Israel: A Week of TurmoilMay 17, 2018 in Uncategorized
On Monday, Gaza witnessed the deadliest day of violence since the 2014 Gaza war. Tens of thousands protested and clashes erupted along the Gaza border against the US transfer of its embassy to Jerusalem. The “March of Return,” as Palestinians are calling the protest campaign that began in March, has intended by its creators to publicize global awareness that about two-thirds of Gaza residents are considered Palestinian refugees.
For seven weeks, protesters have gathered on the Gaza side of the border with Israel, with scores of deaths over that period before the violence ratcheted this week as 58 Palestinians were killed and more than 2700 seriously injured. The Israeli troops have used live ammunition on the demonstrators as Israel considers attempts by Palestinian protesters to approach the fence a threat to its sovereignty and has framed its responses to these protests as a lawful defense of the Israeli border. The Israeli authorities have dropped leaflets over Gaza warning Palestinians to not approach the fence. However, the military maintains it is only targeting those instigating violence and has sought to use nonlethal deterrents — including drones that drop tear gas — to counter the protests. Hamas has been accused of exploiting the “March of Return”, whilst Israel has said a significant number of those killed were members of various militant Islamist factions in the Gaza Strip, using the mass demonstrations as cover to infiltrate into Israel and carry out possible terrorist attacks. Israel has faced international condemnation over the deaths, from the UN, UK, France, Russia and others. “I don’t know of any army that would do anything differently if you had to protect your border against people who say, ‘We’re going to destroy you, and we’re going to flood into your country,’” Mr. Netanyahu stated. Other Israelis have said that if thousands of angry Palestinians breached the Gaza fence, the outcome would be far bloodier. Doctors without borders said that they are overwhelmed by the Gaza carnage: “In one of the hospitals where we are working, the chaotic situation is comparable to what we observed after the bombings of the 2014 war, with a huge influx of injured people in a few hours, overwhelming the medical staff.”
The Palestinians and United Nations human rights officials say Israel remains an occupying power in Gaza, making it subject to certain obligations to protect civilians under international law, because the Israelis exert effective control over most of Gaza’s land, air and sea borders. Israel has rejected that argument, asserting that it voluntarily departed Gaza 13 years ago. While Egypt could theoretically do more to ease the travails of Gaza’s population, analysts say that, “Egypt sees it as political quicksand.” Tensions between Israel and Egypt are rising, with President Sisi warning for regional instability, but there have been reports that Egypt has managed to restore calm in Gaza as protests have dropped off over the past hours, by pressurising Hamas. Hamas has rejected these reports and said that they will continue the protests increasing concerns over the stability in Israel while back in February they had stated that a likelihood of war with Israel is possible. Israel on Wednesday welcomed another embassy in Jerusalem just two days after the landmark move by the United States, even as the diplomatic fallout over Gaza bloodshed intensified with Israel and Turkey trading bitter recriminations. Leading the charge was Turkey, which on Tuesday expelled Israel’s ambassador and consul. Israel retaliated with its own expulsions of top Turkish diplomats.
Turmoil in Israel is continuing, with fears over a war likelihood between Iran and Israel growing the past few days. Israel and Iran lurched closer to an all out war on Thursday after the Israeli military struck the majority of Iran’s bases in Syria in response to what it said was a Iranian rocket barrage fired at the Golan Heights. Israeli carried out its largest wave of airstrikes in Syria since the 1973 war, striking around 50 Iranian military bases, supply depots, and intelligence sites as well as Syrian regime air defence batteries, the Israeli military said. The wave of strikes was in response to a barrage of 20 rockets which Israel said were fired by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard towards the Golan, a mountainous region that Israel annexed from Syria after capturing it in 1967. Israel has said repeatedly it will not allow Iran to build up a permanent military presence in Syria and is prepared to go to war to stop it. Nasrallah said Hezbollah and its allies Iran and Syria “will respond at the appropriate time and place and with the appropriate method” to Israel’s Syria raids, while adding, “This landmark rocket attack has launched a new phase.” He warned “the next response would be in the heart of occupied Palestine should any red lines be crossed.”
While tensions are rising in the region, the UK government issued a travel warning amid the Gaza protests and the direct attacks between Israel and Syria, advising people to avoid travelling to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and confirming that there is an increased risk of instability in the region with the likelihood of terrorist attacks very high. With the Gaza protests bound to escalate further, and amid the exchange of attacks between Israel and Iran, Israel is entering a quagmire. Analysts have said that we are now facing a new reality where Iran is attacking Israel directly and trying to harm Israel’s sovereignty and territories.