The US, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, vetoed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The war continues until the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) sweeps through every nook and cranny of this crowded territory.
The human toll is piling. According to aid agencies, nine out of 10 of the population of Gaza are starving. Over 17,000 Palestinians have been killed and many thousands more injured since the IDF incursion began. The health system has all but collapsed. Over 80 percent of the population has been displaced.
Already a humanitarian disaster of great proportion, the bloody toll will continue to rise. The IDF has shifted its offensive to Gaza’s second city of Khan Younis, said to be Hamas’ stronghold. Intense, close-quarter fighting has been reported by eyewitnesses. The IDF has the city encircled
Last month, the IDF asked the population of Gaza to move to the southern half of the strip to avoid bombardment. Khan Younis is well south of the territory. There is now truly nowhere safe for the civilians caught in the fighting.
Hamas earlier discouraged people from abandoning their homes. This was to conserve the human shields the terrorists were using them for. There were several incidents reported of Hamas fighters firing on civilian convoys moving south.
With intense fighting in Khan Younis and missile strikes at the town of Rafah on the border with Egypt, Palestinians have nowhere to go to. International aid, already a trickle passing through the border post at Rafah, is now difficult to distribute to the population. Foreign aid volunteers, including UN workers, have taken casualties.
Military analysts estimate it might take several more weeks to complete the military operation against Hamas. IDF reported it has uncovered and neutralized about 800 tunnel entrances, many located within homes and near hospitals.
About 130 hostages taken during the murderous Hamas strike on Oct. 7 are still held by the terrorists. At least some of them could be killed or injured with the IDF offensive shifting south. That will be part of the cost of dismantling Hamas.
An increasing number of countries have called on Tel Aviv to halt the offensive and spare the civilians. The US, Israel’s staunchest ally, asked the Israeli government to ensure the least civilian cost. But that seems unlikely considering that the terrorists operate within crowded communities.
While many countries and international organizations have called for a ceasefire, no one seems to have a plan for what happens to this territory the day after the IDF withdraws.
Some countries are suggesting that an international force take control over Gaza. Tel Aviv rejected that, insisting that the IDF will have to assert itself in the tattered strip of land to ensure no resurgence of the terrorist threat happens.
Gaza’s over two million inhabitants will be reliant on foreign aid for many years to come. With about a fifth of all structures in the strip destroyed by bombing, it will require billions of dollars to rebuild shelters for those displaced. In the meantime, the inhabitants of Gaza will have to depend on international charity to be fed and clothed.
Whoever inherits control of Gaza should be ready to shell out the vast amounts needed to repair this territory. At the moment, no country has stepped forward to volunteer to underwrite the costs of rebuilding.
The Palestinian Authority which governs the West Bank of what is left of Palestinian territory cannot afford to take Gaza under its care the day after the war ends.
Because of what has happened the past few weeks, we might expect people from Gaza to relocate to the West Bank. That will force up tensions in the area even more. At the moment, right-wing Israeli settlers have begun encroaching on Palestinian land. Israeli troops have become even more heavy-handed in dealing with protests in the West Bank. Clashes have become more frequent and more violent. A new Intifada could break out.
Meanwhile, Tel Aviv signals a possible escalation of fighting with the Hezbollah, the much larger and better armed Palestinian formation based in Southern Lebanon. The Hezbollah, like the Hamas, is supported by Iran. It is aligned with the flagging Assad dictatorship in Syria.
The Hezbollah poses the same threat to Israeli security as Hamas did, except with more advanced firepower. Over the past few weeks, artillery and missile exchanges broke out between Hezbollah fighters and the IDF.
Israel attacked militia bases in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. US forces, for their part, attacked militia bases that served as launching pads for attacks on American troops.
It is clear that Iran is goading its allies to join in the fighting against Israel. The Tehran-sponsored Houthi rebels in Yemen have tried to fire longer-range missiles at Israel to no avail. They recently shifted to attacking and capturing commercial shipping in the Red Sea – a development that forced other countries to deploy warships in the area.
Even if the IDF sweeps Gaza clean, there will be no let-up in the tensions. A wider war still remains a possibility.
The world anxiously watches developments in this tempestuous region. We might wish civilian casualties do not happen or populations displaced. But there is little we might actually do.
That murderous Hamas attack on Israeli settlements upset an uncomfortable arrangement and opened up a Pandora’s Box. The terrorists did not imagine the horrors their brutality would unleash.
Now we are carried by the momentum of war.