100 days of Gaza war: Global leaders losing patience with Netanyahu finally?
As the death toll crosses 24,000, the Israeli prime minister repeats his pledge to continue Israel's military campaign in the Gaza Strip until "total victory" is achieved
As the 100th day of Israel's brutal bombardment of Gaza comes to a close, the world could apparently only watch and listen as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to continue the military campaign in the Gaza Strip until "total victory" is achieved.
Notwithstanding his nation standing trial for genocide in the International Court of Justice at The Hague, a seemingly unbothered Netanyahu reiterated on Sunday, 15 January, "We must conduct this war, and it will yet take many months."
Amid growing international concern over the the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza and calls to halt the war increasing in volume and geographical spread both, Netanyahu presented his 2024 budget proposal to his cabinet. In it, he sought approval for tax hikes and a uniform 3 per cent reduction in the budgets of all other government ministries to secure funding for the ongoing 'war on Hamas', the Xinhua news agency reported.
Already, according to the Middle East Eye, 70% of Gaza's 439,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged by Israeli airstrikes and shelling—and also half of all its buildings (including public buildings, hospitals, schools and religious establishments). The rebuilding of Gaza (again) will certainly be expensive.
"At this moment, what is required is, first of all, to cover the expenses of the war and to allow us to continue the war and complete it," Netanyahu told his ministers.
He did not seem to feel a need to wait on the ICJ's ruling, the possibility of a decision that will inveigh against continuing Israel's massive offensive on occupied Palestine.
Since its start in retaliation to the shocking Hamas attack of 7 October 2023, Israel's relentless strikes on the densely populated Palestinian enclave of Gaza have killed at least 23,843 people, with approximately 75 per cent of them being women, children and the elderly, according to the Hamas government. (This is hard to square with the Israeli Defense Force's claim on Sunday to have killed approximately 9,000 'militants' in Gaza.)
The strikes have displaced most of Gaza's about 2.3 million population and levelled many parts of the territory.
While Israel and some of its allies doubt the veracity of the figures that are clearly coming from a party with an axe to grind, independent agencies such as various UN and other humanitarian aid bodies corroborate that the numbers seem close to reasonable—and no one who has seen images of the vast swathes reduced to rubble can doubt thousands of unrecovered bodies, dead or dying, still lie uncounted.
Since Saturday, 13 January, thousands of Israelis meanwhile have rallied in Tel Aviv and other major Israeli cities to renew their call on the 100th day for the return of the hostages—and the replacement of the government. In Tel Aviv specifically, a 24-hour '100 Days of Hell' rally—organised by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum—concluded at 8 pm (Israel time) on Sunday, 14 January.
During the 7 October assaults, Hamas militants likely killed around 790 civilians (per Israel's oft-revised figures) and kidnapped over 200 people. Of those hostages, 132 are allegedly still being held in Gaza.
Hamas has, from almost the start, made it clear that it wants a hostage exchange that would free the thousands of Palestinian detainees that the Israeli military holds, prioritising their women and children in particular.
Israel, however, has been keener on decimating Hamas than—apparently—on actively safeguarding and recovering its own civilians. Even Israel's own leading newspaper Haaretz has cited a feeling amongst its general public that Netanyahu is not in fact going all he can to secure their return.
Merav Svirsky, sister of Itai Svirsky, who was kidnapped from his home in Kibbutz Be'eri, said, "When they told me that my parents were murdered, they also told me Itai was kidnapped. It was clear to me that the first thing the state would do is bring him back. So how can it be that 100 days have passed and Itai still isn't here?
"Today we already know there is only one possibility to bring them back alive — only a deal will bring them back. I ask that we do not normalise this situation."
It appears to be a deal Israel is not keen to seal, however. Its killing of its own by 'mistake' has not helped the families confidence either, for sure.
Indeed, reports of Israel's assassination of a key Hamas leader in Beirut, Lebanon put paid to the last round of negotiations just at the start of the New Year.
Israel's anti-Hamas operations are not restricted to Gaza, either—which means they threaten peace and security throughout the region.
The Israeli army, which has mobilised about 295,000 of its reservists for this massive offensive, has launched attacks on around 30,000 locations in the 365 sq km Palestinian enclave—but also gone into the Occupied West Bank and 750 locations in Lebanon.
The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has been a supporter of the Hamas efforts to end the Israeli occupation of Gaza, and has not been best pleased about the Beirut drone attack. Its anti-Israel resolve has only strengthened in the last few weeks, despite Lebanon being ready to host hostage negotiations between Hamas and Israel.
Indeed, Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday that his group "doesn't fear war, and there are no talks before the war on Gaza ends".
According to Nasrallah, "Israel is mired in failure and is in a deep hole... It has not reached any of its declared and undeclared goals as unanimously stated by the Israelis themselves."
Meanwhile, reports of attacks on journalists, bombardment of ambulances and hospitals, entrance of aid, food, water and electricity denied so that children are having limbs amputated without anaesthesia, newborn babies left to die and decompose on disconnected life support, of healthcare personnel forced from their stations and made to abandon their patients under the pretext of supporting Hamas in its secret tunnels—these are some of the things that are on record from the Zionist onslaught on Gaza.
Even in nations whose governments have vociferously defended Israel's right to defend itself and ensure the security of its citizens against attack—nations like the UK, US, Germany and more—popular opinion on the streets has built against the mainstream pro-Israel narrative.
Even as people have lost jobs and been cancelled for 'pro-Palestine' sympathies, pilloried as 'pro-Hamas' as though the militants and the civilians are indistinguishable—the oft-perpetrated 'human shields and supporters' fallacy—many celebrities as well as regular private citizens have called for #CeasefireNOW.
Below, for instance, is a tweet from Yusuf, aka the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens which includes a collage of images of the children of Gaza—children both dead and (precariously) alive.
Even the US, which has vetoed UN resolutions for Israel, sent aid and arms, is seemingly losing its patience with Netanyahu's violent vendetta—officially.
President Joe Biden and other senior US officials have reportedly been feeling increasingly frustrated with the Israeli prime minister's stonewalling (or outright rejection) of its recent requests to de-escalate and contain the Gaza situation. Secretary of state Antony Blinken, visiting various West Asian nations since the start of 2024 on a fresh round of diplomatic engagements to prevent a flare-up in the Middle East, seems to be fighting a losing battle of his own.
Since the 7 October Hamas attack, the Biden has given Israel his full backing, with unprecedented military and diplomatic support, even while taking a political hit from part of his base in an election year.
While that support has largely continued publicly, including a 100 Days press note that has been fiercely critiqued by netizens, US news site Axios reported that the two leaders' last conversation before Christmas ended at an impasse.
The tense 23 December call, which Biden reportedly ended with the words "This conversation is over" has been their last, per Axios, after speaking almost every other day in October–November 2023. Netanyahu had just rejected his request that Israel release the Palestinian tax revenues it's withholding
"At every juncture, Netanyahu has given Biden the finger," Senator Chris Van Hollen was quoted by Axios as saying.
In addition to the tax revenue issue, Biden and his advisers believe Israel isn't doing enough to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, Axios reported.
They're also frustrated by Netanyahu's unwillingness to seriously discuss plans for the day after the war ends, and his rejection of the US plan for a reformed Palestinian Authority to have a role in post-Hamas Gaza.
If Israel doesn't significantly scale down its operations in Gaza, it will likely become increasingly difficult for Biden to maintain the same level of support for Israel's military campaign—which can only be a good thing at this point.
It is likely that Yemen, and especially its Houthi rebels laying siege to shipping in the Red Sea, would be delighted if that tide turns.
Across the Atlantic, even Germany—one of Israel's staunchest supporters in international diplomacy ever since the war in Gaza began, ostensibly in a bid to expunge the guilt of its own anti-semitic history—is looking uncomfortable about Israel's thirst for vengeance being visited on Palestine.
The United Nations, whose various arms and adjuncts were amongst the earliest critics of Israel's disproportionate response to the Hamas attack, of its collective punishment of and disregard for civilians, today (15 January) shared a compilation of 100 photos from the 100 days of war in Gaza from its UNRWA (The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) newsroom:
Compiled with inputs from IANS, PTI and DW