow lost focus on the issue. In fact, even former supporters of the Palestinian cause like the Arab states have in the last several years done little to promote a settlement. Instead, the Abraham Accords, sponsored by the Trump White House in 2020, helped to normalise ties between Israel and Arab nations like the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco. This was in sharp contrast to the position of Arab rulers earlier when they refused to negotiate with Israel without Palestinians having a full-fledged state of their own.
The incessant fight between different Palestinian groups has not helped their cause either. The Fatah-Hamas divide has further weakened the Palestinian position, with Hamas in complete control of the Gaza Strip after throwing out the Fatah in 2007.
Surprisingly Hamas has kept out of the conflict though it has happened right in its territory. While expressing solidarity with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad it has not gone beyond that.
Every time there is a confrontation between Israel and Palestinian militant groups, the civilians of Gaza are the worst affected. As it is the 2.3 million Palestinians live under trying conditions and with each Israeli attack, more and more of this impoverished strip’s infrastructure crumbles. Israel and Egypt have placed Gaza under blockade by land, sea and air since 2007. The people are boxed in and have to live and die in this narrow strip of land they call home. The mental health of many Palestinians is in bad shape as they have no hope for the future or no way they can slip out of Gaza. Everything is in short supply, including essential medicines and hospital equipment. There appears little hope of permanent peace in the region. The cry for help from civilians is falling on deaf ears. Neither Hamas nor the PIJ nor Israel or the world cares. Till the next confrontation, the world will forget about the region.