Gaza Combat Resumes / Residents Must Not Be Dragged Back Into Humanitarian Crisis

Israel and the Islamist group Hamas have resumed fighting in the Palestinian territory of Gaza. The residents, with nowhere to flee, should not be drawn back into a humanitarian crisis.

Both sides had agreed to a pause in fighting, through mediation led by Qatar and the United States, and extended the period gradually, but it has ended after seven days. It has been reported that the pause expired as Hamas did not respond to Israel’s demand for the release of more hostages.

Initially, Israel had stated that the period of the pause would be a maximum of 10 days, showing its readiness to resume fighting to achieve its goal of neutralizing Hamas. Israel probably sees that a long-term pause would merely give Hamas time to regroup.

Of the about 240 hostages Hamas took from Israel, 105 women and minors were released during the pause in fighting. Many of the remaining hostages are men or military personnel. Israel also seems to have concluded that Hamas was unlikely to release any more hostages.

According to the health ministry in Gaza, hundreds of people, including civilians, have been killed in Israeli attacks since the resumption of fighting.

Israel has widened its military offensive to southern Gaza. This contradicts the evacuation warning that Israel gave to the residents of northern Gaza at the beginning of the fighting, telling them the southern area was safe.

One cannot help but be disappointed that Israel has repeatedly carried out attacks without distinguishing between Hamas fighters and civilians. During the pause in fighting, Israel should have considered changing its tactics.

The resumption of fighting has once again halted the delivery of water, food, medical supplies and other necessities, while the deteriorating living conditions of Gaza residents have not been sufficiently improved. Israel must stop forcibly displacing residents and preventing the delivery of daily necessities in violation of international humanitarian law.

It goes without saying that Hamas should be condemned for killing many civilians and taking hostages in its surprise attacks on Israel. It is understandable that Israel is seeking to gradually diminish Hamas in order to prevent a recurrence.

However, Israel will not be able to escape the criticism of the international community, if it does not take the humanitarian situation into consideration by narrowing the course of its offensive to Hamas’ strongholds and senior members.

The United States, Israel’s largest supporter, continues to call for a prolonged pause in the fighting. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, meanwhile, held talks with Israeli President Isaac Herzog during his visit to the United Arab Emirates and called for efforts to calm the Gaza situation as soon as possible.

Israel and Hamas must not be allowed to inflate their hatred for each other and cause the situation to deteriorate. Working together, the international community should do its utmost to avert a humanitarian crisis.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 3, 2023)