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HomeInternationalIsrael-Gaza War:What is the Price of Peace?

Israel-Gaza War:What is the Price of Peace?

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By Jeremy Bowen
BBC International editor, Jerusalem

Just getting to the end of the day and surviving the night must feel like a miracle in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians “plead for safety”, wrote Philippe Lazzarini, head of UNRWA, the main UN relief agency in Gaza, in an “endless, deepening tragedy… hell on earth”.

It must be just as hellish for the hostages taken by Hamas and for the families of their victims. War is a cruel furnace that puts humans through terrible agonies. But its heat can produce changes that seemed impossible.

It happened in western Europe after World War Two. Old enemies who had killed each other for centuries chose peace. Will the war in Gaza shock Israelis and Palestinians into ending their century of conflict over the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan river?

18,600 people have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, according to data from the Hamas-run health ministry
I’ve been watching a video of a woman wracked by grief, sitting next to the body of her husband, Muhammad Abu Shaar. As Israel and Egypt are not allowing journalists to enter Gaza, I have not met her. I haven’t been able to find out her name, which was not posted alongside those of her dead husband and children.
In the video, it is as if she hopes, somehow, that the power of her grief will bring him back.

“I swear, we promised to die together. You died and left me. What are we supposed to do, God? Muhammad, get up! For God’s sake my beloved, I swear to God, I love you. For God’s sake get up. Our children Nour and Aboud are here with you. Get up.”

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The two children were with their father because all three of them had just been killed by Israel.

An air strike destroyed the house they were hoping would shelter them in Rafah.
I visited Yonatan Zeigen at his flat in Tel Aviv. It was a comfortable home, full of his children’s toys. Among the family photos I recognised his mother, Vivian Silver, who was one of Israel’s leading campaigners for peace with the Palestinians. Vivian was in the family home in kibbutz Be’eri, on the border with Gaza, when Hamas attacked on 7 October.

The first time I met Yonatan, in the days after their kibbutz was attacked, he was hoping his mother had been taken into Gaza as a hostage.
When he heard the air raid sirens in Tel Aviv, he rang Vivian. They switched to WhatsApp as they heard gunfire and explosions in the kibbutz, hoping that if she made no noise, Hamas would bypass the house.

He read out the texts they exchanged, first some black humour and suddenly serious and full of love as she realised a massacre was happening.
“She wrote me, they’re inside the house, it’s time to stop joking and say goodbye,” he tells me.
“And I wrote back that ‘I love you, Mum. I have no words, I’m with you’. Then she writes, ‘I feel you’. And then that was it, that’s the last message.”
The next day, I visited her house in the kibbutz and saw it was burnt out. It took weeks for investigators to find Vivian Silver’s remains in the ash left behind in the safe room. Yonatan has given up his career as a social worker to campaign for peace.
“They came into my country and killed my mother because we didn’t have peace. So, to me, this just proves the point that we need it,” he says.
“It could go either way. Catastrophes like this create changes in societies in the world. And I believe that it can lead to a better future.”
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