The four Palestinian children killed on the beach near Gaza City yesterday by Israeli artillery fire was an incident so full of tragedy and high emotion that it could end up being one of those turning points as we enter this 10-day conflict. The horrific killings might finally knock some sense into Israel to abandon its senseless, murderous onslaught on the Palestinians in Gaza. Or it could galvanise Hamas even more as it battles this unrelenting Israeli killing machine.
The Israeli military said it was “carefully investigating” the incident, adding that “based on preliminary results, the target of this strike was Hamas terrorist operatives”. It is difficult to fathom how four little boys — cousins aged nine to 11 and playing football on the beach when they were hit by the airstrike — could be described as terrorist operatives. And as for the investigation, Israel never allows a third party to question its actions; it investigates itself, like a killer who puts himself on trial and after interrogating himself, finds himself innocent. Something which, of course, never happens, not even in the world of make believe.
To Israel, these young boys whose funerals sparked grief and anger as they were buried in the sand they had been playing on, are the collateral damage that comes with the territory, part of the package of 230 Palestinians left dead so far by Israel’s military operation and who the United Nations says are mostly civilians.
Israel’s stated objective when it launched its F-15 fighter jets, AH-64 Apache helicopters, Delilah missiles, IAI Heron-1 drones and Jericho II missiles on 8 July was to halt Palestinian rocket attacks. To reach this goal, Israel has, in addition to the killings, maimed thousands more, destroyed at least 1,370 homes in Gaza and has displaced more than 18,000 people. At the same time, one — just one — Israeli has been killed by almost entirely ineffective missiles that are supposedly causing havoc, fright and panic within Israel.
But the so-called dread that Israeli citizens are feeling now is no greater than the dread felt by thousands of Palestinians as they try to withstand this Israeli blitzkrieg. The fear Israelis are supposedly experiencing is no greater than the fear felt by Palestinian women and children exposed to this ferocious, brutal assault. The trepidation Israelis feel is certainly less than that felt by Gaza residents who are visited by missile knocks on their roofs and who own no Iron Dome that can blast Israeli rockets out of the sky. Israeli apprehension is more than matched by Palestinian fear as they experience hundreds of scary sorties by the Israeli Air Force that end in destruction and the death of innocents.
Again at the time of writing, a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Hamas called for by the UN has begun in the Gaza Strip. As people rush to get supplies to stock themselves up, the big question is what will happen after the cease-fire ends? It has been reported endlessly, at least in the West, that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is acting with restraint and is loath to escalate. However, if Netanyahu really was interested in a cease-fire and more so a lasting peace, then he would have seriously pursued diplomatic negotiations now and during the US-led peace talks that fell apart in April, ultimately because of mounting Israeli settlement building which are swallowing up whole chunks of land the Palestinians own and which they seek to build their future state upon.
Netanyahu did not pursue negotiations, showing clearly that he really is much more interested in confrontation. Netanyahu believes there is a permanent gain to be made from this assault on Gaza and that repeated operations will wear Hamas down. He precludes any form of negotiations that have the slightest hint of a two-state solution. His ethos is might, that this offensive should after time lead to another offensive, then on to the next one, perhaps even a ground invasion, until Hamas and all of Gaza, and who knows, maybe all Palestinians, succumb.
Israel hopes that Protective Edge will give it a few years of relative peace, and restore normality for a time. But when Palestinians suffer on their side of the wall, Israelis pay a price on their side as well.
Two years since operation Pillar of Defence and five years after Cast Lead, there comes yet another Israeli codename for its onslaught in Gaza: Protective Edge.
Operation Protective Edge started and will end like all previous operations – giving Israel no protection and no edge.