After days of airstrikes in Gaza killed more than 200 Palestinians, Israel commenced a ground invasion on Thursday night. Three-quarters of the Palestinians killed in the aerial and naval phase of the offensive were civilians according to the United Nations, including more than 50 children. With Hamas’ insistence on continued rocket attacks, those numbers are sure to rise.
When Hamas rejected an earlier Egyptian cease-fire proposal, it showed again its unwillingness to act in the best interest of the Palestinian people. No amount of rockets can overcome Israel’s insurmountable military advantage. But Hamas’ intransigence does not make acceptable Israel’s disproportionate military actions that amount to the collective punishment of civilians.
There are no heroes here. Hamas and Israeli hardline leaders sickly feed off one another, matching escalation with escalation till families, homes and peace prospects are left shattered. Before the ground invasion devolves into devastating urban warfare and provokes another intifada, Hamas and Israel should sign a cease-fire similar to the one brokered by Egypt.
Violence in Gaza will continue to flare up, as it has three times in the past five years, until Israel starts to move seriously toward a two-state solution. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s answer to a democratic unity government between Fatah and Hamas was to suspend payment to 43,000 civil servants and continue enforcing stifling border controls. Israel’s continued insistence on settlements irreparably damaged the most recent talks spearheaded by Secretary of State John Kerry.
The path to Palestinian statehood must be a peaceful one. Opportunistic politicians on both sides of the crisis who have sought to militarize the decades of ill will have only brought pain and stagnation to their people.
The plight of Gazans even before the Israeli operation was a humanitarian crisis, with limited clean water, electricity and opportunity for jobs and economic growth. The fighting will only make it worse.