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Will protests calling for Israel’s ceasefire in Gaza work?

As Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip – and more recently the occupied West Bank – continues with intense ferocity, hundreds of people gathered at one of London’s busiest train stations to call for a ceasefire.

Yesterday evening, more than 500 protesters sat inside London’s Liverpool Street station during rush hour to call for an end to Israel’s bombardment in the Gaza Strip.

People were seen holding Palestinian flags, some with ‘We Stand With Palestine’ written on them, while others clapped, chanted, and cheered in support as they made their way through the crowds towards the train platforms.

Although global superpowers – in particular, the US and the UK – have been vocal in their support for Israel, a large portion of the British public is positioned against the level of brutality Israel has deployed in its response to the October 7th attack committed by Hamas.

This became evident last weekend in London, when hundreds of thousands of people marched from Marble Arch to Parliament Square to show support for people in Gaza, despite the fact that the UK’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman has labelled pro-Palestine demonstrations ‘hate marches’.

The public’s tone is similar outside of Britain, with protests condemning the actions of Israel taking place all over the world.

Many in attendance at these protests have seen the images and videos trickling out of Gaza and onto social media, in spite of Israeli authorities periodically cutting power and internet access for Palestinians.

This content is showing the entire world the reality now lived by the Palestinian people – a reality that many Western media outlets have continued to heavily censor.

Some videos and photos show people of all ages trapped under rubble, while others dig through through concrete with their bare hands to try and rescue them. Others show people rushing frantically into hospitals, carrying the bloodied and wounded.

Too many capture men and women grieving as they carrying the lifeless bodies of babies, children, family members, complete strangers.

As Israel continues to deny Palestinians access to clean water, food, and fuel, the situation is becoming desperate – in particular inside hospitals providing urgent care. The events unfolding in Gaza at the hands of Israeli forces have been labelled a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ by the UN and other human rights organisations, though these groups have done next to nothing to stop what is going on.

Watching history’s most documented series of war crimes play out in front of their eyes, people are doing all they feel they can do: show up in large numbers and make their voices heard.

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Understanding the events of the last month

During the surprise Hamas attack in Israel on October 7th, more than 1400 Israelis were killed while 230 were kidnapped and taken to Gaza as hostages, according to figures reported by Israeli authorities.

Mere hours later, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a speech declaring war on Gaza. He stated his intention to strike Gaza with intensity, stating: ‘The enemy will pay an unprecedented price as Israel returns with fire of a magnitude that they have not known.’

Though Hamas fighters have continued to fire rockets back into Israel, the vast majority do not land, having been intercepted by Israel’s sophisticated defence system known as The Iron Dome. This device protects Israel using sensors, which detect and shoot down incoming rockets with roughly 90 percent accuracy.

Palestinians, by contrast, do not have the luxury of safety afforded by such technology. Each rocket fired from Israel lands directly on Gaza, flattening entire buildings and destroying the majority of life inside.

 

Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been adamant that his goal is to wipe out every single member of the Hamas army, it appears that he has used little, if any, discretion in avoiding civilian casualties.

Take, for example, when Palestinians were ordered by the Israeli army to move towards southern Gaza in order to escape incoming bombs aimed at Hamas targets in the north.

As those who were able to began travelling to safety in the south, Israel bombed the road they were travelling on, killing hundreds of Palestinian civilians. Satellite images have shown that Israel has also been firing rockets into southern Gaza in recent days, an area it said would be safe from targeted missiles.

Meanwhile, the complete destruction of religious buildings, universities, hospitals, and refugee camps in Gaza provides clear evidence that Prime Minister Netanyahu is committing war crimes under international law. It is also worth mentioning that this all took place before Israel officially launched a ground invasion in Gaza.

 

One might make the case that civilian deaths will always be an unfortunate byproduct of war, but many others see Israel’s reckless brutality as an attempt at committing genocide of the Palestinian people.

Holding this view is what caused Craig Mokhiber, the director of the New York office of the UN high commissioner for human rights, to step down from his post today.

‘Once again we are seeing a genocide unfolding before our eyes and the organisation we serve appears powerless to stop it,’ Mokhiber wrote in his final letter to the UN high commissioner in Geneva.

He continued, ‘The current wholesale slaughter of the Palestinian people, rooted in an ethno-nationalist colonial settler ideology, in continuation of decades of their systematic persecution and purging, based entirely upon their status as Arabs leaves no room for doubt.’

Since the events of October 7th, more than 8,306 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces. At least 40 percent of these deaths have been children, according to the Defence for Children International. As many as 124 Palestinians deaths by Israeli gunfire have been reported in the West Bank in recent days, despite the fact that Hamas fighters do not operate within this territory.

How many Hamas fighters have been successfully targeted, exactly, remains unclear.


Will overwhelming calls for a ceasefire work?

We live in a democracy. So, really, it should. But it’s hard to say.

The UK government, led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, has been hugely vocal about its unwavering support for Israel. This was solidified by Sunak’s recent visit to Israel where he shook hands with Netanyahu saying, ‘We want you to win.’

The political and military relationship between the UK and Israel has been strong for many years, with Campaign Against the Arms Trade estimating that Britain has signed off on £472 million of military exports to Israel since 2015.

In this light, getting the government to make a U-turn on its loyalty seems unlikely. Recent developments also suggest that Israeli leaders are not looking to stop anytime soon, either.

In the last day, Israel’s Prime Minister made a speech rejecting any notion of ending the ongoing attack on Gaza. He said:

‘Calls for a ceasefire or calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terrorists, surrender to barbarism, that will not happen. We’re going to resign them to the dustbin of history. That’s my goal. That’s my responsibility.’

Only one thing is certain. If this vicious war is to continue, the protests will too.

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