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Ten key questions that remain unanswered in the Israel-Gaza War

Opinion

Ten key questions that remain unanswered in the Israel-Gaza War

The world has to understand the motivations of both sides and then decide what to demand from them

Reshmi Dasgupta Last Updated:October 29, 2023 10:06:45 IST Ten key questions that remain unanswered in the Israel-Gaza War

A Palestinian stands outside the building destroyed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah, on Wednesday. AP

A media battle is being fought alongside the war between Hamas and Israel in Gaza. And it is no less ruthless than the deadly Hamas attack on October 7 on unsuspecting inhabitants of southern Israel and the subsequent ferocious bombing of the Gaza strip by the Israeli Defence Force that has led to thousands of Palestinian deaths. The target of both are audiences far beyond those directly connected to the war but whose combined pressure can help either side.

However, important questions are often not asked, and clarifications are not sought or made, that would help audiences make up their minds based on fair information. Even if there is information, it is not widely disseminated; people have to search for it. Most do not. And that leads to hardened stands and protests where many present are not fully aware of the situation, much less its history. Here are ten glossed-over issues that have contributed to the conflict:

1. Hamas is a heavily armed terrorist organisation that specifically cites the annihilation of Israel as its objective rather than a two-nation solution. If the purpose of the deadly raid was to lure Israelis into high-casualty urban warfare in Gaza, it would rain even more hardship upon Palestinians without destroying Israel. Yet nobody has questioned any Hamas representative or supporter how its prime objective has been furthered by this bloody three-week battle.

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2. On October 10, Israel reported that the bodies of around 1,500 Hamas terrorists had been recovered, and yet there is still no clarity on exactly how many came into Israel and returned to Gaza. Those who stayed behind were obviously suicide squads whose intention and motivation was to increase the toll of the attack to the 1,400 that it now stands at. There has been hardly any effort to find out how many Hamas terrorists have been killed in the Israeli retaliation either.

3. The “health ministry” of Gaza is run by Hamas. But only after sustained protest from Israel did the media begin mentioning this crucial fact. Few know that Hamas won the Gaza elections in 2006, and in 2007 they threw out Fatah, which runs the Palestinian Authority whose writ now is confined to the West Bank. So, what is the validity of information coming out from Gaza, including the list of those killed in Israeli bombardments, and the state of supplies?

4. The list of fatalities in Gaza gives the impression that only civilians have been targeted and killed by Israel. The controversy over the toll (and the cause of the blast) at the Al-Ahli hospital highlights how unreliable such information can be. Though there are plenty of images of bombed buildings and anguished Gazans rushing injured loved ones to hospitals, there is word on how Hamas has been affected by Israeli hits. It is as if Hamas is invisible in Gaza.

5. The number of Palestinian children killed in Israeli bombardments is high and shocking, but their presence in a war zone despite Israel’s strong and repeated exhortations to vacate the areas they intend to bomb also indicates pressure by some entities on the Palestinians to stay put, nevertheless. What group or persons can exert that much coercive pressure on Gazans that they are resigned to their fate? Curiously, the media has not investigated that angle at all.

6. Although its supporters mourn the many Palestinian children who have died in Israeli bombings, Hamas has chosen to release four adults rather than any or all of the reported 30 Jewish children they hold as hostages. The visuals of children burnt in their cribs during the Hamas raid raises huge concerns about their conditions in captivity in Gaza. Still, audiences worldwide are none the wiser as to why Hamas chose to abduct children, toddlers and even infants.

7. Released hostages have indicated Hamas has a network of well provisioned tunnels and bunkers but no one has probed how this was accomplished without local knowledge—and compliance. No one has really tried to find out whether any, all or most civilian Gazans were unaware of the locations of Hamas’ many hidden infrastructure and the danger of staying near them when Israel is clearly intent on destroying all of Hamas’s ‘command and control’ centres.

8. Israel insists Hamas has deliberately built bunkers under medical facilities, especially the Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City as the international consequences of hitting such places would be unacceptably high. Hamas denies it, but released hostages speaking of doctors being on call indicates a hospital being close by. Unless, of course, there are doctors only to tend to terrorists and hostages, rather than the beleaguered Palestinians above. The world needs to know.

9. Despite calls for an “immediate ceasefire”, Hamas continues to fire rockets at Israel, thereby ensuring continued retaliation while its purported interlocutors like Qatar continue to talk only about the humanitarian crisis. Nor is there any move to find out what precipitated the current crisis—although US President Joe Biden seems convinced it was done to scuttle the IMEEC initiative—and why Hamas persists with hostilities despite the heavy Palestinian fatalities.

10. Gaza is surrounded by Egypt and Israel so Hamas must have siphoned off its “quota” of food and fuel from the hundreds of “humanitarian aid” trucks that went in there every day but are now heavily curtailed by both nations. There is no other way. Yet there was protest from aid agencies working there. Nor are they being quizzed now on the likelihood of (and guarantees against) Hamas doing the same again if or when there is a ceasefire and “humanitarian aid” resumes.

There have been funerals—too many of them—in both Israel and Gaza. Entire families have been wiped out on both sides, including children and the elderly. That should have been reason enough for Hamas to release hostages, which would also then have forced Israel to “pause” its bombardment if not effect a ceasefire. But Hamas has continued its attacks and released only four hostages while dangling the prospect of freeing more for an unknown quid pro quo.

Israel has been clear from October 7 that it will not stop its attacks on Gaza until Hamas and its infrastructure—not Palestinians or the idea of a Palestinian state—are destroyed. No amount of world opprobrium about mounting civilian deaths in Gaza has been able to deflect it from its objective as it believes any let up will lead to Hamas regrouping and attacking Israel again. The world has to understand the motivations of both sides and then decide what to demand from them.

As a democratic nation, Israel is (and should be) held to a higher standard than Hamas, a terror organisation whose leaders direct operations from safe havens abroad. But the world cannot remain riveted to images of destruction and despair (mostly in Gaza) without demanding clarity on key issues from both. As long as people are swayed without 360-degree information, there can be no resolution. And only the media can ask the right questions and get answers for us.

The author is a freelance writer. Views expressed in the above piece are personal and solely that of the author. They do not necessarily reflect Firstpost’s views.

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