War is hell, not just for the soldiers, but also for those caught in the crossfire, the puppets and victims. The noncombatants of Gaza are bearing the brunt of the violence and bombings of the last week. They are cornered between Hamas, which has not hesitated to use them as human shields, firing rockets from within civilian neighborhoods and buildings, and Israel, which, although it tries to forewarn nonmilitants of attacks, remains relentless in its bombardment of Hamas’s rocket launch sites. The result for the people of Gaza: some 174 dead and thousands of refugees.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reports that they are housing some 17,000 refugees in twenty emergency shelters set up in schools as this round of the Hamas-Israel conflict, dubbed Operation Protective Edge by Israeli authorities, enters its seventh day of escalation. While Israel prepares for a possible ground invasion and continues to use text messages to warn civilians to flee the target areas, mosques are calling for them to stay put. It is a conflict of messages that ensures further casualties in this conflict of rockets. Should an invasion occur, UNRWA says history indicates they can expect 50,000 displaced Gazans.
As a terrorist organization, Hamas’s actions are hardly surprising. Violence, even against its own people for the furtherance of a political message, is its methodology. But as an organization that has had a governmental role in the Palestinian territories since 2006, the sacrifice of the people of Gaza on the altar of political posturing is disgusting and inexcusable. It is the height of depravity to equate yourself with the people that you bind beneath the falling fire of war, to accuse of murder those who have put the onus for peace upon you even as you continue to attack from behind walls of little girls.
The Commissioner General of UNRWA, Pierre Krahenbuhl, tried to remind the world Monday of the humanity of the victims. He said:
The dead and injured in Gaza are not anonymous. Behind the figures lie multiple individual destinies now torn apart. Too often in their lives have Gazan civilians been denied their dignity. Anonymity in death or injury is the ultimate denial. It is also too comfortable for the world and the parties engaged in the hostilities. Palestinians are not statistics and we must never allow them to be treated as such. They are human beings like others in the world, with their identity and the same hopes and expectations for an improved future for their children.
And while it is Israeli attacks that put these victims in the ground, it is the dehumanizing transformation of them into points on a politically charged graph by their own leaders that places them in the line of fire. The world must remember, as it observes this conflict, that the people of Gaza are puppets and victims who deserve to be remembered as individuals. Hamas fights for its own cause; it does not fight for its people’s lives.