TIME Israel

Gaza’s Future Unclear After Cease-Fire Ends Just Hours After it Began

A Palestinian family from Gaza Strip's central Bureij refugee camp drives back to their district during the first hours of a failed truce on August 1, 2014.
A Palestinian family from Gaza Strip's central Bureij refugee camp drives back to their district during the first hours of a failed truce on August 1, 2014. Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

The future of Israel's war in Gaza is uncertain after a cease-fire ended hours after it began and an Israeli soldier was said to be captured

The optimists in this part of the world went to sleep last night feeling vaguely hopeful, or at least relieved. The pessimists woke up and said, “I told you so.”

The 72-hour cease-fire announced by the United Nations and United States around midnight Thursday local time was supposed to go into effect Friday morning at 8 a.m. About an hour and a half later, the Israeli military says, soldiers who were at work dismantling a tunnel in Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, came under attack. Two Israeli Defense Forces soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber and one was captured.

Hamas, however, says the incident happened just before the cease-fire went into effect.

Israel named the soldier as 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, of Kfar Saba, north of Tel Aviv, and soon after his name was released he became a Twitter hashtag as well as the subject of at least three Facebook pages calling for him to come home safely. It is exactly the kind of build-up that Hamas likely hopes for, as its stated goal is repeating the pattern it established when it secured the 2011 release of 1,026 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for one Israeli: Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped in an June 2006 infiltration attack inside Israel.

The capture of an IDF soldier has been the event that Israel feared Hamas had been gunning for, knowing that Hamas sees soldiers as bargaining chips for more Palestinian prisoners and increased popularity. Over 5,000 Palestinians are held in Israeli jails, some having been convicted and others held as “administrative detainees.”

The brazen attack is by Israeli accounts the fourth time since this war started on July 8 that Hamas and other Palestinian militants groups in Gaza has broken or rejected a truce. The incident seems likely to open the doors for yet more intensive bombardments from the Israeli military — following the attack, the IDF pounded the area with artillery, killing 40 Palestinians.

An Israeli soldier prepares his equipment at an army deployment area, on the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, on August 1, 2014.
An Israeli soldier prepares his equipment at an army deployment area, on the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, on August 1, 2014. Jack Guez—AFP/Getty Images

The cease-fire violation and ensuing violence derailed plans for talks on a more prolonged peace, which were to be held in Cairo on Friday. But the Israeli soldier’s capture only underscores how differently the two sides see the ongoing conflict. Hamas political chief Khaled Mashal hailed the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in mid-June – even though it turns out that was executed by an independent cell of Hamas-inspired militants acting on their own. Hamas has tried capturing soldiers during other recent infiltration attacks as well — Israeli soldiers have found handcuffs, tranquilizers and syringes in captured militant tunnels.

But from Israel’s point of view, there’s little chance of an agreement to exchange prisoners for another captured soldier.

“We are in the middle of a war,” said Ephraim Kam, an expert in strategic intelligence at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, as well as a retired IDF colonel. “I assume that Israel will continue as if it had not happened. I’m doubtful that we will repeat the exchange that happened with Gilad Shalit.”

Kam added that Israeli public opinion has particularly been colored on this issue by a recent incident of recidivism: a Hamas operative who was released as part of the Shalit deal was found by Israel to be responsible for shooting and killing an off-duty police officer in April.

“As a result, it will be much more difficult than ever before,” for Hamas to get the prisoners it expects to in exchange for one live soldier, Kam says.

Gershon Baskin is among those who helped forge a backchannel between Israel and Hamas to get the two sides to negotiate over Shalit’s release. Baskin, a peace activist and the co-founder of the Israel/Palestinian Center for Research and Information, maintains contacts in the political wing of Hamas. He tells TIME he communicated to Hamas three weeks ago his belief that the group would not be able to stage a repeat of the Shalit deal because too many factors had changed.

“I told them that the idea that Israel will negotiate and agree to a ratio of 1:1,000, that time is over and it won’t happen again,” Baskin said. “The scenario in which we already have 40,000 soldiers in Gaza and another 14,000 being called up tells me Israel isn’t leaving without the soldier, dead or alive.”

Baskin predicts that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, which will meet late Friday, may decide on a total conquest of the whole southern Gaza Strip around Rafah, both in search of the missing soldier and in looking for more tunnel entrances.

“Whatever happens, Hamas will win in their definition, because they have a different kind of rationale,” Baskin said.

Smoke and flames are seen following what witnesses said were Israeli air strikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, August 1, 2014.
Smoke and flames are seen following what witnesses said were Israeli air strikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, August 1, 2014. Ibraheem Abu Mustafa—Reuters

Indeed, the Palestinian version of events is significantly different than the Israeli one. Not only did the soldier’s capture happen before the end of the cease-fire, some Palestinian leaders argue, but Hamas officials also accuse Israel of breaking the cease-fire first.

“There is no justification for Israel to violate the truce as the officer was captured and the two soldiers were killed ahead of the truce,” senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouq told the Anadolu News Agency, a Turkish newswire. Marzouq said the troops were only responding to “Israeli aggression.” In a press release, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Israel made the claim of Hamas violating the cease-fire to “cover up a massacre” in Rafah.

It was never clear exactly how the cease-fire agreement would stick for three days even while Israeli troops are operating in Gaza. Netanyahu said Israel would work at destroying tunnels with or without a cease-fire, and the truce indicated that Israeli forces would stay in Gaza but not attack Palestinians. Israel read this as permission to continue destroying tunnels. However, Hamas says it treats any Israelis efforts against infrastructure as an act of aggression and would, in the words of Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan speaking in Beirut, act accordingly in self-defense, according to Israeli radio.

Hamdan also said that he has no knowledge of a captured soldier, possibly pointing to an old pattern that has been noted by Hamas observers before: a gap between what the political wing says and what the military wing does.

TIME

Obama: ‘We Tortured Some Folks’

US President Barack Obama makes a statement while at the White House in Washington
President Barack Obama makes a statement while at the White House in Washington on Aug. 1, 2014. Larry Downing—Reuters

On Friday, the President offered his frankest admission of post-9/11 interrogation tactics, condemned Hamas for breaking the cease-fire and criticized House Republicans

On Friday, President Barack Obama previewed the upcoming release of a Senate report into the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation after the attacks of September 11, 2001, saying “we tortured some folks.”

Speaking to reporters from the White House, he said, “Even before I came into office, I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong,” Obama said. “We crossed a line and that needs to be understood and accepted. We have to as a country take responsibility for that.”

At the briefing, Obama also condemned Hamas for breaching a cease-fire with Israel minutes after it went into effect Friday morning, saying the breach makes it more difficult to end the weeks-long conflict in Gaza. he said Hamas must immediately release captured Israeli solider Hadar Goldin, who was taken on the Israel-Gaza border in a Friday morning attack that killed two other Israeli soldiers. “If they are serious about resolving this situation, that soldier needs to be released unconditionally as soon as possible,” Obama said. He added that with the trust broken, “I think it’s going to be very hard to put a cease-fire back together again.”

“The Israelis are entirely right that these tunnel networks need to be dismantled,” Obama said, adding that Israelis should be pursuing ways to do so with fewer civilian casualties.

The president also defended CIA Director John Brennan, who has been caught up in controversy amid revelations that CIA staffers improperly accessed the files of the Senate investigators. “I have full confidence in John Brennan,” Obama said.

Obama also heaped praise on Secretary of State John Kerry for his efforts in negotiating the cease-fire, saying he had been the subject of “unfair criticism” in recent weeks. He also said Israel must do more to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza. “It’s hard to reconcile Israel’s need to defend itself with our concern for civilians in Gaza,” he said.

Obama also defended his handling of the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine, saying the United States has done everything to support the Ukrainian government. “Short of going to war, there are going to be some constraints in terms of what we can do,” he said. Obama said that Russian President Vladimir Putin should want to resolve the situation diplomatically, “but sometimes people don’t always act rationally.”

Before taking questions from reporters, Obama highlighted Friday’s jobs report showing the sixth-consecutive month of 200,000+ job growth and blasted congressional inaction on ambassadorial appointments and dealing with the crisis of unaccompanied minors crossing the southwest border.

“House Republicans as we speak are trying to pass the most extreme and unworkable versions of a bill that they know is going nowhere,” Obama said.

Obama said he would act to shift money around to pay for the care of the unaccompanied minors in U.S. custody because Congress left him no other option.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner said Obama has been AWOL on the border crisis. ““When it comes to the humanitarian crisis on our southern border, President Obama has been completely AWOL – in fact, he has made matter worse by flip-flopping on the 2008 law that fueled the crisis. Senate Democrats have left town without acting on his request for a border supplemental. Right now, House Republicans are the only ones still working to address this crisis.”

–with reporting by Justin Worland

TIME

Livestream: Obama Speaks from Martha’s Vineyeard

President Barack Obama is expected to address foreign policy issues followings his phone call with Putin and the collapse of a ceasefire in Gaza.

TIME controversy

Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz Backtrack on Israel and Gaza Letter

"The Counselor" - Photocall
Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz attend a photocall for 'The Counselor' at The Dorchester on October 5, 2013 in London, England. Dave J Hogan--Getty Images

The Oscar-winning actors issue clarifying statements on the Israel-Hamas conflict, after being heavily criticized for co-signing an open letter lamenting Israel's actions in Gaza

Spanish actors Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz have each released statements clarifying their position on the war in Gaza after the married couple were heavily criticized for co-signing an open letter in a Spanish newspaper which condemned Israel’s actions.

The letter, published by El Diario earlier this week, included the signatures of many heavyweights in the Spanish film industry and called on the European Union to “condemn the bombing by land, sea and air against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip.”

Since the letter was published, the Oscar-winning couple has faced fierce criticism and accusations of anti-Semitism in Israel and beyond. The response has been so hostile that both actors issued statements in order to clarify their personal intentions. The No Country for Old Men star released a statement titled “Plea for Peace” on Thursday, which read:

“My signature was solely meant as a plea for peace. Destruction and hatred only generate more hatred and destruction.

While I was critical of the Israeli military response, I have great respect for the people of Israel and deep compassion for their losses. I am now being labeled by some as anti-Semitic, as is my wife – which is the antithesis of who we are as human beings. We detest anti-Semitism as much as we detest the horrible and painful consequences of war.

I was raised to be against any act of violence, and the consequent suffering of humanity for it, regardless of religions, ethnicities and borders. Too many innocent Palestinian mothers have lost their children to this conflict. Too many innocent Israeli mothers share the same grief. There should not be any political reason that can justify such enormous pain on both sides. It’s my hope that leaders involved in this complicated struggle will heed the call of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, ‘In the name of humanity, the violence must stop.’

Palestinians and Israelis in the region deserve to have their safety and human rights recognized and respected so in the near future they may find peace and co-existence, for themselves and their innocent children. So generations to come could bring hope, forgiveness and compassion for each other. This is the most basic and necessary way to peace for all of us.”

Bardem’s statement came hot on the heels of his wife’s own public clarification, as Cruz released a statement to USA Today on Wednesday, which said:

“I don’t want to be misunderstood on this important subject. I’m not an expert on the situation and I’m aware of the complexity of it. My only wish and intention in signing that group letter is the hope that there will be peace in both Israel and Gaza. I am hopeful all parties can agree to a cease fire and there are no more innocent victims on either side of the border. I wish for unity, and peace.”

Earlier this week, TIME’s Lily Rothman wrote about the backlash that often follows when celebrities wade into the thorny issue of Middle East politics. Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and Scarlett Johansson have all faced blow-back in recent years after expressing opinions on the situation in Israel, whether on social media or in interviews about endorsements. The public ire is often harsh enough that these celebrities are quick to walk back on — or delete — their original statements.

In the case of Bardem and Cruz, the pair appear to be attempting to neutralize the backlash by expanding on their sympathies for civilians on both sides of the border and emphasizing their wish for peace.

TIME Gaza

Israel Suspects Soldier Captured As Cease-Fire Collapses

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announces a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire beginning Friday between Israel and Hamas, in New Delhi, India on August 1, 2014.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announces a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire beginning Friday between Israel and Hamas, in New Delhi, India, on August 1, 2014. Lucas Jackson—AP

A three-day ceasefire is in tatters after an exchange of fire between Hamas and Isreali Defense Forces

The Israeli military believes one of its soldiers was captured as a planned 72-hour cease-fire fell apart just hours into the deal, a spokesman said Friday. The lull in fighting collapsed in an early morning exchange of fire that left at least five Israeli soldiers and 40 Gaza residents dead.

“The [Israeli Defense Forces] is currently conducting intelligence efforts and extensive searches in order to locate the missing soldier,” the IDF said in a statement, after Israel accused Hamas of breaking the cease-fire agreement by firing rockets on Israeli forces in southern Gaza.

Lt. Col Peter Lerner, IDF spokesman, identified the missing soldier as Second Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23. Lerner said the soldier, from Kfar Saba, was captured early on Friday as the Israeli military was “implementing” the cease-fire and that two IDF soldiers were killed during the suspected capture.

Israel and Hamas both blamed one another for Friday’s unraveling. The deal was brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and it marks at least the fourth humanitarian cease-fire to have collapsed within hours since Israel’s latest ground operation in Gaza began earlier this month.

Kerry said on Friday that “The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s attack, which led to the killing of two Israeli soldiers and the apparent abduction of another.

“Hamas, which has security control over the Gaza Strip, must immediately and unconditionally release the missing Israeli soldier, and I call on those with influence over Hamas to reinforce this message,” Kerry added.

The health ministry in Gaza reports more than 1,450 Palestinians have been killed and 8,200 wounded in the violence in the Gaza Strip, Haaretz reports. At least 61 Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have died in the conflict. Israel began a bombing campaign in Gaza on July 8 followed by a ground invasion with the objective of destroying tunnels that connect Gaza with Israel and are often used by militants to stage attacks and kidnappings within Israel.

It’s yet unclear how the Israeli soldier’s capture, if confirmed, may change the dynamics of Israel’s operations in Gaza.

TIME Television

Maggie Gyllenhaal on Israel and Palestine — and How Obama Broke Her Heart

"I still root for him," she says

Maggie Gyllenhaal comes from a long line of lefties, including her mom Naomi Foner, whose screenplay for Running On Empty was nominated for an Oscar. The actress has been politically outspoken before standing up against the Iraq war. So it’s kind of surprising that she’s not such a fan of Obama,not will she take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Or maybe not that unexpected. Taking sides in the Middle East could turn potential viewers away from her new miniseries The Honorable Woman, which starts on July 31 on Sundance. “You know, you say one word on one side or the other, and you alienate hundreds of thousands of people,” she says in the longer version of her interview for the 10 Questions page of Time. “And I’m hoping actually to open many people’s minds and hearts even the tiniest bit. So, yes, I’m trying to think about what my ultimate intention is…and I’m trying to think before I speak.”

In the longer video below (pro-tip: skip the first minute if you watched the one above), Gyllenhaal also explains how President Obama broke her heart. “I really believed in him and I’m not sure what he believes in any more.” She thinks he wasn’t aggressive enough in dealing with the National Security Agency, after it was shown that their activities were Enemy of the State-ish than most Americans had been led to believe. “I still root for him,” says Gyllenhaal. “But I feel a little hopeless right now….I hope for a leader who will stand up and be unpopular.”

 

 

 

 

TIME 10 Questions

Maggie Gyllenhaal: “I Relate to Panic”

She also understands (a bit) actresses who don't embrace feminism

In Maggie Gyllenhaal’s crackling new series, The Honorable Woman, she plays a high profile business executive with dealings in Israel and Gaza. So…..pretty topical. Her character, Nessa Stein, sleeps in an ultra secure fingerprint-operated panic room. Gyllenhaal doesn’t have one of those but says she understands panic.

“The panic comes when you think you’re supposed to be someone you can’t possibly be,” Gyllenhaal, 36, said during an interview with Time for the 10 Questions page. Just as her character goes from someone who’s “expected to be extraordinary and remarkable all the time” but comes unglued as the series progresses, she feels pressure to perform herself, to be what others expect her to be.

“I feel like so much of my 30s has been that performance not working any more,” she says. Gyllenhaal also talked about what she doesn’t want to talk about: who’s right and who’s wrong in the Israeli-Gaza conflict and her disappointment in President Obama. She also shared her nuanced feelings about feminism. “I do sometimes take issue and have almost all my adult life with the kind of old-school feminism that cuts out the complicated gray areas,” she says, like when people are considered “difficult” instead of as “creative.”

The Honorable Woman airs Thursday nights on Sundance. Gyllenhaal’s interview can be read in full by subscribers in this week’s issue of TIME.

TIME Gaza

Netanyahu: Gaza Fight Will Continue Until Tunnels Are Destroyed

IDF soldiers of the Paratroopers Brigade guarding and neutralizing tunnels that were dug by the Hamas organization and leading into Israel, Khan Younis, Gaza, July 30, 2014.
IDF soldiers of the Paratroopers Brigade guarding and neutralizing tunnels that were dug by the Hamas organization and leading into Israel, Khan Younis, Gaza, July 30, 2014. Ziv Koren—Polaris

"We are determined to complete this mission, with or without a ceasefire"


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Thursday to continue his country’s offensive against Palestinian militants in Gaza until tunnels facilitating attacks on Israel were destroyed, defying peace efforts and potentially extending the three-week war for at least several more days, if not longer.

“We are determined to complete this mission, with or without a cease-fire,” Netanyahu said in televised remarks ahead of a government meeting in Tel Aviv on Thursday, according to Reuters. “I won’t agree to any proposal that will not enable the Israeli military to finish this important task, for the sake of Israel’s security.”

The Israeli military also called up 16,000 more reservists, a move that an unnamed military official told Reuters was done to relieve some of the tens of thousands of other reservists already called up.

At least 1,372 Palestinians, most of them civilians, in Gaza—and 56 Israeli soldiers and three civilians—have been killed since Israel launched “Operation Protective Edge” on July 8 in response to rocket fire from Gaza. Netanyahu’s security cabinet approved continuing operations to destroy the network of tunnels in Gaza on Wednesday amid international efforts to reach a cease-fire.

[Reuters]

 

 

TIME Gaza

A U.N. School Is No Refuge as the War Worsens in Gaza

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA
Palestinian civilians wounded during Israeli shelling of a U.N. school wait at the Kamal Odwan Hospital in northern Gaza Strip on July 30, 2014 Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

A strike on a U.N. school being used as a refuge in Gaza leaves 15 people dead, and puts more international pressure on Israel

Seventeen times, officials from the U.N. called their contacts in the Israeli army to give them the exact GPS coordinates of a U.N. school in the Jabalya Refugee Camp. “There was fighting very close by and the staff there was very alarmed,” Christopher Gunness, the spokesman of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which works with Palestinian refugees, tells TIME. “We told them what the precise coordinates were.”

Despite the worried calls, the Jabalya Elementary Girls School was hit just after the early morning call to prayer Wednesday, when most of the 3,000 people taking shelter there were asleep. A few minutes later, the school was hit by a second explosion, in which a shell or a rocket crashed through the roof of the building. Fifteen people were killed and more than 100 injured.

However it happened, the devastating attack of the U.N. school seems such an egregious example of killing innocent civilians that it could be a turning point in the three-week-old war between Israel and Hamas that senior U.S., European and Middle Eastern officials have so far failed to halt. Strong condemnations have come in from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who called the strike “unjustifiable,” as well as from the White House. It is the second time over the past several days that a U.N. school has been hit, and the sixth such incident since the war began.

The refugees at Jabalya “are people who were told to leave their homes by the IDF,” Gunness says. As a result, there are 200,000 Gazans around the Strip living in 85 shelters, leaving UNRWA and other aid agencies struggling to provide for their most basic needs. That includes water, which is trucked in because most of the tap water in Gaza is undrinkable even during peacetime. “We can’t offer safe sanctuary. We ask people to respect the inviolability of our offices.” Earlier in the day, Gunness tweeted: “UNRWA condemns in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces.”

Israeli forces, however, have not taken responsibility for the attack on the school. As it did after fiery destruction of a power plant a day earlier, which seemed to indicate Israel was not just striking military targets but also the kind of basic civilian infrastructure that could permanently affect the more than 1.8 million residents of the Gaza Strip, the IDF said it was checking the incident and could not confirm who had hit the school.

“We don’t target U.N. facilities in any way, shape or form,” Lieut. Colonel Peter Lerner tells TIME. He describes the IDF’s version of events: “In the early hours of the morning, there was mortar fire launched from the vicinity of the school and there was an exchange of fire there. In the aftermath of that, there was a report of deaths in the school. We are reviewing this incident.”

Lerner says that in the past few days, there have been “several attempts by Hamas to pin on Israel launches from the Gaza Strip” that didn’t go as planned, landing on civilians instead of in Israel. “There are two cases in which we are aware of — the Beach Camp [Shati] and the attack on Shifa Hospital — which were the result of rockets that were definitely launched in Gaza.” As for UNRWA’s 17 distressed calls to the Israeli army, Lerner said that the location of the U.N. schools was not the issue. “We know where their schools are, as well as shelters and warehouses, and we have an ongoing relationship with their offices in Gaza to facilitate their humanitarian work on the ground. In fact, the humanitarian cease-fire today was to enable their ongoing activities.”

That cease-fire — though a four-hour lull or pause would be a more precise description — was declared by Israel in part because of U.N. requests, ostensibly to allow emergency workers to go out into the field and to remove bodies from the ruins. Hamas, for its part, has refused to participate in any cease-fires unilaterally declared by Israel, and continued launching several rockets even during the cease-fire, adding to the more than 2,670 that have been fired since July 7. During this so-called lull, Israeli warplanes struck a crowded market in Shujaiyeh, killing 15 people. Shujaiyeh, an area in the eastern part of Gaza City, has witnessed the heaviest bombardment by the IDF since it began its ground operation, with many of the buildings reduced to ruins.

At the Kamal Odwan Hospital in northern Gaza Strip, Said Sulaiman sits over the bed of his son Rezeq, who was seriously wounded by shrapnel at the U.N. School in Jabalya. As instructed by the Israeli army, two weeks ago they decided to flee their house in Atattra, near Beit Lahia — an agricultural area that in the past has been used by Hamas and other militants for launching rockets — and came to seek shelter at the U.N. school.

“I came to the school in search of a safe place. My family is still in the school while I am here, and I hope no strikes will happen while I am away,” says Sulaiman, 55. “We are waiting here in the room until the operation room is ready to take him into surgery. I hope they won’t have to amputate his leg. I just want to return to my house with my family safe after the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, and for the aggression to stop.”

A more lasting cease-fire still seems elusive, however. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet agreed Wednesday night to intensify attacks on Hamas targets in Gaza and to keep destroying tunnels. The night before, Mohammed Deif, the head of al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said that only Israel lifting its blockade of Gaza would be enough for the militant group to agree to a cease-fire.

A Hamas-made video released on the same night, showing militants infiltrating Israel via a tunnel, successfully ambushing and killing five Israeli soldiers near Nahal Oz, has only confirmed for the government that the tunnels still pose a danger, encouraging the government to continue the fight. A poll released Tuesday found that 90% of Israeli Jews think the IDF operation in Gaza is justified. The survey, conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, indicated that most expected the war to continue.

The Palestinian Ministry of Healthy put the death toll Wednesday at 1,361; Israel has lost 58 soldiers and three civilians. Israeli officials blame Hamas for many of the civilian deaths, repeatedly accusing the militant group of shooting from within populated areas, including residential buildings and hospital. Netanyahu himself has charged Hamas with regularly using human shields, purposefully putting people in harm’s way. That means Israel’s soldiers and pilots have to either have to retreat from their targets or shoot anyway, knowing that civilians will be killed in the process.

Gunness counters that on three occasions, including one this week, rocket caches have been discovered in U.N. schools, but noted that these were empty, out-of-use structures undergoing maintenance — not buildings housing refugees.

“On these separate occasions, [rockets] were found in schools that have been closed for the summer and which were being inspected by UNRWA,” Gunness says. “We condemned the groups that put them there as a flagrant violation of the sanctity and neutrality of the U.N., we immediately notified all relevant parties, and we have never handed them over to Hamas.” The dispute over who hit the U.N. school continues, but the day’s grim images make one fact indisputable: there are no safe havens in Gaza.

— With reporting by Hazem Balousha / Gaza City

TIME foreign affairs

How the United Nations Human Rights Council Unfairly Targets Israel

ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN-CONFLICT-GAZA
Israeli army armored personnel carriers (APC) move along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on July 30, 2014. JACK GUEZ—AFP/Getty Images

Curiously absent from the latest resolution is any mention of Hamas

There are 1,725 words in the latest resolution released by the United Nations Human Rights Council, which cynically chastises Israel for so-called “human rights violations” in Gaza.

Nowhere among those 1,725 words will you find the name of the terror organization that is truly responsible for every civilian death and every human rights violation in both Israel and Gaza: Hamas.

Instead of focusing on actual human rights violators around the world, as this international body was created to do, the UNHRC keeps its main focus on Israel—a nation that has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect and preserve the lives of civilians, both during this latest conflict and throughout previous defensive responses to Hamas’ terror.

A nation, Israel, which Colonel Richard Kemp, the Former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, has said “did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”

Since its inception in 2006, the UNHRC has released a total of 103 resolutions. Astonishingly, 56 have focused on criticizing Israel. The UNHRC has held a total of 21 special sessions to address dire humanitarian crises throughout the world. One has addressed Sudan, another Sri Lanka, another Ivory Coast and another Libya—while 7 of the 21 special sessions have irrationally targeted Israel.

While the UNHRC goes after Israel, it has completely ignored Hamas’ actions. There have been more than 2,600 rockets lobbed by Hamas at Israel. But you’ll find the word “rocket” appear only once in this latest resolution.

Hamas makes no secret of its intentions. This terrorist organization openly states that it deliberately fires rockets at Israeli civilians and calls for the kidnapping and murder of all Israelis.

Even the Palestinian representative to the UNHRC, Ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi, stated in a July 9 interview with Palestinian television that such attacks against Israel violate humanitarian law. He said, “the missiles that are now being launched against Israel, each and every missile constitutes a crime against humanity, whether it hits or misses, because it is directed at civilian targets.”

What makes Hamas’ actions a double war crime is that they target civilians in Israel while exploiting civilians in Gaza and using them as human shields.

Hamas is building its terror command centers and weapons storage facilities among schools, hospitals and mosques, showing no regard for civilian lives. Israel’s concerted efforts to avoid harming uninvolved civilians have been well documented. Hamas instructs the people in Gaza to ignore Israel’s phone calls, leaflets and text messages, warning civilians of pending attacks against terrorists. Knowingly, they put Palestinians in harm’s way turning them into propaganda tools.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a television interview earlier this month, “the fact that people are facing Israeli warplanes bare-chested to protect their homes, I believe this procedure has proved its efficiency. And we in the Hamas movement call on our people to adopt this procedure.”

Where is the condemnation for this war crime? Where is the so-called “Human Rights Council”?

UNHRC’s mechanisms for voting and membership seem designed to protect some of the worst human rights violators in the world. This is an organization whose elected membership has included such stalwarts of human rights as Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Iran and Libya under Muammar Qaddafi. Israel is the only country that is on the UNHRC’s “standing agenda” to be debated at each session—not Syria, not the Congo, not Sudan—but the only democracy in the Middle East.

There have been more resolutions aimed against Israel than all 191 countries in the world, combined.

The real tragedy is, of course, the suffering that civilians in Israel and Gaza are experiencing because of Hamas’ terrorist actions and motives. Hamas has disrupted the lives of millions of Israelis, forcing us into bomb shelters on a daily basis. Hamas’ decision to ignore and reject ceasefires, divert international aid meant to restore basic infrastructure in Gaza into the production of more weapons and an underground network of terror tunnels and, most heinously, their decision to use civilians as human shields are all evidence of how Hamas continues to perpetuate the suffering of their own people in Gaza.

Instead of wasting its time on these misguided, one-sided resolutions that antagonize Israel, the UNHRC must turn its attention to true human rights violators throughout the world, especially terrorist groups like Hamas. Hamas and its ideological partners in Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram and Hezbollah are committed to terror. They stand against the most basic and natural human rights, they have no regard for human life, they mistreat and violate the rights of women and they oppose all believers in free speech and democracy.

The UNHRC must shift its focus to eradicating these crucial injustices facing humanity today, and abandon its politically motivated and cynical agenda to target Israel.

Ambassador Ido Aharoni is the Consul General of Israel in New York.

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