May 18th, 2021
By Asra Haque
Eight days since the eruption of violence between Israeli forces and Hamas along the Gaza Strip and growing calls for an immediate ceasefire in the region, President of the United States Joe Biden on Monday, May 17 urged both warring sides to halt all hostilities.
However, a day prior, the USA had blocked a joint statement on this recent spate of violence by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) calling for a ceasefire – the third time in a single week. In the past week alone, the conflict has claimed 212 Palestinian lives in Gaza, including 61 children and 36 women, while some 15 Palestinians in the West Bank were killed by Israeli forces and settlers. 10 Israeli civilians in Tel Aviv have also been killed in rocket attacks by Hamas.
In early May, clashes between Arab Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah, a historical neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, and Israeli police broke out after the former resisted the forced evictions of six Palestinian residents from their homes. Tensions boiled over when Israeli police besieged the Aqsa Mosque compound, firing rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas, and injuring over 300 Palestinians.
On May 10, Hamas launched a barrage of retaliatory rockets against Israel, escalating hostilities as the latter responded with air raids on targets in the Gaza Strip, including civilian buildings which the Israeli Defence Force claims are being used by militants as ‘human shields’. The Israeli Air Force estimates that Hamas has fired some 3,300 rockets at Israeli towns and cities.
UNSC diplomats, Muslim foreign ministers and international human rights groups have urged for an immediate ceasefire to prevent further civilian bloodshed on either side. The current wave of violence in the region is being considered by some as the deadliest since the 2014 Gaza War, which lasted seven weeks and saw over 2,000 Palestinian and over 70 Israeli casualties.
The UN General Assembly is expected to meet on May 20 in New York to discuss the on-going crisis in Gaza.