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Middle East Causes Unrest in Students
Today, July 30, 2014, marks three weeks of Operation Protective Edge, an offensive by the Israeli Defense Force into the Palestinian Gaza Strip after the brutal killings of three Israeli teens in June and the subsequent “revenge killing” of a Palestinian teen by Jewish extremists.
Many people, including students, are concerned about the escalation of rocket attacks into Israel and the increase in bombings by Israeli forces.
As of this writing, more than 750 Palestinians have been killed in the offensive, most of them civilians, according to several human rights groups. Israel claims that some two hundred of these were suspected militants.
32 Israelis – 30 of whom were soldiers – have died, according to reports from Israel.
“I definitely think that the number of civilian deaths is completely unacceptable….regardless of whether it was justified in the first place,” a student who wished to remain anonymous said.
Israel has urged residents in Gaza to evacuate before planned strikes, a difficult prospect considering that the number of air and artillery strikes (1,500 as of last week) equals roughly one lethal explosion for every baseball diamond-sized piece of land over the 139 square mile Gaza Strip.
The UN Human Rights Council has voted to launch an inquiry into the ongoing conflict and possible violation of international law by the Israeli forces, coming a day after the UN rights chief Navi Pillay told an emergency council session that the military actions could amount to war crimes.
The grim mood is reflected in the opinions of students who have summed it up in one word: “Unjustified.”
“They [Israel] have the right to defend themselves, and should, and the Iron Dome is an incredible piece of technology and defense, but they have retaliated in a manner that is completely unrestrained with a brutal use of force, with little care, it seems, for the Palestinians,” sophomore Atreyo Ghosh said.
“By not negotiating earlier with peaceful Palestinian leaders, and refusing to grant the Palestinians self-determination and other human rights, they shoulder the blame as well.”
Pillay also condemned the “indiscriminate attacks” by Hamas rocket fire on Israel.
The final vote for the inquiry of the 47 member council came out to 29 in favor, 17 abstaining (primarily EU states), and 1 against (the United States).
“Personally, I find the acts taken by both parties to be acceptable to a degree but overall deplorable. Hamas is clearly unfit to be a voice of the Palestinian people…Hamas is one of the reasons why this conflict continues and we cannot see peace,” said Ghosh.
Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Egypt in an attempt to broker a ceasefire, but prospects seem unlikely with both sides unwilling to commit to a ceasefire without major concessions from the other.
“From what little knowledge I have, I bet that we’ll see a third party treaty, which won’t be conducive to either group in the long term,” said student Robert Hill.
Ghosh reminisced on the long history of the conflict and ended on a somewhat bittersweet, hopeful note.
“I doubt we will see peace under this current Isreali administration nor while Hamas is in power. In a generation or two, however, I hope that people will have opened their minds and hearts enough to reach a reasonable solution and negotiate to end this long-standing conflict.”
Mark Smith, Contributor