'The world stands disgraced' - Israeli shelling of school kills at least 15
• UN condemns IDF attack on sleeping children as violation of international law
• Strike on crowded market in Shujai'iya during ceasefire kills 17
• Death toll now more than 1,300 after three weeks of fighting
Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem and Hazem Balousha in Jabaliya
The Guardian, Thursday 31 July 2014
Link to video: Gaza: nothing more shameful than attacking sleeping children, says Ban Ki-moonhttp://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/jul/30/gaza-israel-shameful-attacking-sleeping-children-ban-ki-moon-video
United Nations officials described the killing of sleeping children as a disgrace to the world and accused Israel of a serious violation of international law after a school in Gaza being used to shelter Palestinian families was shelled on Wednesday.
At least 15 people, mostly children and women, died when the school in Jabaliya refugee camp was hit by five shells during a night of relentless bombardment across Gaza. More than 100 people were injured.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, said the attack was "outrageous and unjustifiable" and demanded "accountability and justice". The UN said its officials had repeatedly given details of the school and its refugee population to Israel.
Fighting in Gaza continued through the day despite a four-hour humanitarian ceasefire called by Israel from 3pm. A crowded market in Shujai'iya was hit in the late afternoon, causing at least 17 deaths, including a journalist, and injuring about 200 people, according to Gaza health officials. They said people had ventured out to shop in the belief a ceasefire was in place. Witnesses said several shells struck as people were running away. Israel said rockets and mortar shells continued to be fired from Gaza.
Israel on Thursday was showing no sign of scaling back Operation Protective Edge, with the military reportedly calling up an additional 16,000 reserves as the offensive entered its 24th day.
At the UN school the first shell came just after the early morning call to prayer, when most of those taking shelter were asleep, crammed into classrooms with what few possessions they had managed to snatch as they fled their homes.
About 3,300 people had squashed into Jabaliya Elementary A&B Girls' School since the Israeli military warned people to leave their homes and neighbourhoods or risk death under intense bombardment. Classroom number one, near the school's entrance, had become home to about 40 people, mostly women and children.
As a shell blasted through the wall, showering occupants with shrapnel and spattering blood on walls and floors, Amna Zantit, 31, scrambled to gather up her three terrified infants in a panicked bid for the relative safety of the schoolyard. "Everyone was trying to escape," she said, clutching her eight-month old baby tightly. Minutes later, a second shell slammed through the roof of the two-storey school. At least 15 people were killed and more than 100 injured. Most were women or children.
Pierre Krähenbühl, commissioner-general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said the shelling of the school was a "serious violation of international law by Israeli forces".
Krähenbühl said: "Last night, children were killed as they slept next to their parents on the floor of a classroom in a UN-designated shelter in Gaza. Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced."
Khalil al-Halabi, the UN official in charge of the schools in the area, was quickly on the scene. Bodies were littered over the classroom, and the badly injured lay in pools of blood amid the debris and rubble caused by the blast. "I was shaking," he said. "It was very, very hard for me to see the blood and hear the children crying."
By daylight, the detritus of people's lives was visible among ruins of the classroom: a ball, a bucket, some blankets, tins of food, a pair of flip-flops. The corpses of donkeys, used to haul the meagre possessions of refugees to what they thought was safety, lay at the school's entrance as two lads wearing Palestinian boy scout scarves collected human body parts for burial. Five of the injured were in a critical condition in hospital.
Halabi was facing impossible requests for advice from those who escaped the carnage. "These people are very angry. They evacuated their homes and came here for protection, not to be killed inside a UN shelter. Now they are asking me whether to stay or leave. They are very frightened. They don't know what to do."
The attack on the school was the sixth time that UNRWA premises have been hit since the war in Gaza began more than three weeks ago, the UN said.
Palestinians fled their homes after Israel warned that failure to do so would put their lives at risk. Those at the Jabaliya school were among more than 200,000 who have sought shelter at UN premises in the belief that families would be safe.
Analysis of evidence gathered at the site by UNRWA led to an initial assessment that Israeli artillery had hit the school, causing "multiple civilian deaths and injuries including of women and children and the UNRWA guard who was trying to protect the site. These are people who were instructed to leave their homes by the Israeli army."
Krähenbühl added: "Our staff, the very people leading the humanitarian response, are being killed. Our shelters are overflowing. Tens of thousands may soon be stranded in the streets of Gaza, without food, water and shelter if attacks on these areas continue."
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said it was investigating the incident at the UN school. Initial inquiries showed that "Hamas militants fired mortar shells from the vicinity of the school, and Israeli soldiers responded by firing towards the origins of the fire", a spokeswoman said.A UN source said there was no evidence of militant activity inside the school.
The US, which has been at odds with Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, over efforts to secure a ceasefire, condemned the school shelling but did not specifically blame Israel.
The incident comes after an explosion at another UN school in Beit Hanoun last week as the playground was filled with families awaiting evacuation. Israel denied responsibility for the deaths, saying a single "errant" shell fired by its forces hit the school playground, which was empty at the time.
UNRWA has rejected the IDF's account, saying an initial shell was followed by several others within minutes. Reporters who visited the school shortly afterwards said damage and debris was consistent with mortar rounds. UNRWA has found rockets at three of its schools in Gaza in the past three weeks, which it has swiftly condemned as "flagrant violations of the neutrality of our premises".
Israel says militants from Hamas and other organisations launch rockets from the vicinity of UNRWA properties.
The Israeli military said it had targeted more than 4,100 sites in Gaza since the start of the conflict on 8 July. The death toll in Gaza rose above 1,300 on Wednesday.
Three soldiers were killed in fighting around Khan Younis, bringing the total IDF death toll to 56. Three civilians have died in rocket attacks on Israel.
In an emotional statement, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said the "destructive cycle of violence has caused untold suffering".
He said: "You can't look at the pictures coming from Gaza and Israel without your heart breaking. We must cry to God and beat down the doors of heaven and pray for peace and justice and security. Only a costly and open-hearted seeking of peace between Israeli and Palestinian can protect innocent people, their children and grandchildren, from ever worse violence."
He called for a renewed "commitment to political dialogue in the wider search for peace and security for both Israeli and Palestinians".
Support for the military operation among the Israeli public remained solid. A poll published by Tel Aviv university this week found 95% of Israeli Jews felt the offensive was justified. Only 4% believed too much force had been used.
**************US condemns shelling of UN school in Gaza but restocks Israeli ammunition
Paul Lewis in Washington and Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
theguardian.com, Thursday 31 July 2014 00.19 BST
The United States issued a firm condemnation of the shelling of a United Nations school in Gaza that killed at least 16 Palestinians on Wednesday, but also confirmed it restocked Israel’s dwindling supplies of ammunition.
The White House expressed concern that thousands of civilians who had sought protection from the UN were at risk after the shelling of the girls’ elementary school. Some 3,300 civilians were taking shelter there, after being told by Israel to leave their homes.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, which runs the school, said its initial assessment was that it has been struck by Israeli artillery.
“The United States condemns the shelling of a UNRWA school in Gaza, which reportedly killed and injured innocent Palestinians – including children – and UN humanitarian workers,” said Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council.
“We are extremely concerned that thousands of internally displaced Palestinians who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes are not safe in UN designated shelters in Gaza.”
Meehan and other US officials that condemned the attack did not specifically accuse Israel of responsibility for the shelling, saying there were conflicting reports about the circumstances of the incident that required further investigation. They did not specify the nature of those conflicting reports.
However Washington’s implied condemnation of Israel marked the strongest language used by the US since the conflict in Gaza began. The US also strongly criticised the hiding of weapons at UN facilities in Gaza, although officials acknowledged they did not know if rockets had been stored at the UNRWA school.
“All of these actions, and similar ones earlier in the conflict, are inconsistent with the UN’s neutrality,” Meehan said. “This violence underscores the need to achieve a ceasefire as soon as possible.”
At the same time however, there was little evidence of Washington using its leverage with Israel, including record levels of military aid, to apply pressure on Jerusalem to curtail its offensive.
The Pentagon confirmed a CNN report that the US had recently provided Israel with a shipment of ammunition. “The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to US national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability,” said Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral Kirby. “This defense sale is consistent with those objectives.”
The Israeli military requested the addition ammunition on 20 July . The US defense department approved the sale three days later, Kirby said.
Two of the requested munitions were sourced from a secret stockpile the US keeps in Israel for emergencies. White House approval was not required to release the weaponry War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel (WRSA-I), Kirby added. He did not say whether the White House was involved in the decision to supply the other ammunition apparently requested by the Israelis.
The provision of ammunition could prove controversial for Washington, which has expresssed growing concern about the deaths Palestinian civilians while maintaining support for its close ally.
In Congress, both Democrats and Republicans were working on a package of additional military support for Israel’s “iron dome” security system.
Israel’s decision to press ahead with its offensive in Gaza despite a chorus of international condemnation was reaffirmed on Wednesday, following a meeting of the Israeli cabinet.
UNRWA said it was the sixth time one of its schools had been struck. “Last night, children were killed as they slept next to their parents on the floor of a classroom in a UN-designated shelter in Gaza. Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame,” said Pierre Krahenbuhl, commissioner-general.
“We have visited the site and gathered evidence. We have analysed fragments, examined craters and other damage. Our initial assessment is that it was Israeli artillery that hit our school, in which 3,300 people had sought refuge. We believe there were at least three impacts.”
Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of using UN facilities as cover and UNRWA has discovered caches of rockets hidden at some of its schools.
A UN source said there was no evidence of militant activity inside the school attacked on Wednesday.
The state department withheld judgment on the UN’s assessment that Israel was behind the latest attack, saying there should be a more thorough investigation to establish culpability. While voicing mounting concern, US officials appeared reluctant to directly criticise its close ally after days of growing friction with Jerusalem that has occasionally surfaced in anonymous briefings in the press.
“We don’t know if there were rockets in the school,” said Marie Harf, a deputy spokeswoman at the state department, explaining Washington’s refusal to apportion explicit blame for the shelling. “We don’t know for certain who shelled the school.”
The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon directly contradicted that position, saying the attack, which he described as “outrageous” and “unjustifiable”, had been perpetrated by Israel. Ban said that “all available evidence points to Israeli artillery as the cause” of the pre-dawn attack, and he pointedly noted that Israeli military authorities had received the coordinates of the school from the United Nations 17 times, including on Tuesday night.
**************Bolivia declares Israel a terrorist state over attack on Gaza
By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, July 30, 2014 15:33 EDT
Bolivia on Wednesday renounced a visa exemption agreement with Israel in protest over its offensive in Gaza, and declared it a terrorist state.
President Evo Morales announced the move during a talk with a group of educators in the city of Cochabamba.
It “means, in other words, we are declaring (Israel) a terrorist state,” he said.
The treaty has allowed Israelis to travel freely to Bolivia without a visa since 1972.
Morales said the Gaza offensive shows “that Israel is not a guarantor of the principles of respect for life and the elementary precepts of rights that govern the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of our international community.”
More than two weeks of fighting in Gaza have left 1,300 dead and 6,000 wounded amid an intense Israeli air and ground campaign in response to missile attacks by the Islamist militant group Hamas.
In the latest development, 16 people were killed after two Israeli shells slammed into a United Nations school, drawing international protests.
Bolivia broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009 over a previous military operation in Gaza.
In mid-July, Morales filed a request with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to prosecute Israel for “crimes against humanity.”
**************Gaza: Israel calls up more reservists after rejecting calls for ceasefire
Official says move will allow Israel Defence Forces to expand attacks ‘against Hamas and the other terror organisations’
Ian Black, Middle East editor, Patrick Kingsley in Cairo and Paul Lewis in Washington
The Guardian, Thursday 31 July 2014 08.57 BST
Israel has said it is calling up another 16,000 reserves following a security cabinet meeting that decided to keep up military operations in Gaza, ignoring international pressure for an immediate ceasefire.
The move will allow the Israeli military to substantially widen its 23-day campaign against Hamas, which has already claimed more than 1,360 Palestinian lives – most of them civilians – and reduced entire Gaza neighbourhoods to rubble. Fifty-six Israeli soldiers and three Israeli civilians have died during the campaign.
Israel has now called up a total of 86,000 reserves during the Gaza conflict. At least 19 air strikes were carried out overnight, officials said.
Against a background of heavy fighting in Gaza and the shelling of a UN-run school, the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, convened his senior colleagues in a security cabinet on Wednesday to discuss the crisis amid warnings that Hamas’s demands for lifting the siege of the Palestinian coastal enclave were a “non-starter” and stalling ceasefire efforts in Cairo.
Israel was not close to a ceasefire, the newspaper Haaretz quoted an unnamed senior official as saying after the five-hour cabinet meeting.
“When a ceasefire proposal that answers Israel’s important needs is laid on the table, it will be considered. The operation continues and the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] will expand its attacks against Hamas and the other terror organisations.” Temporary humanitarian ceasefires would continue, the official said.
The White House, which has been at odds with Netanyahu over efforts to secure a ceasefire, reacted to the shelling of the school by issuing an unusually firm condemnation of the incident and expressing serious concern that thousands of Palestinians taking shelter in supposed UN havens were now at risk.
The US condemned the attack but refused to apportion blame and, hours later, confirmed it had recently provided Israel with a shipment of ammunition, after the country’s existing supplies appeared to be running low.
The provision of ammunition could prove controversial for Washington, which has expressed growing concern about the deaths of Palestinian civilians while maintaining support for its close ally.
“The US is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to US national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defence capability,” said the Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby. “This defence sale is consistent with those objectives.”
The Israeli military requested the additional ammunition on 20 July. The US defence department approved the sale three days later, Kirby said.
Gaza conflict in numbers
In a later incident on Wednesday, Palestinian sources reported that 17 people had been killed and 200 injured in Israeli shelling in the Gaza City neighbourhood of Shujai’iya during a supposed four-hour humanitarian pause.
Israel said Gazan rocket fire also continued. It announced too that three more IDF soldiers had been killed in a booby-trapped building in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, bringing its total military fatalities to 56.
General Sami Turjeman, the head of Israel’s southern command, told Israel Radio that his forces would complete the destruction of cross-border tunnels in Gaza within a few days. “We have killed scores of Hamas’s best fighters,” he said. “With every day that passes we are getting closer to our goal of destroying the tunnels.” Israel’s media and public is focusing narrowly on military operations, casualties and achievements.
In New York, the UN security council met in special session to discuss the Gaza situation at the request of Jordan, but there was little sign of any imminent diplomatic breakthrough. Haaretz reported that Israel was considering drafting a security council resolution containing its terms for ending the war.
Hamas has insisted that the blockade be lifted and prisoners released by Israel as its condition for ending rocket fire across the border. It dismissed Israel’s latest offer of a pause as a PR move, as operations in some areas of Gaza were exempted.
Hopes for progress lie in talks that are expected to take place in Egypt on Thursday involving Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and chairman of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, at the head of a united Palestinian delegation.
“A representative from Hamas is part of the official Palestinian delegation and of course that’s a positive step,” said a Cairo-based diplomat. “This is more or less what should have been done from the beginning. If you want something sustainable, you need all sides represented.”
Abbas was reported to have spoken to Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader, who is based in Qatar, but there were signs of disagreement about the composition of the delegation and the terms of the talks.
Turkish media reported that Hamas had agreed that the Palestinian Authority would represent it and negotiate on its behalf, but Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, complained of Egyptian pressure to agree to a ceasefire before any talks took place.
Diplomats said Egypt felt under greater pressure to secure a deal during this round of negotiations in order to maintain its traditional role as broker, despite hostility between Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, and Hamas, which is close to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
Having previously appeared to rule out easing Gaza’s blockade along its own borders, Egyptian officials have been displaying increased willingness to put the issue on the table – a significant concession that in turn might help convince Hamas to lay down its arms.
“The Egyptians understand that the negotiations have already gone out of Cairo once,” said one informed source. “If they leave Cairo twice, they may not come back again.”
Israel, meanwhile, appeared to be trying to smooth over an ugly spat in its relations with the US. Ron Dermer, its ambassador to Washington, blamed Israel’s “very rambunctious democracy” for attacks on the US secretary of state, John Kerry, distancing Netanyahu from highly critical remarks that were reported in Israeli media.
“This is not coming from the prime minister,” Dermer said, defending what he called a just war in Gaza. “Hamas is no different than al-Qaida … You can imagine what the American people would want their government to do.” He also said 87% of the Israeli people opposed a ceasefire.
Israeli officials expressed anger that Kerry had consulted the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey over a Gaza ceasefire on the grounds that both countries are close to Hamas, though both are also close US allies.
“Qatar, financially and politically, diplomatically and through al-Jazeera, is supporting a terrorist group,” an Israeli official told the JTA news agency. “Instead of contributing to the development of the area, they are contributing to terror in the region.”
***************Quest for Demilitarization of Gaza Is Seen Getting Netanyahu Only So Far
By JODI RUDOREN
JERUSALEM — After years in which Israel’s prevailing approach to the Gaza Strip was a simple “quiet for quiet” demand, there is growing momentum around a new formula, “reconstruction for demilitarization.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is only the latest in a string of Israeli leaders who saw Gaza mainly as an irritant to be controlled with periodic crackdowns and as a roadblock to resolving the nation’s broader conflict with the Palestinians. But as Israel’s latest military bout with the Islamist Hamas faction, which dominates Gaza, has proved tougher than previous rounds, even Mr. Netanyahu has begun talking about Gaza’s need for “social and economic relief” from decade-old Israeli restrictions on trade and travel.
Mr. Netanyahu, who spent two months denouncing his Palestinian counterpart, President Mahmoud Abbas, for reconciling with Hamas, seems to be opening to the notion that a unity government led by Mr. Abbas might be the way to unlock Hamas’s hold on Gaza and quell violence. While these steps have won him some praise, analysts said they were still more tactical management than long-term strategy, and held little promise unless Mr. Netanyahu shifted positions on the larger Palestinian question.
“I don’t see any vision,” said Shlomo Brom, director of the program on Israeli-Palestinian relations at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. “He’s trying to react to what is happening, trying to minimize the damage of anything that is happening, and to return to the status quo, to a kind of equilibrium that existed before the crisis.”
Diplomatic fits and starts continued on Wednesday, the 23rd day of Israel’s latest bloody battle with Hamas and other Gaza-based militants, as Israel’s top ministers debated both a cease-fire and an expansion of the operation. Palestinian factions were still trying to coordinate a delegation to Cairo for talks.
Sari Bashi, co-founder of Gisha, an Israeli human rights group focused on Gaza, was one of several experts who said the involvement of Mr. Abbas in cease-fire talks, his April reconciliation with Hamas and shifting regional alliances created opportunities for real change compared with the cease-fires that ended Israel-Hamas fighting in 2012 and 2009.
This time, Ms. Bashi said, more can be accomplished than “vague promises to expand access coupled with vague promises to stop firing rockets, all of which have been broken.”
Nathan Thrall, a co-author of a recent International Crisis Group report on Gaza, said it was “somewhat dangerous” for Mr. Netanyahu to emphasize demilitarization “because I don’t think anyone is under the impression that he can get it any other way than doing it forcefully.” Still, Mr. Thrall said, “he can use demilitarization as a card in order to limit the amount of concessions that he makes in the cease-fire negotiations.”
As the Israeli-Palestinian tug over territory and historical narratives has devolved over generations, Gaza — a dense seaside pocket where most of today’s 1.7 million residents descend from families displaced by Israel’s establishment — has played a particularly fraught role. Israel took control of the strip during the 1967 war, then withdrew its soldiers and settlers in 2005 in what remains one of the most contentious issues in Israeli politics.
In the years since, and particularly after Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006 and routed opposition forces from Gaza the next year, Israel has maintained an uneasy occupation. It restricts fishing and farming zones; monitors goods going in and out, ostensibly for security; and gives rare exit permits, mainly for medical treatment. But it is also Israeli power lines that provide Gaza’s limited electricity and Israeli trucks that, even during the raging fighting of recent days, ferry in milk, rice and sugar.
“You cannot win against an effective guerrilla organization when on the one hand, you are fighting them, and on the other hand, you continue to supply them with water and food and gas and electricity,” said Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser. “Israel should have declared a war against the de facto state of Gaza, and if there is misery and starvation in Gaza, it might lead the other side to make such hard decisions.”
Mr. Eiland has long argued that Israel should engage Hamas as the government of Gaza rather than try to isolate it, and advocated a Marshall Plan to rebuild the battered territory. Until recently, his was a rather lone voice.
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s right-wing foreign minister, proffered a plan that would lift all limits on Gaza but seal its borders with Israel, essentially pushing the territory toward Egypt. Others imagined that making life in Gaza miserable might lead to Hamas’s downfall. But that approach failed as poverty helped foment violence, because Israel’s occupation of the West Bank hardly made it seem like paradise, and because the Palestinian struggle is inspired by ideas about liberation and identity.
Neither idea, in any case, accounted for the fact that Palestinians see Gaza as an integral part of their future state, as promised by the Oslo Accords signed in the mid-1990s.
“The Gaza Strip is not viable on its own, it’s certainly not viable being blockaded, and it’s not viable if it’s disconnected from the West Bank,” said Diana Buttu, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who lived in Gaza for more than a year and is now based in Ramallah, in the West Bank. “Violence is not just for the sake of violence. Violence is because there are political issues that haven’t been dealt with.”
Since the July 8 onset of Israel’s assault on Gaza, there have been growing calls from Israeli politicians and the Israeli public for a more aggressive effort to topple Hamas. Mr. Netanyahu and his defense minister have set limited goals for the troops, even as they warn that the operation could expand.
“We understand that in this part of the world there aren’t perfect solutions,” said one senior Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share internal thinking. “If you can, through this operation, significantly weaken them militarily, if you can reinforce with them the thinking that it’s not in their interest to shoot rockets into Israel, and if you can have the international community on board to prevent Hamas from rearming, these are elements of an endgame.”
Dore Gold, a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Netanyahu, said demilitarization had worked elsewhere in the Middle East, pointing to United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, which required Saddam Hussein to give up weapons of mass destruction after the first gulf war in 1991, and President Bashar al-Assad’s agreement in Syria to turn in chemical weapons last summer. Mr. Gold said that in demilitarization, Mr. Netanyahu now had “a very clear strategic goal.”
But Gilead Sher, a former Israeli peace negotiator, said it was a far too limited one. Like Mr. Thrall and others, he said the key was strengthening Mr. Abbas and his reconciliation government — the opposite of Mr. Netanyahu’s tack this spring.
“We have to have a policy, not just a reactive policy and an automatic kind of response to the developments,” Mr. Sher said. “We need to get our act together vis a vis the Palestinian people in the territories altogether. The odds for that to happen right now are, interestingly, more plausible than before this last round of bloodshed.”
**************Arab Leaders, Viewing Hamas as Worse Than Israel, Stay Silent
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
CAIRO — Battling Palestinian militants in Gaza two years ago, Israel found itself pressed from all sides by unfriendly Arab neighbors to end the fighting.
Not this time.
After the military ouster of the Islamist government in Cairo last year, Egypt has led a new coalition of Arab states — including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — that has effectively lined up with Israel in its fight against Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip. That, in turn, may have contributed to the failure of the antagonists to reach a negotiated cease-fire even after more than three weeks of bloodshed.
“The Arab states’ loathing and fear of political Islam is so strong that it outweighs their allergy to Benjamin Netanyahu,” the prime minister of Israel, said Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Wilson Center in Washington and a former Middle East negotiator under several presidents.
“I have never seen a situation like it, where you have so many Arab states acquiescing in the death and destruction in Gaza and the pummeling of Hamas,” he said. “The silence is deafening.”
Although Egypt is traditionally the key go-between in any talks with Hamas — deemed a terrorist group by the United States and Israel — the government in Cairo this time surprised Hamas by publicly proposing a cease-fire agreement that met most of Israel’s demands and none from the Palestinian group. Hamas was tarred as intransigent when it immediately rejected it, and Cairo has continued to insist that its proposal remains the starting point for any further discussions.
But as commentators sympathetic to the Palestinians slammed the proposal as a ruse to embarrass Hamas, Egypt’s Arab allies praised it. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt the next day to commend it, Mr. Sisi’s office said, in a statement that cast no blame on Israel but referred only to “the bloodshed of innocent civilians who are paying the price for a military confrontation for which they are not responsible.”
“There is clearly a convergence of interests of these various regimes with Israel,” said Khaled Elgindy, a former adviser to Palestinian negotiators who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. In the battle with Hamas, Mr. Elgindy said, the Egyptian fight against the forces of political Islam and the Israeli struggle against Palestinian militants were nearly identical. “Whose proxy war is it?” he asked.
The dynamic has inverted all expectations of the Arab Spring uprisings. As recently as 18 months ago, most analysts in Israel, Washington and the Palestinian territories expected the popular uprisings to make the Arab governments more responsive to their citizens, and therefore more sympathetic to the Palestinians and more hostile to Israel.
But instead of becoming more isolated, Israel’s government has emerged for the moment as an unexpected beneficiary of the ensuing tumult, now tacitly supported by the leaders of the resurgent conservative order as an ally in their common fight against political Islam.
Egyptian officials have directly or implicitly blamed Hamas instead of Israel for Palestinian deaths in the fighting, even when, for example, United Nations schools have been hit by Israeli shells, something that occurred again on Wednesday.
And the pro-government Egyptian news media has continued to rail against Hamas as a tool of a regional Islamist plot to destabilize Egypt and the region, just as it has since the military ouster of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood one year ago. (Egyptian prosecutors have charged Hamas with instigating violence in Egypt, killing its soldiers and police officers, and even breaking Mr. Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders out of jail during the 2011 uprising.)
The diatribes against Hamas by at least one popular pro-government talk show host in Egypt were so extreme that the government of Israel broadcast some of them into Gaza.
“They use it to say, ‘See, your supposed friends are encouraging us to kill you!’ ” Maisam Abumorr, a Palestinian student in Gaza City, said in a telephone interview.
Some pro-government Egyptian talk shows broadcast in Gaza “are saying the Egyptian Army should help the Israeli Army get rid of Hamas,” she said.
At the same time, Egypt has infuriated Gazans by continuing its policy of shutting down tunnels used for cross-border smuggling into the Gaza Strip and keeping border crossings closed, exacerbating a scarcity of food, water and medical supplies after three weeks of fighting.
“Sisi is worse than Netanyahu, and the Egyptians are conspiring against us more than the Jews,” said Salhan al-Hirish, a storekeeper in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya. “They finished the Brotherhood in Egypt, and now they are going after Hamas.”
Egypt and other Arab states, especially the Persian Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are finding themselves allied with Israel in a common opposition to Iran, a rival regional power that has a history of funding and arming Hamas.
For Washington, the shift poses new obstacles to its efforts to end the fighting. Although Egyptian intelligence agencies continue to talk with Hamas, as they did under former President Hosni Mubarak and Mr. Morsi, Cairo’s new animosity toward the group has called into question the effectiveness of that channel, especially after the response to Egypt’s first proposal.
As a result, Secretary of State John Kerry turned to the more Islamist-friendly states of Qatar and Turkey as alternative mediators — two states that grew in regional stature with the rising tide of political Islam after the Arab Spring, and that have suffered a degree of isolation as that tide has ebbed.
But that move has put Mr. Kerry in the incongruous position of appearing to some analysts as less hostile to Hamas — and thus less supportive of Israel — than Egypt or its Arab allies.
For Israeli hawks, the change in the Arab states has been relatively liberating.
“The reading here is that, aside from Hamas and Qatar, most of the Arab governments are either indifferent or willing to follow the leadership of Egypt,” said Martin Kramer, president of Shalem College in Jerusalem and an American-Israeli scholar of Islamist and Arab politics. “No one in the Arab world is going to the Americans and telling them, ‘Stop it now,’ ” as Saudi Arabia did, for example, in response to earlier Israeli crackdowns on the Palestinians, he said. “That gives the Israelis leeway.”
With the resurgence of the anti-Islamist, military-backed government in Cairo, Mr. Kramer said, the new Egyptian government and allies like Saudi Arabia appear to believe that “the Palestinian people are to bear the suffering in order to defeat Hamas, because Hamas cannot be allowed to triumph and cannot be allowed to emerge as the most powerful Palestinian player.”
Egyptian officials disputed that characterization, arguing that the new government was maintaining its support for the Palestinian people despite its deteriorating relations with Hamas, and that it had grown no closer to Israel than it was under Mr. Morsi or Mr. Mubarak.
“We have a historical responsibility toward the Palestinians, and that is not related to our stance on any specific faction,” said a senior Egyptian diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks. “Hamas is not Gaza, and Gaza is not Palestine.”
Egyptian officials noted that the Egyptian military and the Red Crescent had delivered medical supplies and other aid to Gaza. Cairo continues to keep open lines of communication with Hamas, including allowing a senior Hamas official, Moussa Abu Marzouq, to reside in Cairo.
Other analysts, though, argued that Egypt and its Arab allies were trying to balance their own overriding dislike for Hamas against their citizens’ emotional support for the Palestinians, a balancing act that could grow more challenging as the Gaza carnage mounts.
“The pendulum of the Arab Spring has swung in Israel’s favor, just like it had earlier swung in the opposite direction,” said Mr. Elgindy, the former Palestinian adviser.
“But I am not sure the story is finished at this point.”