The bombing and rocket fire continues between Israel and Gaza without letup. The Palestinian Wafa News Agency reported, Saturday, that the death toll in Gaza is now up to 128 and 935 people have been wounded. Before the latest update, the UN had calculated that out of 114 deaths, 88 of them were civilians, including 30 children and 17 women. The Gaza Health Ministry reported that two-thirds of the wounded were women and children. The most serious successful attack on Israel so far, is an explosion at a gas station in Ashdod, Friday, which wounded three people, one seriously. Overall, the humanitarian situation in Gaza is deteriorating rapidly, especially for the very young. “Since 2000, more than 1,000 children have been killed as a result of repeated Israeli military offensives on Gaza,” Brad Parker, international advocacy officer at Defense for Children International-Palestine told Al Jazeera. “The current regime of collective punishment implemented through an almost seven-year-old blockade, targeted assassinations and regular military offensives all but guarantees the situation for Gazas children will continue to deteriorate.”
One telling example of the brutal inhumanity of the Israeli campaign is the targeting of the Al Wafa rehabilitation hospital, reported by Israeli daily Ha’aretz. As of about 1 a.m. local time Saturday morning, Al Wafa, Gaza’s only rehabilitation hospital, has been marked by Israeli rockets for destruction (one of the things they do to warn a target ahead of time, along with phone calls), including one that damaged the fourth floor of the building, yet there are 14 patients over the age of 60 who can’t be moved. A number of human rights activists from a several countries, including at least one American, haven taken up residence in the building as human shields. How this facility, built in 1996, is part of the “terrorist infrastructure” that Netanyahu keeps talking about is not explained. The fate of the Al Wafa hospital is unknown as of this writing, but according to late breaking news reports, the Israelis did bomb a center for the handicapped, Saturday morning, killing two handicapped patients and a caretaker.
Palestinian Human Rights Activists Challenge the World On the Fourth Geneva Convention
The Palestinians are making a strong argument that what Israel is doing cannot be classified as “self-defense,” and it draws from the Fourth Geneva Convention, which spells out the responsibilities of an occupying power. The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council has sent a letter to the President of Switzerland Didier Burkhalter, asking him to convene a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to discuss Israel’s continued non-compliance with its obligations under that treaty. The convention obligates occupying powers, which Israel is in Gaza and the West Bank, to ensure the welfare and the safety of the occupied population, but it has never complied with that responsibility.
“The failure of the High Contracting Parties to effectively engage their own clearly defined legal obligations to ensure respect for the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as their obligation to hold perpetrators of grave breaches responsible under Article 146, amounts to tacit acquiescence to Israel’s calculated and systematic disregard for international humanitarian law,” they write. “Further inaction at this time would not only betray any hope that the civilians of the Gaza Strip have left in the ability of international humanitarian law to provide protection and alleviate their suffering, but would leave broader question marks as to the basic commitment of the High Contracting Parties to invest in the future relevance of international humanitarian law.”
Netanyahu Vows To Continue Military Operations Against Gaza
Netanyahu is vowing to continue the campaign, however, no matter how many more civilians are killed—which he blames on Hamas, anyway, because they live among civilians, which by his twisted logic makes Hamas responsible for the civilian casualties. He said Friday, that “no international pressure will prevent us from acting with all force against a terrorist organization that seeks to destroy us” and that he would take whatever action was necessary to protect Israelis. He said, in response to a question that Israel was “weighing all possibilities” for expanding the campaign against Hamas in Gaza, including the possibility of a major ground offensive. “We’ve prepared for all options… That’s what I told the army to do, and it has done so. My uppermost consideration is to restore quiet for all of Israel’s citizens in all of Israel’s cities. I will do whatever is necessary to achieve that goal. Beyond that, I cannot go into details.”
During the same speech, Netanyahu also denounced the U.S.-mediated peace efforts that recently failed—one of the proposals that Kerry offered was that Israel should withdraw its security forces from the West Bank. Netanyahu said that he opposed the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 because Hamas has built a “terrorist bunker” there. Amid the current conflict, he elaborated, “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.” He noted that the West Bank is 20 times the size of Gaza and vowed that he was not prepared “to create another 20 Gazas” in the West Bank.
Be Ready For a Protracted Israeli Ground Operation In Gaza
There are indications that Israel is, indeed, preparing for a long campaign, that may also include a ground incursion and military occupation. “The security cabinet’s seven-hour meeting on [July 10] Thursday, the invitation of media to document training exercises of troops on the Gaza border ahead of a possible ground operation, the Israeli army’s phone message to Palestinian residents in north Gaza asking people to leave their homes—all these would seem to indicate that Israel seriously intends to send in ground troops,” writes Amos Harel in Ha’aretz. He noted that during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, the IDF had called up 75,000 reservists. This time the cabinet has authorized the callup of 40,000 reservists but so far, less than half that number have actually been called, but most of them aren’t the types of troops that would be sent in, being rather specialists in logistics, intelligence and other non-combat roles.
“A broad campaign really also requires deploying reserve divisions, but sending such units out on campaign takes time. A considerable period of time passes between the automatic call that tells reservists to leave their homes and them being ready for action in Gaza. In other words, the government has acted so far as if it has time. Even if a ground operation is approved, it is not clear what scope it will have,” writes Harel, and then he adds: “Dealing with Hamas’ rocket infrastructure will take weeks, if not months. Israel’s Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio on Thursday that the military ‘will have to take over Gaza temporarily, for a few weeks.'”