Israel mourns the death of three teenagers after their bodies were found yesterday. Photo: Getty.
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“Hamas will pay”: Israel responds to the killing of three teenagers

Israel is preparing to retaliate for the killing of three teenagers, but an increase in violence will hurt both sides.

What is a proportionate response to the killing of three innocent teenagers? There is no easy way to reply to this question, because how can you possibly weigh up one human life against another, or against a set of political goals? Still, it’s a question I can’t help asking.

On 12 June, three Israeli teenagers – Gilad Shaer (16), Naftali Fraenkel (16) and Eyal Yifrah (19) – went missing while hitchhiking south of Jerusalem. After weeks of searching, their bodies were found under a pile of rocks in a field. They had been shot dead, just hours after they went missing. Their story gripped Israel. Their deaths are a tragedy.

But then things get a little bit more complex and political. Israeli intelligence have long maintained the teenagers were kidnapped by Hamas, and they have named two key suspects – Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha – who disappeared from their homes on the night of the kidnapping and have not returned since. Hamas denies responsibility and claims Israel is using the tragedy as an excuse for another offensive in Gaza.

Either way, five Palestinians have been killed in the course of the search operation (according to the Guardian), over 400 Palestinians – mainly Hamas members – have been arrested, 34 locations in Gaza have been hit by airstrikes and Israeli troops have raided over 1,300 sites, sparking riots in some towns. Family members of the dead Palestinians, some of whom were teenagers, have complained that their deaths did not receive the same media coverage, and were not met with the same outrage. That’s an indictment of the political climate in the Middle East: a teenage death is not seen as a tragedy by everyone. Meanwhile, Hamas is fighting back: Israel say at least 26 rockets have hit their territory in the last four days.

The tensions on both sides are only likely to increase, and the violence will escalate. Concerns are mounting of another full-scale invasion by Israel of parts of Gaza and the West Bank. During the 2008-9 Gaza war, 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.  

Would this be a proportionate response? Israel will argue that its armed retaliation is crucial to maintaining national security and combating terrorism. Palestinians will say the move amounts to collective punishment. Both are to some extent true – yet ultimately, an increase in violence will hurt both sides. Palestine will bear the heaviest losses, and Israeli violence will embitter and radicalise populations in Gaza and the West Bank.

“Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay,” the Israeli prime minister has said. But it will not only be Hamas that pays the price. There is no proportionate response to the killing of children, but a violent retaliation will ultimately be a counter-productive one.  

Sophie McBain is a freelance writer based in Cairo. She was previously an assistant editor at the New Statesman.

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French presidential election: Macron and Le Pen projected to reach run-off

The centrist former economy minister and the far-right leader are set to contest the run-off on 7 May.

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will contest the run-off of the French presidential election, according to the first official projection of the first-round result.

Macron, the maverick former economy minister, running under the banner of his centrist En Marche! movement, is projected to finish first with an estimated 23.7 per cent of the vote, putting him marginally ahead of Le Pen. The leader of the far-right Front National is estimated to have won 21.7 per cent, with the scandal-hit Républicain François Fillon and the left-winger Jean-Luc Mélenchon tied for third on an estimated 19.5 per cent each. Benoît Hamon, of the governing Socialist Party, is set to finish a distant fourth on just 6.2 per cent. Pollsters Ifop project a turnout of around 81 per cent, slightly up on 2012.

Macron and Le Pen will now likely advance to the run-off on 7 May. Recent polling has consistently indicated that Macron, who at 39 would be the youngest candidate ever to win the French presidency, would probably beat Le Pen with roughly 60 per cent of the vote to her 40. In the immediate aftermath of the announcement, he told Agence France Presse that his En Marche! was "turning a page in French political history", and went on to say his candidacy has fundamentally realigned French politics. "To all those who have accompanied me since April 2016, in founding and bringing En Marche! to life, I would like to say this," he told supporters. " 'In the space of a year, we have changed the face of French political life.' "

Le Pen similarly hailed a "historic" result. In a speech peppered with anti-establishment rhetoric, she said: "The first step that should lead the French people to the Élysée has been taken. This is a historic result.

"It is also an act of French pride, the act of a people lifting their heads. It will have escaped no one that the system tried by every means possible to stifle the great political debate that must now take place. The French people now have a very simple choice: either we continue on the path to complete deregulation, or you choose France.

"You now have the chance to choose real change. This is what I propose: real change. It is time to liberate the French nation from arrogant elites who want to dictate how it must behave. Because yes, I am the candidate of the people."

The projected result means the run-off will be contested by two candidates from outside France's establishment left and right parties for the first time in French political history. Should Le Pen advance to the second round as projected, it will mark only the second time a candidate from her party has reached the run-off. Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, reached the second round in 2002, but was decisively beaten by Jacques Chirac after left-wingers and other mainstream voters coalesced in a so-called front républicain to defeat the far right.

Fillon has conceded defeat and backed Macron, as have Hamon and the French prime minister, Bernard Cazeneuve. "We have to choose what is best for our country," Fillon said. "Abstention is not in my genes, above all when an extremist party is close to power. The Front National is well known for its violence and its intolerance, and its programme would lead our country to bankruptcy and Europe into chaos.

"Extremism can can only bring unhappiness and division to France. There is no other choice than to vote against the far right. I will vote for Emmanuel Macron. I consider it my duty to tell you this frankly. It is up to you to reflect on what is best for your country, and for your children."

Though Hamon acknowledged that the favourite a former investment banker – was no left-winger, he said: "I make a distinction between a political adversary and an enemy of the Republic."

Mélenchon, however, has refused to endorse Macron, and urged voters to consult their own consciences ahead of next month's run-off.

The announcement sparked ugly scenes in Paris in the Place de la Bastille, where riot police have deployed tear gas on crowds gathered to protest Le Pen's second-place finish. Reaction from the markets was decidedly warmer: the euro hit a five-month high after the projection was announced.

Now read Pauline Bock on the candidate most likely to win, and the NS'profiles of Macron and Le Pen.

 

Patrick Maguire writes about politics and is the 2016 winner of the Anthony Howard Award.

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