Islanders call for peace in major Middle East conflict

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on July 24, 2014

Members of the Island Peace Committee are calling for an end to the bombing in Gaza and a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Middle East.

About a dozen people attended a rally last week in Charlottetown in front of Province House, calling for an end to the bombing in Gaza.

“It is a humanitarian crisis unfolding and we’re asking all political parties in this country to come to the support of the Gaza people,” said Leo Broderick, a member of both the Island Peace Committee and the Canadian Peace Alliance.

“This has to stop, the bombings have to stop and there must be a peaceful solution to the situation in the Middle East. Violence is not the answer.”

Israel launched a massive air campaign on July 8 to stop relentless Hamas rocket fire into Israel. It expanded on July 17 to a ground war aimed at destroying tunnels the military says Hamas has constructed from Gaza into Israel for attacks against Israelis. The military says Hamas has launched 2,000 rockets since the war began.

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The Gaza Health Ministry says at least 609 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza. The UN office of humanitarian affairs estimates that at least 75 per cent of them were civilians, including dozens of children.

Islanders on the Island Peace Committee raised concern for those civilians living in Gaza, where the death toll has been highest.

They were critical of what they believe has been “blind support” of Israel by the Harper government.

“Mr. Harper didn’t even condemn what’s going on, or even talk about this. If you look at people in the European parliament, everywhere political leaders are condemning it, except our government,” said Suleiman Sefau of the Island Peace Committee.

“Myself, I believe the people of Israel have the right to peace, but at the same time I would like the people who live in Gaza to have the same support, the same right.”

But one young woman at the rally in Charlottetown, whose family is from Israel, approached The Guardian after the event to point out Hamas has been relentless in firing thousands of rockets into Israel. She was concerned the protesters were only presenting the plight of the Palestinians, while the people in Israel have also been facing daily attacks by Hamas.

“I want peace for everyone and I don’t think that any innocent people should be hurt or killed, but there are two sides of this, it’s not solely one side’s fault,” said Sophie Cardin of Colorado. Her family summers every year in P.E.I.

She said she recently posted an Israeli flag on her Facebook page and received a lot of backlash from her non-Jewish friends.

“I just want people to understand both sides of the issue, because I’m passionate about Israel.”

An Israeli soldier was killed Tuesday in fighting in southern Gaza, raising the number of Israeli troops confirmed dead to 27. Two Israeli civilians also have been killed.

 

Gaza families flee heavy fighting in south

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

GAZA, Gaza Strip — Israeli troops battled Hamas militants on Wednesday near a southern Gaza Strip town as the top U.S. diplomat reported progress in efforts to end fighting that has so far killed more than 680 Palestinians and 34 Israelis.

But neither side appeared to be backing down, after Palestinian rocket fire led several international airlines to cancel flights to Tel Aviv and Israeli troops clashed with Hamas near the Gaza town of Khan Younis in heavy fighting that forced dozens of families to flee.

Israel has insisted it must substantially curb the military capabilities of the Islamic militant group Hamas — a position that appears to have gained support within the U.S. administration — while Hamas has demanded the lifting of a crippling Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the impoverished coastal territory it has ruled since 2007.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Tel Aviv despite a Federal Aviation Administration ban following a Hamas rocket that hit near the airport the day before, reflecting his determination to achieve a cease-fire. He was to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after earlier talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who is also in the region. But U.S. officials have downplayed expectations for an immediate, lasting truce.

In Jerusalem, Kerry said negotiations toward a Gaza cease-fire were making some progress as he met for a second time this week with Ban.

“We certainly have made steps forward,” Kerry said. “There’s still work to be done.”

White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken meanwhile said Hamas must be denied the ability to “rain down rockets on Israeli civilians.”

“One of the results, one would hope, of a cease-fire would be some form of demilitarization so that this doesn’t continue, doesn’t repeat itself,” Blinken said in an interview with NPR. “That needs to be the end result.”

On the ground, meanwhile, Israeli troops backed by tanks and aerial drones clashed with Hamas fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles on the outskirts of Khan Younis, killing at least eight militants, according to a Palestinian health official.

The Palestinian Red Crescent was trying to evacuate some 250 people from the area, which has been pummeled by air strikes and tank shelling since early Wednesday.

Hundreds of residents of eastern Khan Younis were seen fleeing their homes as the battle unfolded, flooding into the streets with what few belongings they could carry, many with children in tow. They said they were seeking shelter in nearby UN schools.

“The airplanes and airstrikes are all around us,” said Aziza Msabah, a resident of Khan Younis. “They are hitting the houses, which are collapsing upon us.”

Further north, in the Shijaiyah neighbourhood of Gaza City, which saw intense fighting earlier this week, an airstrike demolished a home, killing 30-year-old journalist Abdul Rahman Abu Hean, his grandfather Hassan and his nephew Osama.