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Besieged Gaza is the open-air prison resisting Israel’s colonisation of Palestine

October 12, 2023 at 4:30 pm

An aerial view of destroyed buildings and debris at the Al-Karama neighborhood after an Israeli airstrike that has been going on for five days in Gaza City, Gaza on October 11, 2023 [Stringer/Anadolu Agency]

Operation Al-Aqsa Flood last weekend took everyone by surprise, not just Israel. Images of Israeli soldiers being killed and captured sent shockwaves through the occupation state and its allies, reflecting the failure of Israel’s intelligence services and security technology. It has been a very painful few days for Israel and its people, as rockets continue to be fired from the besieged Gaza Strip, the open-air prison that is resisting Israel’s colonisation of Palestine.

The occupation state has since declared war on Gaza and cut off electricity, water, fuel and food shipments. No humanitarian aid is being allowed in, despite the ongoing Israeli bombardment that is destroying residential areas and infrastructure and has killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, including 450 children. This vicious attack targeting civilians is Israel lashing out to save face, restore the deterrence factor that Hamas shattered last weekend, and cover some of its embarrassment.

READ: UNRWA confirms 11 staff killed in Gaza as agency issues situation update

According to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), around 300,000 internally displaced Palestinians have sought shelter in the agency’s schools; others are homeless in the streets or taking refuge with relatives. They fear that even schools will be targeted by the Israeli air force, as that is what happened in Israel’s four major military offensives against Gaza since 2008.

In short, what is happening has all the appearances of genocide; yet more ethnic cleansing of the people of Palestine. Aside from the growing casualty list, the humanitarian situation is critical, with severe shortages of food and drinking water, and no electricity. People are scared to leave their homes to stock up with what little is available to them.

Gaza has no fortified bunkers or bomb shelters like those in Israel. Its 2.3 million people are trapped in one of the world’s most densely-populated areas between the Mediterranean Sea and the Israeli-controlled fence around the enclave; Israel even dictates to Egypt when it can and cannot open the border at the Rafah crossing. And yet Benjamin Netanyahu told the people in Gaza to leave. Where can they go? Israeli governments led by him have been imposing a blockade for 17 years.

READ: Israel bombing of Gaza wipes out entire neighbourhoods

There is a more or less complete news blackout from Gaza; no electricity means no internet — and Israel bombed the main telecoms company in any case — and no mobile phone coverage. Communications between and within families has just been made very difficult indeed; almost impossible, in fact. As I write, I am unable to contact my family; I can only watch what the mainstream media allow us to see. It’s a horrifying position to be in.

Israel claims to be waging its war “against Hamas”, but the casualties are civilians. Residential areas are being bombed, and “collateral damage” when “Hamas targets” are blown up means dead and injured civilians.

This all amounts to collective punishment, which is a crime against humanity. And war crimes are being committed by Israel daily.

READ: Israel jets bomb headquarters of Palestinian Red Crescent

Some Israeli officials suggest forcing the Palestinians into Egypt along a “safe” corridor, but it’s not clear if this option is being discussed with the Egyptian regime, or if the Palestinians will actually use it if the opportunity arises. Many are saying that they would rather stay and not become refugees again, like their parents and grandparents were in 1948 and 1967, no matter what the cost.

The response of the international community and Arab regimes is painful to see. It’s as if the killing of civilians and destruction of their homes is another way to drive a wedge between Hamas and the people. people of the tiny costal enclave, as they are being subjected to this horrific and cruel crushing power.

READ: Blinken lands in Israel to show solidarity with occupation state

As usual, the US, the UK and the EU have backed Israel to the hilt; international laws and conventions clearly mean nothing to them. They cite Israel’s “right to self-defence”, but is is right to commit war crimes when defending yourself? America is even sending a naval strike group headed by the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford “closer to Israel”, presumably in case Iran gets involved, perhaps through Hezbollah in Lebanon. The double standards of the West have been exposed again. The EU’s Ursula von der Leyen “stands with Israel” and condemned Hamas resistance to Israeli occupation. She has not condemned Israel for cutting off electricity and essential supplies to the civilian population of Gaza, and yet a year ago she said: “Russia’s attacks against civilian infrastructure [in Ukraine], especially electricity, are war crimes. Cutting off men, women, children of water, electricity and heating with winter coming — these are acts of pure terror. And we have to call it as such.”

Ukraine is part-occupied by Russia, and is not only being armed by the West, but also saying that Israel must defend itself. Why, then after 75 years of occupation by Israel, are Palestinians not allowed to resist the occupation and liberate their land? Self-determination based on UN resolutions isn’t going to happen without international support. The cycle of violence must end but the West has to accept that the root cause of this conflict is Israel’s military occupation of Palestine. It’s time to stop dehumanising the Palestinians and treat them with justice.

It is reported that Israel has deployed 300,000 troops to the nominal border with Gaza, which threatens a ground invasion, meaning more bloodshed and destruction. This will be more state terrorism against a largely civilian population, the majority of whom aren’t even from the enclave; they are refugees from their homes and land inside what is now called Israel.

It’s time to stop the bombing; end the siege and end the occupation. Israel must be given no option but to abide by numerous UN resolutions and end the apartheid system that it imposes on the people of occupied Palestine. Give the Palestinians some genuine reasons to hope, and peace will be the result.

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Yousef Alhelou is a Palestinian-British political analyst based in London. He is a UN and University of Oxford alumni and has a Master’s Degree in International Relations.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.