SINGAPORE: Israel's use of "disproportionate force and violence" against Palestinians is "unacceptable", said Singapore's Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim on Monday (May 24), adding that he is glad that the two sides have agreed to a ceasefire.
"Looking at media reports, Israel appears to have used disproportionate force and violence, against the Palestinian people," said Associate Professor Faishal.
"Yes, there have been attacks on Israelis, rockets sent into Israel, and Hamas has tried to provoke the Israelis. But overall, I am very disturbed by Israel’s actions."
He said this in reference to "the manner in which the arguments first started, and the way in which Israel has used disproportionate force against innocent people, including children".
"It’s unacceptable, and very tragic. And it has come during this holy period for Muslims," said Assoc Prof Faishal, referring to the holy month of Ramadan.
"I am glad that both Israel and Palestine have now agreed to a ceasefire, bringing an end to the violence, which has gone for almost two weeks," he added.
A ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas militants who run the Gaza Strip officially came into force early on May 21.
The truce was announced on May 20 following mounting international pressure to stop the bloodshed - which claimed the lives of 248 Palestinians and 12 people in Israel, according to officials and medics.
More than 1,900 Palestinians and 357 people in Israel were wounded.
Assoc Prof Faishal said there have been "many enquiries from Singaporeans on how they can help, especially because of the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza", with some even initiating their own fundraising efforts.
"I truly appreciate and applaud Singaporeans’ human spirit and deep sense of compassion," he said.
"I would also caution all to be mindful of the dangers in making donations through unverified overseas groups – you don’t know where the money goes, or how it is used."
READ: UN official urges 'political process' amid Gaza reconstruction
Assoc Prof Faishal said he would "strongly urge all Singaporeans" to donate through the Rahmatan Lil Alamin Foundation and the Singapore Red Cross, which are working with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
More than S$1.8 million has so far been raised by them, he added. Palestinian officials put reconstruction costs at tens of millions of dollars in Gaza.
HOW THE FIGHT ERUPTED
Fighting erupted on May 10 when Hamas launched rockets in response to clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, one of Islam's holiest sites which is also sacred to Jews.
The city had been in tension for days fuelled by a long-running bid by Jewish settlers to evict several Palestinian families from their nearby Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
Israel's army subsequently bombed what it described as hundreds of military targets in Gaza, killing "more than 200 terrorists", according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Palestinian and international groups accused Israel of recklessly hitting non-military sites during the bombing campaign, but Israel said it took all steps to avoid civilian casualties, including by warning residents via the phone of imminent strikes. Israel also blamed Hamas for placing weapons and military sites in densely populated areas.
The Israeli army said Hamas and other Islamist armed groups in Gaza have fired more than 4,300 rockets towards Israel, but the majority of those headed for populated areas were intercepted by its Iron Dome air defence system.