Terror in Gaza as bombing resumes – ceasefire NOW

21,000 killed including 8,312 children – Euro-Med Monitor 1 December 2023

Gaza bombing resumes as truce is not extended

With Israel and Hamas each blaming the other for the truce breakdown, the Government of Qatar — key mediators in the hostage, prisoner and humanitarian truce negotiations — issued the following blunt statement:

During the pause, Hamas freed 110 hostages, including 80 Israelis, in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners. In addition, the truce allowed more desperately needed aid to enter Gaza, although supplies of food, water, medicine and fuel remain far below the levels needed by the 2.3 million population.

UN officials decry resumption of hostilities

In the first few hours after the truce expired on Friday morning, Israeli bombardments killed dozens across all areas of the Gaza Strip, including the south, which was marked as a safe area. With the resumption of the war, no further aid entered Gaza on Friday.

James Elder, a spokesman for the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, speaking via a video link from Gaza, appealed for a ceasefire, calling inaction on Gaza

an approval of the killing of children…. it is reckless to think more attacks on the people of Gaza will lead to anything other than carnage.

Against the backdrop of at least 8000 children already killed in Gaza, he also tweeted:

Has humanity given up on the children of Gaza?!

UN Human Rights Chief Volker Turk stated:

The resumption of hostilities in Gaza is catastrophic. I urge all parties and states with influence over them to redouble efforts, immediately, to ensure a ceasefire — on humanitarian and human rights grounds.

Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the United Nations humanitarian office in Geneva, said the resumption of hostilities meant

hell on Earth has returned to Gaza.

For more from the UN, see Shock and terror in Gaza as bombardment of shattered enclave resumes (news.un.org, 1 December 2023).

Secretary of State Blinken says Israel has agreed to limit civilian casualties

The paywalled Washington Post has extensive coverage of the efforts by the Biden administration to avert further civilian deaths in Gaza, quoting Secretary of State Blinken telling reporters in Tel Aviv on 30 November:

We made clear the imperative that before any operations go forward in southern Gaza that there be a clear plan in place that puts a premium on protecting civilians as well as sustaining and building on the humanitarian assistance that’s getting into Gaza.

And the Israeli government agreed with that approach.

Blinken elaborated further:

I underscored the imperative to the United States that the massive loss of civilian life and displacement of the scale we saw in northern Gaza not be repeated in the south.

The Washington Post describes the evolution of American thinking in this regard:

What began as a “bear hug” strategy of intense backing by President Biden has become one in which U.S. officials, facing growing blowback at home and internationally, have distanced themselves from scorched-earth Israeli tactics.

They have pushed instead for a more targeted battlefield approach — and [for Israeli] to act “in accordance with international humanitarian law and the laws of war, even when confronting a terrorist group that respects neither.”

The Washington Post further reported that, while Blinken gave no details of the Israeli assurances, he said that

the United States wants them to designate safe zones for civilians to gather, to allow displaced Gazans to return north to their homes, to avoid significant further displacements and to try to spare critical infrastructure such as hospitals.

At the same time, Secretary Blinken indicated:

the Biden administration had no intent to abandon Israel nor push for a permanent cease-fire so long as Hamas is able to threaten Israel from Gaza.

Interactive maps that rely on the internet indicate alleged safe areas

The Washington Post also reported on a part of Israel’s “strategy” to reduce civilian casualties – an interactive map to direct residents to alleged safe areas — while acknowledging that

the area has struggled with internet connectivity.

IDF map of the Gaza Strip split into 620 small numbered zones, which it will use to order forced evacuations.

The Guardian.com expands on this plan:

Israel’s military announced on Friday morning that it was dividing the entirety of Gaza into dozens of numbered blocks as a prelude, it said, to demanding targeted local evacuations in the crowded south of the strip before planned bombing. It dropped leaflets on to Gaza with a QR code to a website with a map of all the areas and geolocating people within them.

In addition to the problem of Gazans accessing the information in the first place, humanitarian organizations decried the plan, asserting:

There is fundamentally nowhere for people to go.

The Guardian also reports that the renewed Israeli offensive appears to be “wide-ranging,” with explosions and gunfire over northern Gaza and airstrikes in southern Gaza as well.

Euronews reports:

Israel bombed the Gaza Strip fiercely on Friday, as the war resumed with full force after a week-long truce.

The Israeli army claimed to have struck more than 200 targets in Gaza since the ceasefire expired at 05:00 GMT.

On 2 Dec 2023, the US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told the Reagan National Defense Forum that Israel risked a “strategic defeat” if it failed to protect civilians. On 3 Dec 2023, there were reports of over 700 Palestinians killed in Gaza in the last 24 hours.

RI President Peggy Mason asks:

What can we make of Blinken and Austin’s fine words? The answer of course is nothing. Unless backed by real consequences for Israeli actions contrary to the said assurances, they are nothing more than empty Washington talking points.

Current ICC Prosecutor fast-tracks Ukraine and foot-drags over war crimes in Gaza

Any investigation undertaken by the Office will be conducted independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favour. – Former ICC Prosecutor Bensouda

PassBlue, the independent, expert publication covering key UN issues, features a devastating 28 November 2023 opinion piece with a title that asks the question: Is the ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan Fit for Purpose? (Hasmik Egian  and  Mouin Rabbani).

Their article provides shockingly abundant evidence that he is not.

Karim Khan, a British lawyer, took office on 12 February 2021, after being elected at the 19th session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute. He succeeded Fatou Bensouda, a Gambian lawyer, who during her term as ICC Prosecutor successfully initiated an historic investigation respecting international crimes in Palestine committed since 13 June 2014, the date referenced in Palestine’s referral of the case to the ICC on 15 May 2018.

When does the ICC have jurisdiction over grave international crimes?

The ICC may exercise jurisdiction [adjudicate cases] in a situation where genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes were committed on or after 1 July 2002 [ the date the Court’s governing Rome Statute entered into force] and:

  • the crimes were committed by a State Party national, or in the territory of a State Party, or in a State that has accepted the jurisdiction of the Court; or
  • the crimes were referred to the ICC Prosecutor by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) pursuant to a resolution adopted under chapter VII of the UN charter.

ICC Prosecutor sets out his priority cases in his inaugural briefing to the UN SC

On the occasion of his inaugural briefing in November 2021 to the UN Security Council on one of only two current SC referrals to the ICC — that of Libya — Karim Khan outlined his “vision” for the court:

to ensure no safe haven for war crimes…. – Karim Khan

In order “to ensure no safe haven for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide,” Kahn expressed his desire for “convergence” between the Council’s responsibilities and those of the ICC, by which he meant giving priority to UN Security Council referrals:

I emphasise again that the UN Security Council referrals are a priority for me. – Karim Khan

PassBlue elaborates:

Lest there be any ambiguity, Khan then repeated three times that he would prioritize only those cases referred to his office by the Council.

The Rideau Institute comments:

If you are wondering how a significant, self-imposed restriction on the reach of the ICC could “ensure no safe haven for war crimes,” then you are not alone.

Priority to SC referrals leaves Palestine and Afghanistan cases out in the cold

In practical terms, this means that cases not referred by the SC will not get priority. This includes two separate “situations” — Palestine and Afghanistan — to which Washington is adamantly opposed.

PassBlue writes:

Khan’s lofty proclamation before the Council that “no safe haven is given to war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide” notwithstanding, he appeared to be reassuring Washington and its allies that the Palestine and Afghanistan files…. would collect dust in his filing cabinet.

PassBlue authors Egian and Rabbani trenchantly observe:

It was that rare instance in which a senior international official publicly announced his dereliction of duty at the very start of his tenure.

Khan acts quickly on Ukraine, a Western priority but not an SC referral

PassBlue then moves to consideration of the ICC Prosecutor’s vigorous response to alleged war crimes in Ukraine, where there can be no Security Council referral given Russia’s veto, but where the ICC has jurisdiction, pursuant to two declarations made by Ukraine in 2014 accepting the Court’s jurisdiction over its territory from November 2013.

Egian and Rabbani explain:

on Feb. 28, 2022, less than a week after Ukraine was invaded by Russia…. Khan declared that he would immediately open an investigation into war crimes committed in Ukraine since 2014, the year Moscow annexed Crimea.

Karim Khan then asked the international community to offer support, resulting in Canada, the UK, France and others sending both additional funds and legal authorities to help with the probe, such that

In May 2023, a little over a year after announcing the investigation, the court issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights.

The Rideau Institute comments:

We concur with the PassBlue assessment, that this swift and substantial action on Ukraine, despite not being a Security Council referral, suggests Khan’s real agenda is to fast-track or bury cases in accordance with Washington’s preferences. And his conduct on the 2023 Gaza war fully bears that suspicion out.

Khan waits 6 weeks before taking any action on Gaza war crimes

On the comparison between Khan’s actions in Ukraine versus Palestine, PassBlue writes:

Khan’s foot-dragging on Palestine, compared with his rush to Ukraine at the speed of light, particularly stands out.

It was not until 17 November 2023, after receiving referrals regarding Palestine from five ICC States Parties (South Africa, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Comoros and Djibouti) that Khan confirmed that the case opened by his predecessor Bensouda more than two years earlier remained

ongoing and extends to the escalation of hostilities and violence since the attacks that took place on 7 October 2023.

ICC referrals by Western states regarding Ukraine but not Palestine

The shocking bias of the ICC Prosecutor is mirrored by the action — or inaction — of Western ICC States Parties. In the case of Ukraine, by 2 March 2022 Khan had received referrals to open an investigation into Ukraine from 39 Western States Parties to the Rome Statute, including Canada.

To date, none of these countries has referred the Gaza war to the ICC prosecutor.

Compare Khan’s betrayal of ICC independence to the courage of Bensouda

In comparison to Khan’s betrayal of the ICC’s vital independence and impartiality, the PassBlue commentary reminds us that, precisely because she refused to bend to its will,

in 2019 Washington revoked [former ICC Prosecutor] Bensouda’s US visa. In 2020, it smacked her and other Court officials with sanctions normally reserved for designated criminals.

RI President Peggy Mason comments:

The horror of the war on Gaza has provided lesson after lesson in the real meaning of the “rules-based international order” which selectively applies fundamental principles of international law to benefit Washington and its allies.

But it has also shown that its apologists can be forced into action, however reluctantly. And that is what we must now ensure — that the Palestine investigation is carried forward

What about Hamas atrocities committed inside Israel?

Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, nor has it accepted the jurisdiction of the court. That raises real questions about the ICC’s jurisdiction to consider war crimes committed by Hamas inside Israel. (All alleged war crimes committed in Gaza, by whomever, are covered since Palestine is a State Party to the Rome Statute.)

The psychic toll of the Gaza conflict

The lesson is brutal and short: human rights are not universal and international law is arbitrarily applied. — Nesrine Malik

For a searing article on the psychic toll that this conflict is taking on all those people around the world who see and decry the vicious double standard at play here, see The war in Gaza has been an intense lesson in western hypocrisy. It won’t be forgotten (Nesrine Malik, the guardian.com, 27 November 2023).

WHITHER CANADA?

As yet we have seen no statement from the Government of Canada on the catastrophic resumption of the Israeli bombardment in Gaza. And despite Secretary of State Blinken’s assurances about Israel’s adherence to international law in this new phase, all the evidence to date suggests otherwise.

In such circumstances, the only feasible way to meet Secretary Blinken’s stated objectives of averting civilian casualties and ensuring continued humanitarian aid is the establishment of what the UN Secretary-General has recently termed

a true humanitarian ceasefire.

Recalling the Prime Minister’s Statement of 22 November 2023 in support of “rapid, sustained and unimpeded access to humanitarian relief” and the avoidance of “the further loss of innocent life,” we urgently reiterate our call on the Government of Canada to join with other countries like France, Norway and Ireland in championing an enduring ceasefire now.

CLIMATE CRISIS AND COP28: SOME SURPRISING GOOD NEWS

After a torrent of bad news leading up to the COP28 Summit, including revelations that host country UAE planned to use its role in the climate talks as an opportunity to strike oil and gas deals, Day One of the meeting produced a substantial result.

The Guardian.com reports:

A landmark deal to help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries pay for the irreversible impacts of climate disaster was agreed on the first day of the COP28 UN summit.

The UAE and Germany have each pledged $100 million to the fund, with initial funding also coming from the EU, the UK, the US and Japan.

Ghiwa Nakat, the Executive Director of Greenpeace MENA (Middle East and North Africa), stated:

This is the kind of leadership we expect from the host country and we urge other countries to follow suit.

John Woodside of Canada’s National Observer wrote that the new loss and damage fund was being heralded as a “stunning achievement” and an “extraordinary win” on the first day of the annual climate change negotiations.

Pressure will now be on other rich nations to announce contributions as world leaders take to the stage on Friday and Saturday, 1 and 2 December 2023 respectively.

Whither Canada?

Friday morning, Canada announced it would contribute US$11.6 million. Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault said:

We must not leave climate-vulnerable developing countries to face these consequences alone.  The creation of this fund is historic, and Canada is honoured to be among the first donors to this fund at COP28.

The National Observer article also underscored the “important role” that Canada has played in helping launch this fund, which has been an objective of developing countries for 3 decades.

WE ALL HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY IN SECURING A GAZA CEASEFIRE.

WE MUST CONTINUE TO PRESS OUR GOVERNMENT TO SUPPORT AN ENDURING CEASEFIRE AND FULL HUMANITARIAN ACCESS TO GAZA.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: < justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca  >

Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly: < melanie.joly@parl.gc.ca >

Leader of the NDP Jagmeet Singh: < Jagmeet.Singh@parl.gc.ca >

Leader of the Conservative Party Pierre Poilievre: < pierre.poilievre@parl.gc.ca >

Leader of the Bloc Quebecois Yves-François Blanchet: < Yves-Francois.Blanchet@parl.gc.ca>

Green Party Critic Elizabeth May: < Elizabeth.May@parl.gc.ca >

And find your local Member of Parliament HERE.

Photo credit: UNRWA/Ashraf Amra; UNICEF/Mohammad Ajjour (Gaza devastation)

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