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By U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy
I share the fervent hope of people around the world that the ceasefire in Gaza holds. The extent of the destruction is hard to fathom. In addition to more than 1,800 killed and many more wounded, thousands of homes, businesses and public facilities have been reduced to rubble. I have been dismayed by the repeated shelling of United Nations facilities where large numbers of civilians, including women and children, were known to have sought safety. This can never be justified.
As in the past after violent clashes in Gaza, the international community will have to provide much of the aid to rebuild. This must be the last time.
It is imperative that the international community use the full extent of its diplomatic influence to ensure that Israel, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority address the underlying causes of this catastrophe. That means security for the Israeli people from rockets and mortars launched from Gaza, sometimes with launchers purposely placed in civilian neighborhoods. It means ending the blockade of legitimate goods into Gaza that has caused severe hardship for the civilian population there, and provided an excuse for Hamas' tunnels and attacks against Israel. It means security arrangements that prevent further tunnels and attacks.
Since the 1990s there has been no meaningful progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The United States has sporadically tried to facilitate negotiations, yet throughout this period Israel's expansion of settlements in the West Bank has continued. Israel's military occupation has contributed to a state of insecurity for both the Israeli and Palestinian people, emboldened extremists on both sides, and harmed the reputation of the United States. The separation wall erected between the West Bank and Israel has prevented acts of terrorism against Israelis, but it has also deepened the divide between them and the Palestinians and severely limited opportunities for peaceful cooperation and confidence building. At the same time, Hamas' military leaders, who received no support from Arab governments for their recent attacks, have publicly called for the destruction of Israel, squandered scarce resources to purchase weapons and build tunnels, shown distain for the safety of the people they claim to represent, and carried out many violent attacks against Israel.
Today, Israel and Hamas are each claiming victory, but the reality is otherwise. This was no victory. It was a failure of the parties to the conflict and of the international community, and a profound tragedy for the people of Gaza which must never happen again.