The Gaza strip was not the only place where civilians were suffering and dying last week. There were (and are) several other lethal conflicts underway. Take the fighting in eastern Ukraine. The current edition of The Economist reports that: “Ukraine’s offensive already seems to have featured pretty indiscriminate use of artillery. By July 26th 1,129 people had been killed in eastern Ukraine, 799 of them civilians, the UN has reported … shells have already begun falling in the centre of Donetsk: the potential for things to go lethally wrong is great.”
Civilians are also dying in large numbers in Iraq. Just yesterday over 50 people were killed in car bombs in Baghdad, while 60 were killed in an Iraqi government air-strike aimed at a Sharia court, set up by Isis in Mosul.
By Gideon Rachman
When last week I saw a White House spokesman say that Israel’s bombing of a UN school was “totally indefensible”, I briefly thought that I had witnessed something new. Surely the Americans had never before been that strong in condemning Israel? But a colleague with a longer memory reminded me that Israel’s siege of west Beirut in 1982 had provoked President Ronald Reagan (yes, Reagan) to telephone Menachem Begin, the Israeli prime minister, and accuse him of perpetrating a “holocaust”. There is nothing new about Israeli military action killing hundreds of civilians. There is also nothing new about the international outcry it provokes.
Israel’s Operation Protective Edge entered its 24th day on Thursday, and is now one of the longest-running conflicts for a country that typically fights short wars.
The Israeli military is moving deeper into Gaza, inflicting a level of civilian casualties during its war on Hamas that troubles the international community’s conscience, but which it has been unable to stop.
Behind the scenes, serious diplomatic manoeuvering to end the war is starting. As the stronger party by far in the conflict, Israel holds most of the cards in any ceasefire agreement.
But there are other players too: Egypt shares an interest with Israel in disarming Hamas, an ally of its suppressed Muslim Brotherhood, and restoring calm to a troublesome border region. Hamas, too, needs to calculate what it can get out of its third war with Israel, as talks on a post-war order involving the US, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar and other countries get underway.
As they do, a few end-game scenarios are emerging (the assessments of each one’s likelihood of coming to pass are my own):
Israel set itself clear goals when it launched its assault on Gaza. Stop the rocket fire into Israel and close the tunnels that might allow Hamas to infiltrate fighters into Israel. Some 18 days into the offensive, and these goals have not yet been achieved. But that is not the only sign that Israel’s Gaza offensive is going wrong. On the contrary, there are multiple signs that Israel is losing control of the situation:
Images of death and destruction in Gaza dominate TV screens in the Arab world. With turmoil spreading, Roula Khalaf, the FT’s foreign editor, talks to Gideon Rachman about why Arab support for Hamas is starting to fade.
Palestinian employees of Gaza City City's al-Deira hotel carry a wounded boy following an Israeli military strike on the nearby beach in which four children were killed on July 16, 2014. AFP/Getty Images
While the current Gaza war between Israel and Hamas looks ominously as though it may intensify, exacting a yet greater toll in Palestinian civilian deaths, there is a pattern to these conflicts: they usually end after an episode of appalling carnage that shocks international actors into action.
Gaza crisis: what does current conflict mean for Netanyahu, Hamas and the wider middle east?
As bombing reaches its ninth consecutive day, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu is facing criticism abroad for causing unnecessary bloodshed, and at home for not sending troops into Gaza. Gideon Rachman is joined by Siona Jenkins, Middle east news editor, and from Gaza by John Reed, Jerusalem bureau chief to look deeper at the broader Israeli/Palestinian conflict and how Hamas has been able to use the current crisis to drum up support as chaos in the Middle East reaches levels unparalleled in recent decades.
♦ Backroom political pressure has kept drone funding intact despite doubts over reliability.
♦ The war in Syria is turning out to be good business for people smugglers.
♦ Israel is set to approve a Gaza gasfield deal, though there is scepticism about the likely success of the plan.
♦ An election app in Azerbaijan accidentally released results before voting actually started.
♦ Pharmaceutical companies are worried that the battle in India over patents will inspire other emerging economies to change their laws and make it more difficult to register or extend patents.
♦ Joshua Foust makes the liberal case for drones: “a lethal autonomous drone could actually result in fewer casualties and less harm to civilians.”
♦ The US military has seen a baffling rise in suicide numbers from 10.3 per 100,000 troops in 2002, to above 18 per 100,000 now.
♦ Gazans have a real taste for KFC and one entrepreneur has set up a business smuggling the fried chicken in from El Arish, Egypt. “Despite the blockade, KFC made it to my home”, says one satisfied customer.
Ceasefire agreed in Gaza but will the calm hold?
After a short and bloody conflict in which at least 152 Palestinians and 5 Israelis died, a ceasefire has been declared between Israel and Hamas. In this week’s podcast, Gideon Rachman is joined by Tobias Buck in Gaza City and Middle East editor Roula Khalaf to discuss the recent fighting and its implications for the wider region