Israelis and Palestinians are hopeful but cautious over the latest ceasefire proposal

Israelis and Palestinians are hopeful but cautious over the latest ceasefire proposal
Israeli military armored vehicles roll in an area bordering the Gaza Strip on Jun. 9, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas militant group. (AFP)
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Updated 13 June 2024
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Israelis and Palestinians are hopeful but cautious over the latest ceasefire proposal

Israelis and Palestinians are hopeful but cautious over the latest ceasefire proposal
  • Hopes for a ceasefire have been dashed before, and both Palestinians and Israelis are braced for disappointment
  • Hamas is determined to end the war still standing, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to destroy the militant group

TEL AVIV: A proposed ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas is raising hopes that eight months of fighting could soon come to an end. Displaced Palestinians are desperate to return home and rebuild, while Israelis yearn for dozens of captives taken by Hamas to be freed.
The US-backed proposal is the latest serious attempt to wind down the war in Gaza, and while it still faces significant hurdles, negotiations meant to bring it to fruition are ongoing.
But hopes for a ceasefire have been dashed before, and both Palestinians and Israelis are braced for disappointment. Hamas is determined to end the war still standing, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to destroy the militant group before ceasing the fighting.
Here is a look at the hopes, fears and expectations of some in the region as the sides weigh a deal:
‘We want a solution’
With the war displacing 80 percent of Gaza’s population, making much of the urban landscape uninhabitable, and sparking widespread hunger, Palestinians are aching for an end to the hostilities.
“We want a solution. We want to return to our homes. We are tired of this life,” said Salama Abu Al-Qumbuz, a displaced person sheltering in the central Gaza town of Deir Al-Balah.
The fighting, sparked by Hamas’ cross-border attack on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people in Israel, has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians. Most Palestinians in Gaza have lost at least one relative. Some have lost dozens.
The war, and the multiple failed attempts to secure a ceasefire deal, have deepened despair in the territory, which is compounded by the constant insecurity, the unnerving uncertainty about the future and, for some, the boredom of a life put on hold by the fighting.
Some have lost hope in the negotiations.
“They negotiated a lot, to no avail,” said Etaf Abdel Bari, who was also sheltering in Deir Al-Balah. “We are not a toy in their hands.”
Hostage families want a deal, but some don’t
In Israel, those most desperate for a deal are the families of the hostages held by Hamas and other militant groups.
The Hamas-led militants took some 250 people hostage in their attack, according to Israeli authorities, and after a ceasefire deal in November freed about 100. Around 80 people are still captive, along with the remains of about 40 others. The families have agonized over the fates of their loves ones, many without receiving a sign of life for eight months.
The families and thousands of their supporters gather weekly to demonstrate in support of a deal, arguing that negotiations are the only way to free significant numbers of hostages. And polls show the Israeli public views freeing them through a deal as a priority.
Shahar Mor Zahiro, whose uncle, Abraham Munder, 79, is being held hostage, said he fears this deal may fall through like previous ones.
“We already have like six or seven cycles of hope and despair, hope and despair, but what can we do? We are clinging on to any hope there is,” he said.
There is widespread support for a hostage deal, with tens of thousands of people joining street protests each week.
But among the families of hostages, some oppose a deal that would leave Hamas intact.
Eitan Zeliger is the director of the Tikva Forum, which he says represents about 30 hostage families who oppose freeing their loved ones through a deal that ends the war. Instead, they insist that Israel ramp up military pressure on Hamas to weaken its negotiating position.
“It is long and hard and hell for many hostage families,” he said. “But the families we are in touch with understand that there is no way to return the hostages without war.”
The mothers of soldiers speak out
In the aftermath of Hamas’ attack, Jewish Israelis rallied around the military as it called up hundreds of thousands of reservists to help fight against Hamas. But some voices are emerging, including of the mothers of soldiers, who accuse Netanyahu of dragging out the war to appease his far-right coalition members and keep himself in power.
“I don’t believe the decision-makers,” Noorit Felsenthal Berger, whose 21-year-old son has spent the better part of eight months in Gaza, told Israeli Army Radio Thursday. “I think we need to stop and we have a historic opportunity here,” she said about the proposed deal.
The postwar period is expected to include investigations into the government’s failures before the Oct. 7 attack and could likely lead to new elections at a time when Netanyahu’s popularity has dropped. The army says over 600 soldiers have been killed.
Protests by the mothers of soldiers have in previous wars helped pressure leaders to end the fighting, a movement that has yet to materialize in any significant numbers surrounding the war in Gaza.
That’s in part because there are other relatives of fighters who support continuing the war and balk at a deal that would leave Hamas in place.
The Gvura Forum, which represents some of the families of soldiers killed during the war, said in a letter to Netanyahu earlier this month that if Israel agreed to the proposed deal, it would be surrendering to Hamas without reaching the goals of the war.
“We will not agree that our loved ones serve as a silver platter on which the rule of terror returns to Gaza,” the group wrote.


Musk activates Internet service in Gaza hospital with help of UAE, Israel

Musk activates Internet service in Gaza hospital with help of UAE, Israel
Updated 57 min 46 sec ago
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Musk activates Internet service in Gaza hospital with help of UAE, Israel

Musk activates Internet service in Gaza hospital with help of UAE, Israel
  • Announcement came more than five months after the Israeli government gave approval for Starlink’s use in the hospital in Rafah
  • The high speed Internet would enable potentially life-saving medical consultations via real-time video calling

DUBAI: SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said that his Starlink satellite Internet service has been activated in a hospital in Gaza, where many medical facilities have been destroyed by the war, with the help of the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
The Gulf Arab state’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, thanked the billionaire entrepreneur for supporting the UAE field hospital in Gaza, where many medical facilities have been demolished and medicines are scarce.
“Starlink is now active in a Gaza hospital with the support of @UAEmediaoffice and @Israel,” Musk posted on X.


The announcement came more than five months after the Israeli government gave approval for Starlink’s use in the hospital in Rafah, a flashpoint city in southern Gaza.
Residents said on Tuesday that Israeli forces had blown up several homes in Rafah, near the Egyptian border, where Israel said its operation aimed to dismantle the last Hamas battalions.
The high speed Internet would enable potentially life-saving medical consultations via real-time video calling, the UAE foreign ministry said in February.
Hamas started the war in Gaza on Oct. 7 when it attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking over 250 hostages back to Gaza, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel responded with an offensive that has killed more than 39,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, and turned the coastal strip into a wasteland.


What is the human cost of Israel’s relentless pursuit of Hamas commanders in Gaza?

What is the human cost of Israel’s relentless pursuit of Hamas commanders in Gaza?
Updated 24 July 2024
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What is the human cost of Israel’s relentless pursuit of Hamas commanders in Gaza?

What is the human cost of Israel’s relentless pursuit of Hamas commanders in Gaza?
  • Hundreds of Palestinians have died in operations that Israeli forces say targeted Hamas fighters or aimed to free hostages
  • The civilian toll following Israel’s recent bombing of Al-Mawasi and Khan Younis has drawn international condemnation

LONDON: Israel’s military has killed dozens of Palestinian civilians and wounded hundreds more, including children, in its relentless pursuit of Hamas commanders in Gaza, despite designating many of its areas of operation as “safe zones.”

Palestinian health officials said on Monday that 16 civilians were killed in eastern Khan Younis under Israeli shelling, even after Israel issued new orders to evacuate some neighborhoods to keep the civilian population away from areas of combat.

This latest bloodshed followed Israel’s July 13 airstrike on Al-Mawasi camp, another designated safe zone in southern Gaza, which killed at least 90 Palestinians and wounded 300 others, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

Israel said the target of this strike was Mohammed Deif, head of Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, as well as Rafa Salama, commander of the group’s Khan Younis Brigade, whom Israel believes was a mastermind of the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas-led attack.

Denying reports of his death, a Hamas official told the AFP news agency following the strike that Deif was “well and directly overseeing” operations, but he provided no proof for the claim.

Meanwhile, Daniel Hagari, the spokesman for the Israeli military, has said “there are increasing signs that we succeeded in the elimination of Mohammed Deif.”

Smoke rises from Gaza, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict. (Reuters)

Speaking to Al-Arabiya TV channel on Friday, he said: “Rafa Salama was certainly eliminated; Mohammed Deif and Salama sat side by side during the strike. Hamas is hiding what happened to Deif.”

Herzi Halevi, Israel’s chief of the general staff, has also accused Hamas of “concealing the results” of the strike on a west Khan Younis compound, where both Deif and Salama were purportedly hiding.

Regardless of whether the strike on Al-Mawasi was successful or not, the attack on an area packed with civilians drew global condemnation, with observers accusing the Israeli military of violating international humanitarian law.

Josep Borrell Fontelles, the high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy, wrote on the social media platform X: “Wars have limits enshrined in international law; end can’t justify all means. We condemn the violation.”

He added: “Once again we call for access to independent investigations and accountability, and for an end to the appalling situation of innocent civilians in Gaza.”

On the day of the attack, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi “to express our serious concern about the recent civilian casualties in Gaza.”

Women react after Israeli bombardment as they take refuge at the Jaouni school. (AFP)

The deadly Al-Mawasi strike was not the first incident since the conflict began on Oct. 7 in which the Israeli military has been accused of disregarding the safety of civilians and violating international humanitarian law in the pursuit of Hamas commanders.

In the fighting since the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack, at least 38,900 Palestinians, including more than 13,000 children, have been killed, according to the UN Human Rights Office. The proportion of the dead who were combatants is a matter of dispute.

The Israeli army’s bombing campaign, which Israeli officials say is aimed at Hamas and not civilian targets, has also destroyed medical, sanitation, and educational infrastructure across the Palestinian enclave.

Last month, in an operation that rescued four hostages, the Israeli military killed and injured hundreds of Palestinians in the densely populated Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.

The Israeli military said there were “under 100” Palestinian casualties but was uncertain how many of them were “terrorists.”

But almost a quarter of the 142 killed in the operation were women and children, Al-Awda Hospital in Nuseirat told BBC Arabic’s “Gaza Today” show, adding that 250 others were injured.

Children walk past a destroyed classroom in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

Expressing “profound shock” at the impact on civilians in Nuseirat, UN spokesman Jeremy Laurence said the Israeli forces’ actions “seriously call into question whether the principles of distinction, proportionality, and precaution … were upheld.”

In March, the Israeli military mounted a raid on Gaza’s largest medical facility, Al-Shifa Hospital, where it claimed Hamas fighters and other Palestinian militants were hiding.

Some 3,000 people were sheltering in Al-Shifa at the time of Israel’s raid, Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry said. At least 1,500 Palestinians, including 13 children and 21 patients, were killed in the two-week raid, according to the Euro-Med Monitor, a nongovernmental organization headquartered in Geneva.

Israeli officials said that “over 200 terrorists” were killed in and around Al-Shifa, as well as hundreds detained, including several Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives.

It has been impossible to independently verify the reported numbers due to a lack of reporting access to Gaza.

Israeli soldiers travel in a military vehicle by the Israel-Gaza border. (Reuters)

Between July 8 and 12, Israel attacked six schools operated by the UN Relief and Works Agency, killing dozens of civilians sheltering in the area, before reportedly razing the UN agency’s headquarters in Gaza City on July 15.

Israel has accused local staff at UNRWA of participating in the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, prompting the UN agency to launch an internal investigation and several major donors, including the US, to suspend funding for its operation in Gaza and throughout the region.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini called Israel’s attack on his agency’s Gaza headquarters “another episode in the blatant disregard of international humanitarian law.”

In a post on X, he said: “UN facilities must be protected at all times. They must never be used for military or fighting purposes. Every war has rules. Gaza is no exception.”

In a separate post, Lazzarini stressed that “schools must never be used for fighting or military purposes by any party to the conflict.”

NOTABLE CIVILIAN CASUALTY EVENTS

• Oct. 7, 2023: 1,200 Israeli and other nationals killed in southern Israel, hundreds taken hostage, in Hamas-led attack.

• Oct. 31, 2023: 110+ Palestinians killed in Israeli strike targeting ‘senior Hamas commander’ in Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza.

• Feb. 29, 2024: 112 Palestinians waiting for aid killed, 760 more injured outside Gaza City amid Israeli gunfire and panic.

• April 1: 7 World Central Kitchen workers killed in Israeli strikes in violation of military procedures on convoy delivering aid in Gaza.

• May 27: 45+ Palestinians killed in Israeli strike targeting ‘two senior Hamas commanders’ in Rafah.

• June 9: 274 Palestinians killed in Israeli military raid that freed 4 hostages who were held in Nuseirat refugee camp.

• July 13: 90+ Palestinians killed, 300 wounded in Israeli airstrike targeting Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif in Al-Mawasi.

Source: Gaza Health Ministry, Israeli govt.

Warning that “all rules of war have been broken in Gaza,” he said: “The blatant and constant disregard of international humanitarian law continues unabated.”

Israel has consistently denied accusations that it targets civilian infrastructure, accusing Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups of using tunnels under Gaza’s hospitals to mount attacks and conceal weapons, thereby using the population as human shields.

Commenting on Israel’s conduct, a New York-based international lawyer, who asked to remain anonymous, told Arab News that in the Gaza war, “international law remains relevant as a framework for accountability and justice by providing mechanisms to hold perpetrators accountable for war crimes, genocide, and other atrocities.”

Palestinians walk on a street flooded with sewage water in Deir El-Balah. (AFP)

The International Criminal Court, which prosecutes individuals accused of war crimes, has made an attempt to hold “both parties to the conflict” accountable for alleged war crimes.

Israeli officials believe the ICC is likely to issue arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant within the next two weeks, Israeli media reported on July 17.

Karim Khan, ICC chief prosecutor, filed an application in May for arrest warrants against two Israeli and three Palestinian individuals suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Hamas commander Deif was among the Palestinians listed in the ICC’s arrest warrant, alongside Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, and Yahya Sinwar, head of the Islamist movement in Gaza.

The arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant accused them of using starvation as a tool of war, extermination, and deliberately attacking civilian populations, alongside other war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Khan said he had “reasonable grounds” to believe the five men bore “criminal responsibility” for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity during the war in Gaza.

The decision caused anger among the Hamas leadership, in Israel, and even in the US. US President Joe Biden described the move as “outrageous,” saying there was “no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.”

Hamas said the ICC’s prosecutor was “equating the victim with the executioner” and demanded the withdrawal of the allegations against its leaders.

Israel has consistently denied accusations that it targets civilian infrastructure. (AFP)

The New York-based international lawyer said that although international law and ongoing developments “create a foundation for addressing atrocities and fostering a more just and peaceful world,” its enforcement “can be inconsistent and subject to political influence.”

On July 19, the UN’s International Court of Justice at The Hague declared Israel’s occupation and annexation of the Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip, the West Banks and East Jerusalem, to be “unlawful” in a landmark ruling.

Stating that Israel’s discriminatory laws and policies against Palestinians violate the prohibition on racial segregation and apartheid, the ICJ also ordered Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories “as rapidly as possible.”

Israel has since Oct. 7 also mounted dozens of raids on the West Bank and East Jerusalem, killing at least 500 Palestinians, 143 of them children, according to UN figures.

The ICJ’s recent ruling, however, is a non-binding advisory opinion that was sought by the UN General Assembly in 2022, preceding the Israeli onslaught on Gaza and not directly linked to it.

Responding to the ruling, Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying: “The Jewish people are not occupiers in their own land — not in our eternal capital Jerusalem, nor in our ancestral heritage of Judea and Samaria (the occupied West Bank).

“No decision of lies in The Hague will distort this historical truth, and similarly, the legality of Israeli settlements in all parts of our homeland cannot be disputed.”

In December last year, South Africa brought a case against Israel before the ICJ, alleging it had committed genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Between July 8 and 12, Israel attacked six schools operated by the UN Relief and Works Agency, killing dozens of civilians sheltering in the area. (Reuters)

The ICJ issued a provisional ruling in January, modified in May, ordering Israel to “immediately halt its military offensive” and urging Hamas to release the hostages immediately and unconditionally.

Regardless, Israel has continued to bomb Rafah and other parts of the Gaza Strip where well over a million displaced Palestinians are sheltered, while Hamas is believed to still hold 116 hostages.

No amount of legal wrangling has brought the conflict closer to resolution.

Diplomats and region watchers continue to call on both sides to accept an immediate ceasefire, to exchange hostages and prisoners, and to actively pursue a solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

 


No plan for Erdogan to meet Assad in Moscow, Turkish source says

No plan for Erdogan to meet Assad in Moscow, Turkish source says
Updated 24 July 2024
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No plan for Erdogan to meet Assad in Moscow, Turkish source says

No plan for Erdogan to meet Assad in Moscow, Turkish source says
  • Assad’s government has restored diplomatic relations with some Arab states that were severed during the war, but Damascus remains at odds with Ankara, which still protects some anti-Assad rebels in Syria’s northwest

MOSCOW: A newspaper report that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will meet Syrian President Bashar Assad in Moscow next month is incorrect, a Turkish diplomatic source said.
Turkiye’s Daily Sabah newspaper cited an unidentified source as saying that such a meeting could take place in August in Moscow, with Russian President Vladimir Putin as a mediator.
The diplomatic source, speaking to a group of journalists on Monday after the report appeared, said there was no plan for an Erdogan-Assad meeting in August in Moscow.
Turkiye has long been one of the main backers of Assad’s opponents in the Syrian civil war which began in 2011, while Russia is one of Assad’s main battlefield allies, having helped him restore control over most of Syria.
Assad’s government has restored diplomatic relations with some Arab states that were severed during the war, but Damascus remains at odds with Ankara, which still protects some anti-Assad rebels in Syria’s northwest.
Erdogan said earlier in July he would extend an invitation to Assad “any time” for possible talks to restore relations, and Putin could help facilitate the contact. Assad said he would meet Erdogan only if they could focus on core issues including a pullout of Turkish forces from Syrian territory.
Asked about the report of a potential meeting in Moscow between Assad and Erdogan, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not confirm any specific plans but said Russia would like to see improved relations between the two countries.
“The issue of facilitating the organization of certain contacts between Turkish and Syrian representatives at various levels is really on the agenda.
“Many countries, and of course Russia as a country that plays a significant role in the region, are interested in helping the two countries to establish relations. This is very important for the whole region.”

 


Sudan paramilitary chief ‘welcomes’ US-mediated ceasefire talks

Sudan paramilitary chief ‘welcomes’ US-mediated ceasefire talks
Updated 24 July 2024
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Sudan paramilitary chief ‘welcomes’ US-mediated ceasefire talks

Sudan paramilitary chief ‘welcomes’ US-mediated ceasefire talks
  • Ceasefire talks set to take place in Switzerland on August 14

PORT SUDAN: The commander of Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, at war with the army for over a year, agreed late Tuesday to ceasefire talks next month.

In a post on social media site X, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo said he “welcomed” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s invitation to negotiations.

“I declare our participation in the upcoming ceasefire talks on August 14, 2024, in Switzerland,” the paramilitary commander wrote.

“The talks in Switzerland aim to reach a nationwide cessation of violence, enabling humanitarian access to all those in need, and develop a robust monitoring and verification mechanism to ensure implementation of any agreement,” Blinken said.

Since April 2023, a brutal war has raged between Sudan’s regular military, under army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and his former deputy Dagalo’s RSF.

The conflict has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and uprooted more than 10 million people, including two million who have fled across borders, according to the United Nations.

Previous mediation attempts, including by the African Union, have failed to get the warring parties in the same room, as experts said both forces vied for the tactical advantage on the ground.

Indirect talks between the RSF and Sudanese military, held this month in Geneva by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s personal envoy for Sudan, Ramtane Lamamra, were called an “encouraging” first step by the UN.

The talks focused on humanitarian aid and protecting civilians, though neither side met directly with the other.

Both the RSF and the army have been repeatedly accused of war crimes including deliberately targeting civilians, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, and blocking humanitarian aid, while millions of Sudanese suffer on the brink of starvation.

The RSF has specifically been accused of ethnic cleansing, systematic sexual violence and rampant looting.


What is the human cost of Israel’s relentless pursuit of Hamas commanders in Gaza?

What is the human cost of Israel’s relentless pursuit of Hamas commanders in Gaza?
Updated 24 July 2024
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What is the human cost of Israel’s relentless pursuit of Hamas commanders in Gaza?

What is the human cost of Israel’s relentless pursuit of Hamas commanders in Gaza?
  • Hundreds of Palestinians have died in operations that Israeli forces say targeted Hamas fighters or aimed to free hostages
  • The civilian toll following Israel’s recent bombing of Al-Mawasi and Khan Younis has drawn international condemnation

LONDON: Israel’s military has killed dozens of Palestinian civilians and wounded hundreds more, including children, in its relentless pursuit of Hamas commanders in Gaza, despite designating many of its areas of operation as “safe zones.”

Palestinian health officials said on Monday that 16 civilians were killed in eastern Khan Younis under Israeli shelling, even after Israel issued new orders to evacuate some neighborhoods to keep the civilian population away from areas of combat.

This latest bloodshed followed Israel’s July 13 airstrike on Al-Mawasi camp, another designated safe zone in southern Gaza, which killed at least 90 Palestinians and wounded 300 others, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

Israel said the target of this strike was Mohammed Deif, head of Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, as well as Rafa Salama, commander of the group’s Khan Younis Brigade, whom Israel believes was a mastermind of the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas-led attack.

Denying reports of his death, a Hamas official told the AFP news agency following the strike that Deif was “well and directly overseeing” operations, but he provided no proof for the claim.

Meanwhile, Daniel Hagari, the spokesman for the Israeli military, has said “there are increasing signs that we succeeded in the elimination of Mohammed Deif.”

Smoke rises from Gaza, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict. (Reuters)

Speaking to Al-Arabiya TV channel on Friday, he said: “Rafa Salama was certainly eliminated; Mohammed Deif and Salama sat side by side during the strike. Hamas is hiding what happened to Deif.”

Herzi Halevi, Israel’s chief of the general staff, has also accused Hamas of “concealing the results” of the strike on a west Khan Younis compound, where both Deif and Salama were purportedly hiding.

Regardless of whether the strike on Al-Mawasi was successful or not, the attack on an area packed with civilians drew global condemnation, with observers accusing the Israeli military of violating international humanitarian law.

Josep Borrell Fontelles, the high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy, wrote on the social media platform X: “Wars have limits enshrined in international law; end can’t justify all means. We condemn the violation.”

He added: “Once again we call for access to independent investigations and accountability, and for an end to the appalling situation of innocent civilians in Gaza.”

On the day of the attack, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi “to express our serious concern about the recent civilian casualties in Gaza.”

Women react after Israeli bombardment as they take refuge at the Jaouni school. (AFP)

The deadly Al-Mawasi strike was not the first incident since the conflict began on Oct. 7 in which the Israeli military has been accused of disregarding the safety of civilians and violating international humanitarian law in the pursuit of Hamas commanders.

In the fighting since the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack, at least 38,900 Palestinians, including more than 13,000 children, have been killed, according to the UN Human Rights Office. The proportion of the dead who were combatants is a matter of dispute.

The Israeli army’s bombing campaign, which Israeli officials say is aimed at Hamas and not civilian targets, has also destroyed medical, sanitation, and educational infrastructure across the Palestinian enclave.

Last month, in an operation that rescued four hostages, the Israeli military killed and injured hundreds of Palestinians in the densely populated Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.

The Israeli military said there were “under 100” Palestinian casualties but was uncertain how many of them were “terrorists.”

But almost a quarter of the 142 killed in the operation were women and children, Al-Awda Hospital in Nuseirat told BBC Arabic’s “Gaza Today” show, adding that 250 others were injured.

Children walk past a destroyed classroom in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

Expressing “profound shock” at the impact on civilians in Nuseirat, UN spokesman Jeremy Laurence said the Israeli forces’ actions “seriously call into question whether the principles of distinction, proportionality, and precaution … were upheld.”

In March, the Israeli military mounted a raid on Gaza’s largest medical facility, Al-Shifa Hospital, where it claimed Hamas fighters and other Palestinian militants were hiding.

Some 3,000 people were sheltering in Al-Shifa at the time of Israel’s raid, Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry said. At least 1,500 Palestinians, including 13 children and 21 patients, were killed in the two-week raid, according to the Euro-Med Monitor, a nongovernmental organization headquartered in Geneva.

Israeli officials said that “over 200 terrorists” were killed in and around Al-Shifa, as well as hundreds detained, including several Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives.

It has been impossible to independently verify the reported numbers due to a lack of reporting access to Gaza.

Israeli soldiers travel in a military vehicle by the Israel-Gaza border. (Reuters)

Between July 8 and 12, Israel attacked six schools operated by the UN Relief and Works Agency, killing dozens of civilians sheltering in the area, before reportedly razing the UN agency’s headquarters in Gaza City on July 15.

Israel has accused local staff at UNRWA of participating in the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, prompting the UN agency to launch an internal investigation and several major donors, including the US, to suspend funding for its operation in Gaza and throughout the region.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini called Israel’s attack on his agency’s Gaza headquarters “another episode in the blatant disregard of international humanitarian law.”

In a post on X, he said: “UN facilities must be protected at all times. They must never be used for military or fighting purposes. Every war has rules. Gaza is no exception.”

In a separate post, Lazzarini stressed that “schools must never be used for fighting or military purposes by any party to the conflict.”

NOTABLE CIVILIAN CASUALTY EVENTS

• Oct. 7, 2023: 1,200 Israeli and other nationals killed in southern Israel, hundreds taken hostage, in Hamas-led attack.

• Oct. 31, 2023: 110+ Palestinians killed in Israeli strike targeting ‘senior Hamas commander’ in Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza.

• Feb. 29, 2024: 112 Palestinians waiting for aid killed, 760 more injured outside Gaza City amid Israeli gunfire and panic.

• April 1: 7 World Central Kitchen workers killed in Israeli strikes in violation of military procedures on convoy delivering aid in Gaza.

• May 27: 45+ Palestinians killed in Israeli strike targeting ‘two senior Hamas commanders’ in Rafah.

• June 9: 274 Palestinians killed in Israeli military raid that freed 4 hostages who were held in Nuseirat refugee camp.

• July 13: 90+ Palestinians killed, 300 wounded in Israeli airstrike targeting Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif in Al-Mawasi.

Source: Gaza Health Ministry, Israeli govt.

Warning that “all rules of war have been broken in Gaza,” he said: “The blatant and constant disregard of international humanitarian law continues unabated.”

Israel has consistently denied accusations that it targets civilian infrastructure, accusing Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups of using tunnels under Gaza’s hospitals to mount attacks and conceal weapons, thereby using the population as human shields.

Commenting on Israel’s conduct, a New York-based international lawyer, who asked to remain anonymous, told Arab News that in the Gaza war, “international law remains relevant as a framework for accountability and justice by providing mechanisms to hold perpetrators accountable for war crimes, genocide, and other atrocities.”

Palestinians walk on a street flooded with sewage water in Deir El-Balah. (AFP)

The International Criminal Court, which prosecutes individuals accused of war crimes, has made an attempt to hold “both parties to the conflict” accountable for alleged war crimes.

Israeli officials believe the ICC is likely to issue arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant within the next two weeks, Israeli media reported on July 17.

Karim Khan, ICC chief prosecutor, filed an application in May for arrest warrants against two Israeli and three Palestinian individuals suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Hamas commander Deif was among the Palestinians listed in the ICC’s arrest warrant, alongside Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, and Yahya Sinwar, head of the Islamist movement in Gaza.

The arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant accused them of using starvation as a tool of war, extermination, and deliberately attacking civilian populations, alongside other war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Khan said he had “reasonable grounds” to believe the five men bore “criminal responsibility” for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity during the war in Gaza.

The decision caused anger among the Hamas leadership, in Israel, and even in the US. US President Joe Biden described the move as “outrageous,” saying there was “no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.”

Hamas said the ICC’s prosecutor was “equating the victim with the executioner” and demanded the withdrawal of the allegations against its leaders.

Israel has consistently denied accusations that it targets civilian infrastructure. (AFP)

The New York-based international lawyer said that although international law and ongoing developments “create a foundation for addressing atrocities and fostering a more just and peaceful world,” its enforcement “can be inconsistent and subject to political influence.”

On July 19, the UN’s International Court of Justice at The Hague declared Israel’s occupation and annexation of the Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip, the West Banks and East Jerusalem, to be “unlawful” in a landmark ruling.

Stating that Israel’s discriminatory laws and policies against Palestinians violate the prohibition on racial segregation and apartheid, the ICJ also ordered Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories “as rapidly as possible.”

Israel has since Oct. 7 also mounted dozens of raids on the West Bank and East Jerusalem, killing at least 500 Palestinians, 143 of them children, according to UN figures.

The ICJ’s recent ruling, however, is a non-binding advisory opinion that was sought by the UN General Assembly in 2022, preceding the Israeli onslaught on Gaza and not directly linked to it.

Responding to the ruling, Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying: “The Jewish people are not occupiers in their own land — not in our eternal capital Jerusalem, nor in our ancestral heritage of Judea and Samaria (the occupied West Bank).

“No decision of lies in The Hague will distort this historical truth, and similarly, the legality of Israeli settlements in all parts of our homeland cannot be disputed.”

In December last year, South Africa brought a case against Israel before the ICJ, alleging it had committed genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Between July 8 and 12, Israel attacked six schools operated by the UN Relief and Works Agency, killing dozens of civilians sheltering in the area. (Reuters)

The ICJ issued a provisional ruling in January, modified in May, ordering Israel to “immediately halt its military offensive” and urging Hamas to release the hostages immediately and unconditionally.

Regardless, Israel has continued to bomb Rafah and other parts of the Gaza Strip where well over a million displaced Palestinians are sheltered, while Hamas is believed to still hold 116 hostages.

No amount of legal wrangling has brought the conflict closer to resolution.

Diplomats and region watchers continue to call on both sides to accept an immediate ceasefire, to exchange hostages and prisoners, and to actively pursue a solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the creation of an independent Palestinian state.