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Around the World, Across the Political Spectrum

The Gaza War: A Brief (updated May 11, 2024)

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On May 11, 2024, the Israeli military ordered the evacuation of central Rafah. Residents were ordered to head to the “expanded humanitarian area” in Al-Mawasi some distance from the city.[1]

On May 10, 2024, the city of Rafah was under intense Israeli bombardment, leading to a new wave of displacement as residents fled from the Israeli aggression. Earlier, Israel had ordered civilians out of the eastern part of Rafah, forcing tens of thousands of people to seek shelter outside the city. Rafah had previously been the last refuge of more than a million uprooted from other parts of the territory in the war. About 110,000 people have fled Rafah in southern Gaza. All crossings into southern Gaza remain closed, cutting off supplies and preventing medical evacuations and the movement of humanitarian staff. Food and fuel supplies in the area are critically low. [2]

 

Meanwhile,  the UN Security Council called for an immediate and independent investigation into mass graves allegedly containing hundreds of bodies near hospitals in Gaza. In a statement, members of the council expressed their “deep concern over reports of the discovery of mass graves, in and around the Nasser and Al-Shifa medical facilities in Gaza, where several hundred bodies, including women, children and older persons, were buried.” [3]

Meanwhile, the truce talks in Cairo for a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel have stalled. Notwithstanding Israel’s stance and official doubts, several very recent developments indicate a breakthrough in a ceasefire in Gaza is yet achievable. [4]

The war began on October 7, 2023, when Hamas attacked Israel killing more than 1,170 people, including more than 300 soldiers, and 252 people were taken as hostages. It is believed that 128 are still in captivity, including 36 who are dead. The attack has prompted an unprecedented and massive military retaliation from Israeli forces. In the more than seven-month Israeli war in Gaza, more than 34,904 Palestinians have been killed and 78,404 have been wounded. The majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates 263 soldiers have been killed and 1,592 wounded since the launch of its military operation in Gaza.  The military offensive has devastated much of the coastal enclave and caused a humanitarian crisis.


Meanwhile, there is now a serious rift over the major Rafah offensive between the Biden administration and the Netanyahu government. Very recently, the US had paused a bomb shipment for Israel over concerns it was going ahead with a major ground operation in Rafah without completely addressing the Biden administration's concerns over the humanitarian needs of civilians in the city.[5]

Earlier, Egypt proposed to Hamas a comprehensive framework for a ceasefire and prisoner exchange agreement between it and Israel. The first stage of the proposed agreement entails a 40-day temporary ceasefire, with the possibility of extension, and the release of all civilian Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip. Stage two is the matter of conclusion of prisoner exchange and reconstruction efforts. The third and final stage of the agreement involves completing the reconstruction process and exchanging the bodies of individuals killed during the conflict. The proposed agreement identifies Qatar, Egypt, and the United States as guarantors responsible for overseeing the implementation of the ceasefire, prisoner exchange, and reconstruction efforts outlined in the agreement.[6]

 

The proposal is certainly doable, and it is now primarily the responsibility of the US to get it somehow approved by Israel, and Hamas will surely follow. France and Saudi Arabia need to get involved, as it has some leverage in the whole matter of operationalizing the Hamas-Israel agreement. At least, it can help in footing the bill for the reconstruction of Gaza.

Meanwhile, doubts have grown over the fate of a Gaza truce plan between Israel and Hamas.

Global public opinion matters, especially global youth, and will certainly shape politics in some manner. Israel is already bowing to growing outside public pressure and has made a concerted effort in recent days to show it's stepping up aid distribution in Gaza. There's pressure for a cease-fire, too, from college campuses across the US, which is Israel's most important ally and benefactor, and also parallel protests taking shape on European university campuses. The anti-war demonstrations have not gone unnoticed by displaced Palestinian students in Rafah, whose education came to an abrupt halt on October 7.

Meanwhile, what has changed the political landscape wasn’t at all expected. In a perplexing and surprising development, an unprecedented and surprising wave of student demonstrations and encampments are underway at US universities, and elsewhere, in protest over the war in Gaza. Protesting students are also calling for their universities to divest from arms firms that supply to Israel and in some cases sever links with universities in Israel.[7]

Campus protests have emerged as a new political flashpoint during a hotly contested and deeply divisive US election year.[8]

The US colleges have been using law enforcement, academic suspensions, and expulsions to quell student demonstrations since Hamas’ October 7, attack on Israel. The war has further fueled deeply held views of students and faculty on all sides.

To their credit, student demonstrations in the US were a wake-up call for other university students elsewhere. While the student protests have been most intense in American universities, similar ones have spread in some form to campuses in BritainFrance, Australia, Finland, Denmark, Italy, Spain, and elsewhere, Student protests there, similar to the ones in the US, are also calling on their universities to divest from Israel in response to its military operation in the Gaza Strip. Some student protests sparked clashes and arrests as new demonstrations broke out in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Switzerland, and Austria.[9]

 

Student protests also occurred in Canada, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Chile, and Tunisia. Student protests are also demanding their universities sever ties with Israel over the Gaza war. On May 7, 2024, the protests sparked clashes and dozens of fresh arrests. Meanwhile, ongoing student activism has also “highlighted the lack of protest in support of Palestinians in the Arab world.”[10]

Global public opinion matters, especially global youth, and will certainly shape politics in some manner. Israel is already bowing to growing outside public pressure and has made a concerted effort in recent days to show it's stepping up aid distribution in Gaza. There's pressure for a ceasefire, too, from college campuses across the US, which is Israel's most important ally and benefactor, and also parallel protests taking shape on European university campuses. The anti-war demonstrations have not gone unnoticed by displaced Palestinian students in Rafah, whose education came to an abrupt halt on October 7.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians continue to suffer from Israeli brutal offensives. The US isn’t doing enough to stop Israel from destroying what remains of Gaza. Today, the humanitarian situation there is terrible. Israel must be stopped from invading Rafah as it would be indeed catastrophic. Israel’s plans to eliminate Hamas must be scuttled by the Biden administration as it isn’t doable. Hamas is much more than a military force. It is an idea of resistance in the popular Arab mind that cannot be ended now. Global public opinion has turned against Israel and is now calling for an end to the Gaza war. Therefore, there must be an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The world leadership must now move on to a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict. Only the US can force Israel to move in that direction. No one else has the leverage on Israel. As expected, the Biden administration is still playing politics with the whole Palestinian-Israeli conflict issue. That is most tragic and unfortunate but remains a hard reality, nonetheless. The new globalist student movement is a product of new global political forces unleashed by global media, especially social media, 24/7 news, and global networking because of the Internet's global expansion, the like of which hasn’t been seen before. The Biden and the Netanyahu administrations are clueless about the power of this new phenomenon. They are grounded in old knowledge and decadent brick-and-mortar establishments and think tanks feeding them constantly with outdated research. They will soon learn at their peril. The world is changing right before our eyes, and galvanized global public opinion does matter in international affairs. Given the recent developments, there is hope because of the slight shift in the policy of the Biden administration which in the past had only given outright blind support to Israel. On May 10, 2024, the Biden administration said Israel’s use of US-supplied weapons may be “inconsistent” with international humanitarian law during its military operation in Gaza, in its strongest criticism to date of Israel. But the State Department also said in a report to Congress that there was not enough concrete evidence to link specific US-supplied weapons to violations or warrant cutting the supply of arms.[11]

There were external pressures at work on both the Biden administration and the Netanyahu government. In another important development, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution on May 10, 2024, for the UN Security Council to reconsider and support the full membership of Palestine in the UN. A total of 143 countries supported it, nine voted against it – including the United States – and 25 abstained. The resolution also gives Palestine a range of rights and privileges, in addition to what it is allowed in its current observer status.[12]

Today, there is significant domestic pressure on both the Netanyahu government and the Biden administration because of the clear shift in global public opinion, albeit for different reasons, in both countries. Seemingly, the massive student demonstrations in the US, and elsewhere, may stimulate enough political pressure to somehow turn the tide and affect the outcome of the Gaza war. There is some hope. The Israeli-Palestinian peace deal may be realized, sooner than later.

Dr. Sohail Mahmood is an Independent Political Analyst based in Chapel Hill NC

 


[1] Middle East Crisis Live: Gaza. The Guardian, May 11, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2024/may/11/israel-gaza-war-rafah-offensive-idf-latest-news?filterKeyEvents=false&page=with:block-663ead418f08b358a8b9ac33

[2] Stephen Quillen, “Israel’s war on Gaza live: Over 100,000 Palestinians flee Rafah”, Aljazeera, May 10, 2024, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/liveblog/2024/5/10/israels-war-on-gaza-live-aid-operation-completely-crippled-amid-attacks?update=2891261; Middle East Crisis Live: Gaza. The Guardian, May 11, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2024/may/11/israel-gaza-war-rafah-offensive-idf-latest-news?filterKeyEvents=false&page=with:block-663ead418f08b358a8b9ac33

[3] Middle East Crisis Live: Gaza. The Guardian, May 11, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2024/may/11/israel-gaza-war-rafah-offensive-idf-latest-news?filterKeyEvents=false&page=with:block-663ead418f08b358a8b9ac33

[4] JOSEPH KRAUSS, SAMY MAGDY AND MELANIE LIDMAN, “Israel says it reopened a key Gaza crossing after a rocket attack, but the UN says no aid has entered,” AP, May 8, 2024, https://apnews.com/article/israel-hamas-war-news-05-08-2024-495e6dabfdddc5587bd20e71b6ad421d

[5] David Gritten, “Gaza: Israel takes Rafah crossing as truce talks continue, May 8, 2024”, BBC News https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-68967397.

[6] Egyptian proposal outlines return of all hostages and phased end to Gaza war, i24NEWS, May 1, 2024, https://www.i24news.tv/en/news/israel-at-war/artc-egyptian-proposal-outlines-return-of-all-hostages-and-phased-end-to-gaza-war

[7] Martin Belam and Geneva Abdul, “A fresh wave of student demonstrations and encampments are underway at UK universities in protest over the war in Gaza,” The Guardian, May 1, 2024, https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/middle-east-

[8] Kim Bellware, College students are protesting schools’ ties to Israel. Here’s why,” The Wahington Post, May 4, 2024. College students are protesting schools’ ties to Israel. Here’s why. (msn.com) ; Dozens arrested in US campuses in another weekend of pro-Palestine protests, Al Jazeera, May 5, 2024,  https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/5/5/dozens-arrested-in-us-campuses-in-another-weekend-of-pro-palestine-protests; Neha Gohil, ‘There are people in tents writing dissertations’: The Guardian, May 5, 2024, UK reaches for scale of US campus protests | Israel-Gaza war | The GuardianIS; How student protests are changing college graduations, NPR, May 10, 2024, Sequoia Carrillo, https://www.npr.org/2024/05/07/1249550559/the-unrest-on-college-campuses-is-running-up-against-graduation-season

[9] “Clashes and arrests as pro-Palestinian protests spread across European campuses,” Guardian, May 8, 2024, Clashes and arrests as pro-Palestinian protests spread across European campuses | Israel-Gaza war | The Guardian; Amy Sedghi and Reged Ahmad, “Middle East crisis live: US pauses shipment of bombs to Israel due to Rafah fears”, Guardian, May 8, 2024,  Middle East crisis live: US pauses shipment of bombs to Israel due to Rafah fears | Israel-Gaza war | The Guardian; “Student protests against Gaza war spread in Europe, sparking clashes and dozens of arrests,” AFP, May 8, 2024, https://uk.news.yahoo.com/europe-student-gaza-protests-spread-023955078.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuYmluZy5jb20v&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAJm1-xLhgItBLbWaGHIxWDVNtFi3xFT8za0VP32k63K-rB3E2kL6v78oyChzqTrxkjzecqXRpSDSdU8gJj3yiahRKjQpjpEPMBnXWmw_qTIkKaXxAWNRPz1pS9ZDCpwORHNjQtgW3mZ_DoZosCYx17VctuMlxTVTZPmTcFeucEMJ

[10] Amy Sedghi and Reged Ahmad , Middle East crisis live: US pauses shipment of bombs to Israel due to Rafah feras, Guardian, May 8, 2024,  Middle East crisis live: US pauses shipment of bombs to Israel due to Rafah fears | Israel-Gaza war | The Guardian

[11] Middle East Crisis Live: Gaza. The Guardian, May 11, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2024/may/11/israel-gaza-war-rafah-offensive-idf-latest-news?filterKeyEvents=false&page=with:block-663ead418f08b358a8b9ac33

[12] Middle East Crisis Live: Gaza. The Guardian, May 11, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2024/may/11/israel-gaza-war-rafah-offensive-idf-latest-news?filterKeyEvents=false&page=with:block-663ead418f08b358a8b9ac33

 

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