Hezbollah rocket attacks ignite fires and devastate thousands of acres in northern Israel

Hezbollah rocket attacks ignite fires and devastate thousands of acres in northern Israel

Since the onset of summer, Hezbollah has intensified its assault from southern Lebanon, with a relentless barrage of rockets setting northern Israel ablaze. Each day, between 20 to more than 150 rockets and drones are launched, igniting open fields, agricultural lands, and rural areas. These attacks, exacerbated by strong summer winds, have sparked widespread fires across forests and communities, directly threatening the lives and livelihoods of residents in Israel’s northern region.

In just the past two months, these rocket-induced fires have devastated thousands of acres, leaving homes reduced to ashes and communities in peril. Firefighting efforts are critically undermined by a shortage of resources, with many affected areas being difficult to reach with traditional firefighting equipment.

Responding to this dire emergency, the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), in partnership with the Galila Foundation, is urgently raising funds to bolster firefighting capabilities. Their goal is to equip 33 rural communities, largely in the Golan Heights, an area frequently targeted by these rocket attacks, with comprehensive firefighting kits.

Each community needs a kit costing $11,000 to effectively combat these fires. The aim is to raise $363,000 to ensure every community is prepared to tackle these emergencies head-on. This initiative, in full cooperation with local communities and led by the Golan Regional Council, is vital for the immediate and ongoing safety of all residents in these exposed areas. Immediate support is crucial in helping mitigate this life-threatening situation.

The situation in the Middle East grows more dire by the hour, with the war in Gaza raging and risking spiraling throughout the region. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned the Security Council, calling for humanitarian aid without restrictions and an immediate ceasefire. He emphasized the fundamental principle of respecting and protecting civilians, condemning the deliberate killing, injuring, and kidnapping of civilians, as well as the launching of rockets against civilian targets.

Recalling his unequivocal condemnation of the horrifying and unprecedented October 7 acts of terror by Hamas in Israel, Guterres called for the immediate release of the hostages. He stressed the need for humanitarian aid to be delivered without restrictions, adding that to ease epic suffering, make the delivery of aid easier and safer, and facilitate the release of hostages, an immediate humanitarian ceasefire is necessary.

The attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum, with the Palestinian people being subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation, during which they saw their land devoured by settlements, their economy stifled, their homes demolished, and their hopes for a political solution vanishing. However, the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people. Even war has rules.

At this critical hour, Guterres appealed to everyone to pull back from the brink before the violence claims even more lives and spreads even farther. Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process, said that Hamas’ abhorrent October 7 attack and Israel’s ongoing military operation in Gaza have taken a staggering toll on civilians. In the “sickening killing spree” by Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups, more than 1,400 Israelis and foreign nationals were killed, and 220 civilians, including women and children, as well as soldiers, were taken into Gaza as hostages.

On that day, Israel’s Security Cabinet declared a state of war, with its forces commencing a massive bombardment of what they said were Hamas sites throughout Gaza, targeting some 5,000 locations. On October 8, Israel’s Minister for Defense announced a complete siege of Gaza, blocking all entry of goods, including electricity, water, food, and fuel.

He outlined the devastating impact of Israel’s ongoing air strikes, with Gaza’s Ministry of Health reporting more than 5,000 Palestinians killed, including over 1,100 women and 2,000 children, as well as journalists, medical workers, and first responders. One million Palestinians have been displaced, with entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble and United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) schools and hospitals—many sheltering displaced Palestinians—having been hit.

Warning of a significant risk of a regional spillover with the already worrying violence in the occupied West Bank having increased since the outbreak of war, he stressed the need to advance a negotiated peace that fulfills the long-held vision of two States, in line with UN resolutions, international law, and previous agreements.

Lynn Hastings, Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Resident Coordinator, and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said that nearly 1.4 million people were displaced in the Gaza Strip, nearly 600,000 of whom are sheltering in UNRWA facilities “in increasingly dire conditions.” “There is nowhere to seek refuge in Gaza. When it comes to decisions on whether and where to flee, civilians are damned if they do and damned if they don’t,” she said.

Citing figures from the Gaza Ministry of Housing, she said that at least 42 percent of all housing units in the Gaza Strip have been either destroyed or damaged since October 7, calling into question the ability of people to return to their homes. Gaza remains under a full electricity blackout and hospitals are on the brink of collapse. Deliveries into the besieged city via the Rafah crossing with Egypt, while welcome, amounted to no more than 4 percent of the daily average volume of commodities entering Gaza prior to current hostilities and do not include fuel.

“No fuel means no functioning hospitals, no desalination of water, and no baking,” she said. Pointing out that people are drinking saline groundwater, increasing the risk of cholera and other health issues, she called on Israel to bring water and electricity supplies back to pre-conflict levels and work with her teams to find a secure way of bringing fuel into Gaza. “It will be important also that the Israeli crossings for the movement of people and goods are opened,” she added.

During the day-long debate, over 80 Heads of State, ministers, Government officials, and representatives voiced alarm at the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza, stressing the need for water, fuel, and medicine to enter the besieged enclave. Many delegates underscored the urgent need to avoid a regional conflagration and to recommit to a two-State solution. Speakers, however, varied in emphasis, with some full-throatedly asserting Israel’s right to defend itself against an existential terror threat, while others deplored the blockade and the seemingly indiscriminate nature of the strikes and called for international law to be respected.

Riad Al-Maliki, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine, urged the Council and the international community to put an end to the ongoing massacres perpetrated by the occupying Power, Israel, against the Palestinian civilian population. “The Security Council has a duty to stop them. Continued failure at this Council is inexcusable,” he emphasized, calling on the 15-member organ to call for a ceasefire, secure humanitarian access in all parts of Gaza, end the forced displacement, provide international protection for the Palestinian people, and achieve justice through accountability.

“The fate of the Palestinian people cannot continue to be dispossession, displacement, denial of rights, and death,” he said, pointing out that over 5,000 Palestinians have been killed in the past two weeks, almost all of them civilians. Over 2 million Palestinians are on a survival mission every day and every night. Calling for an urgent end to the bloodshed, the only way to avoid an even greater humanitarian catastrophe and a regional spillover, he stressed: “Peace and security cannot and will not be achieved by crushing the skulls of infants or through ‘wiping out Gaza’ or ‘turning it into a hell’ or ‘reducing its area’. Nor will it materialize by arming thousands of terrorist settlers and encouraging them to continue their attacks against the Palestinian people in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.”

Eli Cohen, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel, held up a collage with pictures of the hostages held by Hamas, stressing: “These children and babies have not caused evil, but they are victims of evil.” On October 7, more than 1,500 terrorists from Hamas and Islamic Jihad infiltrated Israel and killed over 1,400 men, women, and children. They went from house to house, slaughtering entire families in their beds, people on their way to synagogues, raping women, burning them alive, he said, adding: “Hamas are the new Nazis”, and the civilized world must stand united behind Israel to defeat them. The international community should call on Qatar, which finances Hamas, to enable the immediate release of the hostages held by the terrorists.

While Israel gave Palestinians Gaza down to the last millimeter, instead of building hospitals, office buildings, and commercial centers, they took the money to dig tunnels and to build rocket factories. “Listen to these monsters—the West is next,” he said, stating that the ongoing war is “not just Israel’s war. It’s the war of the free world.” He thanked the United States for standing with Israel during its darkest hour, adding that if all nations do not stand with Israel to “eliminate these monsters from the face of the Earth” after the most brutal and vicious terror attack in modern history, the United Nations will “have no moral justification to exist.”

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State of the United States, asserting that Israel has “the right and indeed the obligation to defend itself” against terrorism, said: “Every one of us has a stake and responsibility in defeating terror.” Palestinian civilians must be protected, and Hamas must cease to use them as human shields. Food, medicine, and water must flow into Gaza, and humanitarian pauses must be considered, he said, noting that his country has prepared a resolution containing practical steps to address the crisis, building on the text by Brazil. Noting Iran’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah, he stated that if the country or its proxies attack United States personnel, the United States “will defend our people and our security swiftly and decisively.”

The representative of the Russian Federation, observing that “the scale of the humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip has exceeded all of our worst imaginations”, said that the world is expecting a call for a swift and unconditional ceasefire from the Council, which is not in the current draft resolution from the United States. “Therefore, we don’t see any point in it, and we cannot support it.” However, his delegation has prepared an alternative draft resolution based on humanitarian language with important elements from the United States, Brazil, and the first Russian Federation drafts, which he has requested to be put to a vote straight after the United States draft.

Meanwhile, the speaker for Iran pointed out that the Council has faced obstacles in taking decisive action on the situation mainly due to the United States, which has vetoed over 40 resolutions. “The United States’ unwavering support for occupation and aggression has rendered it an active part of the problem,” he said, adding that it and other Western States attempted to shift the blame from the wrongdoer to the victim. International law and the UN Charter recognize the legitimate right to self-determination, as well as the right to self-defense for Palestinian people, “including resistance groups like Hamas”, he emphasized.

The delegate of Jordan, speaking for the Arab Group, said that the international community’s common humanity is being put to the test today, pointing to a spiral of violence based on despair over decades of occupation, injustice, and oppression and “a raging war that is razing Gaza to the ground”. Calling on the Council to adopt a resolution for a ceasefire to stop the war, he noted that the 15-member organ was established to apply international law and maintain that there is no State above the law, “but it seems that Israel is above the law.”

Egypt’s representative, deploring that “the war machine continues indiscriminately to claim lives without any distinction”, asserted that, given that 2.5 million civilians are being killed, starved, and forcibly displaced, “silence in this case is tantamount to giving blessings”. The solution to the Palestinian question is not military action or forced displacement but granting the Palestinians their legitimate rights and letting them live in peace and safety on their own territories, he said, adding: “Egypt will not accept for the Palestinian people to be forcibly displaced and we will not accept any liquidation of the Palestinian question at Egypt’s expense.”

For her part, Switzerland’s delegate said that, as the depositary of the Geneva Conventions, her country prioritizes the protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law, adding: “We are committed to a Council that, even in times of emergency—and especially in times of emergency—makes respect for international humanitarian law a priority.” She called for an investigation to be carried out into the incident at Al Ahli Arab Hospital, and for all violations of international law to be investigated, so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.

Source: Various sources

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