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Thursday, 1 January 2009

The Israeli agenda in Gaza

International bodies generally have low tolerance for the wanton destruction of a nation; however, the chaos and bloodshed in the Gaza Strip has been allowed to run its course with Israel insisting it is only after Hamas.

Israel's lame-duck Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and his Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, have vowed to increase the intensity of the ongoing attacks on Gaza and to treat Hamas with an iron fist.

The attempt to settle the score with Hamas certainly brings a feeling of satisfaction to the Israelis who see the Palestinian movement as a terrorist group and hold it responsible for bringing chaos with continuous retaliatory rocket attacks.

The leading candidate to become the next premier, Tzipi Livni, has vowed as a "strategic objective" to dethrone Hamas by any means necessary -- military, economic and diplomatic. The opposition leader and her main rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, have also pledged to overthrow the group that has governed the beleaguered enclave since June 2007.

The primary targets of the "all-out" onslaught launched on Saturday were Hamas-linked compounds in the region. Four days into the devastating operation, Palestinian civilians have been the ones who have had to bear most of the brunt of the raids against their democratically-elected government.

The resistance movement won a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections in January 2006 and took control of the government in the Gaza Strip in mid-June 2007. Tel Aviv and Washington, however, withheld recognition of the group.

Later, Israel cut off all outside aid to some 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza -- a severe collective punishment on the people in dire need of food and drugs -- and with the tacit backing of the White House, the coastal sliver was brought under a medieval siege.

Prior to the Saturday attacks, a not-so-peaceful ceasefire was in place between Israel and Hamas for six month.

Israeli papers, however, report that before the truce was brokered by Egypt in June, the Israeli army began a major campaign of intelligence-gathering to pinpoint Hamas bases, weapon silos, training camps and the homes of senior officials.

Israeli military spokesman Avi Benayahu concedes that the aerial bombardment is only the beginning.

"The operation was launched following the violation of the terms of the lull by Hamas and the unceasing attacks by Hamas authorities on Israeli civilians in the south of the country," he said after the unprecedented waves of simultaneous attacks pounded Gaza on Saturday.

"The operation was launched following the violation of the terms of the lull by Hamas and the unceasing attacks by Hamas authorities on Israeli civilians in the south of the country," Olmert said in a statement issued following the Saturday strikes.

According to many Western media outlets, the ongoing strikes, which have now entered their fourth day, are the ugliest massacre Palestine has witnessed in decades.

The White House, meanwhile, holds Hamas responsible for provoking Israel and causing the ongoing violence in Gaza.

But are the Palestinians really the ones at fault here?

Article 51 of the United Nations Charter stresses "the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security."

Although Palestine is not a member state, the UN General Assembly Resolution 3236 recognized the Palestinian people's right to self-determination on November 22, 1974.

Thus, Hamas has a legal right to resist an illegal occupation.

Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the founder of Hamas, said "if the Zionists ended (their) occupation of Palestinian territories and stopped killing Palestinian women, children and innocent civilians," the armed struggle would end.

Israel, however, is hell-bent on sweeping Hamas from power says Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon.

"We will stop firing immediately if someone takes the responsibility of this government, anyone but Hamas. We are favorable to any other government to take the place of Hamas," Ramon said in televised comments on Monday.

As the raids continue, the death and injury toll mounts. So far, at least 385 Palestinians have been killed and more than eighteen hundred have been injured. At least 60 civilian men, women and children are among the dead, UN officials say.

Meanwhile, in the "closed military zone" around the Gaza border, Israeli tanks and troops prepare for a ground operation into Gaza.

The recent airstrikes may be the latest in a series of a long-lasting conflict that started when "a land without a people" was put on the map in 1948 for "a people without a land"; they could well be the prelude to more conflicts in the Middle East.

No matter what the Israeli agenda may be, Gazans are the ones who are paying the price with their blood.