The Israeli government has ordered over one million people, about half of the entire population of the Gaza Strip, to evacuate to the south. This mass displacement is occurring in a territory that no longer has electricity or access to food and water from outside. Many Gazans will die in the evacuation, which will worsen the humanitarian crisis.
On Wednesday, we editorialized in support of Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorism and of the need to protect both Israeli and Palestinian civilians in the counterstrike against Hamas. Today, we reaffirm our view that Israel and its allies, including the United States, must do everything in their power to ensure that innocent lives are spared.
Many commentators have made it clear that they have little to no sympathy for the Palestinian civilian population. Gazans elected Hamas as their leader, they point out, and many Palestinians clearly support the organization that, last Saturday, massacred 1,300 Israelis.
What’s more, Hamas has a documented history of using civilians as human shields, making it difficult for Israeli forces to avoid killing these civilians. The burden, some say, should be on Egypt and other Arab countries to accept Gazan refugees.
Hamas’ ongoing psychological warfare and threats to kill hostages are barbaric and rouse legitimate rage. The desire for revenge and retribution, which so many have expressed this past week, is deeply human.
We unequivocally condemn Hamas and demand that it release all hostages. We share the feelings of grief, anger, and disgust at Hamas’ actions. We have no illusion that there could be a “good” outcome to this war, only less horrible ones.
But another massacre of civilians will not right this wrong, nor will it necessarily ensure security. Palestinian civilians, like all civilians, are protected by international law, which the Israeli government and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have long agreed to follow.