Gaza is a small strip of land along the Mediterranean coast with a population of 1.7 million mostly Muslim Palestinians. It is blocked on all sides, land and sea, by Israeli military and civilian outfits.

During the last 10 days or so, Israeli bomber jets and gun helicopters have killed more than 200 Gazans with thousands seriously wounded while a large number of houses, mosques, schools and clinics have been destroyed. The Gazans are now being ordered to vacate their houses and buildings. Already, thousands of families have moved to schools and other places. As I write these lines, Israeli tanks are about to roll into Gaza. The aim is to totally disarm the Palestinians in Gaza and force them to kneel down to Israeli command. Israeli leaders are on record about plans for the total domination of the area.

The current attack on Gaza was triggered after the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers. Hamas was accused of these killings by Israeli authorities. This was followed by extensive search operations and arrests of a number of Palestinians. Soon after, a Palestinian boy was abducted and put to death and another brutally mauled. This was not the end of the affair.

The Israeli government launched a major offensive on Gazan territory. This attack has been named Operation Protective Edge. It will be instructive to refer to similar, earlier operations undertaken by the Israeli military from 2005 onwards. As narrated by Al-Jazeera, in 2005, Jewish settlers and Israeli troops withdrew from the Gaza strip. However, Israelis retained control over the borders, airspace and territorial waters. Also, some area remained under their full control. Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas then claimed that “the Israeli pullout was the result of the sacrifices, patience and wisdom of our people”.

Thereafter, elections were held in 2006 and Hamas won most of the seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. This election victory was viewed with disfavor by Israel and the western powers. A little later, stiff sanctions were imposed on the Palestinian territories. After sometime differences arose between Hamas and Al-Fatah and bloody battles were fought between them. An agreement, however, was reached after protracted negotiations. It was decided that Hamas would have control over Gaza while the territory in the West bank would be administered by the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.

In November 2008, Israel launched a military incursion into a residential area of Gaza to arrest some Hamas members. Hamas reacted by announcing the end of the truce with Israel.

This started off Operation Cast Lead in December 2008. Widespread aerial attacks targeted more than 100 locations including homes, schools, hospitals and even United Nations buildings. It was followed by a ground assault in January 2009, during which shells containing white phosphorous were fired. 1,391 Palestinians were killed and more than 5,000 wounded while eleven thousand houses were totally destroyed. On the Israeli side, 13 were killed and 518 wounded.

In a statement, the then US Secretary of State, Ms. Condoleezza Rice, remarked: “The United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and motor attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the cease fire.”

In November 2012, Israel killed the chief of the Hamas military wing in a targeted attack on his car. Hamas responded by firing rockets at nearby Israeli towns. In all, there were 1507 air and naval Israeli strikes. 171 Palestinians were killed and about 1000 wounded against 6 and 239 Israelis.

What the American President Mr. Barrack Obama said at that time needs to be reproduced. He observed that “there’s no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians. And we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself.”

After the failure of the Israeli-Palestinian talks sponsored by the US in 2014, the two factions of Hamas and Fatah reconciled and formed a government of unity in early June. This was disliked by US and Israel and thereafter came the unfortunate incident of the abduction and death of the three Israeli boys, leading ultimately to Operation Protective Edge launched on July 8th, 2014.

Two ceasefires brokered by Egypt and the UN lasted only a few hours. Although efforts continue for a stable and longer ceasefire, the Israeli government is determined to go ahead with a comprehensive attack from the air, sea and ground. Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman in a recent statement said that the Israeli aim is to totally break Hamas resistance in Gaza. He would like to disarm and practically emasculate the Palestinians residing in the Strip. He is unwilling to have a ceasefire. In fact, preparations have been made to launch a ground invasion. Reports indicate that electricity is being cut off in most of Gaza. Heavy bombing from jets, warships, tanks and artillery has been planned. Hamas on the other hand, has been continuing with rocket strikes in the neighboring Israel territories.

Who will stop Israel from turning Gaza into a slaughterhouse?

The UN’s role has been disappointing. It merely issued a statement calling for a cessation of warfare. The US with all its claims of preserving and promoting human rights, is openly titled towards Israel. It annually provides billions of dollars every year to Israel to boost its security apparatus. American Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry, who was expected to visit the area, has changed his mind and flown back to Washington.

Tragic indeed, that the OIC is practically dysfunctional. The Arab League too is indifferent. Rightly have the prime ministers of Pakistan and Turkey condemned the Israeli onslaught and described the dastardly attacks on Gaza as tantamount to genocide. Mere statements are, however, not enough. Why don’t leaders of Muslims countries come together, hold an emergency conference and develop a strategy that might influence concerned countries into ending the operation? It will also help if they persuade Hamas to stop firing rockets, at least for some time, to avoid disproportionate and devastating air and ground Israeli strikes.

   The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and a freelance political and international relations analyst.