Conflict in Gaza Changing but Not Ending, More Civilians Dead, Tunnels Nearly Destroyed

On Sunday, news that Israel was redeploying a large number of its troops out of Gaza, was followed by news that another United Nations school had been hit by an Israeli airstrike. This airstrike on a UN facility that was being used to house displaced Palestinian civilians was added to the list as the seventh one that Israel has launched in the four weeks since their operation began.

The Los Angeles Times reported that 10 individuals were killed, and about three-dozen were injured at a UN boys’ school in the southern Gaza City of Rafa, as a result of the Israeli airstrike.

According to The New York Times, “Witnesses near the school, where about 3,000 Palestinians had sought shelter, said that those killed or hurt were waiting in line for food supplies when a missile hit.”

Although the Israeli Army claimed that their original target was “three members of Islamic Jihad on a motorcycle near the school,” the US State Department called the shelling “disgraceful.”

Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said, “the suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians.”

The United States is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling outside an UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering some 3,000 displaced persons, in which ten more Palestinian civilians were tragically killed,” said Psaki. “We once again stress that Israel do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties.”

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, called Sunday’s airstrike a  “moral outrage and a criminal act” and he said that those responsible were in “gross violation of international humanitarian law” and should be held accountable.

While Israel has said that “thousands” of its troops had been deployed into Gaza, it has never given an exact number. A spokesman for the Israeli military, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, said that there would be “substantial redeployments of the troops on the ground who will be regrouping, receiving further orders,” due to the fact that the destruction of Hamas’s tunnel network is just days from being complete.

It’s changing gears but it’s still ongoing,” said Lerner, in reference to the fact the large numbers of Israeli ground troops who were moving to positions just inside Gaza, while others were redeploying to Israel.

Colonel Lerner also addressed the death of Second Lt. Hadar Goldin. At first, Israel announced that Hamas militants kidnapped Goldin during the early hours of an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire on Friday. This supposed kidnapping put an end to the ceasefire.

However, on Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced that Goldin had most likely been killed when his unit were trying to destroy a tunnel, and were ambushed by three Hamas militants, one of which exploded a suicide belt.

We can’t determine if he was killed on the ground or from the blast,” said Colonel Lerner, the army spokesman. “The indications on the ground are that he was killed in the initial attack.”

The Huffington Post reported that although Netanyahu has “vowed to press on against Hamas,” he is redeploying troops due to that fact that he is coming under “international pressure to halt the fighting because of the heavy civilian death toll.”

We promised to return quiet to Israel and that is what we will do,” said Netanyahu. “We will continue to act until that goal is reached, however long it will take and with as much force as needed.

Netanyahu also warned that Hamas “will pay an intolerable price” if it keeps fighting.

In addition to the airstrike, which hit the UN school, several more Israeli airstrikes occurred in Gaza on Sunday, killing 71 Palestinians. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the 1,822 Palestinians have been killed and 9,370 have been injured. The New York Times reported that 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed.

According to International Business Times, while delegations from Hamas and Islamic Jihad arrived in Cairo on Sunday to participate in negotiating a ceasefire, which was organized by United States and Egyptian officials, Israeli officials still have yet to send a delegation.

Attempts by both the United States and United Nations to secure a permanent ceasefire have been criticized by those such as Yochanan Gordon, a blogger for the Times of Israel. In an article, which was deleted shortly after it was posted and received heavy criticism, titled “When Genocide is Permissible,” Gordon accused the US and the UN of being “completely out of touch.

Gordon also criticized networks such as CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera for only focusing on the “majority of innocent civilians who have lost their lives.” Gordon concluded his controversial blog piece, saying, “If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?

(Although it was originally deleted, if you are interested in reading Gordon’s full article, you can find it here)

A similar attitude was evidenced in an article by The Jerusalem Post’s Martin Sherman, who claimed that, “The only durable solution requires dismantling Gaza, humanitarian relocation of the non-belligerent Arab population, and extension of Israeli sovereignty over the region.

On Sunday, Israel announced that it would hold a temporary ceasefire on Monday, from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. in northern areas of the Gaza Strip. However, Israeli officials warned that they would respond if Hamas fired any rockets during those seven hours.