By Maureen Clare Murphy
A ceasefire ending 11 days of intense violence in Gaza was announced late Thursday, taking effect in the early hours of Friday.
Israeli airstrikes and Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza continued in the hours after the ceasefire was announced and before the time it was due to take effect.
But after the clock counted down to ceasefire time, celebrations erupted from Gaza City to Ramallah:
The ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, will bring relief to sleepless Palestinians in Gaza who have been terrorized anew on top of previous traumas inflicted by Israel.
It will pause Israel’s horrifying practice of bringing buildings down on the heads of Palestinian families, with 14 losing three or more members in a single attack since 10 May.
But it will hardly end Israel’s violence in Gaza, which has been under a severely tightened air, sea and land blockade since 2007.
Despite Israeli bluster, the last 11 days have been a tremendous failure for the state by any calculation, save for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political career, which stood to gain from it.
And despite a gaping disparity in military power, the armed resistance led by Hamas in Gaza asserted its increased capacity and deterrence, striking areas in Israel previously thought to be out of its range.
After launching some 4,000 rockets over the past 11 days, Hamas said that it still had enough in its stockpiles to keep firing towards Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for another several months. After the ceasefire was declared, Hamas’ armed wing said it “humiliated the enemy.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian unity across geographic and political divides has galvanized in recent days in ways not seen in years and has inspired renewed global solidarity.
Palestinians have demonstrated yet again that they are steadfastly determined to remain on and liberate their land.
Their resistance against a settler-colony state that seeks their removal and replacement has always come at a great cost, particularly in Gaza.
Home to two million stateless Palestinians, most of them refugees, Gaza remains in shambles after yet another massive Israeli offensive broadly targeting civilian infrastructure – the fourth since late 2008.
Factories targeted, farmer killed
Even after a ceasefire was announced, Israel continued to pound Gaza following a day of targeting factories and other civilian sites.
Palestinians had launched projectiles from the territory on Thursday after an eight-hour overnight lull.
Twelve people in Israel – including three foreign workers, a soldier and two children – were killed by rocket fire from Gaza or while running for shelter during rocket strikes since 10 May.
While many rockets were intercepted by Israel’s missile defense system of the past week and a half, several apartments were damaged, as well as a gas pipeline, and the projectiles paused operations at two airports and a gas rig, according to The New York Times.
Al Mezan, a human rights group in Gaza, blamed Washington for providing political cover to Israel by thwarting a UN Security Council statement on the violence and allowing it to commit “more of what manifestly amounts to war crimes.”
On Wednesday and early Thursday, Israeli attacks killed 11 Palestinians in Gaza, including two children and three women, and wounded 100 more, Al Mezan added.
According to the human rights group, women and children account for nearly half of the more than 230 Palestinians killed in Gaza since 10 May.
Israeli occupation forces opened fire towards Hasan Sami Hasan al-Borno, 63, while he was farming his land in Johr al-Deek village south of Gaza City on Wednesday. Al-Borno was killed with a live bullet to the chest, according to preliminary reporting by Al Mezan.
That same day, Israeli drones fired a missile at a street in Jabaliya, northern Gaza, killing 10-year-old Dima Asaliya. The girl “had gone to bring an electric cooker the family used to bake bread from her sister’s house and was returning home when she was killed,” her uncle told Defense for Children International Palestine.
Also on Thursday, Iyad Salha, 34, who used a wheelchair, and his pregnant wife, Amani Mahawish, 38, and their 2-year-old daughter Nagham Salha were killed when an Israeli missile struck their Deir al-Balah home in central Gaza.
Fidaa al-Qidra, 34, was killed by a projectile that hit her Deir al-Balah home that same day.
Early Thursday morning, Israeli warplanes fired two missiles at a home in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, destroying it. Huda Salah al-Khuzundar, 36, was killed while her husband, daughter and seven neighbors were injured.
Israel has targeted around 150 residential buildings, including six towers, three of which were destroyed, according to Al Mezan.
Around 450 housing units in Gaza have been destroyed.
Al Mezan said that “chronic inaction by the international community is instrumental in perpetuating Israel’s continued tactics” targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.
“The intensity and frequency of these attacks, with heavy munitions employed, have created an atmosphere of terror, in what amounts to psychological warfare that increasingly subjects Palestinian families to suffering and harm,” the rights group said.
The full-blown hostilities were set off after Israeli police attacked Ramadan worshippers at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque, injuring hundreds, last Monday. Hamas responded to the assault by firing rockets towards Israel.
The al-Aqsa siege came after weeks of restrictions on Palestinian assembly in Jerusalem and imminent forced evictions of Palestinians from the city’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood to make way for Jewish settlers.
Around 260 Palestinians have been killed throughout their homeland – the lands comprising Gaza, the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and Israel – since 10 May, with thousands more injured.
UNRWA, the UN agency that provides for Palestinian refugees, said that 19 children who study at its schools were killed in Gaza during that period.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad said that at least 20 of their fighters were killed, the AP news agency reported.
The UN’s human rights office said that verified the deaths of 65 children, 38 women (four of whom were pregnant), and 127 men as a result of hostilities in Gaza.
“The overall number includes three people with disabilities, including a child,” the UN said.
Of the 230 Palestinians in Gaza whose deaths it has confirmed, the UN human rights office said that at least 128 were civilians and that at least 218, including 62 children, were “seemingly killed by Israeli forces.”
The UN clarified that some fatalities in Gaza may have resulted from Palestinian rockets falling short.
The UN said that some 91,000 people in Gaza were internally displaced as a result of Israel’s bombing. Around 66,000 sought refuge at dozens of UN-flagged schools across Gaza while the remainder stayed with host families.
Some 50 schools were damaged in Israeli bombing across Gaza.
The World Health Organization said that Israeli strikes damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics were damaged, and one health facility was destroyed. Another hospital isn’t functioning due to a lack of electricity.
The Hamas government in Gaza said that Israel’s offensive has caused some $322 million in damages.
In the absence of international accountability, a repeat of the last 11 days of Israeli terror in Gaza is all but guaranteed.
“Accountability must rise to the top of the agenda of the United Nations,” a group of human rights experts stated earlier this week.
“The international community must ensure that Israel, the occupying power, complies fully with the more than 30 UN Security Council resolutions and the hundreds of General Assembly resolutions of which it is in breach,” the experts added.
“A brand new diplomatic playbook is needed, which leaves behind realpolitik,” they said. “A rights-based approach must guide the diplomacy of the international community to secure a just and durable solution.”
That message appears to have been ignored by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who called for a return to the failed approach of a negotiated two-state solution while urging for a ceasefire on Thursday.
Palestinian groups and unions, political movements and unions worldwide have called on the UN to investigate Israel’s regime of apartheid over the Palestinian people as a whole.
The Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq called on the UN and member states to implement targeted sanctions and cease the sale of weapons to Israel until it “adheres to its international obligations under the UN Charter, including the prohibition on the acquisition of territory through use of force.”
The International Criminal Court is currently investigating war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza, including Israel’s conduct during its 2014 assault.
Human rights groups have called on the ICC to probe Israel’s targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza, including towers housing media offices.
Maureen Clare Murphy is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.
21 May 2021