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Palestinians Disappointed by International Community’s Stance on Escalation with Israel

[Gaza City] Since Monday night, the situation has been boiling over in Gaza as Palestinian movements in Gaza respond to what they call the “violent Israeli aggression against Palestinians at Al-Aqsa Mosque” and in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, by firing more than 2,900 rockets toward communities in southern and central Israel.

About 1,150 of the rockets were intercepted by Israeli air defenses and around 450 fell short, striking inside the Gaza Strip.

Israel has responded with more than a thousand airstrikes hitting Hamas military targets, governmental institutions, several residential tower blocks in central Gaza, apartments belonging to Hamas figures and public infrastructure.

By Sunday, at least 174 Palestinian combatants and civilians had been killed, and more than 1,000 others wounded, according to Gaza health officials. In Israel, 10 civilians have been killed in strikes on Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, Lod and elsewhere, and at least 566 wounded, and one Israeli soldier was killed, according to the Israeli army.

Al-Jawhara Tower, a nine-story building in central Gaza City that houses a number of media offices in addition to residential apartments, was destroyed by Israeli airstrikes early on Wednesday after the Israeli military warned it would be attacked. It was the second tall building in the city to be badly damaged that day, following the Hanandi Tower.

Al-Jawhara Tower, in central Gaza City, May 12, 2021. (Hazem Albaz/The Media Line)

On Saturday afternoon, after warning occupants to leave, the Israel Air Force destroyed another high-rise in Gaza City that housed media outlets, including Al Jazeera and the Associated Press. The 12-story Al Jala Tower also hid “military assets” used by Hamas’ intelligence wing, and offices of the Islamic Jihad group, the Israeli military said.

Ameera Al-Sayyed, one of Al-Jawhara Tower’s residents, described to The Media Line evacuating the building before the bombing, saying, “It was very difficult for us, especially since I have a 2-month-old baby. When we were ordered to leave the building, I was carrying my baby and looking for my other children who were crying.”

Ahmad Harb, the correspondent of Alkofiya TV, one of the media outlets housed in Al-Jawhara, told The Media Line that targeting the building “will not stop us from continuing our work and will not silence the Palestinian voice.”

He continued, “The occupation [i.e., Israel] knows that the Palestinian narrative exposes its crimes; that’s why it attempts to target journalists either by hitting their offices and their cars or by blocking the image and silencing the voice.”

During the most recent Israel-Gaza war, in 2014, Israeli airstrikes destroyed some 12,000 housing units in the Strip and damaged around 160,000, of which 6,600 became unfit for habitation, according to 2016 statistics from the Palestinian Public Works and Housing Ministry and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, is threatening to avenge the killing of some of its top commanders, including Bassam Issa, the head of its Gaza City Brigade, who was targeted by Israel on Wednesday.

Other Palestinian movements are warning that if Israel does not stop its strikes, the worst is yet to come.

The weapon of resistance is the main guarantor to protect our people. … Israel’s homefront must be prepared to pay for crimes committed by its leadership

“The weapon of resistance is the main guarantor to protect our people. The resistance movements have a lot that can profoundly hurt Israel, based on the principle that we will not be the only ones to suffer pain, meaning Israel’s homefront must be prepared to pay for crimes committed by its leadership,” Nael Abuowdah, the Gaza-based head of the political bureau of the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement, a group that splintered from Fatah, told The Media Line.

The resistance movements’ firing of rockets has met with popular support, especially from Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem, who see it as the “start of liberation from occupation.” Others, however, have a different opinion.

What has been achieved by this sacrifice? Can we benefit from our people’s sacrifice?

“We have to confirm, first of all, the legitimacy of resistance in all its forms, but on the condition that each form is suited to circumstances and events, can be politically beneficial, and is more damaging to the enemy than it is to our people,” political writer Majed Kayali told The Media Line.

In this regard, Kayali wrote on his Facebook page: “What can we expect from the current confrontation, especially with the absence of any Arabic or international support? … [During the three Israeli wars with Gaza in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014], there were more than 4,000 Palestinians killed, tens of thousands of wounded and disabled, not to mention the enormous destruction of homes and properties, versus 86 Israelis killed, over six years.”

He continued, “It’s understood that any process of struggle might entail victims and that freedom has a price, but the question is, what has been achieved by this sacrifice? Can we benefit from our people’s sacrifice? How?”

We [Gazans] can’t stand more traumas and wars. We had enough. … We’re not counting on the international community, because we had previous experiences with it in the past

Ahmad Abu Warda, a Gazan whose house was damaged during the war of 2014, considers the ongoing escalation, and the targeting of civilian homes, a “catastrophe.”

“We [Gazans] can’t stand more traumas and wars. We had enough,” he told The Media Line. “Palestinians in Gaza suffer from extreme poverty and high rates of unemployment. We don’t want to clash with the occupation and we don’t want this aggression to continue, because we have nothing left but our [souls].”

Abu Warda expressed disappointment at the stance of the international community. “We’re not counting on the international community, because we had previous experiences with it in the past, when Israel launched many rocket attacks toward the defenseless citizens in the Gaza Strip and [we heard] absolute silence,” he said.

Al Sousi Tower, Gaza City, May 12, 2021. (Hazem Albaz/The Media Line)

The Palestinian dissatisfaction with the position of the international community widely resonated on social media.

Kareem Abu Sharia posted on his Facebook account on Tuesday, “We don’t know what to be sad about anymore. Children who were killed in Gaza? Or Western media that only starts to talk [about Gaza] when Palestinians react?? Or how Israel succeeded in distracting our focus from the core issue that sparked all the fire, which is there are 500 Palestinians who are being forcefully and illegally evicted from their homes [in Sheikh Jarrah]?? After all, what can Israel say?? It killed 10 children with its modern American bombs, and as usual, it won’t let the ICC [the International Criminal Court] or anyone else investigate its war crimes.”

Nabil Diab, a leading member of the Palestinian National Initiative political party, told The Media Line: “The international community, and specifically the legal, humanitarian and human rights bodies, [must carry out] its responsibilities in order to forcefully pressure, by the power of international law and international humanitarian law, the occupation’s government to stop this barbaric aggression.”

Given events, the chances of de-escalation between the two sides anytime soon appear slim.

“Israel is not preparing for a cease-fire. There is currently no end date for the operation. Only when we achieve complete quiet can we talk about calm,” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Wednesday.

Abuowdah confirmed that several potential mediators are trying to achieve “calm” between Gaza and Israel.

“But if the occupation doesn’t cease the attacks and raids in Gaza and in Jerusalem as well, then we will be faced with a new round of fighting,” he said.