Nuseirat massacre and US resolution on ending over 8 months of bloodshed – Liberation statement

A scene of carnage: Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza | Credit: Palestine News and Info Agency (WAFA)

Liberation is deeply concerned by the reports that have emerged since the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the Nuseirat refugee camp, as well as the drastically worsening humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip in recent days as Israel’s over eight month long offensive on the besieged territory and its beleaguered inhabitants seemingly reaches its fevered climax.

This latest violence takes place with the risk of a final bloody assault on the southern city of Rafa remaining on the horizon, amid much speculation over a ceasefire proposal following the adoption of a United States-proposed resolution at the United Nations Security Council meeting on Monday 10 June.

At around 11am on Saturday 8 June, Israeli military forces, allegedly acting with at least the intelligence and logistical assistance of several Western countries’ militaries, launched a huge assault on a central area of the Gaza Strip encompassing the Nuseirat refugee camp and eastern sections of Deir al Balah. The action was taken ostensibly to free four of the Israeli hostages taken by Hamas and other armed groups during their appalling attack on southern Israel on Saturday 7 October 2023.

However, by the end of the operation, at least 274 Palestinians, mostly civilians, lay dead with hundreds more badly injured and left in need of urgent medical assistance – thus accounting for what is believed to be the worst single act of carnage inflicted upon the Palestinian people in this truly horrific onslaught over the past eight months.

One Israeli military casualty has been reported, while three other hostages – one of whom had US citizenship – were also killed during the Israeli operation, according to Hamas.

Witnesses recount an unannounced heavy barrage of ordinances hitting prominent buildings in an area densely packed with Palestinian civilians who had either remained in their neighbourhood throughout the eight-month offensive or recently returned having been displaced previously – Nuseirat being one of the camps originally set up for Palestinian refugees displaced in the expulsions during the 1948 Nakba. A busy open-air market was also hit, seemingly with the intention of inflicting the maximum number of casualties on those gathered there as well as to prompt panic in the vicinity.

The barrage provided air cover for a convoy of what appeared to be civilian vehicles with Gazan license plates, at least one laden with furniture and others bearing commercial signage, but which were actually carrying Israeli special forces personnel. Some of the Israeli forces even took to “perfidiously hiding in an aid truck”, according to Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. “This is ‘humanitarian camouflage’ at another level,” she wrote in a post on X.

After the convoy had divided up to approach the separate locations of the hostages, witnesses recall soldiers disembarking from the vehicles and immediately beginning a frenetic ground assault in which they fired indiscriminately all around themselves and at anyone they encountered in the narrow alleys, doorways, stairwells, as well as at windows in the camp. Israeli soldiers ran through an area filled with makeshift tents put up by displaced Palestinians, the terrified occupants hiding with no more than a sheet of the fabric comprising their dwelling between them and the marauding troops.

Those dying and injured in Saturday’s assault thereafter began to flood into the Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al Balah – the nearest still-functioning hospital in the Gaza Strip – quickly overwhelming the facility and leading to desperate appeals for emergency assistance, with medics warning that the limited capacity of the complex’s generators would soon expire and that they simply did not have the resources to provide the necessary care and treatment for those being brought there.

Saturday’s massacre, once more brazenly carried out right before the eyes of Israel’s allies, supporters, and apologists, is undoubtedly yet another count to add to Israel’s unenviable and lengthening rap sheet for genocide and war crimes. Indeed, in its latest report, the UN human rights office has clearly stated that the killing of civilians during Israel’s incursion to free the four hostages could well amount to war crimes under international law. It should be acknowledged that the same report makes clear that the holding of hostages in densely populated civilian areas by Hamas and other armed groups could also amount to war crimes.

If, as alleged, the US, British, and other Western countries’ militaries were involved in Israel’s operation on Saturday, then they could be deemed complicit in any crime adjudged to have been committed under international law – which would surely warranting the scrutinising and holding to account of officials who signed off on that involvement, particularly given the growing weight of public opinion against the Israeli onslaught in Gaza in those countries. And if the British government was indeed involved, such inquiry and scrutiny of those involved in the respective decision-making process here should be demanded, the pre-election dissolution of parliament notwithstanding.

While Liberation of course welcomes the news of the return of the four Israelis, who should never have been taken hostage in the first place, to their families and homes, it is nonetheless horribly tainted by the unjustifiable act of slaughter unleashed upon the Palestinian civilians residing in the vicinity where they had been held, wholly innocent as they were of any complicity in the captives’ ordeals.

Liberation also notes the reports already provided to the media of the generally good health and condition of the rescued hostages despite their undoubtedly traumatic experiences. This is in stark contrast to the countless accounts given by Palestinian political prisoners – men, women, and children alike – of the all too typical ordeals they endure in Israeli gaols, including routine brutal torture and mistreatment at the hands of those detaining them. Many of these prisoners are held in “administrative detention”, meaning they are held indefinitely without charge, legal representation, trial, or the affording of due process.

Liberation stresses that it would have been perfectly feasible for a deal to have been reached between the two sides for a carefully managed handover of the four hostages in question, reflective of the similar arrangements that saw the release of 105 hostages during the six-day truce in November 2023. This would have avoided the completely unacceptable and wholly unnecessary taking of even one Palestinian life on Saturday. Given that such arrangements are at the core of the US’ resolution on ending the conflict, the cynical nature of Saturday’s assault is further underlined and stands as yet another demonstration of bad faith on the part of Israel. None of this bodes well for the phased end to the conflict currently being countenanced.

Two days later, a US-proposed resolution, purportedly laying down a three-phased route to end the current conflict, was adopted at a meeting of the UN Security Council by a 14-strong majority with Russia abstaining – as opposed to exercising its veto – owing to its perceptions of a lack of clarity over what Israel had committed to in the resolution.

The US proposal appears to have been weeks in the making, having first been announced by the US president, Joe Biden, on 31 May and which – according to the White House – had already been accepted by Israel.

Hamas’ leadership appeared amenable to the proposal soon after the resolution’s adoption at the Security Council.

Liberation welcomes any development that would bring about an end to this eight month long conflict, one of the greatest catastrophes and affronts to humanity of in these troubled times, though we share the deep reservations held by many – including progressive currents in Palestine – over the fine print of the US proposal and the apparent lacunae left open for the fascistic Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu to exploit to its advantage.

Following the adoption of the resolution on Monday, the message from the Israeli government has essentially been that while it accepts the proposals as enabling it to achieve its goals, it will not end the war until all of those goals had been achieved. This, along with the continued deadly strikes on the residents of the Gaza Strip in the days since, rather undermines any notion that a real end to the current cycle of bloodshed is imminent.

The representative of Israel at the UN Security Council meeting, Reut Shapir Ben Naftaly, confirmed that her country’s objectives had been “very clear” since the days after the 7 October attacks and that “[Israel] will continue until all of the hostages are returned and until Hamas’ military and governing capabilities are dismantled […] Israel will not engage in meaningless and endless negotiations which can be exploited by Hamas as a means to stall for time.”

Liberation opines that there is ample cause for concern when the current developments vis-à-vis Israel and Palestine are considered in tandem with the US government’s recent parallel working of separate back channels with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran. It has been widely speculated that the reaching of amicable arrangements and accords between the US and those two countries may well be contingent upon their acquiescence to a new framing of terms regarding a future Palestinian state – a framing that does not necessarily accord with the one that has existed under international law since Oslo.

Liberation rejects any such rewarding of Israel’s murderous campaign with the imposition of a ‘victor’s justice’ upon the Palestinian people, as well as any attempt by the US to bring about a renegotiation of the terms and conditions pertaining to a future Palestinian state. Likewise, no country in the region – be it Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iran, or any other – can take it upon itself, pursuant to its own interests, to accede to anything purportedly on behalf of the Palestinian people that infringes upon their inalienable right to full national self-determination and sovereignty.

Liberation maintains the position it has held throughout the sheer horror of these past several months, that if there is to be any ‘positive’ outcome to this catastrophe, then it is incumbent upon the international community – under the auspices of the UN – to move to ensure that this dreadful chapter serves as the definitive juncture and precursor to the bringing about of an end to the 76 year long conflict in the Middle East once and for all – that the implementation of the two-state solution becomes its defining and enduring legacy.

Nothing short of the realisation and upholding of the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to national self-determination, encompassing full statehood, will suffice.

Thus, Liberation once more reiterates its call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire; the safe release and exchange of hostages and political prisoners between the two sides; an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine, including the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem; the disbandment and vacating of all illegal settlements in the West Bank; the establishment and international recognition of an independent state of Palestine within the borders as they stood on 4 June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital; and full implementation of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 regarding the right of return for all Palestinian refugees.

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