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Monday, May 17, 2021, 11:40
Pessimism on early solution to Gaza strife
By Liu Xuan
Monday, May 17, 2021, 11:40 By Liu Xuan

Both antagonists have little motivation for furious fighting to stop, expert says

Palestinians check remains of a building in Gaza after Israeli airstrikes on Saturday. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Israeli warplanes struck several buildings and roads in a vital part of Gaza City early on Sunday, a day after destroying a high-rise building in Gaza that housed several international media.

Despite international calls for a cease-fire and peace talks, the confrontation showed no sign of abating, but was in fact spreading to other parts of Israel

Each year around May 15, called the day of Palestinian Catastrophe, there is conflict including exchanges of fire between Israel and Palestine. However, this year's confrontation seems to be worse than before, and it is possible it could last longer than normal, experts said.

Sunday's airstrikes on Gaza killed 40 Palestinians, raising the deaths to at least 188, Gaza's health ministry said.

Among the people killed were 47 children, it said. In Israel, 10 people have been killed, according to Agence France-Presse.

On Saturday, an Israeli airstrike pulverized a high-rise building that housed The Associated Press, the TV network Al Jazeera and other media after a warning had been issued that it was being targeted.

ALSO READ: Israel air strikes kill 33, rockets fired from Gaza

Despite international calls for a cease-fire and peace talks, the confrontation showed no sign of abating, but was in fact spreading to other parts of Israel.

Shu Meng, a researcher at the Middle East Studies Institute at Shanghai International Studies University, said an early end to the confrontation was unlikely.

"Israel lacks the sincerity to promote peace talks in the short term, since keeping the status quo means that Israel can continue to maintain its dominant position in the conflict, control parts of the West Bank and continue to expand Jewish settlements."

On the other side, Shu said, the brutal reality-a stagnant economy, the raging pandemic, and the difficulty of improving the state of partition-had made it more difficult for the Palestinians to speedily quell anger.

"In the foreseeable future, the two sides may not be able to negotiate in a peaceful way."

The conflict has simmered since the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in April and escalated sharply last Monday after Hamas set an ultimatum for Israel to withdraw its forces from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, where hundreds of Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli police earlier that day.

Israel continued to pound Gaza with more airstrikes and artillery fire.

However, Shu said, the risk of large-scale conflict is "relatively controllable" and a large-scale war will not develop.

"On the one hand, if the conflict continues to escalate, the international community will mediate and intervene. In addition, Palestine lacks the strength to continue to confront Israel, and Israel does not want the conflict to be prolonged."

Deep concern expressed

The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, expressed deep concern over the continuing violence in the region, urging Israel to "exercise maximum restraint".

"Israeli authorities must exercise maximum restraint and respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly," he said.

Rocket attacks on Israel and airstrikes in Gaza will have "heavy consequences on the civilian population" in the whole region, said Fabrizio Carboni, regional director for the Near and Middle East at the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"We remind all parties that all principles of the conduct of hostilities must be respected. Direct and indiscriminate attacks against civilians are prohibited by international humanitarian law, any attack must be proportionate, and all necessary precautions must be taken to avoid civilian casualties."

The UN Security Council was due to hold an open meeting on Sunday to discuss the conflict.

The meeting, proposed by Norway, Tunisia and China, was to have been held on Friday but was blocked by the United States on grounds of "ongoing diplomatic efforts".

READ MORE: Gaza conflict intensifies with rocket barrages and air strikes

The Washington Post said the US has "make little secret of its desire to avoid a deep entanglement" in the conflict, but analysts remain skeptical and said the country is "not a bystander".

"It is part and parcel of the asymmetry of power that unfairly hurts one side in favor of the other, while making peace more remote," said Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution.

Shu said the US has not fundamentally changed its position on the issue, with President Joe Biden saying to support a two-state solution.

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