Collective Punishment of Wanton Violence and Destruction Against Gaza Civilians is Unacceptable
It appears that the 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire truce that was negotiated by the UN and the US has collapsed; the ceasefire had held for only two hours.
According to the Haaretz, two Gaza soldiers were spotted near "near the shaft of an infiltration tunnel" and were apparently shot. This news was reported one minute before the cease-fire went into effect (i.e. 8 am Israeli time). It is unclear when or where exactly this incident occurred, and whether it was related to the later reports of an incident at 9.30 am where two Israeli soldiers were killed, and one was allegedly captured by Gaza soldiers.
7:59 A.M. An IDF paratroopers unit opened fire overnight at two Gaza militants who were spotted standing near the shaft of an infiltration tunnel. Direct hits were reported. In addition, IDF forces uncovered and destroyed two other tunnel shafts. (Gili Cohen)
1:36 P.M. IDF soldier missing in Gaza, feared taken captive.Gaza militants opened fire at IDF troops operating in the southern Gaza Strip at 9:30 A.M., and it is feared an Israeli soldier has been taken captive by Gaza militants, the IDF Spokesman says.
What has been verified by independent sources was that the Israeli military has resumed shelling in the Gaza area of Rafah, with Palestinian casualties (some 53 died), and it looks set to continue.
The Israeli's Justice Minister warned on her Facebook: “Hamas paid and will continue pay a heavy price. And if it wasn’t sufficiently clear to anyone yet, now the world knows who’s responsible for the destruction and the blood of civilians in Gaza.”
This could be more Israeli posturing before pulling out IDF ground troops from Gaza unilaterally, and without agreeing to any cease-fire demands from the Palestinian side.
Or Israel could use this incident as a justification for continuing to kill more Palestinians, albeit at a safer distance through air strikes instead of risking its ground troops.
Either scenario does not bode well for the Palestinian civilians, and merely reinforces the status quo - Gaza remaining under a horrific and unsustainable siege (one that has been in place since 2007).
The world's super-power is clearly unwilling to do what it takes to enforce an immediate cease-fire. It is occupied over the dilemma of providing for one of its "best friends in the world" by giving Israel $225 million to boost its Iron Dome system and ensuring that its American "children have a future" by not increasing America's debt. We will see which priority wins out eventually.
When Obama demanded an immediate cease-fire last week during the massacres in Shujaiyya, it was promptly ignored by Israel.
International Flotilla of Only Women and Children: Break the Siege in Gaza
What can people of conscience do then? Besides the boycotts, prayer vigils and speaking out against the wanton violence?
Over the last few days, there was some excitement over the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH)'s announcement that it would send another flotilla packed with medical supplies, generators and prefab homes to Gaza later this year. It reportedly was seeking armed protection from the Turkish army and the UN. IHH had sent in a similar flotilla in 2010, but it was raided by the IDF. Nine activists on board the ship were shot and killed by IDF commandos. The flotilla's aim to break the siege then was unsuccessful.
A recent report claims that IHH will apparently not be sending in a second flotilla. The report claims this agreement was reached after Israel agreed to allow Turkey to fly in aid to Gaza (this is yet to be verified by independent sources).
However, the flotilla idea is nevertheless an idea worth looking at, perhaps with some tweaks. A second flotilla sent in at this time would signal to Israel that the international community will not stand for wanton violence and destruction against a civilian population. The impact on children and women have been devastating (40% of the Gaza population is under 14 years of age).
What better way for the world to show its peace-loving stance, then by sending its own women and children in an international flotilla to Gaza at this crucial time?
In the first flotilla, the passengers were mostly international activists, and volunteers from around the world, including men.
Sending only women and children from around the world (perhaps apart from male crew needed to steer the ship) can be a symbolic act - paying tribute to the scores of innocent women and children affected by Israel's collective punishment on Gaza.
Having only women and children passengers on board the ship also leaves the passengers free from being accused by the IDF as being potentially dangerous (as happened with the first flotilla). Journalists and independent observers should board the ship and check it to ensure only legitimate aid and supplies are carried (i.e. no weapons).
Admittedly, this also leaves the women and children passengers completely vulnerable to potential IDF attacks, just as the the women and children of Gaza are open to attacks. But that itself is a huge symbolic statement, and Israel would find it hard pressed to attack a ship of only women and children, especially one that is represented by all of the countries in this world. One that would be watched by everyone in the world.
Since international law deems that an attempt by a state-sponsored organization to break a blockade by another sovereign state can be viewed as an act of war against the latter state, then this initiative should be driven by women and children that represent as many countries in the world as possible - A peace initiative spearheaded by individual women and children of the world FOR the women and children of Gaza.
If diplomacy has not broken the siege of Gaza for years now, and cannot stop the wanton bloodshed, maybe it is time for the rest of us - people of conscience - to step in and act.
Add your own ideas, start talking, and spread it.