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MIDDLE EAST

Early Morning Ceasefire Brings Halt To Violent Israel-Palestine Exchange

IDF forces prepare themselves before entering Gaza in 2014. (Photo: IDF)
IDF forces prepare themselves before entering Gaza in 2014. (Photo: IDF)

The weekend violence was the worst between Gaza and Israel since a 50 days war in July – August 2014.

A ceasefire seems to have been agreed to between Israel and Palestinian militants after a bloody weekend war saw a reported 23 people in the Gaza strip and 4 in Israel die after exchanges of artillery fire. According to multiple reports, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) lifted restrictions on residents living near Gaza, along with reopening roads. The controversial fundamentalist organization Hamas used their radio station to report that a ceasefire had been agreed to.

The weekend violence was the worst between Gaza and Israel since a 50 days war in July – August 2014 which saw 2,251 (1,462 civilians) Palestinians killed along with 73 (6 civilians) Israeli’s killed.

The United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict has gathered substantial information pointing to the possible commission of war crimes by both Israel and Palestinian armed groups.

“The extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented and will impact generations to come,” the chair of the commission, Justice Mary McGowan Davis told a press briefing today, adding that, “there is also on-going fear in Israel among communities who come under regular threat”.

The 2014 hostilities saw a huge increase in firepower used in Gaza, with more than 6,000 airstrikes by Israel and approximately 50,000 tank and artillery shells fired. In the 51 day operation, 1,462 Palestinian civilians were killed, a third of them children. Palestinian armed groups fired 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars towards Israel in July and August 2014, killing 6 civilians and injuring at least 1,600.

How The Fighting Began Over The Weekend

According to Reuters, the weekend escalation began on Friday when the IDF killed two Palestinian protestors in a clash at the Gaza border and two Hamas militants via airstrikes which the IDF claimed were in response to Palestinian gunshots that injured two Israeli soldiers.

Saturday saw an escalating exchange of airstrikes and rockets between Gaza and Israel. Reports state by the time of the ceasefire taking effect on Monday morning, IDF aircraft and tanks conducted more than 350 coordinated strikes in Gaza. Militants from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired an approximate 700 mortars and rockets into Israel.

Alex Rossi from Sky News believes conflict is likely to continue in the region, “The humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip are only getting worse after more than a decade of blockade and that will simply lead to further unrest.” Alex would detail how Hamas blames Israel for not living up to commitments to bring stability, while Israel blames the violence on ‘inner faction rivalries’ within Palestine before solemnly adding, “…However, any truce will be extremely fragile and it maybe that we are now heading into a summer of violence unless the underlying problems are addressed.”

The Casualties

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported four Israelis and 25 Palestinians were killed in the exchange over the weekend. Multiple reports stated two pregnant Palestinian women were killed, along with several babies during the air raids conducted by the IDF.  Al Jazeera reported on the identities of the victims of war.

Ibtessam Abu Arar, aunt of Siba, the 14-month old infant who died in the Israeli raid, said: “The Israeli plane fired a missile near the house and the shrapnel entered the house and hit the poor baby.” Siba was being held in the lap of her pregnant aunt Falestine Abu Arar, 37, who was also struck. She died from her wounds hours later, the health ministry said in a statement.

Their reporting would mention casualties of artillery fire from Israel on Saturday, “At least three Palestinians, including the woman, an infant and a 22-year-old man were killed in the air raids, the health ministry in Gaza said, while 13 others were wounded.” They would also detail those injured by mortar fire from Gaza, “Shrapnel from the Gaza rockets meanwhile wounded two Israelis; one of them was an 80-year-old woman.”

While the fighting has come to a stop briefly, the tension in the region has boiled over into armed conflict on a consistent basis throughout the year. Unless a drastic change in policy occurs, it’s likely fighting will start up several weeks from now.

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Walter Yeates

Walter Yeates is a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter who embedded at Standing Rock with military Veterans and First People in December 2016. He covers a range of topics at Citizen Truth and is open for tips and suggestions. Twitter: www.twitter.com/GentlemansHall or www.twitter.com/SmoothJourno Muckrack: https://muckrack.com/walteryeates

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