6 Months of Fighting in Gaza: Strengthen Efforts to Press Both Sides to Stop Violence

Six months have passed since fighting began in the Palestinian autonomous territory of Gaza, but the humanitarian situation in the enclave continues to deteriorate.

The international community needs to step up its efforts to press both Israel and the Islamist group Hamas for a ceasefire.

U.S. President Joe Biden has spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone and suggested the United States may review its military assistance unless the safety of civilians and aid workers in Gaza is ensured.

Washington has so far pledged unwavering support for Israel and continued to provide it with fighter jets, precision-guided munitions and other weapons.

Biden’s unusual warning to Netanyahu may have been prompted by a concern that casualties from Israel’s indiscriminate attacks would continue to rise and that the United States, as Israel’s backer, would come under increasing criticism both at home and abroad.

Seven members of a private U.S. organization engaged in food aid and other activities in Gaza were also killed by a mistaken Israeli military strike.

In the United States, calls are growing for an immediate ceasefire in Biden’s own Democratic Party and among young people. Facing the presidential election in autumn, Biden may no longer be able to take such trends lightly.

Even though the direct cause of the fighting was a cross-border attack by Hamas on Israel, it is obvious that Israel’s indiscriminate attacks in Gaza run counter to international humanitarian law.

Israel will be isolated internationally if it continues to fight and undermine its relations with the United States. It should be aware that its behavior is being condemned around the world.

After the two leaders talked by phone, Israel withdrew its military from southern Gaza, and also allowed food to be brought in from a checkpoint in the north. Netanyahu appears to have taken Biden’s demands into consideration.

However, Israel explained that the withdrawal was in preparation for future operations and still maintains its policy of attacking Rafah in southern Gaza.

An attack on Rafah, which has 1.2 million displaced people, would inevitably result in a large number of casualties.

According to Gaza health authorities, the death toll has exceeded 33,000 since October last year. A U.N. agency estimates that about 1.1 million people, or half of Gaza’s population, are suffering from “catastrophic hunger,” meaning they cannot even obtain the food they need and are starving to death.

Netanyahu says Israel will continue its attacks until Hamas is destroyed and the hostages taken are released, but it is unacceptable for him to continue these atrocities any longer. He should agree to a ceasefire as soon as possible and link it to the release of hostages through negotiations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 10, 2024)