Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Enough

Enough. There's a point when even a justified military campaign turns into a bloodbath and this I think is the point we are at. With over 600 Palestinians killed (up to half of them civilians according to Palestinian sources), I think we've done enough damage.

Today at least 30 civilians were killed and scores wounded in a school in Gaza when the building was hit by Israeli mortars. The incident carried all the hallmarks of the fighting that is going on there. The school was closed because of the fighting but UNWRA opened it to provide shelter from Gazans who had fled the fighting in the south. Apparently, a Hamas mortar unit positioned in or near to the school (in the belief that the Israeli army wouldn't open fire on a school) opened fire on the army which, in line with the new policy of returning fire everywhere (after warning civilians when possible) returned fire.

Splits are beginning to appear in the Israeli leadership. Olmert wants a cease-fire soon with clear conditions; Livni wants a cease-fire with Israeli deterence renewed but US-Egyptian cooperation to halt the arms smuggling into Gaza through the tunnels from Egypt and Barak (who wanted a cease-fire days ago) is warning that if it isn't over in days, it could take months.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian aid that Israel is allowing through is being waylaid by Hamas and criminal gangs and is not getting to the people. The petrol tankers Israel let in can't reach the power station. Half of Gazans are without water, most without electricity, the hospitals are overflowing and if there were elections tomorrow Hamas would win. If the plan was to "sear" into the consciousness of the people of Gaza that Hamas would do them no good, then no good has been done to them but their consciousness still regards Israel as their enemy and always will. So there goes that theory.

This is a war that we knew from the outset was unwinnable because of the realities on the ground in Gaza where Hamas and other fighters operate out of one of the most densely populated areas in the world. If the plan was to destroy every symbol of Hamas rule and every capacity to exercise it that has been achieved. We were told that the plan was not to destroy every last missile launcher, so if that was never a goal then it doesn't have to be achieved . What's is left to achieve?

Yes, after the cease-fire, the Hamas leaders will emerge from their bunkers to proclaim victory and to boast about how they heroically repulsed the Zionist aggressors, but it will be a very hollow boast indeed. Gaza has been devastated. Israel and Egypt will still be firmly in control of the border crossings that lie at the heart of this round of fighting. The world has woken up to the problem but it takes time to work out a formula that Israel will be able to live with. That time should not be spent surrounding Gaza City because the consequences are not worth it. If Hamas breaks a truce, Israel can still respond harshly to rocket attacks against it.

Nothing, it seems to me, can be gained by turning a justifiable military campaign into a massacre. Enough.

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