In ruins under bombardment

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip celebrate a difficult festival of sacrifice. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu dissolves war cabinet

by Karin Leukefeld*, Damascus

The Israeli army continued its attacks in large parts of the Palestinian Gaza Strip during the highest Muslim feast, Eid-al-Adha, which began on Sunday, 16 June. Once again refugee camps, residential buildings, and shelters for displaced persons were targeted.
  The Feast of Sacrifice is the highest holiday for Muslims around the world and marks the beginning of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. Millions of Muslims are expected to make this journey at least once in their lives, provided they are financially able and in good health. For believers from Gaza, this is an unattainable endeavour. Photographers there spread pictures of people praying in the rubble. The war continues.
  The Palestinian news agency WAFA reported air strikes in the Tal as-Sultan neighbourhood of Rafah and in the Al-Shati refugee camp, west of Gaza City. In Al-Mughraqa, in the interior of the Gaza Strip, residential buildings were destroyed by the Israeli military. The Qatari news channel al-Jazeera reported that the attacks on the area of Tal as-Sultan, also known as the Saudi neighbourhood, were carried out from the air, from the sea and with artillery. Eight Israeli soldiers had been killed there the previous day in an attack by the Al-Qassam Brigades on their armoured vehicle. While Western media focused on the military side of the attack and analysed the events, disseminated names and photos of the killed Israeli soldiers and experts weighed up the military situation for Israel and Hamas in interviews – at least 28 Palestinians were killed in their homes in Rafah by the Israeli attacks. Dozens of homes went up in flames. The Israeli army had already bombed many areas in the south-west of Gaza City on the eve of Eid. The Israeli navy bombed areas in the residential neighbourhoods of Tel al-Hawa and Sheikh Ijlin. In the bloody liberation operation by Israeli anti-terrorist commandos on 8 June in the Nuseirat refugee camp alone, 274 people were killed and around 800 injured. According to the UN Office for Emergency Relief (OCHA), 142 Palestinians were killed and 396 injured by Israeli attacks between 10 and 14 June. The figures are based on information from the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza.
  The Israeli armed forces claimed to have killed fighters, defused booby traps and destroyed weapons depots during the attacks.

UN experts
condemn ‘excessive violence’

In a statement, UN human rights experts have condemned “the outrageous disregard for the Palestinian civilian population during the Israeli military operation in Nuseirat” on 8 June. Survivors reported that “the streets of Nuseirat were littered with the bodies of dead and injured people lying in pools of blood, including children and women. The walls were covered with body parts scattered from many explosions and bombed houses”. The injured were lying in the corridors of hospitals waiting for medical help, the UN experts said, pointing out that the health sector had been largely destroyed by the war. While they were “relieved at the safe return of four Israeli hostages, [...] the Israeli attack on the Nuseirat camp is abhorrent in its excessive force and devastating impact”.
  The UN experts welcomed the latest UN Security Council Resolution 2735 as ‘late’, but hoped that it would pave a ‘way out of the horror’. They reiterated their call for an arms embargo to be imposed on Israel in order to stop the violence against Palestinians by the Israeli armed forces and settlers. At the end of May, 50 UN experts had already called on the Security Council to impose sanctions and an arms embargo on Israel.

The number of people
killed is increasing every day

Since the beginning of the Israeli military operation in the south of the Gaza Strip along the border with Egypt (May 6, 2024), UN organisations have evacuated a million people from Rafah and accommodated them in schools and tent camps in the interior of the Gaza Strip. There is hunger and the World Health Organisation (WHO) is warning about the spread of infectious diseases. There is a lack of drinking water for people and gasoline to run pumps and fans. According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, the number of Palestinians killed since the war began on October 7 has risen to 37,337 and there are 85,299 injured. At least 7,000 people are still missing under the debris. Two thirds of those killed are women and children. The numbers are snapshots and increase each day.
  The Israeli army puts the number of soldiers killed in Israel and Gaza at over 600 during the same period. Accordingly, 299 died in Gaza and the number of wounded in the Gaza War is given as 1940. Status of 14 June, at least eight more Israeli soldiers have been killed since.

USA pier out of service again

The World Food Program (WFP) announced that it would temporarily not use the pier installed by the USA and Israel on the coast of Gaza for security reasons. The humanitarian organisations and aid workers are not safe when they pick up the relief supplies from the pier. The camp set up on the beach is also not safe. The US Navy has since dismantled the pier and towed it to the Israeli port of Ashdod. The Central Command of the US Armed Forces (CENTCOM), which is leading the operation, indicated new damage caused by high seas as the reason. The safety of the soldiers involved has the ‘top priority’, it said. As soon as the sea has calmed down, the pier will be towed back.
  Other sources reported that the pier and depository came under fire from the Palestinian side. After the bloody liberation of four Israeli hostages from the Nuseirat refugee camp, Israel was accused of using the pier and its approaches for the military operation. A helicopter carrying the hostages was parked on the beach not far from the pier. The chairman of the US organisation Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, called for an international investigation. Israel rejects this.
  The relief supplies that were recently landed via the pier are currently remaining on the beach, a Pentagon spokeswoman said. The estimated cost of building the pier was around 230 million US-Dollar (around 212 million Euro).

Limited ceasefire for road section

The Israeli army has now announced that it will open the Kerem Shalom border crossing in the Egypt-Israel-Palestine/Gaza border triangle every day so that aid supplies can reach the Gaza Strip. The approved route leads from this border crossing to the European Hospital in the northeast, where the relief supplies will be stored. The Israeli army speaks of a ‘tactical limited ceasefire’ for this route, which will apply daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time.
  Scott Anderson from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East (UNWRA) expressed the hope that helpers would be able to move freely during this time in order to “bring and distribute urgently needed help to the population”. The people of Gaza need food, water, medicine and tents. He hoped that all sides would adhere to the ceasefire. Both the right-wing extremist ministers in his government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself reject the ceasefire. It also expressly does not apply to Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip, where attacks continue. The army has announced that it wants to control, i.e. occupy, the entire area along the Gaza/Egypt border, the ‘Philadelphia Corridor’.
  The Rafah border crossing into Egypt remains closed. To reinforce his [Netanyahu’s] position, the Israeli army destroyed and burned the reception hall on the Palestinian side of the border crossing. A reporter from Gaza reported for al-Jazeera that the Rafah border crossing had been under attack for 40 days and was now finally destroyed. Israeli forces left a wake of devastation in the east, centre and west of the city. Residential buildings were systematically blown up.

New UN resolution
so far without consequences

The ceasefire plan presented by US President Joe Biden at the beginning of June, which was adopted in the UN Security Council as Resolution 2735 on Wednesday with Russia abstaining, has so far had no consequences. The plan, which allegedly came from Israel, is denied and rejected by the Netanyahu government, while Hamas has explicitly referred positively to the UN resolution with some changes. The chairman of the Hamas Politburo, Ismail Haniyeh, made this clear again in a speech at the Feast of the Sacrifice on Sunday.
  Submitting the supposedly Israeli, but actually own plan for a ceasefire in Gaza to the UN Security Council for a vote was seen as an imposition by many representatives of the UN body after the USA had blocked every previous initiative for an end to the war in Gaza in the Security Council. Russia abstained from voting, while the other council members agreed, in order to finally achieve a ceasefire with the consent of the USA after eleven unsuccessful resolutions.
  Shortly afterwards, their Foreign Minister Antony Blinken travelled to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Qatar with the UN resolution in his pocket in order to urge Hamas negotiators to accelerate the negotiations. They had already presented a similar three-phase plan at the beginning of the year, which was rejected by Israel and the USA. However, Resolution 2735 leaves Israel a big loophole. Thus phase 2 should only eventuate when Israel has agreed. Observers agree that this will not happen as long as Netanyahu remains head of government. He rejects the plan and continually repeats ‘total victory’ and the elimination of Hamas as the war goal.
  Gideon Levy from the Haaretz newspaper said in an interview with al-Jazeera English, which is banned in Israel, that Israelis were wondering how long this war should go on and why. “It could be an endless war, a war of attrition […]. We will never achieve that ridiculous ‘total victory’ that Prime Minister Netanyahu is talking about.”

War Cabinet dissolved

On Monday it was announced that Netanyahu had dissolved the war cabinet. The committee was founded shortly after October 7, 2023, to demonstrate ‘national unity’. It consisted of Netanyahu, War Minister Yoav Gallant, Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz, and former army chief Gadi Eisenkot. After Gantz and Eisenkot left the committee because Netanyahu refused to present a plan for the Gaza Strip after the end of the war, the government’s two legal foreign ministers, Itamar Ben-Gvir (National Security) and Bezalel Smotrich (Finance), apparently tried to join it, according to unconfirmed reports. It is assumed that Netanyahu wants to rely on a circle of selected advisors in the future.  •

First published: Zeitung vum Letzebuerger Vollek of 18 June 2024;
reprinted with kind permission of the author

Karin Leukefeld is a freelance journalist born in Stuttgart in 1954. She studied ethnology, Islamic studies and political science and has reported from the Middle East for various daily and weekly newspapers as well as ARD radio. Accredited in Syria since 2010, she regularly travels to the country and reports from the ground. She has published several books on the Middle East, especially on Syria.

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