Israel broke ceasefire by killing six

Tue, Dec 30, 2008, 00:00

OPINION:IN JUNE, Israel agreed a six-month ceasefire with Hamas. Until December 27th, no Israeli, civilian or military, was killed as a result of rocket or mortar fire from Gaza.

 None. Not one. And there was very little rocket or mortar fire out of Gaza until Israel broke the ceasefire in early November.

Those key facts have been missing from most of the reporting of Israel's slaughter of nearly 300 Palestinians in Gaza, which began on December 27th.

Israel's claim that it had to act in order to protect Israeli civilians from being killed by rocket or mortar fire from Gaza is bogus.

There was another way. It was to maintain the ceasefire. From the point of view of protecting Israeli citizens, the ceasefire was a success. If the Israeli government had the protection of Israeli civilians as its first priority, it would have done its best to have the ceasefire continued indefinitely.

But it didn't. On the contrary, it broke the ceasefire by killing six Palestinians in Gaza on the night of November 4th, while the world was watching the election of Barack Obama.

As a result of this unprovoked assault by Israel, the ceasefire broke down - and rocket or mortar fire from Gaza started again. The ceasefire formally came to an end on December 19th after six months.

Under the terms of the ceasefire agreement, brokered by Egypt, in exchange for Hamas and other Palestinian groups ceasing the firing of homemade rockets and mortars out of Gaza, Israel undertook to end military operations against Gaza and its economic strangulation of Gaza.

Not only did Israel bring the ceasefire to a premature end on November 4th, it failed to live up to its obligations under it to lift its economic embargo.

Even humanitarian supplies continued to be restricted during the ceasefire. As John Ging, the Irish head of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) in Gaza, told The Electronic Intifada on November 25th: "There was five months of a ceasefire in the last couple of months, where the people of Gaza did not benefit; they did not have any restoration of a dignified existence. In fact at the UN, our supplies were also restricted during the period of the ceasefire, to the point where we were left in a very vulnerable and precarious position and with a few days of closure (of the international crossings) we ran out of food."

Even though there was a ceasefire, the people of Gaza continued to be collectively punished contrary to international humanitarian law, in particular, to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

I repeat: Israel's murderous assault on December 27th was not necessary to make its citizens safe from rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Israel had it within its power to make an agreement with Hamas to extend the ceasefire.

All it had to do was to stick to the terms of the original ceasefire - to end military operations against Gaza and its economic strangulation of Gaza. Then Hamas would have agreed to extend the ceasefire.

David Morrison is political officer of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign