We, 31.05.2023
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Life in hell on earth

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Illustration: Urmas Nemvalts

To be born in Gaza, in 21st century, is to be unlucky. For years dubbed «world’s largest open-air prison», the phrase probably isn’t too wide of the mark.

A common man in the region, perhaps not liking the economic tightness, the Hamas terrorists throwing their weight around etc, has not many easy options elsewhere. To get out – to West Bank towns, Egypt, or elsewhere in Israel – few are able, not to mention travelling to other countries.

Comparison of the over-populated area with prison gets clearer realising the role of tunnels dug into Egypt in the Gaza economy. Not always has that been the case: in 1998, an international airport was opened in Gaza, among others also financed by EU states. In 2001, it was bombed to pieces and there has been no flights since.

That’s ugly enough, but, at the moment, the common Gaza man has an «easy» option to get killed. Within the Israeli operation «Protec­tive Edge», soon in progress for a month, the sad UN statistics as at July 29th were as follows: for Israel, 56 dead (53 soldiers and 3 civilians); for Palestinians, 1,118 dead (180 militants, and at least 827 civilians, including 131 women and 243 children). Yesterday, dozens of Gaza deaths were reported again.

To escape the war, civilians in Gaza have no options, really. The area is small and in it, it may not even help to hide in UN schools.

Undoubtedly, Israel has a right to defend itself. Rocket attacks from Gaza and terrorists sneaking in via tunnels are a security threat to be resisted. It is also true that Hamas, in charge of Gaza, does not think too much of protecting civilians. As written in Postimees by Israeli Ambassador Dan Ashbel, Hamas esteems its assault rifles over the lives of their own people.  

Even so, the mounting civilian toll is not justified here and now. Impossible to disagree with what the British foreign secretary Philip Hammond said in Sunday Telegraph, yesterday: the situation of civilians in Gaza is unacceptable and an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire needs to be immediately declared. «We must stop the killing,» said Mr Hammond.

The Israeli-Arab conflict is an ancient one, rife with religious antagonism, injustice and violence. It may be years till the confrontation finally ceases. The current spiral of violence will, however, make lives better for no-one in the Middle East. Israel, the Palestinians and the international community need to strive towards some other scenario.

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