The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) expresses its grave concern and revulsion over the escalation of violence and destruction in the two-week-old conflict in the Gaza Strip in Palestine. War is indeed ugly, gruesome and dismal, especially if the great majority of the casualties are noncombatant civilians, including children and the elderly. After almost a month of fighting, the number of Palestinian deaths soared to 1,360 and nearly 7,000 wounded, while on the Israeli side, the death toll rose to 56 soldiers who are part of Israel’s ground offensive, which was preceded by unrelenting artillery and air bombing campaign for days. Three civilians have been killed in rocket attacks.
What makes matters doubly alarming is the fact that the Israeli army is targeting civilian homes, UNRWA schools and even hospitals. No amount of Israeli warnings made through flyers, frightening cell phone messages or “knock on the roof” warnings (small bombs dropped on the roof of buildings targeted for destruction) would make these bombardments “humane.” On the contrary, these are clearly war crimes.
This deliberate effort to target civilians seems to be consistent with the rhetoric of the Israeli government and the media, where calls for the “flattening of entire neighborhoods in Gaza” because the “residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas”, sounds like a call for genocide.
What is needed at this time is for the complete cessation of hostilities and allowing UN agencies and other concerned NGOs an unrestricted access and movement in conducting emergency humanitarian and medical assistance to thousands of affected civilians in Gaza Strip.
All Israeli military forces have to pull out from Gaza. If not, ground fighting will continue and the casualties will further increase to genocidal level, the Palestinian homes will all turn into rubble, food and other basic necessities will completely perish, and hunger, misery and death will become widespread.
But to have a longstanding and a more permanent ceasefire, Israel has to end the eight-year-long blockade of Gaza! All access points between Gaza and Israel, and particularly between Gaza and Egypt, should be opened.
To make this possible, the global community has to put pressure on Israel.
We call on the Philippine government to condemn the Israeli government for its atrocities and support the growing calls to effectively impose the arms embargo against Israel sanctioned by the United Nations many years ago.
In addition, the Israeli military and its civilian bosses should be tried for war crimes. Then and only then can the long-term but very complex solution to this problem – the mutual recognition and respect for the existence of both Palestinian and Israeli states – could be realized.