Since December 27, 2008, Israel has been executing military airstrikes and artillery attacks in the Gaza strip, resulting in nearly 1,300 deaths. Approximately forty percent of these casualties were civilians, including women and children. Israel claimed the motive for these attacks was to terminate Hamas rocket-firing in southern Israel. As of January 18, thirteen Israelis have been killed by Palestinian attacks; three were civilians.
Controversy surrounding who broke the cease-fire agreement between the two sides complicates an already confusing issue even further. Israel broke the cease fire on November 4, 2008 by going into Gaza and killing six or seven Hamas militants, explained Stephen Zhou, leader of UTMs Ministry of Social Justice. Hamas retaliated and they didnt renew the ceasefire because there was a blockade on Gaza for the past three years. Nobody could go out and nobody could come in. [Israel] cut off the electricity and they cut off the water, he added.
According to the New York Times, eleven Palestinian militants were killed from November 4 – 14 following the Israeli raid into Gaza to destroy a tunnel being dug toward Israel. Shortly after, Hamas launched rockets into southern Israel and eighteen Israelis were injured as a result. Hamas has claimed that they wanted to renew the five-month truce with Israel but insisted that Israel did not. Israel held their position that it was Hamas who broke the truce by firing the rockets and mortars.
Taking it into context, [Palestine] has been under forty years of occupation. People are saying, Do something about Palestine, said Zhou, interpreting the global outpour of support for Palestinians. People are saying Twenty days, 1,000 people — thats too much. Im going to take a Palestinian flag and Im going to stand up for innocent Palestinian people who have been killed.
The Gaza Coalition at UTM gathered on January 14 to discuss the campaign opposing Israels attacks within the Gaza strip. The meeting focused on raising public awareness and educating students about the issue.
Ill be honest with you. Im here but I dont even know whats going on. Im just a student who was watching it on the news and felt moved, so I came here to find out more about it, said Tina Madzima. She also mentioned that she felt that there should be information booths for students to easily access information about the conflict.
Im not informed enough to choose sides, but from what Ive heard I disagree with what Israel is doing, said Micheline Khan, a first-year life science student. If there were information booths around campus, Id definitely be interested in learning more, she added.
On January 10, UTM students took part in a worldwide protest against the Israeli attacks. A protest was planned for the following Saturday, but only three protesters demonstrated at the Israeli Consulate on Bloor Street.
The low turnout may have been due to reports that Israel declared a ceasefire in Gaza. BBC reported that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel had achieved its goal, and added, we feel the pain of every Palestinian child and family member who fell victim to the cruel reality created by Hamas. The ceasefire came into effect as of 2 a.m. on January 17.
However, Hamas was not involved in the ceasefire decision, nor did they express acceptance of the ceasefire. Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoom said that Israel must withdraw their troops, lift the blockade and open border crossings in Gaza. Until then, he added, fighting will continue.
Only speculations can be made regarding what will happen now. There are a lot of criteria [to consider]. People have been talking ever since the early 90s [but] anything is better than occupation. I dont think that if the occupation was alleviated it would backfire on Israel, MSJs Zhou said. Expressing his hope for a long-term resolution, he added, in fact, if this occupation by Israel is alleviated, innocent people in Israel will stop dying. Palestinian people will at least have a chance at a normal life.