Calls for ceasefire overshadowed by brazen U.S. support for all-out war – Mondoweiss


Key Developments:

  • At least 5 Palestinians killed in Israeli settler attacks in occupied West Bank; Israeli forces ramp up raids in West Bank, detain 60 Palestinians in one night.
  • Of the Israeli casualties, at least 222 killed are soldiers and military personnel, the army says.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken arrives in Tel Aviv and promises more weapons to Israel.
  • A growing number of countries call for a ceasefire amid reported U.S. proposals for a “humanitarian corridor.”
  • Gaza health ministry says the collapse of the health system has “truly begun.”
  • Israeli Energy Minister says no humanitarian aid, water, or electricity will reach Gazans until Hamas releases captives; Hamas says no prisoner swap until war is over.
  • Hamas and Islamic Jihad claim to be holding 130 captives in Gaza.
  • Deputy Head of the Political Bureau of Hamas, Saleh Al-Arouri: Hamas fighters had strict orders to target Israeli military targets only.

Israel’s war on Gaza entered its sixth day on Thursday, October 12, with Israeli airstrikes pounding the Gaza Strip through the night, with Palestinian media reporting more than 150 Palestinians killed on Thursday alone.

According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, as of Wednesday, 28 entire Palestinian families had been killed so far in Israeli airstrikes that began on Saturday, following the surprise attack launched by Hamas, dubbed “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.” That number is expected to rise as more families continue to be pulled out of the rubble on Thursday. 

Palestinians Israelis
Killed 1,448 1,200
Injured >6,400 >2,700
Casualties (Updated at 11:30 a.m. ET 10/12/23)

The ministry added that 10 Palestinian medics and healthcare workers have been killed so far, including four medics who were killed on Wednesday when an Israeli airstrike targeted their ambulance. So far, there have been 14 documented attacks on hospitals and health facilities in Gaza. Due to Israel’s complete siege on Gaza, the Strip’s sole power plant ran out of fuel on Wednesday, causing panic among health officials. 

“Hospitals are working at full capacity. There is no place for the wounded from Israeli airstrikes to be treated,” Gaza’s Health Ministry said in a statement. “The complete embargo on electricity, water, and fuel by Israeli occupation forces poses a danger to the lives of the wounded and sick people, which causes a serious health and environmental disaster.”

Additionally, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said 12 of its employees had been killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. Additionally, the agency says nearly 175,500 internally displaced people are sheltering in 88 UNRWA schools across the Gaza Strip, though the number continues to increase as airstrikes continue. 

Meanwhile, in the occupied West Bank, armed Israeli settlers are launching attacks on Palestinian villages. At least five Palestinians were killed between Wednesday and Thursday during settler attacks on the Nablus area. Israeli forces also raided areas across the West Bank, breaking into homes in the middle of the night and arresting at least 60 Palestinians. 

As the death toll in Gaza rises into the thousands, no concrete efforts at de-escalation have materialized. While there have been some calls for a ceasefire, major players like the U.S. have continued to double down on their support for Israel. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken arrived in Israel on Thursday, where he pledged more U.S. support for Israel in the form of weapons reinforcements.  

Early Thursday evening, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah-led government in the West Bank has remained largely silent since fighting began on Saturday, released a statement condemning the killing of civilians on “both sides.”

“We reject the practices of killing civilians or abusing them on both sides because they contravene morals, religion, and international law,” the PA leader said. Abbas and his government, which are largely unpopular across the territory, have reportedly been under immense pressure to condemn Hamas, as European countries threaten to pull funding from the authority, which largely relies on donor aid to survive.

Around the same time, President Abbas released his statement, Deputy Head of the Political Bureau of Hamas, Saleh Al-Arouri, appeared in a live television interview on Al Jazeera, where he said that Hamas was “surprised” when its fighters were able to capture Israel’s military installations around the Gaza Strip over the course of three hours on Saturday.

“The military plan of the [Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade] was to target the Gaza Division of the [Israeli] occupation army and to fight only the occupation soldiers. It was not part of the plan to harm or kill civilians, and we were surprised that the Gaza Division collapsed in less than 3 hours, faster than we expected,” al-Arouri said.

Al-Arouri claimed that Hamas launched its operation based on alleged intel that Israel was “planning to launch an attack on us” after the conclusion of the Jewish holidays.

“The storming of the Gaza Strip was an organized operation, and the instructions from the Qassam leadership were to attack the Gaza Division of the occupation army, which is responsible for all crimes against our people,” al-Arouri said. He went on to say, “We do not target civilians, but there are ordinary individuals from Gaza who were able to enter settlements and capture civilians, but this was not part of our plan.”

West Bank: Settlers on killing rampage as army steps up raids

In a worrying development in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday night, three Palestinians were shot and killed in the Nablus area village of Qusra when armed Israeli settlers attacked the village and began shooting at residents.

According to reports from local Palestinian media, armed Israeli settlers raided the town of Qusra, which is surrounded by a number of illegal Israeli settlements and outposts. Locals from Qusra told Wafa news agency that settlers from the Yesh Kodesh outpost, under the protection of the army, were attacking villagers living in the southern part of the village. When locals went out to confront the settlers and push them back, the settlers began firing on people, injuring at least 11. Three Palestinians were confirmed killed, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

On Thursday afternoon, the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din reported that armed settlers were attacking the funeral of the three Palestinians killed in Qusra the night before, opening fire on mourners. The health ministry later confirmed that two more Palestinians from Qusra were killed Thursday, presumably from settler fire. They were identified as Ibrahim Wadi, 62, and Ahmad Wadi, 25.

Confrontations were reported in other parts of the West Bank on Wednesday and Thursday, with Israeli forces shooting and injuring around a dozen Palestinians, including an 11-year-old boy who was critically injured in the stomach. Live ammunition injuries were reported in the Hebron, Jericho, Nablus, Ramallah, and Bethlehem areas, according to Palestinian media. As of Thursday afternoon, the Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that 190 Palestinians had been injured since Saturday, October 7th, when Hamas launched Operation Al-Aqsa Flood out of Gaza.

Overnight Thursday, Israeli forces carried out widespread raids across the occupied territory, arresting more than 60 Palestinians from their homes in the middle of the night in the West Bank. A video published on social media that was allegedly filmed overnight Thursday showed Israeli forces beating up a Palestinian man from the Jalazone refugee camp as they were arresting them from his home. According to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society, more than 200 Palestinians have been arrested from the West Bank since the start of the war on October 7th.

Early Thursday morning, large numbers of Israeli forces raided the northern West Bank city of Jenin, sparking armed confrontations with local resistance groups. The Jenin Brigade released a statement, saying its fighters were confronting Israeli forces with “heavy barrages of bullets and explosive devices” as “part of the Al-Aqsa Flood battle,” referring to the Hamas-launched operation out of Gaza.

Armed clashes between Palestinian resistance groups and the Israeli army were also reported in Nablus and Qalandiya, in the Jerusalem district of the West Bank.

Since Operation Al-Aqsa Flood was launched, demonstrations in support of the Palestinian resistance have taken place across the occupied West Bank. On Wednesday night, videos from the southern West Bank city of Hebron showed hundreds of Palestinians marching together through the city holding Palestinian flags, as well as flags from rival factions Hamas and Fatah. Protesters chanted, “Unity, unity, national unity.”

Mass protests are set to take place across the West Bank on Friday, following calls not only from Hamas but various political factions in the occupied territory.

Calls for a ceasefire overshadowed by brazen U.S. support for all-out war

Since the fighting began on Saturday, calls for a ceasefire have been made by China, Russia, and Brazil. Many reports, however, have focused on proposals by the U.S. and other unnamed European countries to create a “humanitarian corridor” for civilians out of  Gaza and into Egypt in anticipation of an Israeli ground invasion of the Strip.

Notably, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken deleted a statement on social media calling for a cease-fire between Israel and Palestine a few days ago after he was attacked by Republicans and right-wing pundits for the post.

The Guardian reported that U.S.-led talks on safe passage for civilians in Gaza were being held with Israel and Egypt, quoting national security advisor Jake Sullivan as saying, “We are focused on this question. There are consultations going on. But the details of that are something that is being discussed among the operational agencies, and I don’t want to share too much of that publicly at this time.”

According to reports from Al Jazeera, however, Egypt has reportedly rejected the idea of a civilian corridor, saying Israel “seeks to empty Gaza.” Unnamed Egyptian security sources told Reuters that its decision was based on a desire to protect “the right of Palestinians to hold on to their cause and their land”. Egypt has upheld the 16-year-siege Israeli on Gaza, heavily restricting the passage of Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt via the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing.

Palestinians and human rights workers have slammed the alleged plans as “catastrophic”, calling instead for a ceasefire and safe zones inside Gaza. Many have said it would pave the way for Israel to commit ethnic cleansing by displacing even more Palestinians and killing the ones who remain.

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken arrived in Tel Aviv on Thursday and attended a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, where he reaffirmed unwavering U.S. support for Israel and vowed that more military support in the form of weapons and replenishments to Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system were on the way.

Blinken is reportedly set to attend a cabinet meeting of Israel’s emergency war government, which was formed on Wednesday and includes Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz. Gantz, Israel’s former defense minister, said in a statement that the newly formed government was “united” and ready to “wipe this thing called Hamas off the face of the Earth.”

During the press conference, the pair made comparisons of Hamas to ISIS, while Blinken vowed that more military support was on its way to Israel, on top of ammunition and interceptors which have already arrived in the past days, to replenish its Iron Dome system.

Similarly, U.S. President Joe Biden has doubled down on inflammatory rhetoric, equating Hamas to ISIS and regurgitating unverified reports of mass rape and the beheading of children, with the White House quickly walking back on the latter claim following pushback. In another statement, Biden said he told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it is “really important” that Israel “operate by the rules of war,” following up by saying, “We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure Israel will succeed.”

President Biden and U.S. government officials have yet to make any official statements on the more than 300 Palestinian children who have been killed in Gaza as a result of Israeli airstrikes since Saturday, October 7th.

In a State Department Briefing on Wednesday, following pressing questions from journalist Said Arikat of Al Quds newspaper, State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller refused to say that Israel must end its cut off of electricity, food, water, and medicine to Gazans, saying, “Israel has suffered a brutal terror attack, Israel has the right to defend itself, Israel has the right to take action against the terrorists…and we support them.” Miller went on to say the U.S. “encourages” its allies to abide by international law.

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