Sunday, 05 November 2023 19:13

Israel hits civilian infrastructure as ceasefire calls grow

The Israel Defense Forces have attacked multiple civilian targets in the last week — including refugee camps and an ambulance convoy — killing more than 200 Palestinians, according to government sources in Gaza, as Israel prosecutes its war against Hamas.

The IDF targeted the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, which has a registered population of just over 116,000, at least three times in the last week, as well as Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances near the Al Shifa hospital. The IDF claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they were necessary to destroy Hamas’ tunnel-based infrastructure, come amid increasing calls for a ceasefire and mass pro-Palestinian protests in cities throughout the world.

The IDF claims that it has thus far killed 10 Hamas commanders responsible for attacks against Israeli troops. Hamas is responsible for the devastating October 7 attacks, which killed more than 1,400 people in Israel, mostly civilians. Hamas is still holding around 240 hostages from 35 different countries, including the US, in Gaza. But the full-throated support for Israel from the international community that the attacks initially brought has faded somewhat as the humanitarian crisis has grown in Gaza. Political leaders, including US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have both called for “pauses” in the fighting to facilitate humanitarian aid deliveries and civilian evacuation in the territory. Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have dismissed the calls to prioritize civilian safety in their operations, saying the attacks in Gaza will continue until Hamas is defeated and the hostages are returned.

The United Nations has condemned both Hamas’ October 7 attack and Israeli attacks on Gaza, with the UN High Commission for Human Rights warning that Israeli airstrikes on Jabaliya “are disproportionate attacks that could amount to war crimes.”

The IDF also targeted a convoy of ambulances outside the al-Shifa hospital in northern Gaza Friday, claiming that its intelligence indicated Hamas militants were using the ambulances. Israel maintains that the hospital covers Hamas’ underground command center, which Dr. Medhat Abbas, director general of the Gaza Health Ministry, has denied.

The Bureij and Al-Maghazi refugee camps were also bombed, on Sunday and Saturday respectively, but the IDF has not commented on those bombings or claimed responsibility. The Al-Maghazi camp was also attacked on Thursday.

Global protests show growing demand for a ceasefire

Since the beginning of the war, Israeli strikes have killed nearly 9,500 Palestinians, including nearly 4,000 children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. On Friday protesters in Washington, DC, Berlin, London, and several other major cities gathered to call for a ceasefire and condemn governments, including the US, that provide Israel with major military support. Protesters in Washington, DC laid out small white body bags with the name of Palestinian children killed in the airstrikes and marched with a banner displaying the names of people killed in the airstrikes.

The Washington march served as a sharp rebuke of Biden, whose polling numbers among Arab Americans have dropped precipitously since the beginning of the war, with many saying they will not vote for him a second time. An October poll from the Arab American Institute shows Biden’s support among that group of voters plummeting from 59 percent in 2020 to just 17 percent. That disapproval could prove a serious barrier to Biden’s chances for re-election just a year from now; as Axios pointed out, the Midwest, and Michigan in particular, were crucial to Biden’s 2020 win. Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan have some of the largest Arab-American populations in the country — and their fury over Biden’s support for Israel could present a serious problem for him in 2024.

On Sunday , Blinken met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who called for an immediate ceasefire. Abbas and the Palestinian Authority nominally control the West Bank, where IDF soldiers and armed Israeli settlers have killed 100 Palestinians since October 7. The US has rejected calls for an immediate ceasefire, with Blinken saying that a ceasefire would “leave Hamas in place to regroup and repeat attacks.”

Netanyahu on Sunday forcefully rejected calls for a ceasefire. “There will be no ceasefire without the return of the hostages. This should be completely removed from the lexicon,” he said at Israel’s Ramon Air Base. “We say this to our friends and to our enemies. We will simply continue until we defeat them. We have no alternative.”

Blinken and Abbas met in the occupied West Bank as part of the US push to secure increased humanitarian access for Gaza and encourage planning for the Palestinian territories’ post-conflict governance. Though neither the meeting nor Blinken’s visit to the West Bank was announced until after he had left, Palestinian protesters turned out to condemn the Biden administration’s support for Israel, the Associated Press reports.

Though Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza has just started, the IDF likely has limited time to accomplish its goals of destroying Hamas’ military and governing capabilities and returning the hostages, James Jeffrey, former special envoy to the International Coalition to Defeat ISIS told Vox in an October interview. According to Jeffrey, Israel must “really care, as a strategic military issue, [about] civilian casualties and humanitarian issues because that will determine how long you have American support. They only have so much time, even if it’s an existential battle.”