Igniting the ceasefire: A brief overview of what’s happening in Palestine

Calls for justice are being made all over the world as violence across Israel and Palestine has reached all-time highs. But why are they fighting, and what can be done to help? (Image source: Ammar Awad)

By Dani Bozoski | @danibozoski

On Saturday morning, hundreds of people gathered in front of Parliament House in Adelaide to stand in solidarity with Palestine for the second time.

With plans to take place every Friday, May 15 marked the first protest.

The weekly marches through Rundle Mall, run by the Adelaide Campaign Against Racism and Fascism and Students for Palestine Adelaide organisations, are occurring to “demand justice for Palestine”.

In passionate cries to the growing group of supporters, the organisers called for “the people of Adelaide to stand with Palestine and oppose the Israeli occupation”.

Young protestor, Rami, speaking to the crowd in Adelaide (Image Source: @danibozoski)

On Friday May 21, a ceasefire was called between the two countries, bringing a theoretical end to the recent fighting in Gaza.

By the time ceasefire had been decided, over 250 Palestinian people had been killed, 70 of them being children.

However, for many, a ceasefire isn’t enough.

What’s happening in Palestine?

Despite current global attention, violence within the Israeli and Palestinian borders has occurred for many years.

Initial conflict regarding Israeli colonisation of Palestine can be traced back to the 18th century. However, the past fortnight has seen some of the most intense and casualty-heavy conflict since the 1948 massacres of Nakba.

Early this morning, May 23, Al Jazeera reported that the Al-Aqsa Mosque was attacked again, despite the ceasefire being called, wounding at least 20 more civilians.

Buildings destroyed prior to ceasefire include the Ministry of Health building, Rosary Sisters School, the MSF trauma and burn treatment building, the only COVID-19 testing lab in Gaza and the Al-Jalaa tower – the building which housed Al Jazeera and Associated Press offices.

The recent wave of airstrikes in Gaza prompting the ceasefire were ignited by Israel as they targeted buildings occupied by Hamas, a Palestinian militant group.

Israel’s attack on Gaza was return fire following rockets fired by Hamas towards southern Israeli cities on May 10, after 300 Palestinians had been wounded in prior violence and the Al-Aqsa Mosque had become seriously damaged.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque is a site of high religious importance in Islam and recently a place of contention in the conflict.

In mid-April, Palestinians without proof of a COVID-19 vaccination were denied entry into the Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan.

Witnesses of the incident said the Israeli president was delivering a speech at a site below the Mosque, and there were fears that the prayers above would “drown it out”.

Videos on social media showing rallies and violence between young Palestinians and members of the far-right Israeli political group, Lehava, gained global attention.

By April 26, 70 Palestinian people residing in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood in Jerusalem, faced potential eviction at the hands of the Israeli Court.

Throughout the rest of Ramadan, Palestinian people continued to celebrate while also protesting against the eviction.

Violence between Israeli police and protesting Palestinians rose to an all-time high throughout early May, with around 17 of the former and over 200 of the latter being injured in a struggle at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The violence led to the Israeli Supreme Court delaying its decision on the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah;        the hearing has been postponed until early June.

Hamas called for police to leave Sheikh Jarrah and for Israeli forces to leave Gaza.

(Image source: TRTWorld)

Australia’s role

Despite being far removed from the fire, ripple effects of the conflict still reach our home turf.

Across the nation, thousands of Palestinian people have gathered at protests and meetings in cries of help for their family overseas.

Adelaide protestor Rami, seen above, said, “its our moral obligation to do whatever we can to help those in the struggle overseas”.

“We call ourselves a nation of many nations yet we’re turning away from the issue.”

Claims that the Australian government are attempting to strengthen trade relationships with Israel, in hopes of improving cyber defence, have been labelled as shameful.

Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Raji Sourani, said Australia “must not neglect major human rights concerns, and Australia’s obligations and responsibilities under international law”.

However, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said Australia was “deeply concerned” by the recent events and asked “all leaders to take immediate steps to halt violence and restore calm”.

An attendee of the protests in Adelaide, Neimal Usmani, said, “not only have the Israeli airstrikes left so many people in Gaza displaced, but when we in Australia don’t have the full support of our government, it’s like being displaced ourselves”.

What do we do now?

When asked what fellow Australians can do about the situation, Rami said: “Be loud. There is a massive lack of this in the media. There is a massive lack of this from the people. Educate yourself, read a lot and speak up. If you have an issue with something, always speak up”.

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