Pause in Gaza Fighting: Move Must Be Step toward Resolving Humanitarian Crisis That Alarms World

The humanitarian crisis, in which hospitals and schools are attacked and residents are suffering without food and water, must not continue unabated. It is important to steadily implement the agreement to pause fighting.

Israel and the Islamist group Hamas have agreed to a pause in fighting in the Palestinian territory of Gaza for four days. Releases in a phased manner of hostages taken by Hamas and the release of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel are also said to take place.

This is the first time that a pause has been agreed upon since fighting between the two sides began when Hamas, which controls Gaza, carried out surprise attacks in Israel on Oct. 7.

The pause in fighting began on Friday, one day later than originally planned. The agreement was reached through the mediation of Qatar, the United States and other parties, but the mutual distrust between Israel and Hamas is so deeply rooted that future prospects can only be called uncertain.

One reason that Israel, which has set a goal of the “destruction of Hamas,” agreed to a pause in fighting is likely because it can no longer ignore the fact that criticism of Israel has risen in the international community as civilian casualties have increased in Gaza.

The death toll in Gaza has exceeded 14,000. Israeli attacks on a hospital have been pointed to as a violation of international humanitarian law, and the U.N. Security Council has adopted a resolution calling for a pause in fighting. It can be said that the power of international public opinion, which values humanity, has been demonstrated.

However, even if the pause is realized as agreed, a drastic improvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza cannot be expected. The agreement includes the delivery of relief supplies and fuel, but it will likely be difficult to get them to the people who need them in just four days.

It would be desirable to extend the period of the truce and create an environment in which relief supplies can be brought in continuously.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said, “We will continue [the war] until we achieve all of our goals,” indicating that Israel intends to resume the operation to destroy Hamas as soon as the pause is over.

Israel’s isolation from the international community is inevitable if it continues to carry out large-scale attacks that embroil civilians, as it has done in the past, and to regard the United Nations as an enemy, seeing it as a stooge of Hamas. Israel should rethink its strategy.

In order to turn the pause in fighting into a full-fledged truce, it is necessary to resolve such issues as who will govern Gaza and how. The involvement of neighboring countries and the international community is essential.

For Japan, stability in the Middle East is important for its survival, and it cannot stand idly by. Tokyo should consider readying itself to cooperate in the reconstruction of Gaza and offering support for medical care.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 25, 2023)