Brief: Temporary Ceasefire, Permanent Suffering

As Israel's brutal bombing campaign against Gaza enters its 47th day, Asma Barakat provides a sobering account of the death and destruction inflicted on the Palestinian people, describing the displacement of hundreds of thousands, the targeting of hospitals and vital infrastructure, the killing of journalists and doctors, and the agreement of a temporary ceasefire in exchange for prisoners.


Source >> Institute for Palestine Studies

It is day 47 of Israel’s genocide in Gaza. Israel killed more than 14,100 Palestinians, including over 5,800 children — thousands are missing under the rubble. Today, a temporary truce was announced, set to begin at 10 a.m. local time on Thursday Nov. 23 and last four days. Thousands of Palestinians have already lost their homes to Israeli airstrikes — 45 percent of Gaza’s housing units have been destroyed or damaged. Hundreds of thousands have fled to the south seeking refuge, but Israel is bombing everywhere. Hundreds have been and are being buried in mass graves.

Al Jazeera’s bureau in Gaza in Gaza Wael Al Dahdouh, who lost members of his family in a targeted Israeli airstrike, said that he “fears that the hours before the truce will be the bloodiest in light of previous experiences with the Israeli Occupation Forces.”

On Nov. 9, Israel agreed to hold four-hour “humanitarian pauses” in Northern Gaza to allow for Palestinians to flee to the south. In reality, these windows of time are designated to speed up ethnic cleansing in one part of the besieged strip as Israel targets other regions of Gaza. NPR reported that Israel “hasn’t committed to pausing airstrikes — rather, they agreed to avoid certain areas during this break.”

What Palestinians in Gaza have echoed is that no place is safe. Israel purposely targets “humanitarian corridors” and “safe zones,” stating that “Hamas has embedded itself in civilian infrastructure and operates across the entire Gaza Strip” while simultaneously telling Palestinians that if they ignore the evacuation leaflets and ‘choose’ to remain in Northern Gaza, they will be automatically classified as Hamas members and targeted. Israel continues to contradict itself and perpetuate a myth that Palestinians, an occupied population, have a choice in their fate, which could not be further from the truth.

Still, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Northern Gaza embarked on what journalist Hind Khoudary calls Gaza’s Trail of Tears. Khoudary’s harrowing account mentions how mentally, emotionally, and physically agonizing it was to leave Gaza City. The New Arab reports that as at least 200,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their neighbourhoods, they watched as the Israeli Occupation Forces occupied their homes, schools, and hospitals “amid continuing Israeli air, ground, and sea attacks.” On their ‘journey of death,’ some Palestinians were abducted by the IOF, while some groups of evacuees were bombed. A spokesperson for Addameer said that at least 700 Palestinians are missing from Gaza, believed to be in Israeli prisons.

Those who stayed in Gaza City and the surrounding neighbourhoods are experiencing nothing that can be described as less than brutal inhumanity. On Nov. 15, al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical facility in the besieged Gaza Strip, was stormed by the IOF. Not only was al-Shifa Hospital serving the injured, but it was also a shelter for thousands of displaced Palestinians who were already made homeless by Israel’s indiscriminate bombing. Israel further punished Palestinians by forcibly removing everyone from the hospital and ruthlessly interrogating them. Numerous Palestinians recounted that the IOF stripped some people naked, blindfolded, and detained them.

Nobody in Gaza is being spared from Israel’s sinister rampage. The occupying entity has made it clear that Palestinians in Gaza will not have a second of normalcy, as it repeatedly bombs hospitals and schools

Through targeting doctors, Israel has strategically tripled the heinous effects of genocide. By killing medical professionals like Dr. Hammam Alloh, who refused to flee at the behest of the Israeli occupation, Palestinians will be left to die with no form of medical assistance, let alone adequate health care. The Israeli-imposed siege on Gaza has cut off electricity, fuel, food, and water. In conjunction with the blockage of all aid (including medical supplies) coupled with the unremitting bombing and the killing of doctors, the Palestinian healthcare sector in Gaza faces complete collapse.

A similar strategy is being utilized to fight the reporting efforts of journalists in Gaza. Israel has killed at least 60 journalists since Oct. 7. Those who still remain are wondering which one of them will be next, knowing their job of reporting the truth is what is making them Israel’s latest target. “According to Euro-Med Monitor, Israel has purposefully left no safe haven for journalists in the Gaza Strip.” Many journalists, like Ayat al-Khaddour, have been starting their videos by sharing a disclaimer that their latest video may very well be their last. On Nov. 20, an Israeli airstrike killed al-Khaddour and her entire family at their home. 

In addition, Gaza has been under consistent telecommunications blackouts due to the shortage of fuel. Journalists in Gaza are having an extremely difficult time finding Internet service to upload videos of their harsh reality. 

Palestinians and legal groups in the U.S. and Canada have taken action in recent days. Arab News reports that in Canada, “the International Center of Justice for Palestinians plans to file petitions with the International Criminal Court seeking war crimes indictments against four leading Canadian officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.” Meanwhile, Palestinians in the U.S. represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights with the law firm of Van Der Hout are suing President Biden “for failing to prevent an unfolding genocide.” Hundreds of thousands of people have been protesting in solidarity with Palestine and calling for a ceasefire across the globe, hoping to continue to bring attention to the current mass genocide and ethnic cleansing campaign being run by Israel and funded by Western nations.

News broke today that Israel has agreed to a temporary ceasefire in exchange for 50 captives. This deal would initiate a four-day ceasefire in addition to the release of 150 Palestinian political prisoners — women and children — being held hostage by Israel. Also today, Israel released the names of 300 Palestinian prisoners to be released, 150 more than the initial number, as CNN reported that “Israel is offering the possibility that there will be a second phase of exchanges of prisoners for hostages.”

For Gaza and its people to have any chance of recovery from the nightmarish horrors they have been experiencing for the past seven weeks, a permanent ceasefire must be called, leading to the end of the siege on and occupation of Palestine.

22 November 2023

Laura Albast contributed reporting. 

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Asma Barakat is the co-creator of an oral history archive titled Rooted in Palestine. Asma holds an MA in Sociology from The New School and a BA in Political Science from Montclair State University.

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