The Platform

Israel Defense Forces

Despite a general consensus from everyone not named Bibi that the Gaza war needs to end, no one has been able to stop the bloodshed.

Earlier this year, the Israeli military launched a significant campaign in Gaza aimed at dismantling Hamas, following an unprecedented cross-border assault on Israel on October 7.

The toll in Gaza has been catastrophic. Well over 35,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have lost their lives, and more than 85,000 others have been injured. The United Nations has indicated that Israel’s military actions have destroyed around 80% of Gaza’s buildings. Now, eight months into the conflict, Gaza lies in ruins, its infrastructure shattered by a relentless blockade that has cut off essential supplies such as food, clean water, and medicine. This blockade has precipitated a humanitarian crisis, with the UN warning that over a million people in Gaza could face extreme starvation by mid-July. The Israeli offensive has forced approximately 80% of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents from their homes.

A recent UN report highlights the severe impact of the conflict on children, stating, “More grave violations against children were committed in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel than anywhere else in the world last year.” This report, which is due to be presented to the UN General Assembly by Secretary-General António Guterres, underscores the unprecedented scale and intensity of violence against children in the region. It is the first instance where both Israel and Hamas have been included in a blacklist of entities that commit grave violations against children.

The report notes that conflicts in these areas accounted for 40% of the global total of children killed in conflict zones last year. The deaths of over 2,000 Palestinian children significantly contributed to these grim statistics. Guterres’s report confirms more than 8,000 grave violations against 4,360 children in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, with 4,247 of these victims being Palestinian and 113 Israeli. Israeli forces were responsible for 5,698 of these violations.

The UN’s findings further detail the extensive damage to critical infrastructure in Gaza, noting that “all essential services and facilities have been attacked…Children are facing the threat of famine, severe malnutrition, and preventable deaths.” The destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure has led to a situation where basic services are severely disrupted, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.

Israeli forces in Gaza
(Israel Defense Forces)

The rising death toll and the ongoing devastation in Gaza have galvanized global efforts to halt the fighting, although efforts by mediators, including the U.S., Qatar, and Egypt, have yet to succeed. Israel now faces accusations of genocide at the International Court of Justice, which has recently ordered Israel to cease military operations in Rafah. Despite a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire, Israel’s offensive continues, drawing widespread international condemnation.

Meanwhile, unprecedented student protests erupted in the United States this spring, largely peaceful but notable for their scale and intensity. These protests spread to the UK and beyond, with demonstrators calling for actions such as cutting ties with defense contractors and Israeli institutions. In the U.S., law enforcement has been deployed to dismantle student encampments at universities, leading to the arrest of 3,000 students and disciplinary actions for many others, highlighting a level of scrutiny not seen in past demonstrations.

At Newcastle University, protests escalated after four weeks of peaceful demonstrations. Students urged the institution to sever connections with defense companies and Israeli universities. This action is part of a broader wave of pro-Palestinian protests across UK universities. On June 12, students from the University of London staged a rally to protest the university’s ties with Lockheed Martin, a major weapons manufacturer.

While these campus protests against Israel’s actions in Gaza mostly remained peaceful, they led to significant disruptions and arrests, particularly at UCLA, where 25 individuals were detained on April 30 following pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Tensions at UCLA continued, with further arrests occurring on June 11 for disruptions related to ongoing encampments by student organizations.

The Biden administration has notably shifted its previous policy of unwavering support for Israel, now applying pressure on both Israel and Hamas to cease hostilities. This change is largely driven by increasing domestic pressure, which is compelling President Biden to revise his stance on the Gaza conflict. The impact of student demonstrations, which have garnered significant attention, cannot be understated. These protests are influencing government policy as public opinion in the West gradually leans more towards supporting Palestine.

Despite these developments, the Israeli military campaign continues unabated, and the situation in Gaza is becoming increasingly dire. On June 11, the UN human rights office expressed profound shock at the civilian impact of an Israeli operation in central Gaza that resulted in the rescue of four hostages held by Hamas. The densely populated Nuseirat refugee camp saw over 200 casualties as a result of the operation. UN spokesperson Jeremy Laurence questioned whether the principles of distinction, proportionality, and precaution were adhered to, given the significant civilian toll.

The Israeli Defense Forces’ actions in this context have been characterized as a massacre, potentially constituting war crimes. Further complicating matters, a UN inquiry on June 12 found that both Israel and Hamas have committed war crimes. The inquiry also suggested that Israel’s actions might constitute crimes against humanity due to the high number of civilian casualties.

Israeli tank in Gaza
(Israel Defense Forces)

Efforts to mediate a ceasefire have been ongoing for months, with negotiators from the U.S., Egypt, and Qatar attempting to end the conflict and secure the release of Israeli hostages. Major powers are intensifying their efforts to prevent the conflict from expanding into a broader regional war. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the Middle East for the eighth time, meeting Israeli officials on June 10 in an effort to push for an end to the war. Blinken urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept a postwar plan for Gaza and increase international pressure on Hamas to agree to a ceasefire proposal. President Biden’s proposal outlines a phased ceasefire and hostages’ release in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, aiming for a permanent end to the conflict.

Despite significant international pressure, neither Hamas nor Israel has accepted the U.S.-backed plan to end the Gaza war. Calls for a ceasefire and a clear plan for postwar Gaza are growing louder, with both domestic and international actors urging Netanyahu to make a decisive move. Netanyahu has made it clear what he opposes in Gaza—no Hamas, no Palestinian Authority, and no permanent ceasefire until all hostages are freed. However, he now faces increasing pressure to clarify his vision for Gaza’s future, a decision that will have profound implications for his political career and the course of the conflict.

On June 11, Hamas responded to the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, requesting amendments to the deal. While expressing support for the general framework, Hamas is wary of whether Israel will uphold the terms, especially regarding a permanent end to hostilities and a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in exchange for releasing all hostages.

Despite assertions from the U.S. that Israel had accepted the proposal, Netanyahu’s signals have been mixed. Blinken continues to press Hamas to agree to the deal, pointing to the UN Security Council’s support as evidence of global backing. However, it remains unlikely that Israel will consider the proposal, given its vow to dismantle Hamas completely. The Israeli leadership is staunchly opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state on territories seized during the 1967 Mideast war, viewing Hamas’s response as tantamount to rejecting the ceasefire proposal.

Meanwhile, Hamas is under pressure to comply with the U.S.-backed proposal, although it remains concerned that Israel might not fulfill the plan’s second phase. The continued Israel-Hamas conflict has stalled negotiations. U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller stated on June 13 that Washington dismisses the notion that Netanyahu’s lack of public enthusiasm for the proposal has dampened Hamas’s willingness to accept it.

On June 13, President Biden revealed that G7 leaders had discussed the Gaza ceasefire and hostage situation. When asked about the likelihood of reaching a deal soon, Biden responded, “No.” He maintained hope but acknowledged the challenges, noting that “Hamas has to move.”

The talks are faltering due to the lack of guaranteed success. Hamas seeks a permanent ceasefire that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, while Israel is determined to ensure Hamas’s downfall. These conflicting goals are difficult to reconcile.

Peace in the region is unlikely without implementing the universally agreed-upon two-state solution. Only the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state can bring lasting regional peace. However, the lack of visionary leadership to drive this process complicates the issue further. Effective leadership is essential, but it is currently lacking.

Criticism has been directed at President Biden and Secretary Blinken for placing the responsibility for the ceasefire solely on Hamas. Israel must also be held accountable for the stalled negotiations. What concessions is Israel willing to make on the ceasefire issue? The blame game will not contribute to peace in Gaza. Such actions by American leaders undermine the country’s credibility in addressing the conflict.

With the upcoming November general elections and the risk of Democratic defections, the Biden administration is keen to end the war. This shift marks a significant change from its previous unwavering support for Israeli actions against Palestinians. Blinken continues to assert that the responsibility for the ceasefire rests entirely with Hamas, yet Israel has shown little enthusiasm for Biden’s peace plan.

Given the current policies, hopes for a ceasefire remain tenuous. However, the peace plan could be feasible if the UK, France, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia endorse it. Only they have the leverage to pressure Hamas into modifying its stance. The Biden administration must also exert greater influence over Israel to secure the peace deal. Engaging with rivals like China might be necessary to ensure a ceasefire. Although some progress has been made, much work remains. There are hopeful signs that the stakeholders may eventually reach a peace agreement. Meanwhile, public pressure on the U.S. and other Western governments could shift policy on the Gaza conflict.

Only time will tell whether these efforts will succeed.

Sohail Mahmood is an independent political analyst focused on global politics, U.S. foreign policy, governance, and the politics of South and West Asia.