A Ceasefire in Gaza Would Not Bring Peace

Emmett Bikales

Staff Writer

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Over spring break, I spent a week volunteering at a free roadside kitchen outside the village of Shuva in southern Israel, five miles east of Gaza City’s center. Shuva had been spared from massacre during the October 7 attacks, I was told, because the Hamas terrorists were preoccupied slaughtering Thai farm workers across the street. The sounds of war were constant; artillery and the rumble of airstrikes kept me awake. We served food to Israel Defense Forces soldiers coming out of operations in the Gaza Strip. One told me that his unit had been ordered to evacuate a building which was thought to contain a thousand civilians, but when the soldiers entered, they found more than ten thousand people crammed inside. The sheer density of humans trapped in combat areas was reiterated by every soldier I spoke to. 

It is obvious that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right coalition government have failed to prevent unnecessary civilian casualties, and Israel must demonstrate a stronger resolve to protect innocents caught in the crossfire. However, this does not negate the immediate threat that Hamas and its affiliates, such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad, continue to pose to the security of Israelis. This was made clear on October 7, 2023, when Hamas launched a surprise attack on farms and villages in southern Israel, murdering over 1,200 people and taking more than 250 hostages. Ending the operation in Gaza prematurely would allow Hamas to regroup, rearm, and continue their regime of terror and oppression. Hamas cannot be reasoned or negotiated with. It is a theocratic cult which sacrifices its own people to induce global outrage. It has no interest in peace, and it cannot be expected to honor a ceasefire agreement. There was a ceasefire in place when Hamas invaded Israel on October 7, and they have vowed to repeat these atrocities “a second, a third, a fourth” time until Israel is “annihilated,” according to The Economic Times. In the interest of lasting peace, Israel cannot consider a permanent ceasefire until Hamas has been destroyed as a fighting force and the remaining Israeli hostages have been rescued. 

Hamas still holds about 130 Israeli civilians in captivity, although it is unclear how many of them are still alive, according to The Japan Times. The hostages, including elderly people and babies, have been imprisoned for more than six months, and The New York Times reports that some have been sexually assaulted and tortured. Attempts to portray this humanitarian crisis as equivalent to Israel’s detention of Palestinian terror suspects are deceitful. Israel cannot consider a ceasefire until their citizens have been recovered. No other country would be asked to stand down in similar circumstances. 

Not standing down, however, does not mean that Israel’s tactics should go unchanged. Hamas authorities claim that more than 30,000 Gazans have been killed since the start of the war, a number that does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. The Israeli government claims that at least 13,000 of those deaths were of militants, writes Reuters. The bloodiness of this war is unprecedented in Israeli history. The death toll speaks to how deep Hamas has entrenched itself within Gaza’s civilian population by building tunnels under homes and using hospitals as bases for terror operations, according to Reuters. The callous way in which Hamas treats Gazans’ lives, however, does not justify the outsized toll of the war, and instances of Israeli soldiers killing noncombatants and destroying essential infrastructure have been recorded. Policies must be enacted to prevent more incidents like the recent deaths of seven international volunteers in an airstrike which Reuters says was carried out against standard IDF procedures. Changes including harsher penalties for offenders and more international oversight into investigations would help Israel to achieve its military objectives with less collateral damage. 

There can be no ceasefire with Hamas because its stated goal – the destruction of the State of Israel – is incompatible with peace. Recently, Israel offered a six-week ceasefire and the release of 700-800 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for 40 hostages, but was turned down by Hamas, according to Reuters. There is no possible ceasefire agreement that would satisfy the demands of both parties. Israel seeks Hamas’s surrender and the return of all hostages, while Hamas demands an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip with no return of hostages or guarantee against future attacks. Israel first withdrew from the Strip in 2005, which led to nearly two decades of sporadic war and constant rocket fire from Hamas. None of the previous ceasefires stopped the conflict, so it is absurd to suggest that another one will. There can be no hope for lasting peace until Gaza is permanently freed from Hamas’s terrorist regime and a moderate Palestinian government is established. Hamas knew that Israel would retaliate when they attacked on October 7. They could have ended the fighting at any time since by releasing the hostages and surrendering. The responsibility for this war rests upon Hamas.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

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