Violence triggers fear of conflict escalation in Gaza

Tuesday, 2018-04-10 11:37:33
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Palestinian protesters run during clashes with Israeli troops at Israel-Gaza border, in the southern Gaza Strip on April 5, 2018. (Reuters)
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NDO – Israeli troops firing into a crowd of Palestinian demonstrators in the Gaza Strip has triggered concern of an eruption of conflict in the region. The efforts aimed at salvaging the Middle East peace process are being severely threatened by violent outbursts across the Palestinian coastal land over the past few days.

Approximately 20,000 Palestinians participated in a rally in five locations along the border between the eastern part of the Gaza Strip and Israel. It was the second largest march in the six-week-long protest of the Palestinians aimed at Israel, demanding fundamental and legitimate rights, including the right to return to their homeland. The rally became violent when the Palestinian demonstrators threw stones at the Israeli soldiers, leading to clashes between the two sides. Nine Palestinians were killed during the conflict, bringing the total number of Palestinian deaths from the two weeks of frontier protests to nearly 30 and thousands of people have been wounded.

The first day of the demonstration marked Palestine’s Land Day as 42 years ago, the Israeli government ordered the expropriation of the land in Galilee and Negev, resulting in large-scale protests by the Palestinians in Israel. The current Palestinian marches are planned to last until the new headquarters of the US Embassy in Israel is inaugurated in Jerusalem this May 14. The rally aims to demonstrate the Palestinians’ fierce opposition to US President Donald Trump’s omission of Palestine’s territorial claims over Jerusalem and his recognition of Jerusalem as the “capital of Israel”. The eastern part of the holy sanctuary is considered by the Palestinians as the capital of an independent Palestinian state in the future, therefore they are willing to fight to the end for that purpose. The demonstrations are also due to conclude on May 15 (Nakba or Catastrophe Day), marking the event in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their home during the war between the Palestinians and the newly established Israeli State in May 1948.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)’s envoy to the US Husam Zomlot criticised the US administration’s silence without any “appropriate response” to Israel’s use of force aimed at the Palestinians. In fact, Palestine has denied the mediate role of the US in the conflict since President Trump recognised Jerusalem as the “capital of Israel”. The PLO has warned that the tension in the Gaza Strip could possibly “explode” at any time. Given the worsening developments in Gaza, Kuwait has continued to send notifications urging the United Nations (UN) Security Council’s to promptly intervene in order to stabilise the situation. The move took place as the UN Security Council had earlier failed to reach a final statement on the violence that has left many dead and injured in Gaza, because the representative of the US, which has the right to veto at the UN Security Council, rejected the draft statement.

The UN, the European Union (EU) and many countries in the region have condemned the military actions of the Israeli forces against the Palestinians and called on the two sides to restrain from further violence. The violence in Gaza has also triggered a quarrel between Israel and Turkey. The quarrel broke out after the Israeli Minister of Public Security announced that the agreement on the normalisation of relations between Israel and Turkey signed in 2016 might be a mistake. The Israeli officials condemned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as an “anti-Semite” after he criticised Israel’s shooting dead of many Palestinian demonstrators. The Turkish Foreign Ministry accused Israel of using “disproportionate forces” against the Palestinians participating in “peaceful protests.”

The past few days have become the bloodiest period in the Israel-Palestine conflict since the 2014 war. Violence in Gaza, if not stopped, will continue to get worse and threaten the whole region.