The situation surrounding the current fighting in Gaza is endlessly complicated. And the more it continues, and the more lives it takes, the less likely things are to be resolved quickly.
On Sunday, Israel expanded its ground presence in Gaza, specifically to target the series of underground tunnels that Hamas uses to infiltrate Israel. Some of these tunnels have been fashioned with concrete walls and ceilings, electric lighting, and radio communications. Thousands of civilians have fled to escape the tanks and troops coming in to highly-populated urban areas, with the Palestinian government condemning the attacks as a “war crime.”
Reports of war crimes followed the deaths of approximately 500 Palestinians, with more than 3,000 wounded, over just the last two weeks. Reports have surfaced that the Israeli military is using flechette shells, which explode in the air and send out a cone of thousands of steel darts, less than two inches long. These shells are very imprecise and, when fired into heavily-populated areas, are likely to harm civilians. When questioned by The Independent about the use of flechettes, “the Israeli military did not deny using shells in the conflict, saying that it only deploys weapons ‘determined lawful under international law;’” the shells are illegal under certain humanitarian laws.
A major issue currently facing this conflict is the sheer number of civilian casualties. Hamas, the Muslim terrorist group currently occupying Gaza, operates in densely populated areas and tends to house their somewhat ineffective rockets in schools and mosques. It fires these rockets into Israel, which is protected by the “Iron Dome,” its mobile defense system. These rockets result in fewer casualties than what are occurring in Palestinian territories; so far, the Israeli death toll is around 20, 18 of which were soldiers.
Israel then responds to these attacks with more force than Hamas even has the capability of exerting, and sends missiles and troops to attack the areas from which the original rockets were launched, and civilians bear the brunt of the retaliation.
The Médecins Sans Frontières, an international medical humanitarian organization working in the Gaza Strip, has said that “the majority of the dead and wounded in Gaza are civilians,” and that “women and children comprised most of the wounded people arriving on Sunday morning in the emergency room in Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City … following heavy shelling overnight and in the morning in the city’s Ash Shuja’iyeh neighborhood.”
While most Western officials have called for a cease-fire to no avail, and many, including President Obama, have correctly said that Israel has a right to “defend itself,” not much criticism has been given towards the tremendous onslaught of civilian casualties that Israel is causing, especially in the corporate media.
In fact, just last week, NBC pulled its veteran correspondent, Ayman Mohyeldin, the network’s only Arab-American correspondent, out of Gaza after he witnessed the Israeli military kill four Palestinian boys on a beach in Gaza. Some NBC employees have concerns that “Mohyeldin was singled out for his empathetic stories about Palestinians in Gaza.”
It’s no secret that the mainstream media has ties to the pro-Israel lobby, and any criticism could cause problems. NBC’s removal of Mohyeldin shows that they are willing to sacrifice timely, eyewitness accounts of these tragedies in order to not rock the boat.
The religious right is also unlikely to criticize the number of civilian casualties, as they support Israel, albeit for different reasons.
Pat Robertson states on his website that “evangelical Christians support Israel because we believe that the words of Moses and the ancient prophets of Israel were inspired by God. We believe that the emergence of a Jewish state in the land promised by God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was ordained by God.”
He goes on to say that “if a Palestinian State is created … with sovereign power to deploy troops, import modern weapons — even weapons of mass destruction — and operate with full secrecy and diplomatic immunity, the ability of the State of Israel to defend itself will be fatally compromised.”
While no one denies that Hamas has attacked Israel and probably will continue to do so, and that Israel and its people have every right to defend themselves, one has to question the tactics that Israel has retaliated with against the Palestinians in Gaza. Pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been taking place across the globe, with rallies in Paris leading to rioting between police and protesters. With world-wide pressure to end the civilian casualties increasing, all parties involved need to stop and really look at what this fight is costing them.