Saturday, March 2, 2024
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Israel’s Attack on Gaza: A Genocidal War

V Subrahmanyam

On December 29, South Africa filed a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, accusing it of genocide of Palestinians in the current war on Gaza. Perhaps South Africa, with its long history of suffering during the apartheid regime, understands the agony of the Palestinian people in Gaza. South Africa’s feeling is shared across the globe in varied degrees, and recently, the overwhelming majority of the countries voted for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.   

All wars are ruthless. If the war on Gaza is directed against the belligerent army, that is, Hamas, it is understandable. But if it is targeted to commit ethnic cleansing or extermination of civilians on a large scale under the guise of ‘Israel’s right to defend itself’ is a war crime. That is precisely what Netanyahu’s 30,000 Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and an unknown number of reservists are carrying out in the Gaza Strip in the ongoing war for twelve weeks. The present war is the continuation of the Zionist politics of ethnic cleansing and military strategy of crushing any Palestinian resistance in future, using the Hamas attack of October 7thas a pretext.

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Open Prison Turned into a Massive Grave Yard

The Hamas attack has shaken the Israel establishment to the bones. The attack was immediately followed by a barrage of air strikes into Gaza. The IDF indiscriminately pummeled human dwellings, and one hundred government buildings, ravaged dozens of hospitals, and scorched nearly 300 schools with missiles and aerial bombardments. After two weeks, its ground forces entered Northern Gaza and encircled it from three sides. Gradually, it cut off the entire northern part from the southern. Till today, the death toll of civilians is 21,500, including 8200 children. It injured at least 55,243 Palestinians, including 8663 children. Al Jazeera reports that 7000 persons are still missing. Perhaps they died under the rubble. Like in any war, women are bearing the brunt in this war, too. Two-thirds of the causalities are women and children, leaving no doubts for any regarding who the targets of Israel are.

West Bank: The Israel Army, Vigilantes are on the Prowl

Since the October 7 Hamas attack, the IDF and armed vigilantes- the Israeli settlers in the West Bank intensified their repressive measures. Raids, arrests and killings have become routine for the Army. Since then, they killed 313 people, including 36 children, and wounded 3450. More than 3,000 Palestinians have been arrested in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem. Those arrested or detained included people from all walks of life. U.N. warned that the situation in the occupied West Bank is rapidly deteriorating and called on Israel to “end unlawful killings”.

 

Get Them Home! Hostage Families Demand Netanyahu

In the Hamas attack, 1139 were killed, including 274 soldiers and 38 local security officers (who are civilians but counted in the IDF’s list) and 8703 people were injured. During the ground operations, Hamas killed 167 IDF forces so far. Hamas took 240 hostages, including a few foreigners. 105 of them were released in a swap for the jailed Palestinians. The families of hostages are demanding Netanyahu to do everything to bring back the remaining hostages. The families press for a ceasefire so as to facilitate the release of the hostages, but Netanyahu bent on destroying Hamas, is least bothered about the safety of the hostages. 

Hamas is no Military Match to Israel.

Israel is waging a grossly unequal war. IDF has 1,69,500 regular forces and 4,00,000 reservists. Hamas has around 20,000 recruits in its armed wing. Only 10% are trained by regular armies, and the rest are partisans. Israel is the fourth largest army in the Middle East and eighteenth in the world. It has been established as the 10th largest arms exporter in the world, selling 2.4% of all the globally produced arms. The US has been the biggest arms supplier to Israel since its formation. Most U.S. help comes in the form of weapons grants. More than 80% of Israel’s weapons imports came from the U.S. between 1950 and 2020. Since its inception, the U.S. has given total military assistance worth $ 130 billion. In the last financial year, the U.S. assisted Israel with $ 3.8 billion, 16% of Israel’s military budget. Immediately after the Hamas’ October 7th attack, Biden released $ 10 billion as Emergency fund to Israel. According to IDF, the U.S. is “a force multiplier in this war.”

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Hamas is mainly funded by Iran. It collects donations from inside the Palestinian areas and diaspora living abroad. Hamas is no match to Israel in any aspect- finances, weapons and strength of armed forces, striking capabilities, and advanced weapon systems. It is an asymmetric fight, like between David and Goliath. “It’s (Hamas) a relatively primitive force”, says DrSidharthKaushal, a research fellow and military science expert with the Royal United Services Institute.

Israel’s Ferocious Attacks on Civilians: ‘Nowhere and No One is Safe’

The urban war in Gaza will go down as a war, not a war on Hamas, but a war on the Palestinian nation in history. The savagery of the war is unprecedented. HadibSalameh, 75, a resident of Gaza who was born when the Nakba or the catastrophe began, has been witness to many wars of Israel says: “It is the fiercest,” referring to the current war in Gaza. Nakba, the first uprooting of 7 lakh Palestinians in 1948, resulted in 15,000 deaths. The present death toll has crossed more than 20,000 and is not going to stop till the Israel invasion of Gaza ends. The aerial attacks had killed only a few Hamas fighters. But the indiscriminate and merciless bombings killed civilians in large numbers. There is a common refrain among the people in this war. WHO’s Chief Tedros echoed the feeling on November 10, addressing the Security Council. He said: ‘Nowhere and no one is safe in Gaza’. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 69 journalists have been killed in the conflict. Amnesty International said that journalists are being deliberately targeted. More than 50 media premises or offices in Gaza have been entirely or partially destroyed by Israeli attacks.

AzmiKeswami, the Gaza analyst for the International Crisis Group, who fled from northern Gaza and has moved six times so far, says, “This war is more horrifying than any he had experienced before”. Mohammed Abed, a journalist from Al Maghazi, on the attack on Christmas Day, said: “These rockets, it is like they are made to destroy mountains, not people.” The New York Times analysed the bombs. It came to the conclusion that Israel used the most lethal 2000-pound bombs that have not been seen since the Vietnam War but are widely used in this war. Their killing or wounding range extends to 1000 feet away. Mothers began writing the names of their children on their hands to identify their loved ones in case they were crushed to death beyond recognition. A week after the Israeli forces entered Gaza, on October 28, Northern Gaza saw unprecedented air strikes. BBC’s Rushdi Abu Alouf said that ‘the bombardment of northern areas was on a scale he had never seen before’. Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant gleefully declared: “Last night, the earth in Gaza shook.” U.S. advice to Israel to avoid civilian causalities- though it never followed in its wars from Vietnam to Afghanistan- is simply shrugged off by Tel Aviv.

‘Behind Every Broken Stone, there is a Life, a Story, and a Family’

Israel caused extensive damage to residential houses. An UN-led aid consortium estimates that ‘more than 234,000 homes have been damaged across Gaza and 46,000 destroyed, amounting to about 60 per cent of the housing stock in the territory’. The wanton destruction of homes by the likes of the Zionist regimes brought a new word to the lexicon: Domicide (mass destruction of houses). Netanyahu’s government is making Gaza an unliveable place with its blitzkrieg acts. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, BalakrishnanRajagopal, argued that the ‘domicide’ must be recognised as an international crime. ‘Behind every broken stone, there is life, a story, and a family’, says Ammar Azzoz, a researcher at Oxford University and the author of ‘Domicide in Syria’.

The Attacks on Health Care Facilities

The merciless Zionist government ordered even the hospitals to vacate. How can the staff shift thousands of patients, and that too serious patients from the North to the South? Even the Southern enclaves of Gaza have been attacked with rockets and gunfire without sparing hospitals and U.N. Schools. The closest ally, the U.S., advised “humanitarian pauses” to allow aid and growing civilian casualties. Netanyahu, hubris with his obsession with destroying Hamas at any cost, went ahead with his brutally aggressive campaign, allowing the humanitarian aid that was “a drop in the ocean”. More than 26 hospitals and 55 health centres have ceased operations due to the bombing and blowing up of hospitals.

“Intentionally directing attacks against medical units and transport” is prohibited as a war crime under the ICC’s Rome Statute. However, violating International laws is a congenital disease for Israel, and it has been doing this with impunity with the support of the U.S. 

Human Rights Watch castigated Israel’s defence for attacking hospitals. ‘Israel’s war crimes in Gaza are by design, not default’, said HRW. “Despite the Israeli military’s claims on November 5, 2023, of ‘Hamas’s cynical use of hospitals’, no evidence put forward would justify depriving hospitals and ambulances of their protected status under international humanitarian law.” 

The gory nature of the present war can be seen from the fact that the IDF did not care a hoot to attack the hospitals. There have been 364 attacks in Gaza and 171 in the West Bank on health care services since the military onslaught began. 553 health workers were killed. The Indonesian Hospital was attacked several times. No single hospital is functional in Northern Gaza, and 9 out of 36 hospitals partially work in Sothern Gaza. In all, 729 patients and staff were killed inside the hospitals. The U.N. said that health system infrastructure is obliterated. The scale of destruction, the indiscriminate character of firing, the intensity of bombing or crowded localities all clearly point out that the undeclared objective of the present attack is ethnic cleansing. Out of 22 lakh Palestinians living in Gaza, 17 lakh were already refugees registered with the UNRWA. Now, they moved to the South. Where can the southern Gazans move when the rockets are pounding the residential areas and hospitals? 80% of the Gazans were forced out of their homes and became internally displaced persons. And half of them are children. The biggest open prison in the world has now become the biggest graveyard for the Palestinians. It is no exaggeration if one calls the Second Nakba.

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U.N. Population Fund said in the first week of November that about 50,000 pregnant women in the Gaza Strip lack access to essential health services and 5,500 women are expected to give birth every day, 180 women giving birth -all in the utter absence of any medical facilities. Fifteen per cent of them are likely to experience pregnancy or birth-related complications and need additional medical care, according to WHO’s bulletin dated November 3, 23. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on the eve of Christmas: “..nearly two million internally displaced, and a lack of food, clean water, shelter, and health services, Palestinians in Gaza also face a heightened risk of disease. What hospitals remain operational are overwhelmed and barely functioning.” Two of their doctors, one of them a surgeon, were shot dead inside the Al Awda hospital on December 11 and were killed in the Israeli attacks. “Staying alive is luck”, one MSF aid worker said.

Without electricity for more than two months, 40% of the population is at risk of famine and many diseases; the aid is just trickling against the massive needs of 90% of the internally displaced population. Gaza is a colossal graveyard as a consequence of Israel’s invasion. The inhuman blockade is throttling the life in Gaza. Human Rights Watch said that the Israeli government has been using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in the occupied Gaza Strip, which is a war crime. Israeli forces have been deliberately blocking the delivery of water, food, and fuel while wilfully impeding humanitarian assistance, depriving the population of indispensable things to their survival. ‘Bakeries and grain mills were destroyed. Agriculture, water and sanitation facilities were raged’, said Scott Paul of Oxfam. 

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and the National Security Adviser Ben-Gvir have made public statements expressing their aim to deprive civilians in Gaza of food, water and fuel –reflecting a policy being followed by Israeli forces. 

The entire World is Demanding a Ceasefire, but not the U.S. and Israel. 

Without a ceasefire, the human suffering will not stop. The world knows it. And the majority of nations are voting for the truce. However, the U.S. vetoed all the efforts to bring a ceasefire into effect. On December 12, the U.S. felt increasingly isolated in the U.N. with its asinine support to Israel after 153 member countries out of 193 total members voted in favour of a humanitarian ceasefire in the U.N. General Assembly. Only the US, Israel and Austria voted against the resolution, while 23 countries, including the U.K. and Germany, abstained. Peeved by the isolation and facing intense criticism from many quarters, including from his own Party, Jo Biden lost his cool and chided Netanyahu without any impact. Biden delivered his strongest rebuke of Netanyahu’s handling of the conflict yet, warning that Israel’s “indiscriminate bombing” is costing it international support. Netanyahu said that the war would continue until Hamas is eradicated. “I told our American friends: Our heroic soldiers have not fallen in vain,” Netanyahu said. His Foreign Minister Eli Cohen vowed to keep fighting “with or without international support”. 

Netanyahu began the war to destroy the Hamas, which constituted 1% of the total Gazan population. IDF claims that it has killed 8000 Hamas fighters so far, which could not be verified, but it lost 160 soldiers and 1000 wounded, 300 of them in serious condition since the ground offensive began. But is it justified to kill more than 21000 and injure 50000, destroying the entire Gaza landscape and turning it into a colossal rubble?

Israel is violating all the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of civilians and prisoners of war, attacking residential areas, destroying residential houses, bombing hospitals, force fleeing people into unsafe zones- all come under war crimes. 

Is Netanyahu Perpetrating a Genocide?

The ghastly war, violating all norms of International law, is condemned by many quarters. Is this a genocidal war? 

Israel’s order to evacuate en masse itself is against International humanitarian law, the UNHRC said unequivocally. In the pursuit of Hamas, the collective punishment imposed by Tel Aviv militates Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Article 4 of Additional Protocol II. 

Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister AmichaiEliyahu said that using Nukes is “an option” and “there are no non-combatants in Gaza”, and providing humanitarian aid to the Strip would constitute “a failure”. Later, Netanyahu suspended him, perhaps because he inadvertently admitted Israel’s possession of Nukes. Agriculture Minister AviDichter said that this current war would be “Gaza’s Nakba”. Some ministers boasted of “flattening Gaza”. All these might be uttered by “fringe elements”, according to Naftali Bennett, but they indicate the mindset of Zionists’ idea of genocide.

Craig Mokhiber, a director at the U.N., resigned over the U.N.’s failure to act on the “textbook case of genocide”. A coalition of U.N. experts on November 2 warned that Palestinians were “at the grave risk of genocide”. In the second week of November, three Palestinian human rights bodies filed a suit in the International Criminal Court urging an arrest warrant against Netanyahu for the crime of genocide. Raz Segal, the programme director of genocide studies at Stockton University, U.S., opines that it is a textbook case of genocide. U.N. experts on various subjects called on the international community to take measures to prevent the genocide of the Palestinian people. They gave living examples of genocidal incitement and loud calls for the second Nakba. “Many of us already raised the alarm about the risk of genocide in Gaza”, they grieved. And now, the South African Government knocked on the doors of the International Court of Justice, filing a case against the Israeli government for carrying out a genocidal war and urging for a ceasefire.

The aggressive response of the Netanyahu regime to the Hamas attack is unequivocally a genocide. “If we say nothing about Israel’s brazen slaughter of Palestinians, even as it is live-streamed into the most private recesses of our personal lives, we are complicit in it.”, said Arundhati Roy in a recent interview. The whole world should stand with the Palestinian people and do everything possible to avert the ongoing catastrophe. 

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Subrahmanyam Varanasi
Subrahmanyam Varanasi
Subrahmanyam Varanasi, Social activist and advocate from Guntur.

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