Headlines: Distant Hope for Gaza

Revisit the destruction that happened over the summer in Gaza as a result of an Israeli campaign to root out terrorism in Gaza.

Over the summer, Israel and Palestine entered a 50-day conflict. During this time, many Gazan homes were destroyed and civilians were killed, as human rights violations occurred on both sides. Since a cease-fire was declared in August, humanitarian efforts for the damaged areas have been scarce.

While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict goes back thousands of years, 1947 can serve as a starting point for the current conflict in the area. In 1947, Britain ended its occupation of the area and two states, Isreal and what is now Palestine, were created. It was decided that the capital city, Jerusalem, would be controlled by the United Nations (UN); this has not really happened, though, and the UN has little control in the area. Since then, Israel has expanded its borders as a defense against further attack, and Palestine has been split into two disconnected areas, the West Bank and a 25 mile area along the Mediterranean Sea called the Gaza Strip. The two nations have waged attacks on each other since then. Things took a new turn, though, in 2006 when the Palestineans had their first free elections for Palestinian National Authority. The party, Hamas, a Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, won the election, beating the previous leading party, Fatah. Hamas is responsible for numerous attacks on Israel and for killing Israeli civilians, but is also responsible for building much of the infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools and orphanages in Palestine. Since the elections, attacks have worsened as Israel has tried to get Hamas out of power.

In 2012, the Fatah-Hamas Doha CC was signed and supported by the European Union, which viewed it as a step toward an eventual Israeli–Palestinian peace deal. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister, disapproved of the agreement, saying, “It is either peace with Hamas or peace with Israel. You can’t have them both.” In the same year, a ceasefire was declared, which both countries repeatedly violated. In 2014, Hamas and Fatah formed a Palestinian Unity Government to control Palestine. In July 2014, Hamas kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers who were in the West Bank. This incident would act as a catalyst for the current Israel–Gaza conflict.

In July 2014, Israel launched “Operation Protective Edge” in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in order to stop rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, which had increased after Hamas’ kidnappings. Seven weeks of Israeli aerial bombardment, Palestinian rocket attacks and ground fighting followed, and resulted in the deaths of more than 2,200 people, most of whom were Gazan, many of whom were civilians and military personnel. A ceasefire was declared August 26. Attacks and civilian murders have continued on both sides since then but on a much smaller scale.

Hundreds of human rights violations are estimated to have occurred during the conflict. According to Amnesty International, Hamas kept many of its weapons and supplies in schools and hospitals, then urged residents not to leave even after the Israeli military warned people in the area to evacuate. The areas were bombed by Israel during the attacks. Although the Israeli authorities warned civilians in Gaza to evacuate, some have asserted that their actions do not constitute an “effective warning” under international humanitarian law. Israelis have also been accused of using Palestinian civilians as “human shields,” though no evidence of this accusation has been found.

According to BBC, 18,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged, along with 111 UN installations, leaving over 100,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip homeless. 138 schools and 26 health facilities were damaged in Gaza. The humanitarian reaction to the conflict and resulting displacement has been anemic. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has provided shelter in old school buildings for displaced Gazans. Hospitals in Gaza are now ill-equipped to help people and the prices of food, fuel and other supplies have risen dramatically since the conflict.

According to international law, all states must cease transfer of weapons and military equipment to all sides of the conflict until there is no substantial risk for human rights violations. While this action helped to prevent further damage, it also made humanitarian efforts difficult. Oct. 12, the UN held an international conference concerning the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. There, Palestinian and Israeli officials agreed to allow building materials to enter Gaza.

The UN announced Nov. 10 that it has established an internal board of inquiry to look into events that occurred during the conflict. The board will investigate specific incidents in which death or damage was done to “United Nations premises.” Reconstruction costs are estimated to be about $7 billion dollars, according to Reuters.

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