The Israeli assault on Gaza has entered its third week as the Palestinian death toll has topped 600, mostly civilians. More than 100 of the dead are children. More than 3,700 Palestinians have been injured. Israel says it has lost 27 soldiers since the ground invasion began. Earlier today, Israel confirmed the remains of one of its soldiers presumed to have been killed in Gaza had still not been found or identified. This comes two days after Hamas said it had captured the soldier. So far today, Israel has struck more than 70 sites inside Gaza, including five mosques and a football stadium. On Monday, at least 103 Palestinians died, including 11 when Israel bombed a residential tower block in Gaza City. Five children died in that attack. In the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah, five people died and 70 were wounded when Israel shelled the al-Aqsa Hospital. It became the third medical facility to be struck by Israel in the past two weeks. The injured included about 30 medics. We are joined from Gaza City by Democracy Now! correspondent and independent journalist Sharif Abdel Kouddous. "Gaza is a place of indescribable loss, and a place where family sizes continue to be shrunk by falling bombs," he says.
As the Israeli assault on Gaza enters its third week, a new push is underway for an internationally brokered ceasefire. Speaking earlier today, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said there is "no real hope" of an immediate halt to the fighting because Hamas’ conditions are too far from those of Israel, the United States and Egypt. Hamas’ demands have centered on an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the release of its prisoners. The seven-year siege has crippled the economy, civilian infrastructure and water supplies. In Gaza, unemployment tops 40 percent, and almost 80 percent rely on humanitarian aid. The United Nations has warned Gaza will no longer be livable by 2020 unless urgent steps are taken. The last ceasefire in November 2012 was supposed to ease the blockade, but Israel only intensified it. With Hamas vowing to continue fighting against what it calls a "slow death," a new ceasefire largely hinges on whether the United States and others will pressure Israel to reverse its stance. We are joined from Tel Aviv by Israeli journalist Gideon Levy. In a recent piece for Ha’aretz, Levy writes: "[Hamas’] conditions are civilian; the means of achieving them are military, violent and criminal. But the (bitter) truth is that when Gaza is not firing rockets at Israel, nobody cares about it. ... Read the list of [Hamas] demands and judge honestly whether there is one unjust demand among them."
While many trace the Israeli assault on Gaza to the series of events that began with the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three teenage Israelis in the occupied West Bank, we look at how the crisis’ immediate cause has been all but ignored. In a recent article for The New York Times, "How the West Chose War in Gaza," Nathan Thrall, senior analyst at International Crisis Group, argues the roots of the current violence lie in Israeli, U.S. and European efforts to undermine the Palestinian unity government, which Hamas joined earlier this year. Isolated by its opposition to the Assad regime in Syria and a rift with the military government in Egypt, Hamas reconciled with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in the hopes a unity deal could help ease the crippling blockade of Gaza and help pay the salaries of thousands of its civil servants. But the United States and European Union helped Israel maintain the blockade of Gaza while denying payments to the Hamas employees. "Plan A for Hamas out of the predicament it and Gaza found themselves in was reconciliation," Thrall says. "That was thwarted — so Plan B is the crisis we’re dealing with today."
Joining us from Tel Aviv, Israeli journalist Gideon Levy argues that Middle East peace will never come until the Israeli government drops it rejection of basic Palestinian rights. "Sure Israel wants peace, Israel just doesn’t want a just peace," Levy says. "It is all about justice. You look backward and you ask yourself in which stage, in which moment, was Israel willing to give up the occupation? Give me one example in which there was a genuine readiness to put an end to the occupation. It was never there. It was all about gaining time and maintaining the status quo — namely the West Bank occupied, Gaza under siege, peaceful life in Israel. … If you want the ultimate proof for it, it’s the [West Bank] settlements. Israel never stopped building settlements, and [in doing so] says to the Palestinians and the world, [we] have no intention to give up this piece of land." Levy also discusses why he has received threats after calling on Israeli Air Force pilots to refuse to bomb Gaza, and why he sees a potential Palestinian effort to take Israel to the International Criminal Court as a positive step.
The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees says the number of people seeking refuge at its sites in Gaza has soared to more than 100,000. According to unconfirmed reports, one of the shelters, a girl’s school in central Gaza, was hit Monday by an Israeli shell. We speak to Christopher Gunness, spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). "The situation for refugees on the ground in Gaza right now is unimaginably catastrophic," Gunness says.
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