Saturday , February 24 2024

Death and Israel’s search for ‘total victory’


JERUSALEM/ GAZA CITY: I’d rather be writing this story in the Gaza Strip, not Jerusalem. After many years of covering wars, since El Salvador in 1989, I’m convinced that nothing beats first-hand reporting.

Unfortunately, in this terrible war, international journalists can’t do that. Israel and Egypt, the two countries that control Gaza’s borders, do not want us in there, reporting freely. Israel allows some closely supervised visits with its army. I have been on only one, back in November.

Since we cannot get in, we rely on Palestinian journalists who can’t get out. I have huge admiration for their courage and dedication to truthful reporting.

Fortunately, in the modern world it is impossible to seal a war off. That is because ordinary people can film with a phone and with a few clicks, post their pictures online. We can talk to them too, if communications haven’t been cut. Israel and Hamas upload their own videos. Everything must be verified and checked, especially now that artificial intelligence is much easier to use.

With all those constraints in mind, this is how the war looks on a February day from Jerusalem.

Just after Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October, Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defence minister, announced: “We are putting a complete siege on Gaza… No electricity, no food, no water, and no gas, it’s all closed.”

“We are fighting human animals,” he added, “and we are acting accordingly.”

Under pressure from US President Joe Biden, Israel now allows limited supplies of food, water and medicine into Gaza but it continues to restrict the entry of relief supplies into Gaza and the movement of relief convoys inside the Strip.

Israel claims what goes in is adequate. International aid groups say on top of the fact that innocent civilians in Gaza are being killed and wounded, they are also being starved and deprived of medical treatment. The Geneva Convention says that punishing civilians for crimes they did not commit amounts to collective punishment, which is a war crime.

The Americans have since 7 October urged Israel to respect the laws of war in Gaza, specifically to stop killing so many Palestinian civilians. The fact that American officials, from President Biden downwards, keep repeating and strengthening their criticisms shows they believe Israel has ignored them.

On his visit here this week, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued his most stinging public criticism yet of Israel’s conduct of the war. The brutality of Hamas attacks on Israel, he said, cannot be used to justify brutalizing Palestinians.

“Israelis were dehumanized in the most horrific way on October 7,” he told a news conference in Tel Aviv. “The hostages have been dehumanized every day since. But that cannot be a license to dehumanize others.”

“The overwhelming majority of people in Gaza had nothing to do with the attacks of October 7,” Blinken went on. “The families in Gaza whose survival depends on deliveries of aid from Israel are just like our families. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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