Belfast Telegraph

Sanctity of life scorned in the killing fields

By Gary Spedding

In a conflict so polarised as Israel-Palestine, where escalation of violence occurs rapidly and on a frequent basis, we see each new day bringing fresh horrors for the 1.7 million people living in the Gaza Strip whilst terror rains down upon southern Israel, making life intolerable for over a million innocent people there.

The current escalation in violence has no agreed starting point; some will argue it began on November 8 when a Palestinian child playing football was killed by Israeli forces, while others claim November 10 as the point tensions bubbled over as a result of an anti-tank missile being launched at an Israeli army jeep, injuring four soldiers in the process.

Five days after the start of Israel's military operation, we are beginning to witness the harrowing images emerging from Gaza showing the aftermath of a bombardment on a house that took with it all 12 residents, some of whom were children. At the same time in southern Israel, we see images of entire families running in terror with just 15 seconds to avoid potential death. Indeed, tragically, three Israelis were killed by a Hamas rocket fired at the Israeli city of Kiryat Malachi.

What is apparent throughout all the news reports and statistics is that once again innocent civilians are paying the high price for a particularly corrosive cycle of violence.

As claims are made accusing Israel of ignoring basic principles of distinction and proportionality, we can see for ourselves the sheer scale, nature, and humanitarian impact of the military action unfolding before our eyes in what the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) claims to be a legitimate 'response to sustained rocket fire from militant terrorist groups in Gaza.'

Palestinians living the reality of this chaotic episode on the other hand state they believe the Israeli state is reminding them, by the use of fear and panic, that all of them are considered legitimate targets.

Human rights discourse is often lacking in the propaganda that is now flying around.

Worryingly, the Israeli Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, speaking on the current offensive launched last Wednesday, stated "the goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then will Israel be calm for 40 years," which is reminiscent of the policy that has been used previously by the IDF, commonly referred to as the Dahiya policy, whereby entire neighbourhoods are pummelled into the ground.

Hatred is spurring on this conflict and I believe it high time governments around the world took robust action to safeguard human life and end human rights violations by having accountability mechanisms, which for some reason no international body or individual state seems willing to apply either to Israel or Hamas.

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