Monday, February 26, 2024

Israeli Forces Intensify Siege of Gaza As Calls Mount for Ceasefire

HomeWARIsraeli Forces Intensify Siege of Gaza As Calls Mount for Ceasefire

Pressure is intensifying on the Israeli government amid a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and statements from U.S. President Joe Biden signaling potential rifts with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration over its conduct of the now 68-day conflict with Hamas in Gaza.

Israel’s blockade and intense bombardment of the densely populated Palestinian enclave continues to raise alarms, with a U.N. agency warning that 8,000 Gazans remain trapped under rubble. Diplomatic efforts to halt the fighting have ramped up this week at various international bodies, including the U.N. and World Health Organization. Meanwhile, human rights groups condemned reported attacks on vital infrastructure in Gaza, including on a major hospital.

Escalating Crisis Strains U.S.-Israel Relations

In a sign of fraying unity over Israeli actions in Gaza, President Biden told a group of Democratic donors Tuesday night that Israel risks eroding international support through its “indiscriminate bombing” of civilians. The remarks, while still defending Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas rocket attacks, marked Biden’s sharpest critique yet of the nearly 10-week war that has killed over 200 Gazans and devastated infrastructure across the 140-square-mile territory.

Biden’s statements follow a contentious U.N. General Assembly emergency session Tuesday in which a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire passed with overwhelming support. The United States was among 10 votes against the measure, putting Washington further at odds with allies over its stance regarding Israel’s conduct.

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For Netanyahu, criticism from Israel’s closest international partner raises pressure as his government pursues a military campaign aimed at weakening Hamas and destroying tunnels used by militants to evade surveillance. Despite the heavy civilian toll, Netanyahu has vowed to continue operations in Gaza until security objectives are achieved.

U.N. Raises Alarms on Vast Humanitarian Crisis Unfolding

As diplomatic efforts ramp up to halt fighting, United Nations agencies continue to voice urgent concern regarding spiking humanitarian needs among Gaza’s population of 2 million. According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, some 360,000 cases of disease have emerged in crowded shelters hosting 1.9 million internally displaced Gazans.

Perhaps most alarming are reports that up to 8,000 Palestinians remain trapped beneath rubble more than two months into the war, according to Gaza’s civil defense agency. With much of the enclave’s infrastructure already weakened by years of blockade, the latest Israeli air campaign has decimated power networks, roads, clinics and water lines vital to civilian wellbeing.

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Rights groups also condemned attacks this week impacting key health facilities, including an Israeli raid on Gaza’s largest hospital. World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom demanded protection for all inside Kamal Adwan Hospital while reiterating calls for an immediate end to hostilities.

West Bank Raids Stoke Tensions as Gaza Blockade Persists

Alongside extensive air sorties over Gaza, Israeli ground operations in the occupied West Bank have also stoked wider unrest in recent weeks. A military raid in the city of Jenin continued into its third day Wednesday, prompting clashes with Palestinian residents amid house-to-house searches and mass arrests.

Local officials state Israeli security forces have detained around 100 Palestinians in neighborhoods across Jenin since Monday. While some 30 detainees have been released, advocates say West Bank raids and movement restrictions imposed during the Gaza war have incarcerated thousands while breeding further resentment.

For Israelis, operations in the West Bank aim to curb a wave of fatal attacks by Palestinians that have killed 19 civilians in recent months. But critics argue heavy-handed tactics serve to provoke rather than prevent violence as hopes dim for a political solution to the entrenched conflict.

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International Pressure Rises to End Deadlock

Now deep into its third month, the war in Gaza shows few signs of abating despite global efforts to halt fighting. Israel has reinforced naval blockades this week while bombarding militant tunnels from the air, tactics it says will continue until Hamas rocket fire ceases.

But with instability and humanitarian needs now spilling beyond Gaza, patience appears to be waning abroad for what Biden lambasted as an “endless war.” Fissures have emerged among Israel’s allies, even as mediators work urgently behind the scenes to forge a path back to a durable ceasefire and possible reconciliation between the warring parties.

For Netanyahu, such an off-ramp may hinge on demonstrating military gains while Gaza’s civilian misery deepens under blockade and Israeli firepower. Yet the growing international frustration was captured in Tuesday’s lopsided U.N. vote calling for immediate peace – a reminder that while the prime minister pursues tactical victories in Gaza, strategic consequences loom amid a crisis with no end in sight.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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