The attacks this week in Israel, as Human Rights Watch reports, are unjustified and undermine the cause of peace:
(Jerusalem) – Attacks by unidentified gunmen that killed at least six Israeli civilians and wounded dozens more in southern Israel on August 18, 2011, were an egregious assault on the right to life, Human Rights Watch said today.
“Attacking civilians with firearms, bombs, and rockets shows an abominable disregard for human life,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
Churches for Middle East Peace noted the response:
At least six Palestinians in Gaza were killed in Israeli airstrikes in response to the attack. A correspondent for Ma’an News said that the home in Rafah that was bombed belonged to Popular Resistance Committees official Khaled Shaath. Official Israeli sources said the IDF raids in Gaza had killed the PRC leaders who it suspects organized these raids as well as the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who has been held captive by Hamas since 2006. The IDF says that at least 10 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel following Israel’s airstrike. Two of the rockets caused damage and injuries in the Israeli port city of Ashdod.
On-going violence is not the only factor that continues to hinder peace efforts:
As protests about the high cost of living in Israel continued in the streets for the fourth week, the Israeli government continued with its effort to expedite the construction of new housing in settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. With Monday’s announcement of plans for 277 additional units in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, the government has approved the construction of more than 5,800 new homes in the occupied territories in less than two weeks.
In a statement announcing the approval of new construction in Ariel, the Israeli Defense Ministry stated that more than one-third of the new units will house settlers evacuated from Gaza in 2005. With a population of around 18,000, Ariel has seen few housing approvals in recent years. The settlement is located deep inside of the West Bank, more than 10 miles from the Green Line or pre-1967 line. Israelis insist that Ariel will be kept in any final agreement, but Palestinians say they need the area for a future state.
The Middle East Quartet released a statement on Tuesday expressing great concern about Israel’s recent announcements about new building plans in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The document asserted, “The Quartet reaffirms that unilateral action by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community.” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday, "Like every American administration for decades, we do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity."
J Street, the U.S. Jewish group which condemned the terrorist acts along with Human Rights Watch and others, also issued a statement earlier stating that further Israeli settlements will destroy efforts to develop a lasting peace:
J Street strongly opposes the Israeli government’s announcement of new housing development in the outlying settlement of Ariel.
In calling the new housing “unhelpful” or “counterproductive,” the Obama administration is understating the enormous damage that daily announcements of new settlement construction are doing to the chances for a two-state solution.
This month, over 80 Members of Congress are visiting Israel. We urge them to see – as their fellow Congressmen who visit the region with the J Street Education Fund do – the damage that ongoing settlement construction in places like Ariel or the Jerusalem suburbs over the Green Line are doing to the chances for a peaceful two-state solution.
These announcements constitute exactly the sort of unilateral action that undercut Israel’s argument that the Palestinians should refrain from unilateral steps such as appealing to the United Nations as they try to create a viable state on the West Bank.
We urge the Members of Congress visiting Israel to gain further first-hand knowledge of the situation on the ground by visiting the expanding settlements and to take advantage of the opportunity they have in meeting with Israeli officials on their trip to make clear America’s long-standing opposition to these developments.
Please keep the people of Israel and Palestine in your prayers and reach out to members of Congress to demand that they fully embrace a two-state solution.