52,000 Palestinians displaced in Gaza
The UK media continues to cover the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. BBC News reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip has “set Hamas back by many years”. The Guardian reports that France and Egypt have increased pressure on the US to demand a ceasefire. France called for a UN Security Council resolution to address the escalation, but the US has so far blocked efforts for a joint statement calling for the fighting to end. The Independent reports that more than 52,000 Palestinians have been displaced by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. The Times reports that Netanyahu has defied calls for a ceasefire saying that Israel will continue its operation in Gaza “as long as necessary to restore quiet to Israel’s citizens”. The Independent also reports that a group of Jewish employees at Google wrote the company a letter asking it to do more to support Palestinians and not to conflate Israel with Jewish people, saying “anti-Zionism is not antisemitism”.
The Independent reports that 11 children taking part in a scheme aimed at helping them cope with trauma have been killed in Israeli airstrikes. The Norwegian Refugee Council, which supports the programme, said “We are devastated to learn that 11 children we were helping with trauma were bombarded while they were at home and thought they were safe.”
The Telegraph reports that a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas must allow both sides to win. The paper notes: “An important part of previous ceasefire agreements has been Israel easing its blockade on the Palestinian enclave in return for Hamas halting rocket fire from Gaza. But reaching a ceasefire this time will be complicated by Hamas demands that Israel halt moves to evict Palestinians from the East Jerusalem of Sheikh Jarrah and keep away from Al Aqsa mosque, two grievances which sparked the latest conflict.”
The Financial Times explains how the legal battle over settler claims in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah sparked the current violence between Israel and Hamas. The paper notes, “ With the Israeli Supreme Court due to decide last week if the settlers’ claim to the land was valid, the row over the evictions — which are illegal under international law because East Jerusalem is occupied territory — fused with already chaotic demonstrations at al-Aqsa mosque, a few minutes’ walk away in Jerusalem’s Old City. The mosque is in a compound in Jerusalem that is known to Jews as Temple Mount and which is sacred to both religions. After days of scuffles with young Muslim men over police barriers at the Old City’s Damascus Gate, Israeli police stormed the compound, injuring hundreds of Palestinian protesters. On May 10 Palestinian militant group Hamas fired rockets deep inside Israel. In a warning to the Jewish state before its first volley, Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, demanded the immediate withdrawal of Israeli police from Sheikh Jarrah and the mosque.”
The Independent reports that Palestinians across Israel and the West Bank declared a general strike on Tuesday in response to the ongoing escalation in Gaza. The paper notes that “although the strike was peaceful in many places, with shops in Jerusalem’s usually bustling Old City markets shuttered, violence erupted in cities in the West Bank”.
The Associated Press reports that the ongoing violence in the Gaza Strip has “unleashed a chorus of voices across Gulf Arab states that are fiercely critical of Israel and emphatically supportive of Palestinians … the criticism has not only put Arab governments that signed the diplomatic accords with Israel in a difficult position with their citizens, it also affirms that the Palestinian cause continues to resonate deeply with people across the Middle East.”
Paul Adams writes for BBC News about Israel’s strategy amid the rising death toll. He writes: “In a flurry of briefings, senior military officials have been describing the objectives and timeline of an operation one of them said ‘might stay like this for a while’… how do you fight a war in one of the poorest, most densely populated places on earth, against an enemy who uses this to his advantage? How do you defend your own population from harm when almost everything you do affects innocent civilians?”
Mairav Zonszein writes for The Telegraph about how Israel has no long-term strategy for Gaza or peace with the Palestinians. She writes that “what is already painfully clear is that even when the current warfare subsides, the endgame will remain elusive and while civilians lose their lives, the fundamental problems will still remain and the conflict will only deepen … no one in the Israeli leadership is articulating the goal of peace with the Palestinians, and hasn’t for quite some time.”
Ido Vock explains in The New Statesman how the postponed Palestinian elections impacted the conflict with Israel. He writes, “For most governments, the possibility of a leadership vacuum is bad enough. But for the Palestinians, the stakes of a void at the top of their government are higher than most. The possibilities run from a weakening of the control of PA security forces and widespread unrest erupting in the West Bank – perhaps comparable to the ethnic violence in Israel proper or heavy fighting in Gaza of the past weeks – to the PA’s whole or partial collapse.”
Limor Simony Philpott writes for The Spectator about how the violence between Israel and Hamas seems to have saved Netanyahu’s political career. She argues: “Bibi is now waiting for Lapid’s mandate to expire. If negotiations with Bennett and other MPs fail, Netanyahu is exploring the more complicated, but not entirely improbable, option of pushing for a direct election system, where the prime minister is elected separately from the Knesset, in the hope that it will secure him victory.”
Roger Boyes writes for The Times about how Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “should be in a cell in the Hague rather than his mountainside Carrara-marbled Damascus palace. He has ridden out a decade-long civil war, thanks partly to Russian bombers laying waste to Aleppo. He has presided over the forced displacement of 11 million people, half the pre-war population. On his watch more than half a million people have been killed. His ruthless intelligence service, the Mukhabarat, has tortured and threatened the nation”.
Hannah Lucinda Smith writes from Istanbul for The Times about how Osman Kavala, one of Turkey’s best-known philanthropists and called the ‘Soros of Turkey,’ has become the target of a witch-hunt led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since the 2016 coup attempt. Kavala, who was arrested in November 2017, has used his vast fortune to set up cultural associations aimed at preserving Turkey’s Greek and Armenian heritage, and has supported several grass roots democracy projects.
Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for individuals to enter any governmental, private, or educational facilities. Beginning August 1, vaccinations will be required for use of public transportation and several other events and activities.
BBC News reports that the decision by the Danish government to revoke residency for more than 200 Syrian refugees has prompted large scale protests across the country. Authorities in Denmark claim that parts of Syria are safe enough for refugees to return. EU lawmakers, the UN refugee agency and several human rights groups have condemned the country’s tightening immigration policy.
As expected, the Israeli media is dominated by the Hamas-Israel escalation and talk of a ceasefire. Maariv reports that Israel is expected to bring Operation Guardian of the Walls to an end in the coming days, as pressure for a ceasefire continues to rise in the international community. “Israel must decide whether to bring the operation to an end on its own, or to make use of Egyptian negotiators. Another option is to have a multi-national team of negotiators bring an end to the fighting.” Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi spoke to Jordan’s King Abdullah about Egypt’s efforts to achieve a ceasefire. Macron said France supports the Egyptian plan. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also discussed the escalation with King Abdullah. In a statement to reporters Merkel’s office said the leaders supported ceasefire efforts.
The Jerusalem Post reports that France is pushing for a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution on Gaza to help pressure Israel to end its military campaign. The UNSC has met four times on Israeli-Hamas escalation in the last nine-days; twice last week, followed by a public meeting Sunday and a closed door one on Tuesday. Despite the US veto on efforts at the UNSC so far, French diplomats said they believe that a UNSC resolution could raise pressure on the parties to end hostilities, adding that any action in New York would complement other diplomatic initiatives and they think there is a way to make the US “evolve”.
Ben Caspit writes in Maariv that Israel intends to change the equation with Gaza once the current escalation ends. Quoting the IDF’s Operations Directorate Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, “after this operation is over, every violation, every launch by Hamas, will be met with a firm response, and immediately so”. Caspit questions whether this will really be the case. “I hope that Netanyahu and Haliva will excuse me, but that’s a lot of hot air. Idle talk. How do I know? The archive. The very same statements, almost word-for-word, have been made by Israeli officials after every single one of the previous rounds of fighting.” Capsit says that he is in favour of a full-scare invasion to rid Gaza of Hamas, but argues there is no leadership in Israel prepared to do that. “The IDF has done an excellent job. Really. But once the Metro was demolished and we found ourselves down to demolishing the homes of Hamas company commanders, things stopped moving forward in any clear direction.”
In Yediot Ahronot, Ben-Dror Yemini argues that “the clock is ticking” toward a ceasefire. “The prevailing assessment is that we have another day or two until pressure from the international community as a whole, and from the White House in particular, will make the continued assault on Hamas impossible.” Yemini calls for a unilateral 24-hour ceasefire to help Israel’s diplomatic standing. “That cease-fire will continue to be honoured if Hamas decides to accept the following simple formula that we are proposing here once again: reconstruction in exchange for demilitarisation. We are proposing the immediate creation of an international framework to manage and oversee Gaza’s reconstruction.”
Also in Yediot Ahronot, Shimrit Meir writes that the IDF has decided to allow foreign journalists to enter the Gaza Strip. “The goal is to force Hamas’s leaders to face the scope of devastation in the Gaza Strip, which is something they would prefer not to focus on just now, and to convey to the Palestinians the price that the Gaza-Jerusalem axis and the ‘Aqsa War’ has cost them after their initial enthusiasm. Hamas’s leaders, who have been moving from one location to another underground, might be mentally aware of the extent of the devastation in Gaza, but they haven’t yet seen it with their own eyes, and they haven’t been forced to give answers to the public that is suffering on account of that devastation.”
Yossi Yeshohua argues in Yediot Ahronot that “the real story on the ninth day of fighting needs to begin not with either the IDF’s attacks on Gaza or Hamas rocket fire but with the fact that soldiers in a large number of bases, from north to south, have been instructed not to travel in uniform so as not to become targets for Arab Israelis or Bedouins in the south. Like it or not, that is one of the achievements that Hamas chalked up — enlisting Arab Israelis as well as Palestinians from Judea and Samaria and from Lebanon. Israel needs to restore deterrence in its territory before it achieves deterrence against Hamas. It is unthinkable that soldiers who defend the country need to be afraid while they are in uniform.”
Israel Hayom reports the US House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on Tuesday that the House Foreign Affairs Committee would not be sending a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to delay $735m in precision-guided missiles to Israel amid the conflict with Gaza-based terrorist organisations who have fired thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli civilians. The Washington Post reported the weapons sale on Sunday, but the White House had notified Congress back on May 5 – five days before the Gaza conflict started.
Kan Radio reports that right-wing MKs have criticised Police Commissioner Insp. Gen. Yaakov Shabtai for his condemnation of “terrorists on both sides” about last week’s riots in Lod. Speaking with civic leaders in the city, Shabtai pledged to bring all rioters to justice, Jewish or Arab, and added that he considers all rioters terrorists. Public Security Minister Amir Ohana condemned the comment, saying there was no symmetry between Arab rioters who attacked Jews and the small number of Jews who attacked Arabs. Ohana clarified that Jews who attacked Arabs would be dealt with harshly, but he added that it is a long way from there to a view that both sides are terrorists.