The horrific footage from Gaza over the past two days cannot help but shock, but it also prompts stark confrontation with the grim reality that has plagued Palestine for decades. Images of the torment and brutal killings of hundreds of Israeli civilians bring back memories of the violence and humiliation suffered by Palestinians, including children, women, elderly and disabled people, over many years. The images of assaults on hostages also recollect painful past events: they are an undeniable affront to humanity. Attacking civilians, irrespective of the side perpetrating the violence, lacks any semblance of honour.
In the first days of fighting, the toll of human life has been devastating on both sides, with over 1,500 people killed. At least 900 Israelis have lost their lives, with thousands more injured. It’s a tragedy of awful proportions.
As of Monday, the ministry of health in Gaza reported about 700 Palestinians killed by Israeli airstrikes and also thousands injured, with an additional 15 lives lost in the West Bank. The staggering numbers underscore the vicious cycle of violence that begets further violence.
While condemning the unjustified acts of aggression from the Palestinian armed groupsHamas and Islamic Jihad, it is crucial to recognise the undeniable trauma inflicted on Palestinians over the years. We have lived with pervasive fear and dread under the relentless sieges and assaults on Gaza and the prolonged military regime in the West Bank.
Some have described the attack as “unprovoked”, but history would suggest otherwise. The story of my country is one of historical grievances and political realities that contribute in the present to the daily violence within Palestine, and the ongoing conflict between the territories and Israel.
The besieged enclave of the Gaza Strip has been governed by the political and militant Islamic group Hamas since 2007. The siege by Israel,putin place in the same year, has given rise to economic struggles, heightened unemployment rates, and restricted access to vital resources.
The situation continues to deteriorate. More than 120,000 Palestinians have been displaced, with the Israeli defence minister deciding to cut off electricity, fuel and water from Gaza, describing its people as “human animals”. Israel has warned residents of the al-Rimal neighbourhood in the heart of Gaza City to evacuate, but people do not know where to go.
In the West Bank, the territory where I live, we struggle to live normal lives. Recent years have been marked by soaring deaths, demolitions and displacements, witnessed and documented by international NGOs, the UN and diplomatic representatives. Yet no action has followed.
Now, the streets are eerie. People are in shock and awe of the proactive, well planned and coordinated attack launched by the militant groups in Gaza. The attack was immediately followed by the imposition of a full lockdown, which tightens the grip on the daily lives of the West Bank’s residents, restricting our movements and intensifying the limitations on access to essential services and resources.
A heavy military presence is converging on the area and we expect an escalation in the number and range of violent settler attacks. Expect, too, more lone wolf attacks by Palestinians against military posts or settlers, an inevitability given the gravity of the casualties.
We are living through yet another phase in the cycle of adversity that defines life in this occupied territory.
Fatima AbdulKarim is a journalist based in Ramallah