Gaza could see dreadful levels of hunger, death soon - GulfToday

Gaza could see dreadful levels of hunger, death soon

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Gaza 33

A woman and child walk among debris, aftermath of Israeli strike. Reuters

Uncertain of the outcome, Hizbollah and Israel are sliding down the slippery slope towards full-scale war. This is far more important for Israel as Hizbollah can inflict far greater damage on Israel than Hamas in Gaza ever could. Hamas’ October attack was a fluke, nearly impossible to repeat, but an Israeli repeat of the 2006 war on Hizbollah could be devastating for Israel as well as for Lebanon. For Lebanon, this could mean total ruin, coming on top of five years of economic collapse and political bickering. Israel could be expected to bomb Beirut, especially the southern suburbs where Hizbollah is strong, as well as strategic locations and infrastructure targets such as roads, bridges, ports, and power plants. Hizbollah has called up reinforcements to defend the border region against an Israeli ground offensive. War could also draw in armed Palestinian factions and the Lebanese army. Eager to avoid this scenario, Lebanese army chief Joseph Aoun is set to travel to Washington this week for consultations with the Pentagon and State Department.

For Israel, such a war would result in the devastation of the north which is already largely depopulated by daily cross-border exchanges of fire. Israelis driven from the north have already been alienated from the Netanyahu government by its lack of interest in their plight. Since the 2006 war with Israel, Hizbollah has obtained anti-aircraft missiles which could shoot down Israeli warplanes and drones as well as more powerful, longer-range rockets which could hit Haifa and Tel Aviv. As the Israeli army is overstretched by the Gaza war, reservists have been mustered, taking them away from high-tech and other jobs essential for running the economy.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due in Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Qatar to put pressure on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and urge Hamas to accept the Gaza ceasefire plan promoted by President Joe Biden which, if accepted, would prompt Hizbollah to halt its strikes against the Israeli army.

Hizbollah initiated the exchanges which were, until recently, limited and carefully choreographed with the aim of compelling Israel to deploy troops in the north while engaging Hamas in the south.

Since Israel’s 1948 war of establishment, the nightmare of Israeli army commanders has been being forced to fight on more than one front. At present, the Israeli military is fighting on three: Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon. Fully engaged on the hot front in Gaza, the Israeli generals cannot switch forces to the other two fronts where hostilities are rising.

Israel is at fault for escalation on all three fronts. Urged by good friend US President Joe Biden not to enter the southern province of Rafah, Netanyahu ignored Biden and sent in the military which also stepped up operations in the West Bank and mounted aerial attacks in Lebanon as far north as Baalbek, 100 kilometres from the border zone.

By going onto the offensive on the Rafah fronts, Israel has angered regional and international powers and UN and humanitarian agencies. During its Rafah offensive the Israeli army has driven one million displaced Palestinians into overcrowded tent camps near Khan Yunis and at al-Mawasi on the coast.

Since May 6th, no food and medical supplies have entered Gaza through the main Rafah-Egypt crossing, setting the stage for famine in southern as well as northern Gaza. UN’s children’s fund, UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation have predicted catastrophic levels of hunger and death among Gazans by mid-July.

Israel has been added to the UN list of countries that violate children’s rights and harm children. At least 15,000 children are among the nearly 37,000 killed by Israel in its ongoing offensive launched eight months ago. In the West Bank, Israeli security forces and troops have killed more than 500 Palestinians, wounded thousands, and imprisoned more than 2,000. Constant clashes in refugee camps have prompted Israel to bomb with warplanes and drones and to destroy homes, mosques, schools, and roads in the camps. Israel has driven 90,000 Lebanese from the south, killed 88 civilians and more than 350 Hizbollah fighters, and laid waste to villages and towns located in the border zone.

Israel has been condemned by both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International for targeting family homes with white phosphorus, which is banned in humanitarian law for use in residential areas. Accusations of war crimes and genocide have been lodged with the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and the UN Security Council.

The state of Israel has lost its most valuable assets — impunity and escape from accountability. Netanyahu is charged by Biden with using warfare for political gain. Israeli critics and commentators accuse him of putting his own political position and future ahead of Israel’s national interests.

They say he is pursuing war on all three fronts in order to provide himself with these very same assets: impunity from blame over Israel’s failure to pre-empt the October 7th attack by Hamas which killed 1,139 and abducted 250 and accountability for accepting valuable gifts from wealthy friends in exchange for favours, conspiring with media to provide him with positive coverage, and consequent breach of trust. As long as warfare continues, Netanyahu hopes he will not be convicted in his ongoing trial and sent to prison.

Writing in the Israeli liberal daily Haaretz on June 7th, Amos Harel warned, “As the Gaza war enters its ninth month, it’s hard to report that there is good news on the horizon. A series of discussions held in the past few weeks with ranking figures in the defence establishment increasingly indicate that Israel is headed for a magnificent multidimensional failure.” He said Israel is “stuck in all arenas. The biggest and most important of them (against Hizbollah in Lebanon) is in danger of morphing into a conflagration.”

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