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Israel’s Threatened Invasion of Rafah Is Looming Over the Holy Month of Ramadan

The myth of the US as an honest peace broker has been buried under Gaza’s rubble.

Palestinian children, taking refuge in Tel al-Sultan region due to Israeli attacks, decorate their tents with Ramadan lanterns and illuminate lights ahead of the holy Islamic fasting month of Ramadan in Rafah, Gaza, on February 29, 2024.

Part of the Series

This holy month of Ramadan is a sad and heart wrenching one for Palestinians everywhere as Israel continues to intensify its attacks on Gaza — and attacking the West Bank and East Jerusalem — in violation of the World Court’s order to stop its genocidal practices.

For Palestinians in Gaza, who are mourning the death of more than 31,000 loved ones, there will be no joyous family gatherings or nightly feasts. This year’s Ramadan is instead shadowed by daily, deadly bombardment. Dreading when the next bombs will drop — or when Israel will begin a full-scale ground invasion of Rafah — Gazans are observing Ramadan amid death, destruction, starvation, dehydration and rampant diseases as a result of Israel’s relentless campaign of preventing an adequate number food aid trucks from entering the Strip.

This Sunday, on the eve of Islam’s holiest month of the year, worshippers in Gaza prayed in bombed-out mosques. In occupied East Jerusalem, hundreds of Palestinian worshippers were prevented on Sunday evening from entering the Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site. They were beaten with batons by Israeli forces in an effort to block them from entering and praying at the mosque, which has long been threatened with destruction by Israeli groups.

A friend in Gaza told me that last week within minutes after dropping Arabic leaflets from the sky wishing the residents of Gaza a blessed Ramadan, Israel resumed its bombardment and tank fire, killing over 100 people, which on average is the number of people Israel has killed in Gaza every day this past week. Gaza will not be spared from Israeli strikes even during the holy month of Ramadan. And if Gazans are not killed by Israeli air strikes or tank fire, they will likely face the risk of dying from hunger and malnutrition.

Last Friday, UN special rapporteur on the right to food and University of Oregon law professor Michael Fakhri told a press briefing by the United Nations Correspondents Association: “For months we’ve been saying famine is imminent.” Using words that showed his frustration after repeated warnings about the dire situation in Gaza and how food and starvation have been used as weapons of war, Fakhri said: “I think it’s fair to say now Israel has been intentionally starving the Palestinian people in Gaza.” He added, “We’ve never seen an entire civilian population made to go hungry so quickly and so completely in modern history.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the blockade is in violation of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) order in its initial genocide ruling, which ordered Israel to allow unhindered humanitarian aid and stop killing Palestinians. HRW’s Israel and Palestine director, Omar Shakir, said in a statement: “The Israeli government is starving Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians, putting them in even more peril than before the World Court’s binding order.” He added: “The Israeli government has simply ignored the court’s ruling, and in some ways even intensified its repression, including further blocking lifesaving aid.”

Amnesty International issued a similar statement accusing Israel of ignoring the World Court’s order saying that Israel has “failed to take even the bare minimum steps to comply.” Amnesty International’s regional director for Middle East and North Africa, Heba Morayef, emphasized that, “As the occupying power, under international law, Israel has a clear obligation to ensure the basic needs of Gaza’s population are met.” She added that Israel’s actions are “a clear show of contempt for the ICJ ruling and in flagrant violation of its obligation to prevent genocide.”

Starvation has already taken hold throughout Gaza, especially in northern Gaza where Israel, since the beginning of the war, has blocked aid trucks from reaching the over 300,000 Palestinians still living in the besieged territory. There are widespread reports that Palestinians are now eating animal feed to survive. In addition to blocking passage to desperately needed humanitarian aid, Israel has bombed green houses, destroyed farms and orchards, obliterated small fishermen’s vessels and set food storage facilities on fire, intentionally depriving people access to food.

The Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor (Euro-Med Monitor) said in a statement on Sunday that its staff in Gaza “is recording nearly daily deaths among the elderly due to Israel’s systematic and pervasive crimes of starvation and treatment deprivation in the Gaza Strip, especially in Gaza City and the Strip’s northern regions.”

With all eyes focused on Gaza, Israel has intensified its demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A surge in attacks on Palestinian residents by soldiers and armed settlers was also reported as Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the defense ministry to clear up space in its prisons for the arrest of “thousands” more Palestinians. According to Israeli Army Radio, Israel is deploying around 15,000 soldiers in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as 5,000 reservists.

Israeli Hostages Versus Palestinian Detainees

Palestinians have been waiting for that elusive “temporary” ceasefire agreement that President Biden repeatedly told us was imminent. The U.S. vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that called for an “immediate ceasefire” because according to U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield it would jeopardize the prospects of a “temporary ceasefire” and interfere with the sensitive negotiations between Hamas and Israel, mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the U.S., that would broker a “pause” in the fighting and allow for the 131 remaining Israeli hostages to be released.

Naturally, the U.S. the Israel blamed Hamas for the breakdown in negotiations and the failure to reach a deal on the proposed six-week temporary pause in the fighting. Hamas, we are told, was pushing for a permanent ceasefire that would allow Palestinians to return to their homes and rebuild their lives; Israel, on the other hand, wanted only a temporary pause so that it can resume its bombardment after the Israeli hostages are released.

But the major point of disagreement was the number of Palestinian detainees Israel was willing to release in exchange for the 131 hostages held by Hamas. After last November’s temporary pause ended, Israel detained more Palestinians than the number of captives it had released as part of the agreed upon exchange. Knowing this fact, Hamas wanted to free a much larger number of captives than Israel was willing to agree to.

In his March 10 article in Haaretz, Israeli journalist Gideon Levy reported about the estimated 1,000 to 1,500 Palestinian captives from Gaza that Israel held since October 7, of whom 27 have died in custody. He wrote: “No one demonstrates for their release; the world shows no interest in them. They are held in inhumane conditions and their fate is considered inconsequential.

Levy’s article reported only on the hostages taken from Gaza since October 7. There are over 7,500 hostages taken from the West Bank during the same period. And this is in addition to the thousands of Palestinians already languishing in Israeli jails under its illegal administrative detention policy, which can hold detainees indefinitely without a charge or trial. This practice — which Israel claims is an effective counterterrorism measure — is a tool of repression that has long been used by the Israeli state to instill fear among Palestinians and stop them from demanding or exercising their rights. Human rights groups, including Israel’s B’Tselem, and the UN have concluded that Israel’s use of administrative detention is a blatant violation of international law.

A friend in Gaza told me that last week within minutes after dropping Arabic leaflets from the sky wishing the residents of Gaza a blessed Ramadan, Israel resumed its bombardment and tank fire.

In a recent interview with Middle East Monitor, Ralph Nader expressed a view similar to that of Levy’s by pointing out how “the focus on the 100+ Israeli hostages in Gaza is not matched by the focus on many thousands of Palestinian hostages abducted into Israeli jails without charges or trials. Many of them are children and women.”

Palestinians Wanted to Hear “Ceasefire” Before the Start of Ramadan

As Biden and Netanyahu squabble over the airwaves hurting the people of Gaza — not to mention Biden’s reelection prospects — Palestinians cling to life as the Rafah invasion looms during this holy month of Ramadan.

President Biden, speaking on MSNBC, declared that Netanyahu is “hurting Israel more than he is helping Israel.” He added that Netanyahu will be crossing a “red line” if he invades Rafah, though he quickly followed up with a commitment to “never abandon Israel.” Firing back, Netanyahu said on Sunday, in an interview with a Politico correspondent: “We’ll go there. We’re not going to leave them. You know, I have a red line. You know what the red line is? That October 7 doesn’t happen again.”

Biden — perhaps oblivious of Israel’s endgame of forcing the Palestinians out of their land and into Egypt’s Sinai — has spent the past 150-plus days funding and shielding the Israeli regime as it commits the most heinous war crimes. He is supporting genocide with U.S. taxpayer dollars and blocking every attempt to call for a permanent ceasefire. Gaza has clearly become the perfect example of genocide by veto.

In Washington, D.C. as part of the largest civil disobedience action in the history of the State of the Union, hundreds of people blocked Biden’s motorcade to the Capitol, forcing him to reroute and delaying his arrival.

While acknowledging in his State of the Union address that the suffering of the people of Gaza is “heartbreaking,” the Biden administration has secretly made more than 100 military sales shipments to Israel since October 7, in violations of the Leahy Law that prohibits the use of U.S. weapons to kill civilians. Haaretz reported that at least 140 heavy transport planes have taken off from U.S. bases around the world carrying weapons to the Israeli state.

In an interview on Democracy Now!, former State Department official Josh Paul said that “It is illegal to provide military assistance to a country that is restricting US-funded humanitarian assistance.”

The recent Biden administration’s food airdrops as well as its latest announcement that the U.S. will embark on building a “floating temporary pier” on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast that allows aid delivery by sea — which could take months while Israel continues murdering civilians — amounts to nothing more than humanitarian theater designed to contain international outrage against U.S. complicity in the genocide and the starvation of Palestinians in Gaza.

The statement by the spokesperson for the U.S. Defense Department that it will probably take close to two months to construct this so-called temporary “port” makes it clear that the U.S. does not have the will to force Israel to abide by the ruling of the World Court and its order to allow unhindered humanitarian aid trucks to enter Gaza. It also exhibits the U.S.’s hidden efforts to buy Israel another two months in order to complete its assault on Gaza and starve and ethnically cleanse Palestinians from the Strip.

The Biden administration could have opted for a much easier and more humane solution if its intention were to genuinely avert a greater humanitarian catastrophe and get the food and medical aid into Gaza. It could have demanded the immediate opening of the Rafah crossing where hundreds of aid trucks are awaiting entry. The border is only a couple of miles away from where displaced Palestinians are camped.

The myth of the United States as an honest broker of peace, as a country that advocates for human rights around the globe, as a beacon of democracy and freedom, as a nation that is party to the Genocide Convention that obligates it to abide by its terms, is now buried under the rubble in Gaza.

During this Ramadan, let us remember those who were forced to fast long before the advent of this holy month, those who run for cover as they hear the sound of tank fire instead of rushing to eat when they hear the sound of the canon, those 1.4 million displaced Palestinians who are trapped at Gaza’s southern point as Israel prepares to invade them, and those hundreds or thousands of civilians who will perish before this holy month — which should have been a time of joy — comes to its end.

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