UK & World News

  • 21 July 2014, 9:12

No Sign Of A Gaza Truce Despite Bloodshed

Despite the extraordinary bloodshed in the Gaza district of Shajai'ya, there is no indication it will be a game-changer.

With at least 100 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers killed over the weekend, the prospect of a truce between Israel and Hamas remains elusive.

A short humanitarian ceasefire in Shajai'ya, to allow emergency workers access, was only partially and sporadically observed, with accusations on both sides that the other had broken fire first.

If progress has been made in Qatar, now acting as the Hamas "communication channel" for meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, it has not been made public.

The Arab League has condemned the attack on Shajai'ya as a "war crime", the Palestinian Liberation Organisation describing it as "nothing short of a deliberate massacre".

But in the most part, while bemoaning the civilian casualties and calling for an immediate ceasefire, Western leaders have remained supportive of Israel's operation.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said "our hearts go out to the Palestinian people trapped in Gaza, suffering appalling losses" before adding "but the fact is Israel has a right to protect itself against attack and Hamas has been using those areas to launch rocket attacks systematically".

In a Fox News interview, US Secretary of State John Kerry said he backed Israel's right to defend itself, and berated Hamas for "stubbornly" refusing a ceasefire.

But in a moment captured in the studio before the interview, Mr Kerry appeared to be privately critical of the way Israel was conducting its operation.

Talking candidly by phone to an aide, Kerry said sarcastically "it's a hell of a pinpoint operation, a hell of a pinpoint operation ... we've got to get over there ... I think we ought to go tonight, it's crazy to be sitting around".

A similar point was made by former Foreign Minister Alastair Burt MP, who told Sky News: "The more killings of civilians goes on, the more children are injured, the more horrendous it is,  the more difficult it gets for Israel to explain its position, whatever the justification may be."

But if levels of international concern are gradually growing, the Israeli government remains convinced its actions are justified.

Speaking to Sky's Dermot Murnaghan, Israel's economy minister Naftali Bennett said: "Sometimes in wars there is collateral damage, but I'm not going to ask forgiveness for defending my four children that had rockets shot at home this very morning.

"What Hamas is doing is effectively self-genocide.

"They are deliberately sending their women and children to stand next to missile launchers in order for them to get killed."

Hamas refutes such suggestions, saying it is a resistance movement fighting against an oppressor that targets civilian areas to terrify the population into submission.

It is clear neither side will end this on their own.

Until pressure increases from the West on the one hand, and from regional players like Qatar, Turkey and Egypt on the other, hopes of an end to the deepening chaos and bloodshed appear remote.

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