Gaza: Counting The ‘Dead’ Before They’re Killed


SHEDDY OZOENE

The State of Israel does not believe in the Biblical injunction of turning the other cheek when slapped. It does not even stop at the principle of reciprocal justice – an eye for an eye – as explained in the Books of Exodus and Leviticus. When you pluck an Israeli eye, be sure they’ll retaliate by plucking your two eyes, shutting your mouth and leaving your nose bloodied.

Since October 7, 2023, when the Islamic Resistance Movement popularly called HAMAS launched a surprise invasion of Israel, another chilling season of killings and destruction have returned to that familiar theatre of strife. Expectedly, the Israeli retaliation has been typical. Gaza, from where the attack was launched, has faced an unprecedented pounding, turning its physical structures to rubble and triggering a humanitarian crisis of horrendous proportions.

In what has become a guiding beam for his soldiers, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had decreed that ‘every Hamas member is a dead man’.

Of the 2.3 million that inhabit the tiny Gaza Strip, an area of just 141 square miles, HAMAS which the US and its European allies regard as a terrorist group, boasts about 35,000 militants.
If ‘every HAMAS member is a dead man’ like Netanyahu decreed, the sheer figure of potential body bags is better imagined. When you add the innocent men, women and children, even the buildings, hospitals and other public facilities that have since become targets of rocket attacks in Gaza, the picture becomes frightening.

The HAMAS attacks not only caught the Israeli intelligence off-guard, they came on the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War of 1973 between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria. Thousands of rockets were launched into Israel, hundreds of civilians and soldiers were massacred and scores taken hostage on what was supposed to be a joyous Jewish holiday.

The atrocious attacks are condemnable and Israel’s responce in self defence are justified. What is unacceptable is the level the Israeli Defence Force has gone to in exerting revenge. It has not only crossed all boundaries of normal military engagement, its activities now bother on serious war crimes. The rationale for subjecting millions of the preponderant civilian population in Gaza to rocket attacks and a blockade that has denied them food, medical supplies, power supply and water, is questionable.

In less than 10 days of the Gaza war, the casualty figures are mind boggling.

The Israeli-Palestinian has been recurring, defying every peace initiative since May 1948 when the Jewish State came into existence. There has been an unending battle with the Palestinians and every other Arab neighbour in the middle in which it is ensconced. The ongoing conflict has the potential to escalate beyond Gaza. And, like the six-day war of 1967 which led to the Israeli occupation of most of the West Bank, Golan Heights, Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, the ongoing conflict promises to have wide-ranging ramifications.

It has the potential to redefine once more the geopolitical boundaries of the Middle Belt. Worse still, it is likely to escalate proceedings are not better managed.

The sound bites from Jersalem are chilling, understandable for a nation where nearly 1,500 innocent citizens were murdered in cold blood and hundreds held hostage. And while the US government has been unequivocal in expressing “unconditional support” to Israel over the crisis, it has been joined by the major nations of Europe who insist the Jews have a legitimate right to defend themselves in the circumstances. The US President, Joe Biden, in response to the attack that claimed about 29 US citizens, has ordered American troops and heavy weaponry to high alert.

With two aircraft carriers including the USS Eisenhower and the USS Gerald R. Ford, the largest warship in the world, positioned close-by in the Mediterranean sea, the Middle East has come within striking distance of the US might. When you add the guided missile cruiser USS Normandy and four guided missile destroyers also on standby, the implication becomes obvious to those supporting the Palestinian cause. It is a direct deterrence to Iran, Syria and Lebanon from where the Hezbolla has been firing rockets into Israel.

As it stands today, the world may be out for several months, if not years, of horrific warfare in the Middle East that has been, on recurring basis, the familiar theatre of war and bloodshed.

Just what HAMAS hopes to achieve by instigating the ongoing calamity is difficult to fathom. Already, the humanitarian crisis is high with Gaza losing over 3,500 with 12,000 wounded since the Israeli strikes and it can only get worse if the expected ground assault gets underway.

The question is: in all these, where have the international responses left humanity? Why are the superpowers focussed on military support rather than peaceful resolution of the crisis?

In the past few days, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has triggered protests across the world, from the United States to the UK, from Paris to Germany. Even the usually restrained China has condemned Israel for those acts that are far beyond self defence.

The argument whether the conflict between Israel and its neighbours will end around a negotiation table or in the battlefield, is still not likely to end soon, especially with the recent escalation of hostilities. But beyond the ‘aggressor’ and the angry Israeli authorities bent on retaliatory attacks, the world must spare a thought for the innocent men, women and children who have become the collateral victims of the ongoing carnage in Gaza.

Anyone who counts the ‘dead’ HAMAS members before they’re killed will find out the number is just too staggering. Netanyahu’s decree of tens of thousands of body bags does not have to come to pass.

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Sheddy Ozoene, Editor-in-Chief of People&Politics, is the Vice President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors



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