The Guardian • Issue #2082

Israel escalates war crimes

  • by Anna Pha
  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2082
Palestinian rally in Boorloo/Perth on Sunday 3 December 2023.

Palestinian rally in Boorloo/Perth on Sunday 3 December 2023.

The situation in Gaza is catastrophic and continues to worsen with women and children making up 70 per cent or more of the dead and injured. An estimated 1.9 million people have been internally displaced with nowhere to go.

Thousands of children have been orphaned and traumatised, living each day in fear. Water, food, and medical supplies have been withheld, with preventable diseases spreading rapidly. The few hospitals still operating cannot cope.

At the same time millions of people around the world continue to protest in growing numbers, calling for a ceasefire and action by their governments to halt Israel’s genocide.

While continuing to support Israel and still refusing to call for a ceasefire, the Albanese government hypocritically expresses concern about the “harrowing number of civilian deaths, including children.” There is growing concern within the ranks of the Labor Party with a number of branches, including Albanese’s own branch, passing motions calling for a ceasefire.

Australia’s support for Israel goes beyond statements and voting at the UN. Australia is directly complicit in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza through the provision of weapons and information obtained through the US spy base at Pine Gap.

“Australia wants to see continued steps towards a sustainable ceasefire, but it cannot be one-sided,” a spokesperson for the government said. As if Israel’s siege of Gaza is not one-sided!

Nor do the US administration’s actions match its words. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, while in Israel, told reporters: “I underscore the imperative of the United States that the massive loss of civilian life and displacement of the scale that we saw in northern Gaza not be repeated in the south.” Hardly credible while the US continues to provide unconditional support, intelligence, and weapons to Israel. Its latest shipment is 2000-pound bunker buster bombs.

The official spokesman for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Australian James Elder, who refused to leave the Gaza Strip despite the resumption of bombing, said: “This is a war on children. The hospital I am standing in front of is operating at 200 per cent of its capacity.”

Israeli Defense Forces have told the World Health Organization to evacuate a medical warehouse in southern Gaza, “as ground operations will put it beyond use.”

The 7-day pause in the conflict saw a number of hostages exchanged for Palestinian women and children prisoners held by Israel, and a small increase in the amount of humanitarian aid entering Gaza.

As soon as the pause ended on Friday 1 December, Israel recommenced heavy bombardment of southern Gaza telling thousands of people to move yet again from where they were sheltering.

WEST BANK

While attention is focused on developments in Gaza, conditions in the West Bank have deteriorated sharply in the weeks since 7 October.

“The Israeli army has launched numerous raids that, along with acts of violence by Israeli settlers, are taking a mounting toll. Meanwhile, the army has locked down the territory, closing roads and imposing restrictions on internal movement, while also cracking down severely on Palestinian political expression. The economy is paralysed, at particularly high cost to the olive harvest taking place in October and November,” the International Crisis Group reports.

Access restrictions are especially severe in areas near Israeli settlements and in the so called “Seam Zone”; the Palestinian area isolated by Israel’s 712-kilometre-long barrier in the West Bank.

Settlers have also imposed movement restrictions blocking access roads to Palestinian communities, limiting their access to essential services and livelihoods. In some cases, settlers have also damaged water resources which herding communities rely on.

Humanitarian assistance services, including health and education, have also had to stop since the restrictions intensified, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA) reports. Farmers in the occupied West Bank face near-daily incursions and violence from armed Israeli settlers to the point that they live in fear of having their homes and land stolen.

The West Bank has been under illegal military occupation by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war and during that time Israeli settlements have continued. Since then, about 700,000 Israeli settlers have illegally settled in the Palestinian territory.

The settlers and military act with impunity.

The huge encroachments by settlements on Palestinian land make it increasingly difficult to enact the UN Security Council resolutions for a two-state solution.

South Africa is seeking to have Israel declared an apartheid state and in conjunction with Palestine is working on a complaint to be filed with the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. It has also announced the withdrawal of all its diplomats in Tel Aviv.

The Australian government should end diplomatic relations with apartheid Israel and give its full support for a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire. In addition, it should adhere to the rule of law and support a two-state solution in line with UN resolutions.

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