Renewed conflict rages in Gaza

Israel continues air and ground attacks in the Gaza Strip, pursuing the Hamas militants who have fired 3,278 rockets and mortars into Israel just in 2008.

Though Israel officially handed off control of the Gaza Strip to the PLO, most aspects of life depend on Israeli military policies. Since Israel controls the sea, air, and borders of the Gaza Strip, it controls the residents’ supplies of fuel and medicine, electricity privileges, and commerce. Anti-Israeli militants use this as a justification for firing crude rockets and mortars into residential neighborhoods on a daily basis. Egypt brokered a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas June 2008 that was supposed to ease restrictions like the complete siege of Gaza. There were periodic incidents where other hardcore militants fired mortars and rockets into Israel, but Hamas urged them to abide by the cease-fire. However, Hamas refused to renew the ceasefire when Israel failed to uphold its end by drawing down its siege; Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups renewed its haphazard shelling of Israel’s cities and villages.

Israel’s objective is to find and destroy the rocket and mortar attackers by deploying air and special forces units to “fair” targets, meaning targets believed to be set-up and manufacturing sites. One highly attack highly publicized attack shows an infrared recording of what appeared to be militants loading trucks with rockets; after a few minutes of observation, the area erupts in fire as a missile strikes the trucks. The Israeli military used this attack to show how accurate its intelligence and actual missile strikes are; however, an Israeli humanitarian organization found that the target was actually a truck loaded with oxygen tanks. The owner of the business said his son and seven workers were loading oxygen tanks into the truck since his workshop was damaged from previous Israeli airstrikes. Israel maintains it was a rocket manufacturing site, while Hamas uses the incident as further proof of Israel’s negligence. Either way, the propaganda war is severely distorting the reality in Gaza, with both sides appealing to the international public outcry for both sides.

The international political pressure is intensifying as well. The Arab States (21 countries of the middle east and northern Africa) have all engaged politically, agreeing that a U.N. mandate is not the best way; rather, they should all pressure Hamas and Israel to return to a truce. Nearby nations are taking a heavy role: with Egypt accepting many wounded and mediating, and Turkey (who is one of Israel’s closest allies) denouncing Israeli actions and increasing its diplomatic measures.

Meanwhile, the U.N. is much more internally conflicted than the most affected nations. Of only two acts on the conflict, the most recent resolution that called for an immediate and durable ceasefire and safe passage of humanitarian aid into Gaza, while preventing arms smuggling to militants. Both Israel and Hamas rejected it. Israel says it fails to recognize that militants would continue to fire on civilians in Israel, and Hamas says that it is not in the best interest of the Palestinians. The U.S. has both attempted blocking and abstaining from action regarding the conflict, citing similar reasons to that of Israel’s. Israel did agree to briefly hold its attacks in some areas while U.N. humanitarian aid and Red Cross convoys tended to the wounded, recovered the dead, and distributed food. Some aid did pass through, but after an incident where an Israeli unit fired on a convoy, the U.N. halted its aid missions.

Most ground forces are in the northern Gaza area, while it also continues operations on the Egyptian border where smuggling via tunnels is undermining the disarmament effort. Gaza militants continue to launch attacks while Israeli airstrikes destroy rocket and mortar manufacturing sites daily. Journalists and other media sources are not allowed into Gaza, leaving the humanitarian conflict indecisive, the world’s only knowledge of the situation to Israeli intelligence reports, and the Arab nations’ increasingly raging populations.

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