There are only three scenarios that will end the senseless carnage in Gaza:
1. the world community must coalesce around a demand for an immediate ceasefire.
2. the IDF blunders in an operation which ends in major loss of Israeli life.
3. the IDF blunders and kills a large number of Gaza civilians in a single catastrophic event.
Unfortunately, we do not yet have #1, though Barack Obama has ended his Sphinx like silence with the following almost Delphic oracle:
The loss of civilian life in Gaza and in Israel is a source of deep concern for me.
Regarding #2: yesterday, the IDF shelled a Gazan home full of its own troops killing three, wounding 20. That unfortunately qualifies as the type of disaster which may make Israelis begin to take pause at the sacrifices their boys must make in this godforsaken enterprise. Though I fear that this alone will not end the fighting.
Regarding #3: sadly, today brings news of a Qana-like utter disaster. The IDF fired mortar rounds directly at a UN school killing 42 and injuring 50 more several severely. The death toll is expected to rise. Since the UN had provided coordinates for all its Gaza facilities, the army knew it was targeting a UN building housing civilians. This, like Qana is the disaster that will begin to turn the hearts of world opinion against Operation Solid Lead.
Israel claims mortars were fired at its forces from the school. Even if this were true, the idea that you fire a mortar at a school crammed with 350 civilians is grotesque. IF you want to take out 2 militants, you don’t do it by firing a mortar. The officer who ordered the mortar round fired deserves the IDF medal for duncehood. The only thing such weaponry guarantees is the result that we have now.
Reuters tells the story of the disaster differently:
…Two tank shells exploded outside the school, spraying shrapnel inside and outside the building where hundreds of Palestinians had sought refuge from the fighting.
I have given up hope that the Israeli government gives one solid crap about Palestinian life. The only thing that moves them is world opinion. That is why Obama’s statement, pathetic as it is, is a start. It may loosen the tongues of some world leaders who’ve been sitting on the sidelines waiting to see which way the wind would blow. For the fence-sitters, this would be the time to get off their duffs and tell their UN ambassadors to get into intensive diplomatic mode. The time for stalling is long gone. The UN needs to get down to business and end this thing. Whatever Bush or Rice think is happening or that they wanted to happen, they have to end this before there is an even greater catastrophic failure.
Given Gaza is a densely populated urban enclave, you know that either the IDF is going to blunder into killing its own, Hamas is going to ambush a platoon and kill a significant number of troops, or Israel will kill massive numbers of civilians once again. The Times even notes the IDF’s tendency toward such disasters:
Israel has been criticized in the past for the inaccuracy of its shelling…
In November 2006, Israel all but stopped firing tank and artillery shells into Gaza after 18 Palestinian civilians, most from one family, were killed by Israeli shells that missed their target and hit a row of houses in Beit Hanoun.
In another strike, during its conflict with Hezbollah in July 2006, Israel suspended air attacks in southern Lebanon for 48 hours after one of its air strikes on the southern town of Qana left dozens of civilians, many of them children, dead.
This had to happen. The only question was how long it would take before it did. I predicted it would from the very first day of the war. It doesn’t take rocket science to know this.
What does take a bit of finesse is butting Hamas and Israeli heads together to engineer a ceasefire. And I’ll repeat for the umpteenth time: the ceasefire needs to satisfy not only Israeli demands for an end to rocket fire. It also needs to address Gaza’s need for a total end to the Israeli siege. The blockade as a policy designed to topple Hamas has failed. It has long been time to abandon it and take a different tack.
Latest death toll: 640 Gazans, five Israelis and five soldiers.