Terror In Palestine
Oh, Israel. When the Red Cross is all but accusing you of War Crimes (the Red Cross; we're not talking Amnesty International), then you're doing something pretty damn wrong - not that you, so far, appear to care.
First a brief recap of the situation, as near as I can make out (sourced from Wikipedia - this is a blog post, not a Master's thesis). On 27 December, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, a series of bombings designed to bring down Hamas, the ruling party of Palestine. Israel claims it wants to limit civilian casualties; however, they have been bombing infrastructure such as schools, mosques and housing, claiming Hamas operatives are hiding in such places. Either way, on 3 January Israel launched the ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, and this is where things really start getting nasty.
Israeli forces shelled a U.N. school in northern Gaza, killing more than forty civilians, many of them children. Israel claims Hamas was using the compound to fire shells on Israel, a claim the U.N. strenuously denies. The U.N. has now suspended aid operations into Gaza following hits from Israeli forces, including the death of an a worker on an aid mission killed by Israeli tanker fire. According to Palestinian officials, at least 350 civilians, including 130 children, have been killed since hostilities began on December 27.
Okay, it's horrible. So what can be done about it? There's the usual rounds of international condemnation, including our own acting PM Julia Gillard, who has said "While recognising Israel’s right to defend itself from such indiscriminate attacks, the Australian Government supports the United Nations Security Council’s call for an immediate halt to all violence." Worthy sentiments (I do believe Israel has a right to defend itself. But just because you have a right to protect yourself in your own home doesn't mean you can go around destroying your neighbours' houses in case they attack you). Bush has just flat out blamed Hamas for the whole thing. Xander and Nico say Israel is being a barbaric bully. But what about an actual resolution?
The best hope at the moment seems to be the Egyptian-French led ceasefire negotiation which is taking place in Cairo as we speak; Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian president have all sent delegations. Explicit details of the ceasefire proposal have not been released, but the fact that all parties are willing to attend (despite the fact Israel is refusing to sit at the table with Hamas) is a good sign. Best case scenario is a cessation of hostilities, then a joint European-Arab peacekeeping force to administer the agreement. If it works, it will show that the U.S. does not play the lone role as "World Policeman".
Speaking of which, I know Barack Obama has a lot on his plate right now. And he's not actually the U.S. President yet. But still, his lack of reaction to the conflict has been disappointing. He says he will have more to say following his inauguration. I hope that is the case. We're all hoping for the U.S. to play a more positive, less aggressive role in global politics under the Obama administration. Former President Clinton has stated that his greatest regret in his Presidency is failure to act over the Rwandan massacre. Let's hope Gaza does not become President Obama's Rwanda.