Shayma al-Masri, age 4, wounded in an Israeli air strike that killed her mother and two of her siblings, in a hospital in Gaza City, 15 July 2014.
(Ashraf Amra / APA images)
It’s the siege, stupid. Talk to virtually anyone in Gaza and they will tell you the same. The siege is living death, slowly crushing the life out of Gaza. It has to end.
This is a main reason why Hamas did not accede to the attempt by Israel, through its ally the Egyptian dictatorship, to impose a unilateral “ceasefire” about which Hamas says it was never even consulted, hearing about the initiative only through the media.
Al-Qassam, the military wing of Hamas, said the initiative “is not worth the ink that wrote it” and “promised the Palestinian people that this blood and sacrifices will not be wasted by whoever was in this world.”
No return to status quo
As Mya Guarnieri explains succinctly in +972 Mag, the Egyptian “ceasefire” would have meant a return to a comfortable status quo for Israel in which:
Israel strikes Gaza from time to time and kills Palestinian civilians there and in the West Bank without garnering much scrutiny from the international media and, by extension, the international community. Returning to the status quo would also mean an end to the immediate damage to Israel’s image caused by the horrific photos and footage coming out of Gaza, and global protests against what Israel calls “Operation Protective Edge.”
But it would mean no change to the reality for 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza living under crushing siege.
In the immediate period, the bogus “ceasefire” initiative gives Israel the opportunity to spin headlines in its direction – claiming that Hamas are being irrational and unreasonable “terrorists.”
Already, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that “If Hamas rejects the ceasefire, we will have international legitimization to restore the needed quiet.”
That is a euphemism to kill more people, on top of the almost 200 Israel has already killed, the vast majority of whom civilians, including dozens of children. This systematic targeting of civilians and civilian objects in intense bombardments of Gaza has continued since 7 July.
Media are likely to follow the Israeli spin instead of asking Israel why it is maintaining the collective punishment of 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza and why it constantly violates ceasefire agreements.
But the fact remains: it is Israel that has rejected reasonable ceasefire conditions that have always been on the table.
Why won’t Israel accept what it already signed?
Hamas’ conditions for a ceasefire have been clear. As the Guardian reported on 9 July, Hamas has:
asked for the ceasefire conditions from the last major round of fighting with Israel in [November] 2012 to be reinstated, for the re-release of prisoners freed by Israel in exchange for the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who were rounded up again by Israeli after the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, later found murdered, and an end to what it says is Israeli meddling in the Palestinian unity government.
In other words, Hamas mostly wants Israel to abide by agreements it has already made.
In November 2012, Israel agreed to “stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip [by] land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals.”
Another crucial condition of the November 2012 ceasefire agreement, to which Hamas remains committed is:
Opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas and procedures of implementation shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire.
But especially since the coup in Egypt last year, the siege, from all sides, has been tighter than ever.
As this graphic, made by Ben White and Rachele Richards using UN data in early 2013, shows, Israel’s gross violations of the ceasefire began immediately. “Ceasefire” meant, in practice, that the Palestinians ceased fire while Israel continued to attack, invade and kill.
“We don’t want to waste all this blood”
Many Twitter users in Gaza have expressed views reflecting that simply returning to the status quo is unacceptable, and would amount to a slow death, with Gaza out of sight and out of mind.