AFTER over six weeks of hellish Israeli violence targeting the Gaza Strip, a brief pause in hostilities has been finally announced. The Qatari-mediated truce between Hamas and Israel is due to take effect for four days, and as per the details available, Israel will release 150 Palestinian women and children being held in detention in exchange for 50 women and minors being held by Hamas.
Both sides had their own rationale for agreeing to the fragile truce; Hamas obviously wanted some respite for the people of Gaza, who have been bravely enduring some of the most brutal state-sponsored violence of the modern age, while there was much pressure on the Israeli state from the families of captives to bring their loved ones back.
Yet the fragility of the situation can be judged from the fact that Israel continued its attacks, this time targeting southern Gaza, which is supposed to be a ‘safe’ zone for civilians, on Wednesday even as news of the truce broke.
The immediate priority should be tending to the needs of Gaza’s civilian population. This includes getting in adequate supplies of food, water and fuel that have been curtailed since the Hamas attacks on Oct 7, after Israel tightened its siege of Gaza.
Medical help also needs to reach the Strip’s injured and infirm without delay, as Israel has laid to waste Gaza’s health system, throwing all the rules of war to the wind in its bloodlust.
Yet the world must be under no illusion that Tel Aviv intends to turn the truce into a long-term ceasefire; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the war will continue, though extension of the truce is possible.
It is here that the international community must apply pressure on Israel to extend the truce and stop the butchery of the Palestinian people. So far, the world community has abjectly failed to protect Gaza’s hapless population from Israel’s blood-soaked forays, with leading powers, particularly the US and European states, resisting calls for a ceasefire. The truce offers a chance for a long-term pause in hostilities.
Though it may be too early to be discussing a future path to peace, with the Palestinians having lost over 14,000 people in what has been one of the bloodiest episodes of the Arab-Israeli conflict, a new paradigm for peace is sorely needed.
While the two-state formula may be buried in the rubble of Gaza, a just solution is required to permanently end this cycle of violence and humiliation. As long as Israel continues to murder Arabs and devour their land, the Palestinians will continue to resist.
Only a just peace that secures for the Palestinians their rights and paves a path for sustainable statehood, and holds Israel accountable for murdering thousands of children, can succeed.
Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2023