Gaza Fighting Intensifies: Do Everything Possible to Avoid Civilian Casualties

With Israel intensifying its military operations, the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territory of Gaza is worsening. A temporary ceasefire should be implemented as soon as possible to prevent more civilian casualties.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared that his country’s fight against the Islamist group Hamas, which effectively controls Gaza, has entered its “second phase.”

In response to a surprise attack by Hamas, Israel has been carrying out airstrikes in Gaza. In recent days, it has also been continuing a ground offensive on a limited scale, with tanks and ground units involved.

Israel is said to aim in the second phase to kill Hamas leaders and militants, and to destroy the underground tunnels that stretch across Gaza. Israel is widely expected to launch a full-scale ground invasion soon.

However, the number of civilian casualties is rising. Gaza authorities claim that more than 8,000 people have been killed since Oct. 7, when Israel and Hamas began fighting each other.

Hamas is believed to have dug tunnels under hospitals and other civilian facilities, and to have set up military facilities in these tunnels. This means residents are being used as human shields when Israel attacks Hamas bases.

This appears to be nothing more than a tactic to victimize civilians so that Israel cannot attack such bases, and if Israel did go so far, it would be blamed for the attack. Hamas is truly despicable.

Israel naturally has the right to defend itself, but if civilian casualties dramatically increase due to its invasion being conducted on an excessive scale, this will inevitably draw criticism as a violation of international humanitarian law. Israel’s isolation would be exactly what Hamas wants.

There are about 2.2 million residents in Gaza. The delivery of water, food, medicines, fuel and other supplies has been mostly halted for about three weeks due to the blockade imposed by Israel. The situation is reported to be critical, with supplies being looted in Gaza.

At a special emergency session, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for a “humanitarian truce” regarding the situation in Gaza.

The resolution effectively urges Israel to exercise self-restraint, but the fact that it does not include condemnation of Hamas must be said to lack fairness. The United States voted against the resolution, and Japan, the United Kingdom and some other countries abstained.

Nevertheless, Israel needs to take seriously the opinion of the international community that the devastation in Gaza cannot be left unaddressed and it must put a stop to the crisis.

The countries concerned must accelerate their diplomatic efforts to stop the fighting and realize the early release of the hostages taken by Hamas during its surprise attack on Israel.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 31, 2023)