Sunday, March 3, 2024

The Irish News view: With nowhere to turn, who will stop the slaughter of the innocents in Rafah?

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The images coming out of Rafah in southern Gaza, where an estimated 1.4 million Palestinians displaced by Israel’s military offensive have been crammed, are unspeakable.

And yet speak we must. Late on Sunday, Israel mounted a series of devastating airstrikes on what is essentially a refugee camp, with early reports of at least 67 killed and dozens more injured, many while they slept.

Israel says the bombardment provided cover for an operation that resulted in the rescue of two hostages captured by Hamas during its deadly October 7 raids.

Footage from Rafah in recent days is horrific; dead children, dismembered bodies, wailing relatives. There is a dreadful desensitising horror in how modern technology means that with smartphones and social media, these atrocities can now be watched instantly around the world.

That’s what happened during the Rafah attack; at the same time, Israeli government adverts were being screened during the Super Bowl, highlighting the plight of the estimated 136 hostages still held by Hamas. Juxtaposing sport and entertainment with the hostage crisis while simultaneously bombing innocents speaks of an almost inhumane degree of chutzpah.

Following the appalling October 7 attacks, which claimed the lives of around 1,200 Israelis, the Israel Defence Force launched its ground invasion in the north of Gaza. Almost 30,000 Palestinians have been killed. The civilian population has been pushed south, squeezing into two southern cities, Rafah – which the IDF previously declared as a safe zone – and Khan Younis.

Palestinians mourn relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip at a hospital morgue in Rafah, Monday, Feb. 12, 2024. The Israeli military said early Monday that it had rescued the two hostages from captivity in the Gaza Strip. The operation, which was accompanied by airstrikes, killed dozens of Palestinians, according to local health officials. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)
Palestinians mourn relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip at a hospital morgue in Rafah on Monday (Fatima Shbair/AP)

The IDF has been battering Khan Younis and has now set its sights on Rafah. To the rest of the world this looks less like retaliation and more like extermination.

We should feel outrage at Israel’s actions, but also sorrow; in one of history’s darkest periods, Jews experienced the genocide of the Holocaust. For Israel itself to stand accused of genocide today can only suggest it has lost its moral compass.

Israel has gone far beyond hunting Hamas militants; it is punishing and persecuting ordinary Palestinian people; the consciences of people like prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been seduced by power and obscured by hatred.

There are still those who seek to justify or condone the extent of Israel’s actions, even when they strike against defenceless men, women and children, refugees trapped in dangerous, unsanitary conditions without proper access to food, water and medicine.

The world, meanwhile, watches on, one livestreamed atrocity after another. Who will stop the slaughter?

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