After a week of rocket barrages and airstrikes, the U.N. Security Council and Muslim nations are demanding a stop to civilian bloodshed in the Middle East. U.S. President Joe Biden, however, is giving no signs of pressuring Israel to agree to a cease-fire—despite calls for the administration to get more involved.
The conflict broke out last Monday. Terrorist Palestinian militant group Hamas fired long-range rockets at Jerusalem after weeks of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police. Fighting focused on the intense policing during the Muslim celebration of Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.
Residents of Gaza described yesterday’s barrage as the heaviest since the war began. Fighting was even more powerful than airstrikes the day before that left 42 dead and flattened three buildings.
That brings the toll since Hamas and Israel began fighting last Monday to at least 188 killed in Gaza and eight in Israel. Some 55 children in Gaza and a five-year-old boy in Israel are among the dead.
This recent outbreak is the fourth such war between Israel and Hamas. In yesterday’s attack, the Israeli military says it destroyed nine miles of militant tunnels and the homes of nine Hamas commanders. The attack killed a local leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group, according to the Israeli military. Officials blamed him for some 3,100 rocket attacks launched at Israel.
A three-story building in Gaza City was heavily damaged. But residents say the military warned them 10 minutes before the strike, and everyone cleared out.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, says the United States is “working tirelessly through diplomatic channels” to stop the fighting.
Multiples countries have appealed to Hamas leaders and the nation of Israel for an end to fighting. But the two have shown no sign of progress.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is working to broker a cease-fire, saying that all parties “should de-escalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence.”
Representative Adam Schiff and Senator Bernie Sanders called on President Biden to pressure both sides. “I think the administration needs to push harder on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to stop the violence, bring about a cease-fire, end these hostilities, and get back to a process of trying to resolve this long-standing conflict,” Schiff says.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis that Israel “wants to levy a heavy price” on Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers. That will “take time,” Netanyahu says, a signal the war would rage on for now.
Representatives of Muslim nations have met to demand Israel halt attacks that are killing Palestinian civilians in the crowded Gaza strip.
Biden administration officials are urging calm. But they’re not speaking publicly about prodding Israel to go along with a push for a cease-fire. Instead, the administration seems determined to take U.S. foreign policy focus off the Middle East.
However, the Israel-Palestinian problem won’t go away, says Tamara Cofman Wittes, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for the Middle East in the Obama administration.
The current fighting “reveals how deeply unstable is the ‘status quo’ between Israelis and Palestinians,” she says, “and how urgently a new political path is needed to move this conflict toward negotiated resolution.”
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. — John 16:33
UPDATE: After receiving heavy international pressure, Israel agreed on Thursday, May 20, to end its 11-day retaliation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. After initially refusing to condemn Israel's response to the Hamas attacks, U.S. President Joe Biden called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the ongoing airstrikes. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi worked to broker a diplomatic solution between the nation of Israel and the militant Hamas.
(A man walks past the rubble of the Yazegi residential building that was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Sunday, May 16, 2021. AP/Adel Hana)