A genocide is engulfing the people of Gaza while a silence engulfs its bystanders. “Some 1.4 million people, mostly children, are piled up in one of the most densely populated regions of the world, with no freedom of movement, no place to run and no space to hide”, wrote senior UN relief official Jan Egeland and Jan Eliasson, then Swedish foreign minister, in Le Figaro. They described people “living in a cage”, cut off by land, sea and air, with no reliable power and little water, and tortured by hunger and disease and incessant attacks by Israeli troops and planes.
Factional fighting between the armed wings of Fatah and Hamas resumed on January 25 when a vehicle carrying members of the Hamas Executive Force was bombed. Two EF fighters later died as a result of their injuries. The subsequent bloody clashes between rival militants, which took place mainly in the Gaza Strip, left 19 people dead, including a two-year-old boy and eight civilians.
More than 30 Palestinians have been killed in the past month in violence between Fatah and Hamas that flared up after Fatah-aligned President Mahmoud Abbas called on December 17 for new presidential and legislative elections. Hundreds more have been wounded in the violence, which intensified in the Gaza Strip late last year and has now spread to the West Bank.
A Gaza ceasefire was negotiated by Israeli and Palestinian officials on November 26. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said it is aimed at ending the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel by armed Palestinian resistance groups, and providing the basis for negotiations regarding the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Palestinians, for their part, hope the ceasefire will provide some relief for the people of the sealed Gaza Strip, who have faced a relentless Israel Defense Forces (IDF) campaign since late June.
On November 18, the UN General Assembly voted 156 to seven, with six abstentions, to support sending a UN fact-finding team to Gaza to investigate the November 8 massacre of 19 sleeping Palestinians in Beit Hanoun by an Israeli artillery barrage. Israel, the US and Australia voted against the resolution, along with four Pacific Island states.
Independent surveys by the Jerusalem Media Communication Centre, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) and the Najah National University Centre for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies have each found two-thirds of Palestinian in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza support the formation of a national unity government as a way to overcome the economic embargo imposed by Israel, the US and the European Union.
In the deadliest single attack on Palestinians in four years, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) killed 19 civilians at Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip on November 8. Seven homes were bombed in the early hours of the morning as the victims slept and, according to the Gaza-based United Nations Relief and Works Agency, more than 60 civilians were injured in the attack.
Israels war on Gaza, its continued colonisation of the West Bank, and its construction of the apartheid wall represent the third wave of ethnic cleansing in Palestine since the establishment of Zionist state, Israeli academic Tanya Reinhart told 250-strong meeting in Melbourne on October 12.
In a September 25 appeal to the international community to act to end the humanitarian disaster in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the UN envoy on Palestinians human rights, John Dugard, pointed out: In effect, the Palestinian people have been subjected to economic sanctions the first time an occupied people has been so treated.