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2009年1月13日 (火)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 6(IHT/Asahi: January 7,2009)

EDITORIAL: Israel's invasion of Gaza


A bitter new war is raging between Israel and Hamas. After a week of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip that started in late December, the Israeli military recently began sending ground troops and tanks into the coastal enclave.


More than 500 people have been killed in Israel's bombing campaign. An independent human rights group based in Gaza has reported that children accounted for 20 percent of the death toll to date. Casualties in ground battles are also rising.


Disturbingly, the international community is completely impotent to make an effective response to the situation. The United Nations Security Council has been unable to adopt even a statement, let alone a resolution, to call for an immediate cease-fire. That's because of opposition from the United States, which backs Israel.


Last year, the Muslim extremist group Hamas, which rules Gaza, started firing rockets into southern Israel. Israel cited its right to defend its people against the Hamas rocket attacks for its retaliatory strikes in Gaza. The United States and other allied countries have expressed their understanding of Israel's justification.


But Israel's airstrikes and invasion have caused such heavy casualties among Palestinians that they can only be described as excessive use of military power. Israel should stop its military operations in Gaza immediately and seek an end to the conflict through negotiations.


At the root of this fresh flare-up of violence in the region is a rift between the two main Palestinian groups. The mainstream Fatah, which led the Palestinian self-governing authority for decades, has lost the support of many Palestinians mainly because of corruption among its members. In an election in 2006, Fatah lost its majority in the Palestinian parliament to Hamas. Hamas has refused to abandon its armed struggle with Israel, causing the Middle East peace process to bog down.


Hamas and Fatah briefly formed a coalition government in 2007 as part of their efforts for cooperation. But the alliance collapsed quickly, and in the summer of 2007 Hamas drove Fatah out of Gaza. The result is a divided rule of the Palestinian areas, with Hamas controlling Gaza and Fatah ruling the West Bank.


Then, Israel started trying to undermine Hamas by clamping an economic blockade on Gaza, while a range of countries including the United States, parts of Europe and Japan criticized Hamas. As a result, Gaza has become increasingly isolated, both politically and economically.


Shortly after a six-month truce hammered out between Israel and Hamas expired in mid-December, Hamas resumed rocket attacks against Israel, prompting Israel's invasion of the territory. With a general election in Israel slated for February, many observers believe the Israeli government has decided to take strong military action against Hamas to win public support.


But it is hard to believe Israel has a viable plan for achieving its political goal. It probably intends to restore rule in Gaza by Fatah, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, after battering Hamas. But such heavy casualties in the military operations will ensure a deep and lasting anger against Israel among the residents in Gaza, where Hamas is quite popular. Confusion in Gaza and the West Bank will deepen.


The indignation Israel's military action has aroused among people in Arab and other Islamic nations will eventually be directed at the West and the United Nations, which cannot stop Israel. We fear that this war will increase support within the Muslim community for the international terrorist organization al-Qaida, whose terrorist attacks are targeting the United States and its allies.


French President Nicolas Sarkozy has started touring the Middle East in a diplomatic campaign to broker a cease-fire. Japan, which has become a nonpermanent member of the U.N. Security Council for a two-year term starting in January, should also make more active efforts to stop the bloodshed in Gaza.



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