The world has been horrified by the films, reports and photographs coming out of #Gaza since the latest violence started. Amnesty teams – along with other organisations – have been in Gaza to assess the damage and have found evidence of war crimes by both sides in the conflict. There have been serious violations by both parties but since the Israel Defence Force is the best equipped army and air force in the region by far, the damage and destruction has been predominantly on the Palestinian side.
Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel but with the protection of Iron Dome, few have resulted in casualties. The casualties on the Palestinian side have now passed 2000 (12 August, Sky News) with 67 Israeli deaths. Many of the Palestinian casualties are women and children, killed in strikes on schools, mosques and hospitals.
Israel is able to carry on its attacks secure in the knowledge that it has, and continues to have, the support of the United States. Indeed, the USA has continued to supply weapons to replace those lost in the latest fighting. The United Kingdom supplied £6.3m in weapons to Israel last year.
It seems clear to most outside observers that whatever the provocation Israel has suffered, the scale of destruction in Gaza has been disproportionate. This latest incursion follows hard on operation Cast Lead which also wrought terrible destruction in the territory.
Nor is the suffering imposed limited to the fighting but comes on top of the relentless expansion of settlements and the blockade of Gaza which has now lasted over seven years. Gaza is in effect a prison surrounded by a stifling regime of checkpoints, barriers and walls. They are not allowed to catch fish in the sea. Inhabitants also have to endure power and water cuts for no apparent reason.
Is there any hope in all this? Surprisingly, there may be. It will not come from the ceasefires and feeble political statements wishing peace while at the same time continuing to sell arms. The key difference this time is that Israel is losing the propaganda war. Such is the volume of evidence emerging from Gaza, the harrowing footage of injured children and pictures of the scale of destruction, that people around the world have been moved to protest (see picture).
British Ministers are forbidden to use the word ‘disproportionate’ in their various statements. But the public can see that it is. Nick Clegg described the attacks on schools as ‘outrageous’. Israel is desperate to avoid its actions going to the International Criminal Court and will no doubt succeed with US help in so doing.
With Cast Lead, the Israelis were able to keep journalists out of Gaza so that very little was seen on our TV screens. This time, with a range of devices, images are coming through loud and clear. This is another example of the public seeing things for what they are and politicians being behind the curve. Support for Israel is still strong in the United States certainly among Senators and Congressmen, but younger people are not so supportive. This is likely to be the key difference this time.
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Amnesty International comments on Gaza