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Monday, February 26, 2024

Geo-Political Tensions Cast Shadow on COP28 in Dubai as Israel-Hamas Conflict Takes Center Stage


The opening of COP28 in Dubai was marked by a somber moment’s silence, acknowledging the civilian casualties in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. The conflict, now in its seventh week, has claimed over 1,200 lives, with a significant impact on both civilians and the environment. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, the COP27 president, led the moment of remembrance for the victims in Gaza.

Amidst the climate talks, the war’s repercussions took center stage, prompting calls for a ceasefire from campaigners. Climate justice advocates, adorned in keffiyeh scarves, passionately pressed for an end to the 17-year Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Representing a coalition of 350 climate justice organizations, Lidy Nacpil emphasized solidarity with the Palestinians and urged a permanent ceasefire during a press conference on the sidelines of COP28. The conflict’s toll, initiated on October 7 by Hamas militants crossing into Israel, resulted in 1,200 deaths and 240 kidnappings, according to Israeli authorities.

The conflict between Israel and Hamas began on October 7 when the former launched an unprecedented attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip. (Image: AFP)

Israel responded with a substantial air and ground offensive aimed at dismantling Hamas, resulting in over 15,000 casualties, mainly civilians, according to the Gaza government. Large portions of the northern Gaza Strip lay in ruins due to the military intervention.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog, present at COP28, seized the opportunity for diplomatic efforts to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas. The president’s office outlined a commitment to engage world leaders in a high-level humanitarian endeavor for this purpose.

The complex geopolitical dynamics were further heightened as both President Herzog and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas were expected to attend COP28. Scheduled to deliver speeches in close succession, their presence underscored the ongoing tensions.

Activists at the conference, adorned with Palestinian keffiyeh scarves, vocalized support for Palestine, demanding a ceasefire and an end to the occupation. Rania Harrara of the MENA Feminist Taskforce emphasized the duty to protect the earth and humanity, calling for a public stance against violence and occupation.

In a rare display of activism in the UAE, a federation with strict regulations on public protests, dozens gathered in support of ending the war. Asad Rehman, the lead spokesperson for the Climate Justice Coalition, criticized the inconsistency of affluent nations claiming financial constraints for climate damage while funding military actions causing harm to innocent lives.

Tariq Luthun, a Gaza-based member of the Climate Action Network attending COP28, shared a personal perspective, revealing that 95 percent of his family resides in the besieged Palestinian territory. Luthun stressed the urgency of taking a stand against normalized violence, highlighting the gravity of the current situation.

The activism unfolding in the UAE, despite its restrictive environment, signifies the global resonance of the Israel-Hamas conflict and its intertwining with climate discussions at COP28. As leaders and activists converge, the war’s impact on both human lives and environmental concerns casts a significant shadow over the proceedings in Dubai.

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