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“World’s Most Moral Army” Continues Indiscriminate Bombardment on Densely Populated Civilian Centre

WILL IRVINE (HE/HIM)


RAFAH, OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES 


On February 12th, as US and international eyes were fixated on the Super Bowl, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) began the final phase of its assault on the Gaza Strip, bombing the last remaining “safe space”. Throughout the span of the recent Israel-Hamas war, which began on October 7th last year, the Israeli state has issued repeated warnings to Palestinian civilians, urging them to evacuate to Rafah in order to avoid the worst excesses of the conflict. The city, which is about the size of Wellington’s Miramar Peninsula, now hosts a staggering 1.4 million people, most of whom are refugees. These people were assured by the Israeli military that they would be safe in Rafah. Now, they are left with nowhere to run as Israeli bombs rain around them. 


The Gaza Strip is a 365-square-kilometre strip of land on the Mediterranean Sea that, alongside the West Bank, makes up one half of the widely unrecognised State of Palestine. Since 2006, Gaza has been under blockade by the Israeli military, which imposes a near-total embargo on all import and export of goods. Because of this, Gaza is deeply impoverished, with median salaries of just $336 USD. 


More broadly, tensions have existed between Israel and Palestine since 1948, when the State of Israel was founded on existing Palestinian territories in the former British Empire. In that year, Israel engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing (the Nakba, or “catastrophe” in Arabic) which forced more than 750,000 Palestinians to flee the country and systematically destroyed more than 500 Palestinian towns. 


The current iteration of the conflict, beginning with Hamas’s October 7th terrorist attack on Israel, has seen more than 29,000 Palestinians killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Of these, only an estimated 2500-8,000 were Hamas militants, meaning that a vast majority were civilian casualties, including a large proportion of children. This has led multiple organisations, including the South African Government, the New Zealand Green Party, and several United Nations bodies, to identify Israel’s actions in Gaza as a genocide. In South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, evidence was shown from multiple Israeli government ministers indicating intent to completely eliminate the Palestinian population in Gaza. 


Indeed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who leads Israel’s far-right government, has repeatedly called for Israel to have complete control over Gaza following their military campaign there. To many critics of Netanyahu, this appears a goal that can only be achieved by the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. 


On February 16, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon released a joint statement with the Canadian and Australian Prime Ministers calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Alongside this, the leaders expressed concern at Israel’s attack on Rafah, warning that attacking such a concentrated civilian population could have deadly consequences. UNICEF has predicted “an explosion in preventable child deaths which would compound the already unbearable level”.


Justice For Palestine spokesperson and co-convenor Samira Zaiton says that this is not enough, and the Government needs to take further action to protect Palestinians. Zaiton says that the Government needs to immediately resume funding for UNRWA, the UN refugee agency whose funding was halted after allegations of terrorism by the Israeli state. UNRWA maintains refugee camps across the Middle East that cater to more than 5.6 million Palestinians displaced by Israel’s genocidal actions. Zaiton and J4P also recommend that the Government enforces immediate sanctions on Israel, including ending diplomatic relations if they refuse to comply the a recent International Court of Justice ruling ordering them to prevent a genocide from occuring.



For more information and to support the Palestinian cause, readers can follow @just4pal on Instagram or visit www.justiceforpalestine.nz

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