There have been wars and air campaigns that killed more civilians than in Gaza, but almost none match the intensity and deliberately criminal intent of Israel’s genocidal war.
A version of this article by Palestinian historian Dr. Saleh Abdel Jawad first appeared in Al-Akhbar in Arabic, and has been republished here with permission.
Regardless of the final political, military, and demographic outcomes of the genocidal war waged by Israel on the Gaza Strip, Gaza will go down in history as the place that witnessed the largest number of massacres in history carried out almost entirely against civilians and through aerial bombardment.
There are cities in which a greater number of civilians were killed in aerial bombardment than in Gaza (e.g., Hamburg, Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki), but these cities were bombed during World War II, which was a total war. Hiroshima was bombed in one second, Hamburg for one week. These four cities also included armies, military infrastructure, and factories directly related to the war effort. As for Gaza, the killing is being inflicted overwhelmingly on civilians. In fact, Gaza is the only city in history where the percentage of children and women killed is 68%. If we add to that percentage the elderly men, the results are horrific.
The number of these massacres, which constitute crimes against humanity, will go down in history as the first massacres that continue around the clock for nearly a month, broadcast live on the air. During the famous 1,425-day Siege of Sarajevo, the Serbs bombed the Sarajevo Market (Markali Market) on August 28, 1995, with five mortar shells, killing 43 people. The world watched live images of the dead and wounded, as it does in Gaza. But in Europe, the atrocities led directly to NATO launching an air war against the Serbian forces until they were defeated. By contrast, in only one massacre, Israel dropped a huge bomb on the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, killing nearly 500 civilians. The West’s reaction was to hold Hamas responsible, even though they knew that its improvised rockets (which the Palestinian president described as “absurd”) could barely kill a single person.
These massacres are also the first massacres in history to receive the full support of the major “Western democracies” (the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Italy) without any sympathy for the victims, even though they are broadcast live and there is no doubt about the identity of the perpetrators. This support is not only political, diplomatic, and in the media, but also military. In most cases it also violates the desires of its own citizens who are demonstrating in the street against the massacres in Gaza in opposition to their leaders. During the Vietnam War, after news of only one massacre carried out by the American army leaked (My Lai), the whole world rose up against it. As for the case of Gaza, Biden, Macron, Schultz, Sunak, and Meloni are portraying the massacres through the Western media as a case of self-defense.
In the famous Siege of Sarajevo, which lasted 1,425 days, a total of 13,952 people were killed, including 5,434 civilians, which means approximately four civilian deaths per day. In Gaza, the death rate is no less than 355 civilians per day. This number does not include those under the rubble, which exceeds 2,000 people. During the siege of the city of Stalingrad itself, which lasted 162 days and became an icon of resistance against Nazi brutality, 40,000 civilians were killed in the city, which was crowded with soldiers — an average of 247 civilians per day, i.e., less than the killing rate in Gaza. In the Second Battle of Fallujah, considered the bloodiest event in the Iraq War, the city was subjected to 46 days of killing and siege. A total of 1,400 civilians were killed, at a rate of 31 civilian deaths per day. As for the siege and fighting of the city of Mosul, which lasted for nine months and is considered the most violent episode in the series of conflicts with the ISIS movement, nearly ten thousand civilians were killed, at a rate of 37 civilians per day.
Only during the long siege of the city of Leningrad, which lasted for years, was the rate of civilian deaths per day greater than in Gaza, but most of those deaths were a result of hunger, cold, and disease.
Even the Russians in Ukraine, described as barbarians, allowed safe passage for fleeing civilians and food deliveries, unlike Gaza, which is deprived of water, food, safe evacuation routes, and electricity, including the energy necessary to supply hospital generators.
In conclusion, the killing in Gaza, which takes the form of genocide, cannot be attributed to shortcomings in the professionalism of the Israeli army, imprecise target identification, or ambiguities regarding the nature of a massacre. Rather, it appears to be the result of deliberate actions by three primary actors: the Israeli government and army, seeking revenge to restore their “image of strength;” the passion of the Israeli public, haunted by the idea of Jewish superiority; and the complicity of the corrupt leaders of “Western democracies.”
Since 1948, history has shown that Israel does not abide by the rules of war as set forth by international law, and that it implements what it wants according to its calculations, interests, and goals, because it feels, thanks to unconditional American support, that it is an exception beyond accountability and punishment in the international system.