There is no better way for Benjamin Netanyahu to win the January election than to have yet another murderous go at Gaza. Dozens of Palestinian Gazans and three Israelis have been killed in four days of rocket exchanges between Palestinian militants and Israel as reports mount that the Likud government has called 75,000 reservists for a ground assault.
What has piqued Israel is the extended range of Palestinian rockets, some of which Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system failed to intercept, for one of them hit Jerusalem. Mr Netanyahu, however, could strengthen his claim to another term as prime minister because Israeli strikes have killed Ahmad Jabari, Hamas’s military commander, and destroyed hundreds of Fajr missiles supplied by Iran to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
The issue before the international community is to move fast and stop Israel from launching yet another invasion of the kind it did in 2008-09. That invasion had flattened Gaza’s cities and killed 1,417 people, most of them civilians. Of the war crimes committed by Israel, the most barbaric was the use of phosphorus shells on civilian targets as confirmed by international human rights organisations and the UN. There is every possibility that Israel may repeat this performance and, as always, will get away with it because of its overwhelming military advantage, its utter disregard for the laws of war and its diplomatic clout with the US and the European Union. While Russia accused Israel of disproportionate use of force, President Barack Obama said he supported Israel’s right to “defend itself”, and asked Egypt and Turkey to use their influence to end the rocket war. With Egypt under a Muslim Brotherhood leadership and Turkey still sore over the peace flotilla attack, it is unlikely Mr Netanyahu will listen to them. Israel has no intention of quitting occupied Palestinian territories, the 2005 ‘disengagement’ of Gaza being a fraud, because Israel continues to control the strip’s air, land and sea exits. So long as Gaza remains occupied, the Palestinian people will continue to fight for freedom, and in this lie the roots of the violence now in evidence.
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