EYESHENZHEN  /   Opinion

Gaza conflicts hard to cease

Writer: Winton Dong  |  Editor: Jane Chen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2021-05-24

Israel and Palestine agreed to a cease-fire at 2 a.m. local time May 21 after 11 days of exchanges of airstrikes. However, only several hours after the agreement, conflict again erupted between Muslim worshipers and Israeli forces at a mosque.

On May 15, Israeli missiles struck a 12-story building in Gaza – which housed the offices of U.S.-based Associated Press (AP) and other news media – and reduced it to piles of concrete rubbish. Israel said there were facilities for Hamas militants in the building. But AP said the Israeli Government had long known it housed journalists.

A dozen of AP staff reporters, freelancers and other tenants safely evacuated from the building before it was crumbled to the ground. Those AP staffers got a warning telephone from the Israeli force only less than one hour before the strike.

AP journalists were lucky to get a warning call in advance, but other common people in Gaza were not so fortunate. It is reported that rocket and missile attacks have so far killed at least 13 Israeli people and more than 230 Palestinians, including 65 children, 39 women and other civilians.

Israeli lives matter. Palestinian lives also matter. The loss of every life from each side is the loss of another human being. Instead of healing already hostile relations, this kind of military escalation has further intensified hatred and hostility between Israel and Palestine and helped radical groups wantonly grow in the region.

As the longest-serving and one of the most influential Israeli prime ministers, Benjamin Netanyahu has done a lot to lead the country to economic prosperity and scientific advancement in the past years. However, it seems that his iron hand and harsh policy towards Palestine is gradually getting out of control now.

The United States should also be partly blamed for the tense situation in the region. U.S. President Joe Biden resisted joining other world leaders in calling for an immediate end to the hostility. He told Netanyahu on May 17 that he backed a cease-fire, but stopped short of demanding a truce.

Does the U.S. administration really want to see a peaceful Gaza? U.S. congressional sources said May 17 that Biden's administration approved the potential sale of US$735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel, and that U.S. lawmakers were not expected to object to the deal despite violence between Israel and Palestinian militants. "For decades, the U.S. had sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights. In doing so, we have directly contributed to death, displacement and disenfranchisement of millions," Alexandria Ocascio-Cortez, a U.S. congresswoman from New York, said in a statement.

The international community, including the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the United States, China, Russia and other major countries in the world, should do more to help defuse the crisis. What is the definition of a responsible international organization or a responsible major power? It must drop its selfish or biased economic, trade and foreign policies and serve the interests of all human beings.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called the violence in Gaza "utterly appalling." Since the conflict escalated, the U.N. Security Council has held several emergency meetings. Nevertheless, the United States, a key Israeli ally, has repeatedly blocked the adoption of joint statements calling for a halt to the violence. Moreover, because of the escalating tension, incidents involving health workers and health facilities have frequently occurred in Palestine. COVID-19 testing has also been forced to suspend there. "The protection of health workers and infrastructure is imperative in all circumstances," World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Holding the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council for May, China is also committed to helping solve the crisis. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has chaired emergent meetings with other U.N. member countries via video link to help mediate a conflict resolution. According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, China will not stop its efforts to promote dialogue and peace talks as long as the conflicts continue.

(The author is the editor-in-chief of Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)