By Atty. Howie Calleja
Notwithstanding the Geopolitical Crisis created when Hamas militants last October 7 launched an unprecedented cross-border attack on Israel. Described as a highly organized furtive assault, they flattened the border fence in multiple places, caught Israel’s security apparatus off-guard and stunned Israel’s military defenses. We are now witnessing a war that brings to full public display a humanitarian crisis to which there will be no victors.
Israel says it will exact a heavy price on Hamas for its attack and has amassed more than 300,000 reservists along the Gaza border. Dubbed as “Operation Swords of Iron,” Israel has now started striking what it says are Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza. This they do in self defense and in a brave attempt to rescue the more than 200 men, women and children hostages still held captive by the Hamas terrorist.
With the war against Hamas going on, a deplorable humanitarian crisis in developing and growing as we speak. The U.N. humanitarian office said last week that it would cost an estimated $1.2 billion to meet the needs of 2.7 million people (the whole population of the Israeli occupied Gaza Strip) and 500,000 people in the West Bank until the end of the year. The historical and political complexities are real … the murderous and inhuman attack on Israel are likewise as real. But for the sake of countless lives involved (despite justifying it as mere collateral damage) we need to appeal for peace. We need to co-exist now more than ever in order to save lives. At this point, Hamas for the sake of Palestine must also at least humanitarianly give back the hostages for the sake of this needed ceasefire.
Again, I acknowledge that Israel is a sovereign State vis-à-vis Hamas which has been declared as terrorist organization; to which legitimate dialogue could be troublesome. But, when more than 1.5 million people are now displaced and nearly 600,000 are crowded in shelters run by the UN agency that assists Palestine refugees; we need to at least pause hostilities on both sides to help another human being in need.
The debate rages on the past weeks as to who is right or wrong but sadly in the savagery of war the logic as to who right or wrong takes no precedence over the saving of human lives, Yes, we call for a ceasefire on both fronts but I hope and pray too for the safe, immediate and unconditional return of all hostages which is a prerequisite to the ceasefire we all call for.
Truly, it could be argued that a ceasefire now would give Hamas time to rebuilding their armaments, creating stronger positions to be able to fend off an eventual assault by the Israelis. But let us continue to look deep in the humanity in us; and pray that both sides see a future for peace. Let us continue to pray for the residents of Gaza inasmuch as we continue to hope for the immediate return of all Israeli hostages and say to the whole world “bring them back home”.