International community must quickly negotiate ceasefire in Gaza
July 20, 2014 00:00 By The Yomiuri Shimbun
To break the chain of violence and swiftly bring about a ceasefire, the international community should stand united and step up efforts to persuade all sides involved in the fighting to lay down their arms.
Rocket attacks by the Hamas Islamist group that effectively controls the Palestinian autonomous territory of Gaza and retaliatory air strikes by the Israeli military have intensified.
Egypt proposed a truce centering on talks between the top leaders of both sides and the easing of the economic blockade on Gaza. Israel initially accepted the truce plan. However, Hamas rejected the proposal and the ceasefire did not come into effect. Both sides have since launched a fresh barrage of attacks.
A handful of Israelis have been killed or injured by the Hamas rocket attacks, but the number of dead and wounded in Gaza has topped 1,600. There are fears that there could be even more bloodshed.
Over 70 per cent of the more than 200 people killed have been civilians caught in the fighting. The UN Security Council quite rightly issued a statement that unanimously called for all sides to ensure the protection of civilians.
The flare-up in the fighting stems from the murder of three Israeli teenagers in mid-June, which was followed by the killing of a Palestinian teen. Skirmishes between Israeli forces and Palestinian people have developed into a military conflict.
Militant groups in Gaza have fired about 1,000 rockets into Israel. Daily Israeli air strikes have targeted Hamas-linked facilities and rocket launching sites.
Nations taking sides
Another cause for concern is that rockets have also been fired at Israel from Lebanon and Syria.
The Middle East is already trembling due to civil wars raging inside Syria and Iraq. If the Israel-Palestine fighting escalates and spreads, the region will plunge into an extremely serious crisis.
We think the United States should show strong leadership and urge its ally Israel to exert self-restraint.
We also hope the Palestinian Authority and Arab nations that wield some influence over Hamas will work closely with international organisations and other channels to seek ways to quickly bring about a solution to the current situation.
Hamas’ hard-line position of refusing to accept the state of Israel’s existence lies at the heart of the problem. Under the rule of Hamas, which has shown scant ability to govern, Gaza’s economy has collapsed and its people are losing hope.
However, if Hamas were to lose strength, it could open the door for the rise of even more dangerous Islamist organisations such as the Islamic Jihad extremist organisation. This conflict complicates efforts to resolve the Gaza problem.
The Israeli government and the Palestinians halted Middle East peace talks at the end of April. The negotiations remain suspended.
When dialogue is cut off, the situation destabilises and military conflict starts. Unless leaders on both sides share a resolve to eradicate this chronic disease afflicting the Middle East, it will be impossible to escape from the quagmire in which they are stuck.