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Worsening Situation

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The war between Israel and ‘Hamas’ was always going to be one-sided, once triggered by the 7 October attack, last year. The global community had expected that the Israeli response would be clinical and targeted, in the manner it had taken out its enemies earlier. Unfortunately, there proved to be no such magic bullet and the brunt is being borne by Palestinian civilians. The latest deaths of over a hundred persons who were among many standing in line for food further underlines the depth of the ongoing tragedy. More than 25,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, and over 70,000 injured, a large number of them children and women. Israel, on its part, claims that ten thousand of these were Hamas fighters.

There have been many attempts to broker a ‘ceasefire’ and, with ‘Ramadan’ approaching, there is optimism in this regard. Unfortunately, despite the universal concern for the Palestinian civilians’ well-being, the sentiment does not seem to extend to the Hamas leadership. All that it requires for the hostilities to stop is for it to return the Israeli hostages, a number of whom have died in captivity. It does not seem to care enough about the civilians to do that. What it hopes to gain by the continued conflict is not clear. Does it believe holding the hostages is enough leverage to achieve the much desired two-nation solution? Is it an attempt to permanently turn the world’s Muslims against the very existence of Israel? Has the ‘normalisation’ of relations between Israel and important Arab nations been scuttled for the foreseeable future? The ‘sacrifices’ being made may be considered necessary for this cause. It must be remembered, however, that it is the Hamas’ choice, not that of Israel.

The continuing conflict has created serious divisions in many western democracies with a significant number of Muslim immigrants. It is difficult to determine whether the spreading protests are an attempt to promote the Hamas cause, or are genuine expressions of horror at the civilian deaths. It is important, therefore, for the protestors to demand just as strongly the release of the Israeli hostages, as that is the quickest way to a solution. It would have been good if a nation like India, which has good relations with both sides of the conflict, had the clout to broker a deal. Unfortunately, things will have to get much worse for it to be considered for such a role. Right now, the onus lies mostly with the United States. Hopefully, some good news may soon be in the offing.