Israeli-Gaza Conflict: “The gates of hell have opened”

gaza mourning

This is a photograph of the father of one of the four young boys who was killed by an Israeli strike in Gaza Wednesday. The boys, all cousins and all under the age of 12, had been playing soccer on the beach when the attack occurred. The man’s picture, by photographer Hosam Salem, was taken during the boys’ funeral. (HuffPost)

On Sunday, Israeli troops backed by tanks and warplanes battled Hamas militants in a crowded neighborhood of Gaza city using heavy Israeli tank fire killing many Palestinians and causing thousands to flee while damaging or destroying many homes, the Associate Press reports (Thousands flee major battle with Israel in Gaza). Palestinian health officials said at least 65 people killed by air and artillery strikes that bombarded the city for hours displacing 35,000. In total, 420 Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed in the two week conflict which escalated while U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon headed to the region to try and renew the ceasefire efforts. Sunday’s battle in Shijaiyah was the deadliest so far since the ground offensive started three days ago after 10 days of heavy airstrikes on targets linked to Gaza’s Hamas rulers. Israel has said it sent the troops into Gaza to destroy Hamas rocket launchers and tunnels used by Islamic militants to sneak into Israel. Residents of the neighborhood said Israel entered the area after midnight and fired heavily. Shijaiyah resident Jawad Hassanain said,”The gate of hell has opened, and shrapnel came through the windows. From 12:30 a.m. until 4 a.m., all you could hear is heavy bombardment, the smell of fire and the smell of death. By 4:30, and after the call for the prayer, we were able to get in an ambulance.” After daybreak, dozens of wounded from Shijaiyah were taken to Gaza’s central Shifa Hospital where the emergency room overflowed forcing doctors to treat patients on mattresses in the hallway, according to the Associated Press. During a Red Cross brokered lull, paramedics retrieved the dead pulling bodies from the rubble of homes. Palestinian heath officials said 65 people died and 288 wounded in Shijaiyah bringing the total since July 8 to 425 dead and 3,000 wounded. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said 8 percent of rockets fired over the 13 day conflict came from this neighborhood and residents were warned ahead of the offensive to leave the area. Some residents tried to find refuge with relatives or at U.N. schools or shelters that already house 63,000 Palestinians according to UNRWA, the U.N. refugee agency for Palestinians. The number of people who have fled their homes has more than tripled since the start of the ground offensive and the agency plans to open more schools. Hamas has sought involvement of other countries in any ceasefire negotiations such as Qatar due to deep distrust of Egypt’s ruler who last year ousted a Hamas-friendly government in Cairo.

While fighting intensifies between Israel and Hamas, on Thursday afternoon hundreds of French Jewish immigrants received their Israeli identity cards at a ceremony in Jerusalem, according to Sophia Jones’ article Hundreds of French Jews Immigrate To Israel During Gaza Offensive. Veronique Rivka Buzgalo, one of the 430 immigrants from France, said,”I came because of anti-Semitism. You see it in the eyes of people. I see it in everything,” referring to the rising anti-Semitism in her home country. Buzgalo added that nothing would stop her from becoming an Israeli citizen this week not even the rocket sirens in the south of the country where she plans to settle, according to Jones. Despite the ongoing turmoil, more than a thousand Jews made aliyah – when Jews immigrate to Israel – in the past then days, the Israeli government reports. As one of many Jews immigrating to Israel, Buzaglo like many others look to Israel as a fresh start and a place to belong. In a statement to the foreign press, Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver said: “You, dear friends, are the answer to the complicated security situation we are experiencing these days. Every immigrant strengthens us as a people and a state. Aliyah is our national Iron Dome.” Izaar Shirit, plans to move with his wife and daughter to Ashdod in the south where he was born, adding: “I was born in Ashdod and I want to return to Ashdod. “I’m an Ashdodi and I’m not afraid. I think that it will be worked out, with the help of God.” The Israeli government expects more than 5,000 Jews from France to immigrate by the end of the year compared to 3,289 last year and 1,917 in 2012.

Meanwhile, a somber mood set over Gaza as the reality of the conflict and the long road ahead sets in for the families who have lost loved ones. Many photographs and stories have been plastered all over the web covering the humanitarian crisis in Gaza especially the killing of innocent children who are caught in a war that seems to have no end in sight. One such family lost four young boys in a Israeli strike in Gaza last Wednesday. The boys who were all cousins under 12 were playing soccer at the beach when the strike occurred. After the four boys’ died, both Israel and Hamas ceased fighting for five hours on Thursday for a humanitarian truce brokered by the United Nations, Reuters reports. Unfortunately, the ceasefire ended as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that a ground offensive in Gaza would happen. Dominique Mosbergen reports, Heartbreaking Photograph Of One Father’s Grief Reveals The Real Cost Of Violence In Gaza, more than 160 civilians including 40 plus children have been killed in Gaza since July 7 when Israel launched its anti-Hamas military operation. The U.N. in a July 16 report wrote: “According to preliminary information, 77 [percent] of Palestinian fatalities so far have been civilians, raising concerns about respect for international humanitarian law.” The Israeli military said it would launch an investigation into the killing and added the strike was intended for Hamas militants and called the children’s deaths a “tragic outcome” according to ABC News. Earlier in the week, Humans Rights Watch called for the Israeli military to “end unlawful attacks that do not target military objectives and may be intended as collective punishment or broadly to destroy civilian property.” On their website, the organization wrote: “Deliberate or reckless attacks violating the laws of war are war crimes. Palestinian armed groups also should end indiscriminate rocket attacks launched toward Israeli population centers.” In the hours following the deaths, Gaza was overcome with grief and fury. According to CNN, hundreds of people attended the funerals Wednesday and “angry chants filled the air.”

As anger fills the air in Gaza over the killing of Palestinians by Israel, pro-Palestinian protesters defied a demonstration ban in Paris over the Israeli offensive in Gaza causing clashes with police on Saturday, the Associated Press reports (Pro-Palestinian Protesters And French Police Clash Amid Gaza Conflict). The clash ended with more than 30 people arrested and injuries unknown. Some protestors threw stones and other objects at riot police responding with tear gas in an hours long confrontation in a working class neighborhood designated as the starting point of the banned march. Hundreds of riot police stopped the protesters from marching, but were unable to keep demonstrators from climbing into a building under construction and burning an Israeli flag while others waved a Palestinian flag from atop a building. French authorities banned the planned pro-Palestinian march after a protest on July 13 turned violent with two synagogues attacked. Even with tear gas dispersing most of the protestors, they still managed to hang banners reading “Palestine Will Live” and “Israel Assassins” in front of Montmartre’s famed basilica. Fighting in the Middle East has intensified relations in France as the country is home to Western Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish population. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was in the Mideast on Saturday to help open up talks between Israel and Hamas to reach a ceasefire agreement.

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