Statement on the Violent Escalation in the Gaza Strip

Americans for Peace Now (APN) is deeply concerned by the escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip. We are pained by the carnage and suffering of innocent civilians. We urge both sides to stop the fighting and reach an immediate ceasefire. 

While Israel has a right to defend itself and proactively fight terrorism, the timing of Israel's choice to initiate an arrest campaign in the West Bank followed by a bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip has predictably led to a renewed cycle of violence and the tragic death of Palestinian civilians. Israel's blockade restrictions on the Gaza Strip are hindering the ability of local hospitals to provide vital health services. In Israel, millions of Israeli citizens are spending sleepless nights in bomb shelters. 

We urge both sides to cease the hostilities and take advantage of mediation initiatives, such as Egypt's, to negotiate a ceasefire. 

Tomorrow, marking the Jewish holiday of Tisha B'Av, many Israeli Jews are expected to visit Jerusalem's Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif – an act that Palestinians consider as a religious provocation. As decades of flareups have proven, pilgrimage of large groups of Jews to the site, coupled with carnage in Gaza, is likely to create a volatile environment that could lead to large scale and possibly prolonged violence, reminiscent of the violent eruption that followed Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in the year 2000. On the eve of the holiday, we urge the government of Israel to act responsibly and limit Jews' presence in the compound to the Western Wall only. 

As numerous rounds of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities have demonstrated, military power is not a solution. Only diplomacy, leading to a political peace settlement, could end the conflict and promise lasting stability for the two peoples who live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. Still, the absence of negotiations does not absolve either side of the responsibility for sparing innocent lives and seeking an immediate end to the violence.