War is a dirty business. Remember the firebombing of Dresden and other German cities during WW2. In four raids in February 1945, heavy bombers of the RAF and the USAAF bombed the city with high explosive bombs and incendiary devices. Some 25,000 German citizens were killed. Were the people of Dresden Nazis or just ordinary civilians? Today, we know that there can be no justification for such a high level of casualties. Dresden was a cultural city with no strategic significance but Allied Bombing Command believed otherwise.
We often complain in the West about indiscriminate bombing campaigns and never for a moment imagine how hypocritical this is. We blamed the Russians and Syrians when they bombed the city of Aleppo in 2016. The Syrian government was fighting opposition groups including the Free Syrian Army and the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front. The battle for Aleppo was called the “mother of all battles” or Syria’s Stalingrad. There was widespread violence against civilians with missiles targeting hospitals and schools. It is estimated that some 31,000 people lost their lives due to indiscriminate aerial strikes and shelling. Now the Russians are at it again bombing civilian targets in Ukraine.
The Israeli Defence Forces are shelling Gaza with hundreds of bombs and the casualty rate among civilians is horrendous. 10,000 people have been killed in a few short weeks including children according to news reports. This is how modern warfare is conducted today. When your soldiers spot an enemy force sneaking around a refugee camp, you immediately call in an aerial strike which wipes out the enemy but kills a large number of civilians at the same time. Russians, Americans, Syrians, etc. all operate the same way.
If you want to minimize the loss of soldiers on the ground, you use aerial strikes to soften up the enemy’s resolve to fight before you deploy your forces on the ground. The Americans have taken this to new limits. They use Predator MQ drones controlled by computer nerds in Arizona to destroy enemy forces around the world. They don’t care whether they take out an enemy combatant with his family and neighbours. And the Americans feel they are justified in killing their enemies anywhere on the planet.
The Middle East has been a killing ground for a long time. It is not just Israel and the Americans who have been killing Palestinians, but numerous Arab countries have been murdering them with unmatched ferocity. Remember there are three million Palestinians living in Jordan, half a million in Syria, 200,000 in Lebanon, and some 100,000 in Egypt. During the war in Syria, some 4,000 Palestinians were killed when Bashar al-Assad placed the Yarmouk refugee camp under siege for two years, depriving them of running water, electricity and food. The Lebanese were also guilty of abusing the Palestinians living in the Nahr al-bared camp where some 40,000 lived. They were trapped with no water, electricity and food. Rival political factions, Hamas and Fatah, battled for control of the Gaza strip back in 2005/6 and 600 Palestinians were slaughtered. Hamas gunned down their opponents, blew up their homes and tortured dozens of their victims.
There seems to be no way around it. The Gaza Strip is going to become a cemetery for a huge number of civilians over the next few months. The IDF will use aerial bombing to destroy as many Hamas gunmen as they can and a large number of civilians will die with them. The survivors and their children will soon be signing up to join Hamas and war will flare up again in a few short years. The only way for the Israeli government to overcome Hamas is to retake possession of Gaza and assume a governing role.
Back in 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip which they had occupied after seizing it from Egyptian control during the Six-Day War. They didn’t just withdraw their military, they also forcibly evacuated 9,000 Israeli settlers. They gave it to the Palestinian Authority who thanked them by vowing to continue waging war against the Jewish state. And one year later in 2006, Hamas was elected and so began the slow downfall of Gaza.
Forget the two-state solution for Gaza. That is never going to happen with the security situation. Israel has no choice. It would be foolish for them to think they can retire from Gaza after months of combat and not see Hamas re-emerge from the rubble. Israel is a rich country with a GDP similar to that of many European countries and its economy vastly dominates others in the Middle East. The Israeli government can afford to be very generous to the Palestinians living in Gaza after they wipe out Hamas. They have the means to rebuild the strip with new schools, hospitals and parks, and the future for many Palestinians living there could improve immensely.