ISRAEL PREPARING NEW ONSLAUGHT ON GAZA – US continues support for Saudi war on Yemen

The recent Israeli bombing of Gaza claimed 14 Palestinian lives
The recent Israeli bombing of Gaza claimed 14 Palestinian lives

A SENIOR Israeli official has warned the leader of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas against a large-scale operation in the besieged Gaza Strip, asserting that the Tel Aviv regime is prepared for such an onslaught.

‘Let me say it to be clear: The Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar’s time is limited. He won’t finish his life in a retirement home,’ Israeli Housing and Construction Minister Yoav Gallant said at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference on Wednesday. ‘There will be another large campaign in Gaza,’ Gallant said, claiming that it will be Israel, not Hamas, that decides when.

The recent rhetoric comes following the latest escalation of violence by the Tel Aviv regime against the coastal enclave in which Israeli airstrikes and shells reduced Palestinian buildings to rubble and sent fireballs and plumes of smoke into the sky. The fresh spate of the Israeli military aggression saw 14 people killed and several others injured in 48 hours.

Hamas and other Gaza-based resistance groups announced a ceasefire with Israel in a joint statement on Tuesday evening, saying they would abide by the ceasefire as long as Israel did the same. ‘Egypt’s efforts have been able to achieve a ceasefire between the resistance and the Zionist enemy,’ the statement read.

It added, ‘The resistance will respect this declaration as long as the Zionist enemy respects it.’ The Hamas and Islamic Jihad resistance movements praise the resignation of the Israeli war minister as a political win for the resistance movement against occupation.

In early July 2014, Israel waged a war on the Gaza Strip. The 50-day military aggression, which ended on August 26, 2014, killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, including 577 children. Over 11,100 others – including 3,374 children, 2,088 women and 410 elderly people – were also wounded in the war.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.

Meanwhile, Syria’s Deputy Foreign and Expatriates Minister Dr. Fayssal Mikdad affirmed on Wednesday that since holding the Third Review Conference in 2013, important achievements were made in the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons, and Russia, Iraq and Libya completed destruction of all their chemical weapons.

Delivering a speech at the Fourth Special Session of the Conference of States Parties to review the operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Mikdad said that ‘Syria expresses concern over US procrastination in the process of destroying its chemical weapons and completing the destruction of its vast arsenal of these weapons.’

Mikdad stressed that Syria confronted the largest and fiercest terrorist attack on its territory and terrorism was eradicated and safety and security were restored to its territory thanks to its heroic army, in cooperation with the allies.

Mikdad added that some countries did not like the situation of security and stability in Syria, which led them to push their tools and mercenaries to destabilise the country by fabricating scenarios on the use of chemical materials against civilians aimed at distorting the image of the Syrian state. He affirmed that Syria condemns in the strongest terms any use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anyone and under any circumstances.

• While combing the liberated villages and towns in the countryside of Quneitra and Damascus, authorities on Wednesday found large amounts of weapons, ammunition, and Israeli-made medicine. SANA’s reporter indicated that the engineering units, in cooperation with the reconciliation committees and the locals in the villages of al-Mu’alaqa, Deir Maker, and Beit Jin in Quneitra countryside and in Damascus southwestern countryside, found huge amounts of weapons, ammunition, and US-made satellite telecommunication devices left behind by terrorists.

The reporter added that huge amounts of medicine, some of it Israeli-made or Western-made, were also found, in addition to Israeli-made food materials. The authorities also recovered a number of governmental and private vehicles which had been stolen by terrorist groups and used them in their criminal acts.

• Meanwhile, American political leaders on Capitol Hill are at it again. They have blocked a vote to wind down US military support for the Saudi-led war on Yemen.

The measure narrowly passed with a 201-187 vote, making it more difficult for the House to take action on the war on Yemen with legislative action.

What’s more, several of the co-sponsors of the Yemen resolution to end the war either voted to advance the bill or abstained from the vote entirely, meaning they played a part in preventing their own bill from reaching the House floor. This comes at a time when Yemen’s popular forces of Ansarullah seek truce and are ready for ceasefire ahead of peace talks in Sweden.

Following the UN announcement of upcoming peace talks, the resistance movement has announced that they want a truce with the Saudi-led forces. Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the group’s leader, says they decided to halt the strikes amid requests from the UN to support the peace effort. The Saudi-led invaders have also said they support talks, and ordered their own ceasefire.

But this was only in words. Saudi Arabia and its allies are now launching new offensives in the north west, which suggests their previously announced ceasefire was overstated. Saudi Arabia’s so-called ceasefire in the vital Yemeni aid port of Hudeida has also come to an end after a brief lull in fighting. Now, Saudi warplanes are again pounding the city, and Saudi-backed forces are again carrying out offensives in and around the suburbs.

This is unfortunate. The ceasefire didn’t last up to the peace talks, and the Saudis and their American-British weapons suppliers are not willing to end the unnecessary conflict – Ansarullah truce and ceasefire announcement notwithstanding.

This is not a good sign for the upcoming peace talks, though they may also represent an attempt to secure some last-minute gains before coming to the negotiating table.

Either way, renewed Saudi airstrikes in Hudeida will doubtless mean another upswing in civilian casualties, further blockade of the vital port city, and a worsened humanitarian crisis that has affected at least 12 million people.

Also don’t believe it when the US military claims it has discontinued refuelling Saudi warplanes bombing Yemen. The Congress has just voted to continue the conflict while the US military continues to play a pivotal role in the war, providing arms and logistical support to UAE and Saudi forces occupying Yemen, blockading the country’s ports, and bombing its civilians.

Lest we forget, the UNHCR’s investigation has already concluded that there are ‘reasonable grounds’ to conclude that the US-backed, Saudi blockade violates the proportionality rule of international humanitarian law. Under that convention, the blockade is illegitimate because its impact on civilians is disproportionate to its military benefits. The advocacy group Human Rights Watch has also called on the UN Security Council to impose travel bans and asset freezes on Saudi Arabia and its coalition leaders, including Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In the prevailing circumstances, it is silly for Saudi Arabia to claim that by blockading the port city they only aim to prevent the Houthi Ansarullah forces from receiving arms shipments from Iran. There is no way Iran could possibly send weapons and missiles into the country as it is completely under siege from air, land and sea. Besides, the resistance forces have the knowledge and the technology to make their own missiles that can easily target the Saudi capital Riyadh.

In any event, the Saudis can only continue the illegal war and blockade with the much-needed military and diplomatic support they get from the United States.

The good news is that several European countries like Germany have decided to suspend arms exports to Saudi Arabia and its fighting partner the United Arab Emirates.

Norway has also ceased such sales to the UAE. However, the US and UK still support the Saudi-led coalition with weapons sales and logistical help. As long as such complicity in Saudi war crimes is there, the Ansarullah offer of truce and ceasefire will get nowhere. In consequence, the humanitarian crisis affecting millions of people will only continue to grow as the conflict rages on, and those in need will be prevented from receiving lifesaving assistance.