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Gaza Conflict: If Both Israel And Hamas Won, Then Who Lost? – OpEd

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Since both Israel and Hamas are busy claiming “victory” after the truce which ended 11 days of intense bombardment and rocket attacks, it seems that the only losers in this senseless violence are those who are dead- and there are plenty of them. As per credible reports, nearly 250 people [including more than 100 women and children] lost their lives in Gaza, while 12 people [including two children] were killed in Israel. 

This translates to one death in every hour of the 11-day conflict, which by no means can ever justify victory celebrations by either Israel or Hamas. Au contraire, with neither of them being able to achieve their military objectives, this humongous loss of lives was nothing but a sheer waste. While this may sound uncivil, but unfortunately, this is the harsh reality!

Here it’s not intended to delve into the genesis of the Palestine issue nor debate territorial claims being made by Israelis or Palestinians. Neither is it proposed to either justify one side and condemn the other for violence that they have perpetrated on each other. The aim is only to identify those guilty of creating conditions that resulted in deaths of so many non-combatants, so as to learn lessons for the future. 

To start with, since fatalities in Gaza have been inordinately far greater than those suffered by Israel, the Israeli Defence Forces [IDF] should ideally be the main villains. Yet, apportioning blame solely on the basis of statistical data of fatalities would not be an accurate determinant because while this is indeed the ‘effect’ and can’t be overlooked, the ‘cause’ thereof is equally [if not more] important.

While the barrage of rockets fired at Israel are undoubtedly the root cause’ for IDF’s brutal retaliation that many opine is patently brazen use of excessive force, it’s Hamas which precipitated this monumental crisis, which snowballed into a cycle of violence. As per media reports, in this 11-day conflagration, more than 4,300 rockets were fired by Hamas, which averages to more than 390 projectiles per day, or 16 rockets per hour. In retaliation, IDF claims to targeted 1,000 Hamas facilities, which amounts to more than 90 strikes per day or nearly 4 strikes every hour for 11 days. So, even though the ‘strike ratio’ of 1:4 is in favour of Hamas, the comparative fatality rate is both inverse and exceedingly disproportionate.

People in Palestine have suffered 20 times more casualties than those living in Israel and though heart wrenching, such a wide disparity in fatalities was expected for many reasons. One, despite being fully aware that Israel had deployed its state-of-art ‘Iron Dome’ anti-missile system, which is capable of destroying several hostile rockets even if fired simultaneously at different targets, Hamas still embarked on its reckless plan of trying to intimidate Tel Aviv through a sustained rocket barrage. What is even more distressing is that despite being fully aware that any rocket attack would invite a very strong retaliation from IDF resulting in the inevitable loss of life and property, Hamas still went ahead and put people of Gaza in grave danger of becoming hapless victims of what many analysts euphemistically refer to as ‘collateral damage’.

Secondly, these rocket attacks were of unprecedented intensity and not directed at military targets but population centers in Israel, it gave Tel Aviv the much-wanted reason for initiating defensive measures in the form of targeting both rocket launch sites and Hamas bases in Gaza. Tel Aviv’s decision also found widespread approval of the international community and readers may recall that even US President Joe Biden endorsed IDF strikes in Gaza by reasoning that “Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory.” Furthermore, by intentionally attacking civilian targets in Israel, outcry against civilian casualties in Gaza didn’t find much traction within the international community and Hamas has no one but itself to blame for this sorry state of affairs!

Lastly, and most tragically, even though people of Gaza have suffered extremely heavy losses, their suffering hasn’t helped the Palestinian cause at all. Conversely, despite its best efforts to gain worldwide sympathy by flashing visuals of sites attacked and civilians killed and injured by IDF [including circulating orchestrated images of ‘dead’ and ‘injured’ Palestinians], the Hamas hasn’t been able to gain any meaningful sympathy. 

So, while Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi may talk big about Israelis losing “the media war, despite their connections,” and its human rights minister Shireen Mazari tweeting of how “when we [Pakistan] highlight Israelis ‘deep pockets’ & influence over western media & govts, it gets labelled ‘anti-Semitic’,” their bombast lacks credibility because by its precipitous actions, Hamas has forfeited the Palestinians’ genuine right to portray themselves as victims. 

When the world watched visuals of the night sky above Israel lighting up as Israel’s Iron Dome intercepted and destroyed a devasting array rockets fired by Hamas in midair, the first thought that came to mind was the colossal damage to civilian life and property these 4,000 odd rockets could have caused had they not been neutralised by IDF. Secondly, the fact that Hamas rockets have killed three foreign nationals [one Indian woman and two Thai males] as well as injured seven workers from Thailand has angered the world and put the Palestinians’ travails into the backburner. 

Moreover, by launching rockets from inhabited areas [visual proof of which has been released by IDF], and setting up their operating bases in high rise buildings is rightly being viewed as a Hamas tactics as densely populated areas provide an excellent protective umbrella of ‘human shields’ to protect themselves from IDF strikes. So, since Hamas itself doesn’t seem to have any concern for the safety of innocent Palestinians, expecting the international community to sympathise with Hamas is obviously a tall order. Therefore, while the people of Gaza have all the reasons to feel aggrieved for being abandoned to their fate by the global community, it’s not international apathy but the vile ways of Hamas that’s to blame.   

Yet, while Hamas may be directly responsible for the sorrow brought upon Palestinians in Gaza, but it’s the Islamic nations which are providing munitions and money to this proscribed terrorist outfit for fighting their proxy war with Israel who are the actual ones having the blood of innocent Palestinians on their hands. Thus, while the Organisation of Islamic Conference [OIC] may publicly shed tears on the plight of Gaza residents, countries like Turkey and Pakistan are busy trying to exploit this massive human tragedy in an attempt to manipulate and climb a few notches up in the existing power and influence structure within the comity of Islamic nations. 

Resultantly, while the Hamas and OIC may consider truce in Gaza as a victory, and Islamic nations reaffirm solidarity with the Palestinian cause, but in the continuing Arab-Israeli face off, it’s the people of Palestine who always were, still are, and will continue to be the real losers.

Nilesh Kunwar

Nilesh Kunwar is a retired Indian Army Officer who has served in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. He is a ‘Kashmir-Watcher,’ and now after retirement is pursuing his favorite hobby of writing for newspapers, journals and think tanks.

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