Gaza: Hold your fire, too many lives have been lost

Saturday October 21 2023

A smoke plume erupting during a bombardment in the northern Gaza Strip, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas on October 19, 2023. PHOTO | AFP


When Hamas attacked Israel on the 7th of October, it carried out horrific atrocities against civilians. Children and the elderly were slaughtered. Some families were burned alive as they cowered inside what they thought were safe places.

Soldiers were beheaded. Hamas then kidnapped children and the elderly and ferried them back to the Gaza Strip as hostages. Some of those hostages were paraded in the streets of Gaza, manhandled and subjected to all manner of indignities. Some still exhibited injuries.

The Hamas incursion left a wasteland of burnt homes and cars and some 1,400 dead. In the wake of this invasion, many countries, including some Muslim states, expressed sympathy with Israel. Many around the world felt that Israel had a right to go after the attackers and hold them to account.

But that goodwill has evaporated after Israel airstrikes on ambulances, UN schools and, the most deadly of all, a hospital. The attack on the hospital was particularly cruel because the people seeking shelter there had fled their homes in north Gaza following instructions to do so by Israel.

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The Israeli government had told them to flee to the south in order to be safe from an impending ground invasion. They were jumping from the frying pan into the fire.


Even if Israel, in bombing the hospital, was going after Hamas militants using civilian infrastructure to shield themselves, was it worth killing so many innocent people, many of whom do not even support Hamas? Would it not have been a great humanitarian gesture to let the militants escape in order to save the lives of civilians?

Would such a gesture not that have made a strong argument for what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden have described as the moral difference between themselves?

To be fair, Israel says the strike on the hospital was the cruel handiwork of Islamic Jihad. According to Israel, the hospital was hit when an Islamic Jihad rocket misfired. Quite possible.

But, in the final analysis, does it really matter to the dead and wounded who was at fault? To the families who lost all members in the blast, will it give them any kind of comfort that the killing was done by the one or the other? For them, and thousands of others affected by this war, they would want it to stop.

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Calling for a ceasefire after Hamas’ deadly incursion on October 7 without bringing the militants to account had seemed unreasonable and unjust.

Now, calling for a ceasefire is the only reasonable thing.

Concurrently, there should be real efforts to revive the peace process. Sidelining Mahmoud Abbas has proved to be a foolhardy strategy on the part of Israel and the Americans.

Part of the terms for a ceasefire should be a demand by those who have influence on Hamas to hold elections in Gaza within a reasonable period.