Escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza: what can be done?

The Israeli government continues to insist that there will be no ceasefire in the Gaza Strip without the release of all hostages by radical Islamic organisation Hamas. However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared that he is prepared to make "tactical little pauses" to facilitate the release of hostages and the delivery of humanitarian supplies, which aid organisations say are urgently needed. Europe's press takes stock.

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Kurier (AT) /

Time for an immediate ceasefire

Kurier describes the appalling conditions in Gaza:

“It's hard to imagine: having an emergency operation without anaesthetic in a crowded hospital corridor, with only the light of a torch. This is the dreadful everyday reality in most hospitals in the Gaza Strip. They are running out of medications and diesel for the emergency generators - with more than 20,000 injured people who have come to them within the last month. ... Israel must be far, far more careful than in recent days about observing international humanitarian law, namely protecting the civilian population as far as possible. This includes not allowing a trapped population with no chance of escape to die. In other words: lay down your weapons for a few days and let aid into Gaza.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Realistic proposals needed

Lidové noviny says those who criticise Israel's actions in Gaza are being unfair:

“When Western states and Arab governments fought against Islamic State and conquered the Iraqi city of Mosul with its two million inhabitants, there were more civilian casualties than there have been in Gaza. But hardly anyone objected. Now everyone - from Biden to Putin to Abbas - is telling Israel what it should not and indeed must not do. But who will say what Israel should do? And specifically, what it should do that won't be perceived by Hamas as capitulation?”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Bitter failures

The civilian population in Gaza is paying the ultimate price for not having distanced itself from Hamas before, but the international community also failed, Jyllands-Posten criticises:

“It is perfectly possible to support the Palestinians and an independent Palestinian state while explicitly saying no to Hamas. In the present case the Palestinians let themselves down. Their misfortune is their own leaders. Due to the barbarity of Hamas, the dream of an independent state has been pushed far into the future, if it ever becomes reality at all. At the same time, the international community failed the Palestinians by not driving out Hamas long ago.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Europe sidelined on the international stage

Citing Israel's right to self-defence as a reason to unconditionally support its actions has negative consequences, complains Europe correspondent Caroline de Gruyter in De Standaard:

“This course is costing Europe, once a mediator in the Middle East, dearly. The rest of the world accuses us of applying double standards: on the one hand condemning Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets, but on the other saying nothing when Israel destroys Gaza. No matter how this conflict develops: Europe must prepare itself to be politically marginalised on the world stage. Qatar is trying to get hostages, expats and casualties out of Gaza. We hear nothing about European mediation, something that would once have been taken for granted.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

No peace without the help of neighbouring countries

Israel will need the Arab countries after the war, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung notes:

“None of these countries will be prepared to take full responsibility for the Gaza Strip. ... But by joining forces it would at least be conceivable to repress Iran's destructive influence - which is so clearly demonstrated by Hamas - to some extent and establish a form of Palestinian administration without Hamas. But Netanyahu would have to reach out to his neighbours, including with humanitarian gestures. And he would probably have to stand up to the extremists in his coalition who have supported him so far. Apparently, this price is too high for him.”

Polityka (PL) /

This will be a long war

Polityka does not expect the Israeli ground operation to be over quickly:

“Even if there is no major resistance, in order to find the Hamas fighters the Israeli forces must first effectively isolate part of the Gaza Strip and then search it thoroughly. ... This is a task that will take months, if not years. If their opponents don't show themselves, it will be very difficult to distinguish them from the inhabitants. Once the situation becomes dynamic, dramatic dilemmas and questions of collective responsibility will inevitably re-emerge. Israel neither has the right nor will it allow itself to raze Gaza to the ground. This will therefore necessarily be a selective and protracted operation.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Protecting civilians is in Israel's interest

The Israeli forces should show more consideration for the people living in Gaza, Dagens Nyheter urges:

“Israel must take steps to protect civilians, even if this makes the war against Hamas more difficult. Humanitarian aid must be allowed into Gaza, even if it means that some of it ends up in the hands of the organisation. It is also in Israel's interest to show the Palestinians that it is Hamas they are after, not them. The focus must be on the overarching goal of creating security for Israel. This requires Israel to act with precision, to be reasonable, and in that way to rebuild if not support, then at least understanding for its actions in the outside world.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

They fell right into the trap

Hamas is already the winner politically speaking, notes NRC columnist Luuk van Middelaar:

“Precisely because thousands of Palestinians have already died in Gaza, the terrorists are winning the battle for public opinion in the Arab world and far beyond. With its bloody terrorist attacks on Israel on 7 October, Hamas laid a political trap, and Israel and the US fell right into it. ... No one knows how Netanyahu intends to eliminate the enemy with a ground offensive without at the same time sowing hatred and resentment that create new Hamas fighters over three generations. ... Hamas has succeeded in reigniting the Palestinian issue as fuel for its own cause. ... Under the flag of revolutionary resistance it is mobilising millions of Muslims worldwide.”

Latvijas Avīze (LV) /

Western democracies in a dilemma

Western countries' support for Israel is not necessarily shared by their populations, Middle East expert and journalist Imants Frederiks Ozols points out in Latvijas Avīze:

“We don't know if we can count on the people in our Western states to stand for the same policies as their governments. For example, we as a Western government are in favour of Israel because we see that Israel has been attacked, and not the other way round. At the same time, however, the people on our streets are against it. ... This is a very big problem in France, Germany and the US, for example, where there are huge Muslim communities and where Muslim money has an extremely big influence on business structures.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Countless civilian casualties expected

The Tages-Anzeiger observes parallels with the actions taken against the Islamic State in Iraq:

“Apparently the idea was to adopt a similar approach to that of the American military in October 2016 when it liberated the Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State rule. IS fighters were hiding in tunnels and caves, just like the Hamas terrorists in Gaza today. The US soldiers proceeded slowly, using a mixture of commando operations and drone strikes. Gradually, they were able to destroy IS. But this success did not come without a price. There were many civilian casualties; it is estimated that between 9,000 and 11,000 civilians died.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Operations with a US signature

Washington's influence is evident in the way the Israeli operations are being carried out, Večernji list concludes:

“The initial plans of the Israeli invasion caused concern among US officials, who were critical of the fact that there were no clear and achievable military objectives and that there was insufficient willingness on the part of the Israeli army to launch such an operation. The Israeli army's incursions into Gaza are now being described as smaller and more focused than what the Israeli army had initially presented to [US Defense Secretary Lloyd] Austin and other senior military officials. The US proposed to Israel a new type of attack in Gaza, with precise operations against Hamas targets carried out by special forces rather than an all-out invasion.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Don't forget the hostages

The Irish Times considers the UN's call for a ceasefire entirely justified:

“It is made more necessary by Israel's weekend launch of a ground campaign. Intense international diplomacy supporting Israel's entitlement to self-defence against Hamas terrorism cannot disguise the urgency of the call. A truce would ease negotiations on releasing the Israeli hostages seized by Hamas. That could create political space for a longer-term ceasefire and in time for preparation of an international conference on the Israeli-Palestinian question.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Expansion scenarios

La Repubblica outlines two scenarios which could trigger an expansion of the conflict involving Iran:

“First, an escalation of the conflict in the Gaza Strip with massacres and/or the expulsion of a large part of the population to the Sinai area. ... At this point, Hezbollah could hardly stand idly by. Israel would march into Lebanon and Tehran would be forced to choose between destroying its close actors or intervening to protect them. Washington could then intervene to save Israel. Second, Iranian attacks on American infrastructure, especially in Iraq and Syria, could intensify. Biden might then be forced to reconsider and show the world that the US remains number one and ready to fight if attacked.”