Saturday, December 27, 2008

Israel! Israel! What are You Doing in Palestine? (Part 1)

Israeli soldiers in Gaza describe a 'moral Twilight Zone' By Dion Nissenbaum McClatchy Newspapers
Posted on Tuesday, July 14, 2009
JERUSALEM — Israeli combat soldiers have acknowledged that they forced Palestinian civilians to serve as human shields, needlessly killed unarmed Gazans and improperly used white phosphorus shells to burn down buildings as part of Israel's three-week military offensive in the Gaza Strip last winter.
In filmed testimony and written statements released Wednesday, more than two dozen soldiers told an Israeli army veterans' group that military commanders led the fighters into what one described as a "moral Twilight Zone" where almost every Palestinian was seen as a threat.
Soldiers described incidents in which Israeli forces killed an unarmed Palestinian carrying a white cloth, an elderly woman carrying a sack, a Gazan riding a motorcycle, and an elderly man with a flashlight, said Breaking the Silence, a group formed by army reservists in 2004.
Any Palestinian spotted near Israeli troops was considered suspect. A man talking on a cell phone on the roof of his building was viewed as a legitimate target because he could've been telling militants where to find Israeli forces, the group quoted soldiers as saying.
"In urban warfare, everyone is your enemy," said one soldier. "No innocents."
The 110-pages of testimony — along with 16 video clips — of interviews with 26 unnamed Israeli soldiers offers the most comprehensive look inside a military campaign that's become the subject of an unfolding United Nations war crimes investigation.
The Israel Defense Forces dismissed the report.
IDF spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said Tuesday that the IDF now is conducting dozens of investigations into troop conduct during the Gaza operation and that more than a dozen cases led to police investigations.
In April, the IDF announced it had concluded five high-level investigations, including one into the use of phosphorus to burn down buildings, and cleared itself.
Yehuda Shaul, a co-founder of Breaking the Silence, said the report didn't identify the soldiers by name because at least half the men quoted were young conscripts who could be jailed for speaking to the media. He agreed, however, to name the units and where they were operating in several instances.
Two soldiers from the Givati brigade who served in Zeitoun told the story of shooting an unarmed civilian without warning him.
The elderly man was walking with a flashlight toward a building where Israeli forces were taking cover.
The Israeli officer in the house repeatedly ignored requests from other soldiers to fire warning shots as the man approached, the soldiers said. Instead, when he got within 20 yards of the soldiers, the commander ordered snipers to kill the man.
The soldiers later confirmed that the man was unarmed.
When they complained to their commander about the incident, the soldiers were rebuffed and told that anyone walking at night was immediately suspect.
Michael Sfard, an Israeli human rights attorney who reviewed the testimony, said the stories reflected a "dramatic change in the ethos" of the Israeli military that portrays itself as the most moral army in the world.
"What we are seeing now is a deterioration of our moral values and red lines," Sfard said. "This is a dramatic change in heart and values."
Israel launched the 22-day military offensive on Dec. 27 in a bid to destabilize the Hamas-led government and deter Palestinian militants who've fired thousands of crude rockets and mortars at southern Israel that have killed 12 people in the past four years.
Nine Israeli soldiers were killed in Gaza during the fighting, four of them by friendly fire.
By contrast, Palestinian human rights groups and Gaza medical officials said that 1,400 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, were killed by Israeli forces. The Israeli military has questioned that figure, but hasn't made its own analysis available for review.
Breaking the Silence identified other specific instances in which Israeli forces carried out highly questionable practices.
According to the soldiers, the Israeli military fired white phosphorus mortars and artillery shells to set suspicious buildings ablaze and destroyed scores of Palestinian homes for questionable reasons. The white phosphorus supplied by the U.S. is supposed to be used to illuminate targets or provide smoke cover for advancing troops.
"Phosphorus was used as an igniter, simply make it all go up in flames," one soldier said.
A second soldier — said by the reservists' group to have been in a tank brigade stationed in the Atatra neighborhood — told Breaking the Silence that at least one officer fired unauthorized white phosphorus mortars because it was "cool."
The use of white phosphorus to destroy buildings was part of a larger campaign to demolish parts of Gaza to make it more difficult for Palestinian militants to fire rockets at Israel, the soldiers said.
One soldier, who served in an infantry reserve unit of the Negev Brigade near Netzarim, said they were repeatedly told by officers to raze buildings as part of a campaign to prepare for "the day after."
"In practical terms, this meant taking a house that is not implicated in any way, that its single sin is the fact that it is situated on top of a hill in the Gaza Strip," said one soldier.
"In a personal talk with my battalion commander he mentioned this and said in a sort of sad half-smile, I think, that this is something that will eventually be added to 'my war crimes," he added.
In the Ezbt Abd Rabbo neighborhood, Israeli combatants said they forced Palestinians to search homes for militants and enter buildings ahead of soldiers in direct violation of an Israeli Supreme Court ruling that bars fighters from using civilians as human shields.
"Sometimes a force would enter while placing rifle barrels on a civilian's shoulder, advancing into a house and using him as a human shield," said one Israeli soldier with the Golani Brigade. "Commanders said these were the instructions, and we had to do it."
Each Palestinian forced to work with the Israeli military was given the same nickname: Johnnie.
The story was confirmed by four other Israeli soldiers who seized control of the Gaza neighborhood, but declined to speak on the record, Shaul said.
The testimony matches with that of nine Palestinian men who told McClatchy last winter that Israeli soldiers forced them into battle zones during the offensive in their northern Gaza Strip neighborhood.
One Palestinian, Castro Abed Rabbo, said Israeli soldiers ordered him to enter buildings to search for militants and booby traps before they sent in a specially trained dog with high-tech detection gear.
Two other Palestinian men told McClatchy that Israeli soldiers used them as human shields by forcing them to kneel in a field during a firefight as they exchanged fire with Gaza fighters.
"I was down on my knees and they fanned out in a 'V' behind me," Sami Rashid Mohammed, a Fatah-leaning former Palestinian Authority police officer, said in an unpublished interview in February. "It wasn't more than 10 or 15 minutes of shooting, but it was so scary."
One of the Israeli soldiers interviewed described the offensive was necessary.
"We did what we had to do," he said. "The actual doing was a bit thoughtless. We were allowed to do anything we wanted. Who's to tell us not to?"
One Israeli reservist said a brigade commander gave them stark orders as they were preparing for combat.
"He said something along the line of 'Don't let morality become an issue; that will come later,'" the soldier said. "He had this strange language: 'Leave the nightmares and horrors that will come up for later — now just shoot."
"You felt like a child playing around with a magnifying glass, burning up ants," another Israeli soldier said. "A 20-year-old kid should not be doing such things to people. . . . the guys were running a 'Wild West' scene: draw, cock, kill."
(McClatchy special correspondent Cliff Churgin contributed to this article from Jerusalem.)
Final Gaza Death Toll Shows 960 Civilians Killed
Published on 03-13-2009
Source: Reuters
Israel's 22-day offensive in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip killed 1,434 people, including 960 civilians, 239 police officers and 235 fighters, a Palestinian human rights group said on Thursday.
Israel carried out attacks by air, land and sea from Dec. 27 to Jan. 18 in a bid, it said, to force Hamas and other militant Islamist groups to stop firing rockets and mortars at southern Israeli towns across their border.
"The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights' investigations reveal that throughout the course of the assault, Israeli Occupation Forces used excessive, indiscriminate force, in violation of the principle of distinction," the group said in a report (
The principle of distinction "obliges all parties to the conflict to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants".
An Israeli military spokesman said the army had "made every effort to minimise harm to the civilian population" during the fighting.
The army said it telephoned warnings in advance to urge residents to leave combat zones. The army statement rejected the charges it had set out to intentionally harm civilians calling the allegations "absurd and false".
The group said it would publish a list of the identities of those killed next week and would post them on its website in Arabic, with an English version to follow.
It said the "disproportionately high rate of death amongst the civilian population, when compared to that of resistance fighters" was evidence that Israeli forces had not respected this principle.
The rights group said 288 children and 121 women were among civilians killed in the bombing and shelling.
"The Ministry of Health have also confirmed that a total of 5,303 Palestinians were injured in the assault, including 1,606 children and 828 women," it said.
It called for an international investigation into "crimes committed by the Israeli forces and Israel's conduct of hostilities" and "prosecution of all political and military officials" accused.
The Israeli military statement questioned why the rights group had not made references to Israeli charges that Hamas had used civilians as human shields.
During the offensive, 13 Israelis were killed, including 3 by rockets fired into Israel.
Israeli media have quoted officers as saying there was far less resistance from Islamist gunmen than they had expected. A Palestinian opinion poll this week showed Hamas had gained significantly in popularity since the war. (Writing by Douglas Hamilton; Editing by Matthew Jones)
New York Jews show their support for Gaza
February 13, 2009
I have always maintained on this Blog and elsewhere that there is a difference between Jews and zionists. The following photos are proof of that. Over 1,000 New York Jews demonstrated in front of the Word Zionist Organisation and Jewish Agency against Israel’s policies in Gaza. It was a 24 hour long demonstration (still going on as I write this).
Photos © by Bud Korotzer
Unconventional Weapons against The People of GazaInterview of Dr. Mads Gilbert
By Akram al-Sattari
URL of this article:
Global Research, January 6, 2009
This report confirms that these attacks are quite deliberately directed against civilians, using new unconventional weapons. This is a carefully planned humanitarian catastrophe. How can anybody in their right mind support the actions of the Israeli government.
Read this interview with a distinguished and courageous Norwegian doctor.
Here are some of the highlights
"The Israelis are using a new type of very high explosive weapons which are called Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) and are made out of a tungsten alloy. These weapons have an enormous power to explode."
"these weapons will have a cancer effect on those who survive. They will develop cancer we suspect.""All that is happening in Gaza here now is against international law, it is against humanity". "Almost all of the patients we have received have these sever amputations. They seem to have been affected by this kind of weapon. Of course, we have many fragment injuries and burns but those who have got their limbs cut off, constitutes quite a large proportion.
You know we have a lot to do. Palestinian doctors, nurses and paramedics do an incredibly heroic job to save their people. Doctor Eric and I are just a small drip in the ocean, but we learn from them." And then decide where do you stand. We stand with the people of Palestine whose lives are being destroyed. We stand in solidarity with their struggle. We stand for humanity against the US-Israeli war criminals.
Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, January 5, 2009Doctor Mads Gilbert is a member of a Norwegian triage medical team present in the besieged Gaza Strip. The team has exposed that Israel has used depleted uranium weapons in its war on the impoverished territory which is home to 1.5 million Palestinians. He described the conditions inside Gaza in an exclusive Press TV interview.
Press TV: What can you tell about the uranium findings?
Dr. Mads Gilbert: The findings about the uranium I cannot tell you much about, but I can tell you that we have clear evidence that the Israelis are using a new type of very high explosive weapons which are called Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) and are made out of a tungsten alloy.
These weapons have an enormous power to explode.
The power of the explosion dissipates very quickly and the strength does not travel long, maybe 10 meters, but those humans who are hit by this explosion, this pressure wave are cut in pieces.
This was first used in Lebanon in 2006, it was used here in Gaza in 2006 and the injuries that we see in Shifa [Hospital] now, many many of them I suspect and we all suspect are the effect of DIME weapons used by the Israelis.
On the long term, these weapons will have a cancer effect on those who survive. They will develop cancer we suspect. There has been very little research on this but some research has been among other places in the United States, which show that these weapons have a high tendency to develop cancer. So they kill and those who survive risk having cancer.
Press TV: And what do you have to say about this?
Dr. Mads Gilbert: All that is happening in Gaza here now is against international law, it is against humanity and I think it is against what it means to be a decent person. You don't treat other people like this. Even if you disagree with him... maybe even if you fight with them, you don't treat civilians, children and women like this.
And I have an appeal to the Israeli doctors and nurses. They are my colleagues. We belong to the same international community, the medical community. I wish that the good doctors and nurses in Israel tell their government to stop these atrocities. We cannot continue with this. We may differ in opinions, but you cannot treat the civilian Palestinian population in Gaza in this way.
Today, they were bombing in Gaza City; we received 150 wounded and more than 50 killed.
Press TV: Only at Shifa?!
Dr. Mads Gilbert: Yes, here in Shifa. I treated a ten-year-old boy. He had his whole chest filled with fragments from the bomb. On his lap was another person's leg that had been cut off. We resuscitated him and did everything we could do to save his life but he died between our hands.
This is such a terrible experience and behind the numbers that you report all the time, there are human beings, families, women, grandmothers, children. That is in fact the reality in this situation. Those who are paying the price for the Israeli bombardments now are the common people, the Palestinian people.
Half of the population in Palestine are below 15 years and 80 percent of the people in Gaza live below the level of poverty defined by the UN. Now they don't have food, they don't have electricity. It's cold they don't have warmth and in addition to that, they are killed.
This must be stopped.
Press TV: How many people did you see that are effected by this weapon?
Dr. Mads Gilbert: Almost all of the patients we have received have these sever amputations. They seem to have been affected by this kind of weapon. Of course, we have many fragment injuries and burns but those who have got their limbs cut off, constitutes quite a large proportion.
You know we have a lot to do. Palestinian doctors, nurses and paramedics do an incredibly heroic job to save their people. Doctor Eric and I are just a small drip in the ocean, but we learn from them. Unfortunately, we don't have the time to do research, we have to save lives, but this question should be researched by the international community.
Israel’s very own GuantanamosUPDATED: Israel’s Dirty Little Secret: 100 Palestinian Women Locked in an Israeli Gitmo! Raped, Tortured
The “death ride” — welcome to 21st century torture, says Khaled Amayreh in occupied East Jerusalem
Israeli maltreatment of Palestinian captives and political prisoners has reached unprecedented levels of brutality, according to lawyers, human rights groups and newly-released prisoners.
There are currently as many as 12,000 Palestinian detainees languishing in Israeli detention camps, many of them without charge or trial. They include hundreds of university professors, engineers, school teachers as well as religious and civic leaders, students, resistance fighters and women activists.
Two years ago, the Israeli occupation authorities abducted hundreds of democratically- elected officials, including mayors, members of local city councils, law-makers, and cabinet ministers, many associate with Hamas’s political wing.
Israel employs a set of draconian laws, some dating back to the British mandate era, to torment Palestinian prisoners. The same laws are also used to lend a façade of legality to other harsh treatment of Palestinians, such as house demolitions, land confiscation and deportation.
Normally, the harsh treatment meted out to Palestinian detainees starts in earnest with crack Israeli soldiers raiding a given Palestinian home in the quiet hours before dawn. There, the undisciplined soldiers normally ransack the house, vandalise property and furniture, smash house appliances and terrorise the entire family, before blindfolding and handcuffing their victim and dragging him away to a military truck that takes him to one of the dozens of interrogation centres all over Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
Upon arrival at the interrogation centre, the detainee is instantly subjected to an array of harsh treatment techniques designed to shock him and destroy his psychological immunity. These include sleep deprivation and solitary confinement as well as sporadic beating.
Then the victim is made to go through the routine technique called shabh whereby he is forced to sit on a 25cm high stool, with his hands tied to his back. He can be kept in this extremely uncomfortable position for weeks or even months except for short periods to go to the toilet and eat.

Two brave Israeli soldiers arrest leader of the perpetrators (!)

Palestinian girls arrested by Israeli Occupation forces, awaiting sexual humiliation!

Another Palestinian youth arrested by the Israeli Occupation Forces: On his way to the torture chambers

A defiant Palestinian child looks on …

The main purpose behind the harsh treatment is ostensibly to extract confessions from the victim. On many occasions, the victims confess to having committed fictitious violations only to escape the harsh and intolerable torture. Eventually, however, if no confessions are extracted, the detainee is sentenced to administrative detention, or open-ended captivity without being charged or tried.
Torture, which the Israeli judicial authorities euphemistically refer to as “moderate physical and psychological pressure”, is officially sanctioned by Israel’s law. Indeed, several Palestinian detainees have recently died in Israeli jails either due to torture or medical negligence. According to the Palestinian Prisoner Club, which monitors Israeli treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, 167 Palestinians have died in Israeli custody since 1967.
However, while torture was normally performed on detainees mainly in order to extract confessions, the Israeli prison authorities have been using torture for the purpose of simply tormenting and humiliating Palestinian detainees.
“Their goal is to make us suffer, to torment us, to humiliate us. They want to punish us further for our survival, for refusing to die and disappear as a people, for refusing to collapse. Perhaps they think that by tormenting us, they get the feeling that they are avenging the holocaust, at least vicariously,” said Mohamed Abu Zneid, from Dura, who was released recently from an Israeli detention camp near the Egyptian borders. “But I can say that such behaviour can only come from a sick people, a sadistic people. Otherwise, why would normal people behave this way?”
“Administrative detention” which is a mere euphemism for prolonged and mostly unlawful captivity as punishment for one’s political thoughts and attitudes has become of late the modus operandi of Israeli treatment of Palestinian prisoners. Today, Israel is detaining hundreds of mostly innocent Palestinians in detention camps all over Israel, such as the notorious Kitziot concentration camp in the Negev desert.
A few years ago, Mustafa Shawar, a detainee at Kitziot, informed this writer that on several occasions he had appealed to the Jewish military “judge” at the Treblinka-like facility to tell him why he was being incarcerated so that he wouldn’t commit the same violation again once he was released. Shawar, a senior lecturer at the University of Hebron, said the judge paid no attention to his just request. “He told me that he wouldn’t grant me the privilege of knowing why I was in jail because, as he said, the Jews are the masters and non-Jews are the slaves and the chosen people are under no moral or legal obligation to explain to the inferiors why they are being mistreated.”
Today, Shawar is still languishing at Kitziot for the fourth successive year, not knowing why he is being tormented by a state that claims to be a “light unto nations” and the “only democracy in the Middle East”.
Shawar is not an exceptional case. He epitomises the fate of thousands of Palestinian detainees and hostages languishing in Israeli detention camps, mostly for harbouring ideas and thoughts that the Ashkenazi establishment deems too dangerous.
Similarly, Azzam Salhab, professor of comparative religion at Hebron University, has been languishing in the same desert concentration camp for eight years on vague charges such as “constituting a danger to the safety and security of Israel and the Jewish people.”
According to the Nafha Society, a human rights group defending Palestinian prisoners’ rights, the Israeli occupation authorities issue dozens of administrative detention orders per month.
Earlier, this week, the Israeli army renewed the “administrative detention” for Radi Sami Al-Asi for additional six months. Al-Asi, a journalist from the northern West Bank town of Nablus, was arrested on unspecified charges. However, when it became clear that there was no evidence indicting him, the Israeli military judge decided to sentence him to six months in jail, renewable for as long as the occupation authorities deem fit. So far, Al-Asi has spent more than 38 months in administrative detention without knowing why.
Farhat Asad, a 40-year-old father of three children from Ramallah, was sentenced to a sixth term of administrative detention on 16 June. All in all, Asad has spent more than 100 months in administrative detention.
According to Tawhid Shaaban, a prominent lawyer from East Jerusalem, some detainees have spent nine years in Israeli captivity without charge or trial. “Yes, this happens in a state that claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East.”
The so-called “death ride” is one of the most agonising and nightmarish experiences a detainee undergoes. It starts with a sudden raid of a given ward by the notorious Nahshon squad, which is specialised in repressing Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Then a prisoner or several prisoners are ordered to board an extremely filthy, hot and nearly hermetically sealed white vehicle, allegedly in order to appear before a judge several hundred kilometres away. The hateful vehicle would move very slowly from one prison to the other to carry additional prisoners, including dangerous Jewish criminals. The car would stop every hour for refreshment, while the inmates are sweating in the back chamber.
The nightmarish journey, which could last for 24 hours, is first and foremost meant to make the prisoners suffer as much as possible in the oven-like metal chamber where there is very little oxygen. The prisoners are barred from using toilets for close to 16 hours, and some are forced to urinate and defecate inside the lock-up car.
Saed Yassin, a human rights activist describes the “death ride” as “an intolerable and unbearable form of torture. They don’t treat you as a human being but as cattle or a piece of luggage. People are left to rot and suffer in these oven- like chambers for up to 24 hours without food, without water, and with very little oxygen. And if they want to torment a given person, he is forced to undergo this nightmare every few days.”
In addition to the death ride, the Israeli Prison Authority has been introducing additional forms of punishments, aimed at breaking the prisoner’s will. These include barring family visits for an extended period of times for the slightest and pettiest violation of outstanding instructions.
Moreover, the Israeli occupation authorities have been barring family visits for more than 900 Gazan prisoners in Israeli jails under the pretext of the 18-month harsh blockade which Israel has been imposing in Gaza. The Red Cross asked Israel on several occasions to allow Gazans to visit their beloved ones, but to no avail.
Israel recently resorted to “unorthodox tactics” to harass Palestinian prisoners, including raiding and vandalising their homes and mistreating their wives and children, imposing hefty financial fines on them, and carrying out surprise searches usually after midnight.
Last week, lawyers and newly-released prisoners reported that the Israeli Prison Authorities have naked Jewish women, probably prostitutes, harass prisoners, especially religious inmates, through sexually suggestive behaviour. A spokesman for the prison authorities refused to confirm or deny the revelation.
'More than 1,000 killed in Gaza'
Palestinian deaths in the Gaza Strip have passed 1,000, medical sources in Gaza say, as Egypt continues efforts to broker a ceasefire.BBC News
14 January 2009
Nearly a third of the dead are reported to be children and nearly 5,000 people have been injured.
After talks in Cairo, Hamas officials said they were happy with the broad outlines of an Egyptian initiative but that details remained to be worked out.
Israeli negotiators are to visit Cairo to discuss Egypt's proposal.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza said 1,013 people have died in the conflict which started 19 days ago.
More than 300 of the dead are said to be children, 76 are women and more than 4,500 people have been injured, of whom 1,600 are children and 678 are women.
Thirteen Israelis have been killed, including three civilians and one soldier from rockets fired from Gaza and nine soldiers killed in fighting in Gaza.
It is impossible to independently confirm casualty figures as Israel has refused to allow international journalists to enter Gaza.
Diplomatic push
Egypt has been leading efforts to broker a ceasefire, that could include a new force of peacekeepers to prevent smuggling on its border with Gaza.
After talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he hoped the Egyptian initiative would show results as soon as possible.
The UN secretary general is in Jordan on the next leg of a Middle East tour before visiting Israel, the West Bank and Syria.
Hamas officials have also been in Cairo for talks with Egyptian negotiators.
"The movement has presented a detailed vision to the Egyptian leadership so that it (Egypt) can continue its pursuit to end the aggression and lift the injustice on our people in the Gaza Strip," Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil said.
These details concerned how to ensure that border crossings into Gaza could be re-opened under international supervision, he said, and would be presented to Israeli envoys visiting Cairo on Thursday.
A senior Israeli defence official, Amos Gilad, is to travel to Cairo on Thursday, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said.
Earlier on Wednesday, other Hamas officials had said the Egyptian initiative had been positively received but that more time was needed to discuss it.
Hamas, which controls Gaza, has said any ceasefire agreement would have to entail a halt to Israeli attacks, a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces and the opening of border crossings to end the blockade of Gaza.
BBC Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi says Israel will not agree to a deal that does not guarantee an end to Hamas's smuggling of weapons across the Egyptian border and the cessation of rocket attacks into southern Israel.
For its part, Hamas refuses to accept an agreement that could in effect spell the beginning of the end for its military wing.
Egypt and other key Arab states can put pressure on Hamas but the US remains unwilling to press Israel to make any concessions, our correspondent says.
'Seeds of extremism'
Israel launched its campaign against Gaza on 27 December, saying it wanted to end Palestinian rocket fire into Israel.
Both Hamas and Israel rejected last week's UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire.
The Israeli offensive has provoked widespread international condemnation at the cost in civilian casualties.
Bolivian President Evo Morales said he was cutting relations with Israel over what he called the "genocide" in Gaza.
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria warned that Israel's campaign would fuel extremism and terrorism in the Arab and Muslim world.
"The effect of war is more dangerous than war. It is sowing seeds of extremism around the region," Mr Assad said in an exclusive BBC interview.
Israeli divisions?On Wednesday, Israel continued to bombard the Gaza Strip and residents spoke of heavy machine-gun fire as Israeli troops fought Hamas gunmen near Gaza City.
Meanwhile, three rockets were fired from southern Lebanon towards the northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona, landing on open ground.
No casualties or damage were reported.
In another development, a newly-released audiotape said to feature the voice of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has called for a holy war to stop the Israeli offensive in Gaza.
The authenticity of the tape, posted on a number of Islamic militant websites, could not be independently verified.
Humanitarian concerns have increased amid the fighting, although some aid is getting through to Gaza during daily three-hour lulls Israel has allowed to let in supplies.
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Israeli Envoy Plans ‘Decisive’ Cease-Fire Talks in Egypt
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Fox News,2933,479250,00.html
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel's chief negotiator will go to Egypt for "decisive" talks on a cease-fire with Hamas, officials said Tuesday, as the sound of battles between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants rang out in the crowded streets of Gaza City.
With international outrage mounting over the toll on Gaza's civilians, Israel's decision to send Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad to Egypt on Thursday could be a signal of progress. Gilad had postponed the trip for days.
Diplomatic efforts to end 18 days of fighting have moved slowly, in part because of the wide gaps between Israel and Hamas, who do not negotiate directly.
Israel says it will push forward with the offensive until Hamas ends all rocket fire on southern Israel, and there are guarantees the Iranian-backed militant group will stop smuggling weapons into Gaza through the porous Egyptian border.
Hamas has said it will only observe a cease-fire if Israel withdraws from Gaza.
Also on Tuesday Israel's navy halted an Iranian ship carrying aid into the Gaza Strip, Reuters reported.
Iran does not recognize Israel and has been supporting Palestinians in Gaza during the conflict with Israel. Israel has accused Iran of supplying arms to Hamas militants, while Tehran says it gives the Islamists moral, financial and humanitarian support.
Iran claimed the ship was carrying 200 tons of food and medicine "for distribution among the blockaded people of Gaza," Reuters reported.
Much of the diplomacy focuses on an area of southern Gaza just across the Egyptian border that serves as a weapons smuggling route, making Egypt critical to both sides in any deal.
Israel wants smuggling tunnels along the border sealed and monitored as part of any deal, and has been bombing the tunnels throughout the campaign.
The push into the Tel Hawwa neighborhood was the farthest Israel has moved into Gaza City, and brought ground forces within a mile (1.5 kilometers) of the crowded city center. Palestinian hospital officials say more than 900 Palestinians, half of them civilians, have been killed over more than two weeks of fighting.
Palestinian rocket fire has been greatly reduced, but not halted altogether, since the offensive was launched. Some 15 rockets and mortar shells were fired toward Israel Tuesday, causing no injuries, the army said. A total of 13 Israelis have died since Dec. 27.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was headed to the region Tuesday to press for a cease-fire, and a Hamas delegation resumed talks in Cairo with Egyptian intelligence officials.
Israeli military officials say that depending on what happens with what they described as "decisive" talks in Cairo, Israel will either move closer to a cease-fire or press on with an even tougher stage of its offensive. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing sensitive policy matters.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has vowed to press forward with an "iron fist," despite growing international calls for an end to the fighting.
Israel's army has largely avoided the difficult terrain of Gaza City's narrow alleyways and crowded neighborhoods.
Palestinian medical officials reported at least 21 people killed in fighting Tuesday throughout Gaza, though the Israeli army suggested the number could be higher.
One resident, Khader Mussa, said he fled his house while waving a white flag as the Israeli forces advanced. He spent the night huddling in the basement of a relative with 25 other people, including his pregnant wife and his parents.
"Thank God we survived this time and got out alive from here. But we don't know how long we'll be safe in my brother's home," Mussa, 35, told The Associated Press by telephone.
Several buildings were on fire, witnesses said, including a lumberyard. The sounds of battle could be heard clearly around the city of 400,000 as the Israeli forces, backed by artillery and attack helicopters, moved in. Israeli gunboats shelled the coast from the west.
The Israeli military said it carried out some 60 airstrikes overnight, hitting groups of Hamas militants holed up in a hotel, a house and a mosque. It said it also struck 15 squads of gunmen, rocket launching sites and 15 smuggling tunnels along the Egyptian border.
The army said it had killed or wounded about 30 militants, and that three soldiers were wounded in overnight fighting. Among them was an officer who was seriously wounded when a bomb exploded in a northern Gaza house that he was searching. Weapons, including a machine gun, were later found in the house, the military said.
Dr. Moaiya Hassanain, a Palestinian Health Ministry official, said dozens of calls for ambulances had been received, but they could not be dispatched because of the fighting.
The Gaza fighting has raised tensions around the region and galvanized anger toward Israel throughout the Arab world. On Tuesday, at least one gunman opened fire at an Israeli army patrol along the desert border between Israel and Jordan, the military said. There were no casualties, and Jordan said the claim was "baseless."
There was a similar shooting on the Israel-Syria border on Sunday, and last week militants in Lebanon fired rockets into an Israeli town in an apparent attempt to draw Israel into a second front.
The Israeli military has tightly controlled information from the battlefield, but indications have been that Hamas has not put up a serious fight.
Of the nine Israeli soldiers killed during the offensive, four were killed in "friendly fire incidents," a military inquiry concluded. Repeated Hamas claims of spectacular attacks on the Israelis have turned out to be false.
Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, Israel's military chief said his troops have achieved a lot but "still have work to do" in fighting Hamas in Gaza.
"The soldiers are doing exceptional work, with many achievements in inflicting damage on Hamas, its infrastructure, its government and military wing," he said.
But the fighting has raised concerns about a looming humanitarian disaster in Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of people are without power and running water.
The Israeli army said about 100 truckloads of humanitarian aid, including wheat, flour and medical supplies, were expected to be let into the territory on Tuesday. The aid was sent through during a daily three-hour lull that Israel has declared to allow humanitarian supplies to be delivered.
In Brussels, the European Union's aid chief said Tuesday that Israel has not respected international humanitarian aid during the war. EU Commissioner Louis Michel, speaking in a published interview, cited the high number of civilian casualties and difficulties of delivering aid to the needed.
In Oslo, Norway, meanwhile, the head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, Karen Abu Zayd, urged the Israeli army to do more to allow supplies into the besieged area.
"We are getting a lot of help from the Israeli Defense Forces on the one crossing that's open to get more and more trucks in, but it's just not enough," she said.
Egypt and the Hamas weapon tunnelsBy Barry Shaw
Monday, January 12, 2009
The growing discussion in Israel is centered on stopping the future capability of Hamas to rearm, with even greater stockpiles of weaponry, as Hizbollah has been allowed to do in Lebanon.
Hizbollah has built a greater stockpile of sophisticated missiles, rockets, anti-tank, anti-aircraft weapons under the noses of the UNIFIL forces that were sent to southern Lebanon precisely to prevent such an escalation. Egypt has been a direct and serious player in the arming of Hamas over the years. Almost all the weapons and missiles in the possession of Hamas were smuggled through the hundreds of tunnels from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, or carried over the Egyptian border in the Sinai. These weapons did not suddenly drop from heaven at the Rafah located tunnels. They were imported into Egyptian ports, passed through Egyptian customs,. transported on Egyptian trucks hundreds of kilometers to the area of Rafah where they were physically passed to the Palestinians and smuggled through the tunnels. At each stage, money changed hands. The weapon smuggling trade is highly profitable. Bachsheesh (back-handers and bribes) paid to the highest and lowest levels in Egypt have kept the Hamas war machine well supplied. Egypt receives handsome dividends in indirect payments from Iran to turn a blind eye to their war patronage of Hamas. The diplomatic effort is in full force to find a solution to prevent Hamas from receiving fresh stocks. This at a time when Iran has been finding ways to supply Hamas with even more deadly rockets. It is impossible to get to a solution without the cooperation of Egypt.
It is in Egypt’s interest to prevent Hamas flexing an increasingly more powerful arm. Hamas is related to the Muslim Brotherhood that challenges the Mubarak government. Yet, Egypt chooses not to clamp down on the smuggling routes. A proposal to introduce a UN force to supervise the tunnels has also been rejected by Egypt. For years, the Egyptians have been trying to reduce the size of the UN force in Sinai against the strong objections of Israel. Against this background the Egyptians cannot allow themselves to do an about face and approve an increase to the international force on its territory. The Germans, who have developed equipment to detect tunneling activity, have offered their assistance to the Egyptians. It is a fundamental condition of Israel that the IDF will not withdraw from Gaza until a guaranteed formula is found to prevent Hamas from acquiring and reinforcing their armament in the future. One consideration is that the IDF will patrol and supervise the weapon tunnel area along what is known as the Philadelphi Route if all other diplomatic efforts fail. The military pressure on Hamas will continue until politicians can reach a formula acceptable to Israel.
Israel in 'all-out war' with Hamas
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
Monday, December 29, 2008
Israel's military is in an "all-out war" with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Ehud Barak, the defence minister, says.
Palestinian medical sources say at least 345 Gazans have been killed and another 1,450 wounded in three consecutive days of Israeli bombardment in the heavily-populated territory.
"We have nothing against Gaza residents, but we are engaged in an all-out war against Hamas and its proxies," Barak said on Monday.There were also growing fears that a ground offensive was being planned after Israel declared a "closed military zone" around the Gaza Strip.
Israel says the creation of a buffer zone along the border will help protect it from rocket attacks. Civilians, including journalists, could be banned from an area between 2km and 4km deep under the policy. On previous occasions, such a move has sometimes been followed by military operations. "This operation will expand and deepen as much as needed," Barak said. "We went to war to deal a heavy blow to Hamas, to change the situation in the south."
Trapped Palestinians
Tanks and troops have been massed in the area since the attacks, referred to by the Israeli military as Operation Cast Lead, was launched on Saturday.
Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Gaza City, said that there was little the residents of Gaza could do to prepare for any possible ground assault.
"In a city that is so densely-populated, a ground offensive would mean urban warfare, street-to-street fighting ... leaving many Palestinians in the crossfire," he said.
"Unlike other conflict zones where there is the possibility to flee the war zone, Gaza itself has become the war zone. There is nowhere for the population to go, they are in the middle of all these attacks."Israel said it began pounding the Gaza Strip with missiles fired from warplanes and helicopter gunships in order to halt the rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian fighters."Military officials said yesterday that this operation will go on until Hamas stops firing missiles into southern Israel," Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel Hamid, reporting from southern Israel, said."They are also very much aware that they wouldn't really be able to stop that, but at least they will try to degrade the capability of Hamas."
Israeli justificationScores of rockets have hit southern Israel since the offensive got under way. On Monday, an Israeli Arab was killed and eight others wounded when one of the missiles hit a construction site in the city of Ashkelon.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, said the Israeli offensive was aimed at Hamas and not the Palestinian people.
"We tried to avoid this. You know that Israel accepted the truce that was initiated by the Egyptians in order to create peace and quiet. We adopted the truce. What we got in return? We got in return daily attacks, we got in return smuggling of weapons to Gaza Strip with long-range [capabilities]," she said.
Livni also appealed to Palestinian civilians to leave for safer places within the Gaza Strip and advised them against staying in places close to Hamas infrastructure.
Support for Israel came from the US, with the White House saying Hamas must halt cross-border rocket fire.
"In order for the violence to stop, Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel and agree to respect a sustainable and durable ceasefire," Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman said.
Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary-general, meanwhile, urged Arab and world leaders to press for an end to the violence in the Gaza Strip.
Egyptian gestureOn Monday, Egyptian authorities allowed ambulances carrying several wounded Palestinians to cross into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing for medical treatment.
Hospitals in Gaza have been overwhelmed by casualties since Israel started its aerial blitz on the territory.
Egypt also allowed lorries loaded with humanitarian aid to enter its border crossing with the Gaza Strip. Lorries with food and medical supplies have been lining up outside the Egypt-Gaza border since early morning.The UN relief and works agency said on Monday that at least 51 Palestinian civilians, including women and children, were confirmed to be among those killed in the Gaza Strip.
An UNRWA spokesman said the figure, which was based on visits to hospitals and medical centres was "conservative" and "certainly rising".Four young girls from the same family in the northern town of Jabaliya and two young boy from Rafah were among those killed in the latest raids, Palestinian medics said.Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros said the situation at the Shifa hospital in Gaza City was chaotic as the territory's health system struggled to cope with the more than 1,400 people injured."Hundreds of people are just waiting outside ... the problem is that there simply aren't enough beds to cope with the number of injured," she said."Medical sources here are telling us they are running out of everything, from gauzes to saline solutions, and critically now they are running out of almost every type of blood."A six-month truce between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip ended on December 19.
Arab street angry over Gaza attacks
Al Jazeera and agencies
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Protesters across the Middle East have held a second day of demonstrations against Israel's military assault on the Gaza Strip.
In the occupied West Bank, one protester was killed and at least two others critically injured by Israeli fire at a protest near Ramallah on Sunday.
In Yemen, tens of thousands of people gathered in and around a stadium in the capital, Sanaa, chanting anti-Israeli slogans and criticising Arab leaders for failing to act."How long will the silence last? Arabs wake up!" read one banner.
The demonstration was backed by the ruling party, opposition groups and other organisations.
A few members of Jordan's parliament burned the Israeli flag under the parliament dome while in session on Sunday, after calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to Amman.Action demandedIn Lebanon, hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinian refugees staged a sit-in near the United Nations office in central Beirut.The protesters held banners calling on the global body to put pressure on Israel to end the attacks that have killed more than 280 people.
The protest was organised by the Lebanese-branch of the Muslim Gamaa group, along with Hamas and other groups. Lebanon is host to more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees living in 12 camps across the country.Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, said that people were demanding more decisive action from their leaders.
"From the people we have heard very critical remarks, not only against Israel, but also against Arab governments. Many were angry at the Egyptian government, they feel they needed to do more," she said. 'Firm stand'The Hezbollah movement, which fought a 33-day war with Israel in 2006, has condemned the attacks as a "war crime and a genocide that requires immediate action from the international community and its institutions".
In a statement, the group called on Arab countries to "take a firm stand and exert its utmost efforts against the Israeli barbarism - which is covered by the US - and the international community to stop this ongoing massacre".The Arab League will not meet to discuss a common response to the Israeli assault until a summit in Doha, Qatar, on January 2.
Arab foreign ministers were due to hold an emergency meeting on Sunday, but the meeting was postponed until Wednesday.
Amr Moussa, the Arab League secretary-general, said the delay was because many ministers were busy in separate meetings of two Arab regional groups - the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) and the Maghreb Union.
"The time worries us very much because of the delay in holding the ministerial meeting but we will not remain silent and consultations are continuing," he said.The attack will, however, be discussed by the GCC, which on Saturday described the situation as "barbaric" and "ugly".
Government support
Meanwhile in Damascus, the capital of Syria, an estimated 5,000 people congregated in the Yusif al-Azmeh square, shouting slogans and cluttering the horizon with the flags of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PLFP, Hezbollah, Syria, Iraq, and Palestine.
Many were bussed in for the demonstration, suggesting that it was government orchestrated, though some protesters insisted that their attendance was not obligatory.
One lorry slowly circled the square, covered in Hamas banners and carrying masked men dressed in white with fake suicide belts. From loudspeakers, Hamas supporters called for "jihad" against Israel and led their followers in fist-pumping chants calling for "struggle in the name of God".
In other parts of the square some burned Israeli flags. Others praised Bashar al-Asad, the Syrian president, while calling on Egypt's Hosni Mubarak to take a stand against Israel.
"I came here to stand alongside my brothers in Gaza and to stand against the Israeli aggression and rape of Gaza. Israel doesn't want peace," said Ismael Balaan, a 45-year-old telecommunications worker.
Nearby, followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, an Iraqi populist leader opposed to the US presence in his country, dressed in the black uniform of al-Sadr’s militia, danced while chanting against the US and Israel.
"We are protesting for the oppressed people in Gaza and against the Israeli bombing that has killed women and children," said Akram al-Musawi, a black-turbaned Sadrist. "We will resist all oppressors and anyone that kills women and children whether it's in Iraq, Lebanon, or Palestine."
One Iraqi born Palestinian, who asked not to be named, was critical of the demonstration, which he believed to be government orchestrated."If the Syrian government really cares about Palestine why don't they let in the Palestinians stuck in the al-Tanf refugee camp on the border?" he said, referring to the Iraqi-Palestinians living in the no-mans-land between Iraq and SyriaProtest attackedDemonstrations also took place across Iraq.Dozens of Palestinian refugees gathered in Baghdad's eastern Baladiyad neighbourhood chanting anti-Israeli slogans and waving messages of support for Gaza.Dalil al-Qasoos, the Palestinian ambassador to Iraq, said: "I'd like to say to my relatives and to my people in Gaza that Gaza will remain steadfast in the face of Americans and Zionists whatever the plots and conspiracies hatched by tyrants and arrogant enemies."In Mosul, a suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of demonstrators killing at least four people and injuring 20 others, police said.
230 Killed, 388 Wounded in 100 Israeli Air strikes on Gaza; Challenge for US, Obamaposted by Juan Cole
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Aljazeera English reports on the Israeli air strikes on Gaza, which have killed 230 persons, a third of them civilians and wounded 388. The other 2/3s were largely Palestinian policemen, as Israeli warplanes targeted 32 police stations, maintaining that they are essentially Hamas foot soldiers. The 100 air sorties killed the Gaza chief of police and other officials, including individuals Israeli intelligence had fingered as masterminds of the rocket attacks on Israel.
The outbreak of hostilities affects Americans, since al-Qaeda hit New York and the Pentagon in some important part over the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians. The airstrikes and large death toll also present a challenge to the incoming Obama administration, which may find peace-making more difficult now.
The UN Security Council held a special evening session on Saturday and issued a call for an immediate ceasefire. The attacks drew a furious response from the Arab world. Egypt, which has collaborated with Israel in blockading the Gazans, branded its partner's air strikes "murder." The US, which for some odd reason holds an irrational hatred of the Palestinians, branded the dead Gaza policemen "thugs" and blamed the massive aerial strikes solely on Hamas, the fundamentalist Muslim party that controls Gaza.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, outgoing president of the European Union, issued among the more measured responses: "The President of the Republic expresses his lively concern at the escalation of violence in the south of Israel and in the Gaza Strip. He firmly condemns the irresponsible provocations that have led to this situation as well as the use of disproportionate force. The president of the republic deplores the significant loss of civilian life and expresses his condolences to the innocent victims and their families."
Sarkozy "requests an immediate cessation of rocket fire directed at Israel as well as of Israeli bombardment of Gaza, and he calls on the parties to exercise self-restraint. He reminds everyone that there is no military solution to Gaza, and demands the implementation of a durable truce."
This statement, which I seem to be the only news source to present in full in English, seems to me to be the best issued by any head of state on this particular incident, and shames the insensitive and one-sided statement issued on behalf of the US by Gordon Johndroe.
Israel blames Hamas for primitive homemade rocket attacks on the nearby Israeli city of Sederot. In 2001-2008, these rockets killed about 15 Israelis and injured 433, and they have damaged property. In the same period, Gazan mortar attacks on Israel have killed 8 Israelis.
Since the Second Intifada broke out in 2000, Israelis have killed nearly 5000 Palestinians, nearly a thousand of them minors. Since fall of 2007, Israel has kept the 1.5 million Gazans under a blockade, interdicting food, fuel and medical supplies to one degree or another. Wreaking collective punishment on civilian populations such as hospital patients denied needed electricity is a crime of war.
The Israelis on Saturday killed 5% of all the Palestinians they have killed since the beginning of 2001! 230 people were slaughtered in a day, over 70 of them innocent civilians. In contrast, from the ceasefire Hamas announced in June, 2008 until Saturday, no Israelis had been killed by Hamas. The infliction of this sort of death toll is known in the law of war as a disproportionate response, and it is a war crime.
Gaza's desperate hospitals overwhelmed by casualtiesTwo of Gaza's highest-ranking security officials are among the victims of Israeli airstrikes. Medical personnel scramble to treat the wounded in facilities left low on supplies by a blockade.By Ashraf Khalil and Rushdi abu Alouf
December 28, 2008,0,7401089.story
Reporting from Gaza City and Jerusalem -- It was graduation day at Gaza City's main police station, and a host of VIPs had turned out Saturday to honor the latest class of Palestinian cadets amid the usual pomp and circumstance. "We were feeling safe and calm," said officer Hussein Ahmad, 24.
Arabs throughout Middle East protest...
What happened next has been broadcast repeatedly in all of its chaotic intensity across the Arab world and around the globe. Just after 11 a.m., Israeli aircraft launched dozens of closely timed missile strikes on police stations, government buildings and other sites associated with Gaza's ruling Hamas movement. Video from the graduation ceremony showed the bloodied bodies of dozens of dead and wounded young Palestinian men in black uniforms, as survivors rushed to assist the injured.
The multiple strikes roiled the tiny, tightly packed coastal enclave and immediately overwhelmed Gaza's threadbare hospitals. Egypt, which has kept its border crossing at Rafah generally sealed for more than a year, said it would accept casualties.
At Gaza City's main Shifa Hospital, bodies were arranged in the parking lot. One woman wandered, screaming, "My son, my son!" Eventually she found the boy's body and fetched a cloth to cover his near-naked corpse.
"It was horrible, really horrible," hospital director Hassan Khalaf told Al Jazeera International news channel. "It's really a desperate situation.
"Gaza's hospitals were already critically low on most supplies because of a long-term blockade by Israel, assisted by Egypt, designed to pressure the militant Hamas organization that seized control of the strip last year. After Saturday's Israeli air attacks, 215 victims arrived at Shifa Hospital within 15 minutes, Khalaf said. Yehya Ayman, 12, ran around in shock and resisted his father's attempts to pull him away from the bodies of his uncle and brother.
"I want to see them. I am not afraid," Yehya said.
The boy then turned to a militant fighter and pleaded, "You have to shell [the Israelis] and take revenge for us.
"Radio broadcasts called every doctor and medical professional to their posts and appealed to residents for blood donations. Staff members at Shifa Hospital transformed the orthopedic wing into an extra ICU and emptied the maternity ward to use the delivery rooms for emergency surgeries. Among the targets were at least 30 police stations throughout Gaza, which Israel says are part of Hamas' "terror infrastructure." An estimated two-thirds of the casualties were police officers or members of the various Hamas security forces, a senior Gazan medical official said.
Militants with Hamas and several smaller armed factions long have launched rockets and mortar shells at southern Israeli towns from positions in the Gaza Strip. A shaky six-month truce between Israel and Hamas ended Dec. 19, and more than 50 rockets and mortar shells from Gaza militants came down in the Israeli south on Wednesday, causing no serious casualties but sowing widespread panic.
The rise in hostilities and several days of dire warnings by Israeli officials had many Gazans bracing for some sort of reprisal. But Saturday's attacks still seemed to catch Hamas off guard. Among the dead from the graduation ceremony were two of Gaza's highest-ranking security officials: Tawfiq Jabber, police chief for all of Gaza; and Ismail Jabari, head of a security force similar to the Secret Service. Hamas' civilian and military leaders generally go underground when Israeli airstrikes are considered imminent. But the presence of two such high-ranking officials at an outdoor ceremony appeared to indicate that Hamas did not think Israel was about to strike.
Israel Radio commentator Gal Berger suggested that Hamas had fallen victim to its own vanity, confident that Israel was bluffing and that the Jewish state wouldn't attack in the midst of the approach to national elections. Multiple Hamas officials refused to comment on whether they had been caught by surprise.
Many of the civilian casualties were people living near or simply walking past police stations or other security targets when the missiles struck. Ahmad Sinwar, 4, was playing in the courtyard of his southern Gaza City home when the adjacent civil defense headquarters was bombed. He was killed by a flying chunk of concrete that also injured two of his siblings. "I never expected that the civil defense headquarters would be considered a military target," said Ahmad's weeping father, Reyad Sinwar. "What was the sin of my 4-year-old son?" As midnight approached, individual Israeli airstrikes thumped through the darkened and empty streets. One resident called it "a city of ghosts." Funeral mourning tents sprang up outside dozens of homes, with loudspeakers blaring Koranic recitations and pro-Hamas anthems.
Abu Alouf is a special correspondent. Special correspondents Fayed Abu Shammala in Cairo and Hamada Abu Qamar in Gaza City contributed to this report.
Kawther Salam - The Rockets of Hunger and Israeli PropagandaBy Kawther Salam • Dec 26th, 2008
I received a message from the photojournalist and peace activist Sameh Habeeb from Gaza while I was looking at the news in the Austrian TV, which pierced my ears with talk about the rockets which Hamas supposedly shoots at the "innocent Israeli occupation" which has jailed one and half million in Gaza since before Al-Aqsa Intifada broke out.
The rockets shown on Austrian TV looked to me like the fancy Bengala Rockets which are shot here while celebrating new year, and the clips shown on TV raise many questions:
- The picture published at the ORF website is credited to "MOHAMED SABER/EPA". Those are two first names and no family name. Who is this person? Why does he not present himself with a family name as any Arab would do? Does he exist at all or is he a fabrication?
- The rockets depicted in that picture (and on the video) look more like the fancy bengalas which can be bought in many shops all over the world before festivities than any known weapon.
- These so-called "rockets" appear to not have place for fuel or an engine, but they are supposed to fly 10-15Km ? How do they accomplish this miracle?
- How did ORF and other western media come into possession of this video which supposedly shows "Hamas fighters" shooting rockets from between fruit trees? Was it distributed by the Israeli embassy? Neither Austrian nor other western journalists are known to go to Gaza, so they can only have received them from the Israeli government, and that is what a link to exactly there from the ORF page suggests.- If the firing of these rockets from Gaza can be doubted, from where else could they have been fired? From within Israeli territory perhaps? Could it be that the firing of these rockets is a propaganda campaign implemented by the IDF in order to "justify" a long-planned massacre against the people of Gaza?
- Could it be that the IDF is using the inhabitants of Sderot, Asqelon and other places around Gaza in order to construct a justification for genocide against a people who are already half hungered to death?
- Why did nobody ask these questions before showing the clip at several European TV stations? If western media are not sloppy in their research and their checking of sources but still publish material which is obvious propaganda, is it possible to say that this irresponsible and less than professional attitude, the wholesale regurgitation of Israeli propaganda, is tantamount to complicity in the genocide against the Palestinian people?
Even in the unlikely case that these rockets are "real", they would be an understandable yet lamentable reaction to years of illegal siege and murderous mayhem perpetrated by the Israeli regime. In this case they would be "rockets of hunger", wholly justified under international law, which allows an invaded people to defend itself with anything at their disposal.
The Israeli occupational regime is preparing to slaughter the besieged people of Gaza, and it is known that they are currently running a strong propaganda campaign around the world, controlling the international public opinion and turning their own crimes against humanity into "reactions" of the Gaza rockets.
The less than objective international media has adopted the Israeli propaganda wholesale, and continues repeating their falsified stories as a preparation for destroying Gaza over the heads of one and a half million mostly defenseless people, of whom about half are children.
Non of the European media has shown an objective picture about the real situation in Gaza, which is in fact and effect a concentration camp. Even during the previous truce between Israel and Gaza, the criminal state of Israel continued its blockade to hunger out and destroy to the Palestinians in Gaza.
I would ask the well-paid international dispensers of propaganda and the world governments some simple questions:
If somebody jails you in a ghetto for over six years, or even six days, denying you the most basic of human rights, continues blockading the ghetto, killing the sick people, occupying the sky, shelling, and killing people for no discernible reason, will you stay a peaceful people for even a second?Is there any peace under the continued hunger and blockade?
This is the story of Gaza and of these useless rockets which you are using to justify the Israeli genocide, murdering, and jailing and starving people.
The message from the hungry people of Gaza, a voice lost under western propaganda and which more people should hear, follows. And here are more photos of the hungry Palestinians of Gaza.
Sameh Habeeb writes:My Misery in Gaza pushed me to report on the Hunger of my people. I stopped by al shanty bakery mid of Gaza City. It is one of the biggest bakeries across Gaza which provides tens of thousands with bread. Hundreds of people crowded outside the bakery in a very long long row waiting for bag of bread. Children, women and men were awaiting the chance to have the bread which is totally running out in Gaza.
Abed Mas’od, 24, is a labour working in Al shanty bakery. I spoke to him whilst he was very busy preparing bread for thousands. I managed to get some information out of him.
Before the deadly crisis of bread which started 2 days ago; this bakery was preparing 30 bags of flour. But with today it makes around 100 each bag weights 60 Kilograms. Abed refers to this rise of bread-making quantity to the unrecorded request of population for bread which came after Israel ban flour into Gaza and closed borders.
"Our bakery is out of bread since days and what we have is only for another 24 hours. In fact, we have stopped our work yesterday as we ran out of flour. Now, we use grain (fodder) used for animals which will finish in hours." Bakery labor said.
Amongst the crowd a woman’s voice arose above all people in the row. She started to scream and appealed for God requesting a salvation and easing for life conditions. I came closer to the woman, then introduced myself and then started to ask her some questions. The woman, Om Ali Shoman, 45, with a pale bleak face draws the suffering of entire populations.
She said, "This is our destiny. It’s a conspiracy machinated against us. What’s the fault of my children at home to stay with no bread. Did they fire rockets? Did they kill Israelis? Are they holding guns?
The number of Gaza bakeries is 47 but now the working ones are 14 only.Normally, Gaza needs 450 tons of flour; 100 goes for bakeries and 300 for house use. Part of the house share flour is being provided by UNRWA which halted its work lately. The remaining flour and wheat quantities would be covering the needs of people except for few days.
Sameh A. Habeeb, B.A.
Gaza Strip, Palestine
Mob: 00972599306096
Tel: 0097282802825
Kawther Salam is a Palestinian journalist. She had a career of over 20 years working for various newspapers and TV stations in Palestine. She forced to live in the Exile in Vienna since 2002.
This rocket picture was published at the ORF website (Pic Credit: MOHAMED SABER/EPA/ORF)
The hungry people of Gaza under the Israeli blockade picture. (Pic Credit: Sameh Habeeb)
The Invasion of Gaza: "Operation Cast Lead", Part of a Broader Israeli Military-Intelligence Agenda
By Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research, January 4, 2009
The aerial bombings and the ongoing ground invasion of Gaza by Israeli ground forces must be analysed in a historical context. Operation "Cast Lead" is a carefully planned undertaking, which is part of a broader military-intelligence agenda first formulated by the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001:
"Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas."(Barak Ravid, Operation "Cast Lead": Israeli Air Force strike followed months of planning, Haaretz, December 27, 2008)
It was Israel which broke the truce on the day of the US presidential elections, November 4: "Israel used this distraction to break the ceasefire between itself and Hamas by bombing the Gaza strip. Israel claimed this violation of the ceasefire was to prevent Hamas from digging tunnels into Israeli territory.The very next day, Israel launched a terrorizing siege of Gaza, cutting off food, fuel, medical supplies and other necessities in an attempt to “subdue” the Palestinians while at the same time engaging in armed incursions.
In response, Hamas and others in Gaza again resorted to firing crude, homemade, and mainly inaccurate rockets into Israel. During the past seven years, these rockets have been responsible for the deaths of 17 Israelis. Over the same time span, Israeli Blitzkrieg assaults have killed thousands of Palestinians, drawing worldwide protest but falling on deaf ears at the UN." (Shamus Cooke, The Massacre in Palestine and the Threat of a Wider War, Global Research, December 2008)
Planned Humanitarian Disaster
On December 8, US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte was in Tel Aviv for discussions with his Israeli counterparts including the director of Mossad, Meir Dagan.
"Operation Cast Lead" was initiated two days day after Christmas. It was coupled with a carefully designed international Public Relations campaign under the auspices of Israel's Foreign Ministry.
Hamas' military targets are not the main objective. Operation "Cast Lead" is intended, quite deliberately, to trigger civilian casualities.
What we are dealing with is a "planned humanitarian disaster" in Gaza in a densly populated urban area. (See map below)
******* The longer term objective of this plan, as formulated by Israeli policy makers, is the expulsion of Palestinians from Palestinian lands:
"Terrorize the civilian population, assuring maximal destruction
of property and cultural resources... [T]he daily life of the Palestinians must
be rendered unbearable: They should be locked up in cities and towns, prevented
from exercising normal economic life, cut off from workplaces, schools and
hospitals. This will encourage emigration and weaken the resistance to future
expulsions" Ur Shlonsky, quoted by Ghali Hassan, Gaza: The World’s Largest Prison, Global Research, 2005)
"Operation Justified Vengeance"
A turning point has been reached. Operation "Cast Lead" is part of the broader military-intelligence operation initiated at the outset the Ariel Sharon government in 2001. It was under Sharon's "Operation Justified Vengeance" that F-16 fighter planes were initially used to bomb Palestinian cities.
"Operation Justified Vengeance" was presented in July 2001 to the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon by IDF chief of staff Shaul Mofaz, under the title "The Destruction of the Palestinian Authority and Disarmament of All Armed Forces".
"A contingency plan, codenamed Operation Justified Vengeance, was drawn up last June [2001] to reoccupy all of the West Bank and possibly the Gaza Strip at a likely cost of "hundreds" of Israeli casualties." (Washington Times, 19 March 2002).
According to Jane's 'Foreign Report' (July 12, 2001) the Israeli army under Sharon had updated its plans for an "all-out assault to smash the Palestinian authority, force out leader Yasser Arafat and kill or detain its army".
"Bloodshed Justification"The "Bloodshed Justification" was an essential component of the military-intelligence agenda. The killing of Palestinian civilians was justified on "humanitarian grounds." Israeli military operations were carefully timed to coincide with the suicide attacks:
The assault would be launched, at the government's discretion,
after a big suicide bomb attack in Israel, causing widespread deaths and
injuries, citing the bloodshed as justification. (Tanya Reinhart, Evil Unleashed, Israel's move to destroy the
Palestinian Authority is a calculated plan, long in the making
Global Research, December 2001)
The Dagan Plan
"Operation Justified Vengeance"
was also referred to as the "Dagan Plan", named after General (ret.) Meir Dagan,
who currently heads Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency.
Reserve General
Meir Dagan was Sharon's national security adviser during the 2000 election
campaign. The plan was apparently drawn up prior to Sharon’s election as Prime
Minister in February 2001. "According to Alex Fishman writing in Yediot
Aharonot, the Dagan Plan consisted in destroying the Palestinian authority and
putting Yasser Arafat 'out of the game'." (Ellis Shulman, "Operation Justified Vengeance": a Secret Plan
to Destroy the Palestinian Authority
, March 2001): "As reported in the Foreign Report [Jane] and disclosed locally by Maariv, Israel's invasion plan — reportedly dubbed Justified Vengeance — would be launched immediately following the next high-casualty suicide bombing, would last about a month and is expected to result in the death of hundreds of Israelis and thousands of Palestinians."The "Dagan Plan" envisaged the so-called "cantonization" of the Palestinian territories whereby the West Bank and Gaza would be totally cut off from one other, with separate "governments" in each of the territories. Under this scenario, already envisaged in 2001, Israel would:
"negotiate separately with Palestinian forces that are dominant in each territory-Palestinian forces responsible for security, intelligence, and even for the Tanzim (Fatah)." The plan thus closely resembles the idea of "cantonization" of Palestinian territories, put forth by a number of ministers." Sylvain Cypel, The infamous 'Dagan Plan' Sharon's plan for getting rid of Arafat, Le Monde, December 17, 2001)
******* From Left to Right: Dagan, Sharon, Halevy
The Dagan Plan has established continuity in the military-intelligence agenda. In the wake of the 2000 elections, Meir Dagan was assigned a key role. "He became Sharon’s "go-between" in security issues with President’s Bush’s special envoys Zinni and Mitchell." He was subsequently appointed Director of the Mossad by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in August 2002. In the post-Sharon period, he remained head of Mossad. He was reconfirmed in his position as Director of Israeli Intelligence by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in June 2008.
Meir Dagan, in coordination with his US counterparts, has been in charge of various military-intelligence operations. It is worth noting that Meir Dagan as a young Colonel had worked closely with defense minister Ariel Sharon in the raids on Palestinian settlements in Beirut in 1982. The 2009 ground invasion of Gaza, in many regards, bear a canny resemblance to the 1982 military operation led by Sharon and Dagan. Continuity: From Sharon to Olmert
Olmert and Sharon
It is important to focus on a number of key events which have led up to the killings in Gaza under "Operation Cast Lead":
1. The assassination in November 2004 of Yaser Arafat. This assassination had been on the drawing board since 1996 under "Operation Fields of Thorns". According to an October 2000 document "prepared by the security services, at the request of then Prime Minister Ehud Barak, stated that 'Arafat, the person, is a severe threat to the security of the state [of Israel] and the damage which will result from his disappearance is less than the damage caused by his existence'". (Tanya Reinhart, Evil Unleashed, Israel's move to destroy the Palestinian Authority is a calculated plan, long in the making, Global Research, December 2001. Details of the document were published in Ma'ariv, July 6, 2001.).
Arafat's assassination was ordered in 2003 by the Israeli cabinet. It was approved by the US which vetoed a United Nations Security Resolution condemning the 2003 Israeli Cabinet decision. Reacting to increased Palestinian attacks, in August 2003, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz declared "all out war" on the militants whom he vowed "marked for death."
"In mid September, Israel's government passed a law to get rid of Arafat. Israel's cabinet for political security affairs declared it "a decision to remove Arafat as an obstacle to peace." Mofaz threatened; "we will choose the right way and the right time to kill Arafat." Palestinian Minister Saeb Erekat told CNN he thought Arafat was the next target. CNN asked Sharon spokesman Ra'anan Gissan if the vote meant expulsion of Arafat. Gissan clarified; "It doesn't mean that. The Cabinet has today resolved to remove this obstacle. The time, the method, the ways by which this will take place will be decided separately, and the security services will monitor the situation and make the recommendation about proper action." (See Trish Shuh, Road Map for a Decease Plan, November 9 2005)

Abbas and Olmert
The assassination of Arafat was part of the 2001 Dagan Plan. In all likelihood, it was carried out by Israeli Intelligence. It was intended to destroy the Palestinian Authority, foment divisions within Fatah as well as between Fatah and Hamas. Mahmoud Abbas is a Palestinian quisling. He was installed as leader of Fatah, with the approval of Israel and the US, which finance the Palestinian Authority's paramilitary and security forces.

Abbas and Bush
2. The removal, under the orders of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2005, of all Jewish settlements in Gaza. A Jewish population of over 7,000 was relocated.
"It is my intention [Sharon] to carry out an evacuation – sorry, a relocation – of settlements that cause us problems and of places that we will not hold onto anyway in a final settlement, like the Gaza settlements.... I am working on the assumption that in the future there will be no Jews in Gaza," Sharon said." (CBC, March 2004)
The issue of the settlements in Gaza was presented as part of Washington's "road map to peace". Celebrated by the Palestinians as a "victory", this measure was not directed against the Jewish settlers. Quite the opposite: It was part of the overall covert operation, which consisted in transforming Gaza into a concentration camp. As long as Jewish settlers were living inside Gaza, the objective of sustaining a large barricaded prison territory could not be achieved. The Implementation of "Operation Cast Lead" required "no Jews in Gaza".
3. The building of the infamous Apartheid Wall was decided upon at the beginning of the Sharon government.
4. The next phase was the Hamas election victory in January 2006. Without Arafat, the Israeli military-intelligence architects knew that Fatah under Mahmoud Abbas would loose the elections. This was part of the scenario, which had been envisaged and analyzed well in advance. With Hamas in charge of the Palestinian authority, using the pretext that Hamas is a terrorist organization, Israel would carry out the process of "cantonization" as formulated under the Dagan plan. Fatah under Mahmoud Abbas would remain formally in charge of the West Bank. The duly elected Hamas government would be confined to the Gaza strip.
Ground Attack
On January 3, Israeli tanks and infantry entered Gaza in an all out ground offensive:
"The ground operation was preceded by several hours of heavy artillery fire after dark, igniting targets in flames that burst into the night sky. Machine gun fire rattled as bright tracer rounds flashed through the darkness and the crash of hundreds of shells sent up streaks of fire. (AP, January 3, 2009)
Israeli sources have pointed to a lengthy drawn out military operation. It "won't be easy and it won't be short," said Defense Minister Ehud Barak in a TV address.
Israel is not seeking to oblige Hamas "to cooperate". What we are dealing with is the implementation of the "Dagan Plan" as initially formulated in 2001, which called for:
"an invasion of Palestinian-controlled territory by some 30,000 Israeli soldiers, with the clearly defined mission of destroying the infrastructure of the Palestinian leadership and collecting weaponry currently possessed by the various Palestinian forces, and expelling or killing its military leadership." (Ellis Shulman, op cit)
The broader question is whether Israel in consultation with Washington is intent upon triggering a wider war. Mass expulsion could occur at some later stage of the ground invasion, were the Israelis to open up Gaza's borders to allow for an exodus of population. Expulsion was referred to by Ariel Sharon as the "a 1948 style solution". For Sharon "it is only necessary to find another state for the Palestinians. -'Jordan is Palestine' - was the phrase that Sharon coined." (Tanya Reinhart, op cit)
Operation "Cast Lead": Israeli Air Force strike followed months of planning
by Barak Ravid
Global Research, December 28, 2008
Global Research Editor's Note While the Western media remains silent and complicit, the Israeli Press (Haaretz) reveals the unspoken truth: the careful planning of a military operation entitled "Cast Lead" coupled with a media disinformation and diplomatic campaign. What we are witnessing is genocide. Let us be under no illusiions, this operation was implemented with the knowledge and approval of Israeli's allies.
Long-term planning, meticulous intelligence-gathering, secret discussions, visual deception tactics and disinformation preceded operation "Cast Lead" which the Israel Air Force launched yesterday in Gaza to take out Hamas targets in the Strip.
The disinformation effort, according to defense officials, took Hamas by surprise and served to significantly increase the number of its casualties in the strike.
Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. According to the sources, Barak maintained that although the lull would allow Hamas to prepare for a showdown with Israel, the Israeli army needed time to prepare, as well. Advertisement
Barak gave orders to carry out a comprehensive intelligence-gathering drive which sought to map out Hamas' security infrastructure, along with that of other militant organizations operating in the Strip.
This intelligence-gathering effort brought back information about permanent bases, weapon silos, training camps, the homes of senior officials and coordinates for other facilities.
The plan of action that was implemented in Operation Cast Lead remained only a blueprint until a month ago, when tensions soared after the IDF carried out an incursion into Gaza during the ceasefire to take out a tunnel which the army said was intended to facilitate an attack by Palestinian militants on IDF troops.
On November 19, following dozens of Qassam rockets and mortar rounds which exploded on Israeli soil, the plan was brought for Barak's final approval. Last Thursday, on December 18, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak met at IDF Kiryat headquarters in central Tel Aviv to approve the operation.
However, they decided to put the mission on hold to see whether Hamas would hold its fire after the expiration of the ceasefire. They therefore put off bringing the plan for the cabinet's approval, but they did inform Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of the developments.
That night, in speaking to the media, sources in the Prime Minister's Bureau said that "if the shooting from Gaza continues, the showdown with Hamas would be inevitable." On the weekend, several ministers in Olmert's cabinet inveighed against him and against Barak for not retaliating for Hamas' Qassam launches.
"This chatter would have made Entebe or the Six Day War impossible," Barak said in responding to the accusations. The cabinet was eventually convened on Wednesday, but the Prime Minister's Bureau misinformed the media in stating the discussion would revolve around global jihad. The ministers learned only that morning that the discussion would actually pertain to the operation in Gaza.
In its summary announcement for the discussion, the Prime Minister's Bureau devoted one line to the situation in Gaza, compared to one whole page that concerned the outlawing of 35 Islamic organizations.
What actually went on at the cabinet meeting was a five-hour discussion about the operation in which ministers were briefed about the various blueprints and plans of action. "It was a very detailed review," one minister said.
The minister added: "Everyone fully understood what sort of period we were heading into and what sort of scenarios this could lead to. No one could say that he or she did not know what they were voting on." The minister also said that the discussion showed that the lessons of the Winograd Committee about the performance of decision-makers during the 2006 Second Lebanon War were "fully internalized."
At the end of the discussion, the ministers unanimously voted in favor of the strike, leaving it for the prime minister, the defense minister and the foreign minister to work out the exact time.
While Barak was working out the final details with the officers responsible for the operation, Livni went to Cairo to inform Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak, that Israel had decided to strike at Hamas.
In parallel, Israel continued to send out disinformation in announcing it would open the crossings to the Gaza Strip and that Olmert would decide whether to launch the strike following three more deliberations on Sunday - one day after the actual order to launch the operation was issued.
"Hamas evacuated all its headquarter personnel after the cabinet meeting on Wednesday," one defense official said, "but the organization sent its people back in when they heard that everything was put on hold until Sunday."
The final decision was made on Friday morning, when Barak met with Chief of Staff General Gabi Ashkenazi, the head of the Shin Bet Security Service Yuval Diskin and the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate, Amos Yadlin. Barak sat down with Olmert and Livni several hours later for a final meeting, in which the trio gave the air force its orders.
On Friday night and on Saturday morning, opposition leaders and prominent political figures were informed about the impending strike, including Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, Yisrael Beuiteinu's Avigdor Liebermen, Haim Oron from Meretz and President Shimon Peres, along with Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik.
Gaza: The World’s Largest Prison
by Ghali Hassan
Global Research, August 13, 2005
Sometime in August, Israel will configure its 38-years illegal military occupation of the Gaza Strip by unilaterally ‘disengaging’ from the territory and evacuating the Jewish settlers there. No one knows for sure if it really will happen. The Palestinian territory will continue to be under Israel’s brutal occupation. Israel’s ‘disengagement’ plan is nothing but an Israeli PR over-sold by Western media as the brutality of the Occupation continues unhindered, and Israel will continue to guard the world’s largest open-air prison.
Gaza is the most densely populated territory on earth, where 1.4 million defenceless Palestinians huddle together in an area of about 360 square km. Gaza forms the westernmost portion of original Palestine, having land borders with Egypt on the south-west and today’s Israel on the northern and eastern borders. The territory is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea on the west.
Furthermore, the overcrowded territory has no significance to Israel and has always been considered as a burden. By ‘disengaging’ from Gaza and evacuating the Jewish settlers there, Sharon will concentrate on the annexation of important Palestinian lands in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
It is revealed recently that the Israeli Army (IA) is building a high tech complex to surround the coastal territory with the world most impenetrable barrier. The barrier will include fences with electronic sensors, watchtowers mounted with remote control machineguns, and hundreds of videos and night vision cameras. The complex includes new army bases and 22-foot concrete walls around nearby Israeli settlements. Watchtowers armed with remote-controlled machine guns are to be built every 1.2 miles. Remote-controlled, unmanned vehicles will begin patrolling the area soon after the completion of the barrier. The barrier will run about 35 miles and will cost about $220 million. The barrier will be completed by mid-2006. Thus, Israel will symbolically relinquish its control of Palestinian lives to remote-controlled aliens. Freedom of movement will disappear completely from the life of Palestinians.
Since the creation of Israel in 1948 by Western powers in Palestine, Israel has been financed and encouraged by the same powers to expand by way of dispossessing the Palestinians with vicious form of terrorism. The US and Britain (Israel main backers) are said to be thrilled by Israel’s ‘disengagement’ plan, the brainchild of the criminal Ariel Sharon. The purpose of the ‘disengagement’ plan is to: (1) remove the Palestinians as a negotiation partners in any peaceful and just settlement; (2) provide Israel with a cover-up to steal more Palestinian land and built more illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem; (3) provide Ariel Sharon with US money to continue the dispossession of Palestinians; (4) allow Israel to continue the construction of the Apartheid Wall – declared illegal by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – in the West Bank and Jerusalem; (5) prevent the establishment of a viable Palestinian state; and (6) enhance Israel’s image in the US and Western capitals as a "peace-loving" people and provide the necessary publicity and sympathy for its violent and illegal Jewish settlers.
To dramatise the situation and gain sympathy for Israel’s policy and the Jewish settlers in particular, Israeli and world viewers are showing a rare sensitivity for human suffering of the oppressors playing the role of victims. "When tens of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes, after their homes with all of their possessions, were crushed by Israel Army bulldozers", wrote Israeli journalist Gideon Levy of Ha’aretz in Tel Aviv. Since 1967, the Israeli Army have demolished more than 12,000 Palestinian homes. "The hundreds of families whose homes were expropriated, the farmers dispossessed of their lands, the uprooted [olive and fruit] trees and the children who witnessed the brutality, [all] these were never given even a fraction of the media coverage the [illegal Jewish] settlers have received [in Israel and in the West]", added Gideon Levy. Further, during the Palestinian Intifada of September 2000 to March 2004, the Israeli Army murdered 2,859, including 527, children (below 18 years) and 308 in cold-blooded extrajudicial killings.
According to Sharon’s adviser, Dov Weisglass, Sharon decided to disengage from Gaza to consolidate the illegal settlements in the West Bank and, more importantly, to prevent any future negotiation with the Palestinians. The ‘engagement’ plan is the best pretext for the expropriation of about 58 per cent of Palestinian lands in the West Bank and Jerusalem, including all water aquifers and fertile land, to build more illegal settlement. A criminal policy of land theft supported and financed by the current US administration.
Meanwhile, the reality on the ground for Palestinians is that Israel’s policy of ethnic cleansing and Israel’s expansion will continue and no ‘disengagement’ plan will change its brutal Zionist policy. The policy is leaving Palestinian communities completely cut off from each other by a network of Jewish-only roads, Israeli military checkpoints, tunnels, and the Apartheid Wall. The Wall is "being built at high speed, deep inside Palestinian [occupied territories], while Israel’s main supporters looks away", wrote Meron Rapoport, a journalist with Ha’aretz. The Bush-Blair war on Iraq couldn’t come at a better time for Israel. The new Palestine envisaged by Bush and Sharon will look like a collection of isolated ghettos dependent on the mercy of Israel’s terror.
The Wall is not only imprisoned the Palestinian people, but also expropriates their land and fractionates the entire Palestinian civil society. Israel claims that the Wall is built to protect Israel is a fabricated lie. Its true purpose is to expropriate Palestinian land and water sources, weaken Palestinian identity, and at the same time consolidate Jewish ethnicity over Palestine (Judaisation of Palestine). The aim is to create a ‘demographically pure Jewish state’. "[W]e are going to cleanse the whole area and do the work ourselves", said Benjamin Netanyahu, America’s favourite terrorist and former Israel’s Prime Minister and Finance Minister.
It should be recognised the policy of ethnic cleansing, land expropriation, restrictions and violations of human rights of the Palestinians have the strong backing of the US administration, Britain and most Western governments. The creation of Palestinian ghettos has similarity with the myth of Western "multiculturalism", where the "others" are isolated, dehumanised and subjugated to society’s wrath.
On 03 August 2005, the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) argued that the Apartheid Wall is a violation of Israel's human rights obligations. The Commission eight human rights experts who visited Israel to assess the impact of the Wall on Palestinian lives called on Israel to adhere to international law and "to stop construction of the wall". UNHRC also urged Israel to pay compensation to Palestinians for damage caused by construction of the Apartheid Wall. The UNHRC said in a statement; "The wall violates important norms of international humanitarian law prohibiting the annexation of occupied territory, the establishment of settlements, and the confiscation of private land and the forcible transfer of people". The statement also reminded all nations that "they are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation". In addition, the evacuation of 9,000 Jewish settlers from Gaza will turn Palestinian life in the West Bank "into hell", said former Israel’s Education Minister, Shulamit Aloni. The US is said to pay about $2.2 billion for the cost of dismantling the settlements and the evacuation of the illegal settlers. The settlements were initially built with US money.
As for Palestinians living in Gaza, Israel will continue to control Gaza's borders, coastline, airspace, telecommunications, water sources, and electricity supply. Egypt, which is well-known for its harsh treatment of Palestinians, may be given the role of Israeli enforcer on its border with Gaza. US-made F16 fighter planes and Apache helicopters will continue as often as possible to rain their deadly missiles and bombs on Palestinian population centres there. Palestinian identity will be further weakening – by Israel’s policy of fractionation –, and Palestinians in Gaza will be more isolated from not only the rest of the world, but also from the rest of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
As Ur Shlonsky, a professor of Linguistics at Geneva University in Switzerland wrote, Israel’s aim is to "terrorise the civilian population, assuring maximal destruction of property and cultural resources". At the same time, "the daily life of the Palestinians must be rendered unbearable: They should be locked up in cities and towns, prevented from exercising normal economic life, cut off from workplaces, schools and hospitals, This will encourage emigration and weaken the resistance to future expulsions" similar to that of 1948.
The ‘world community’ should be too familiar with Ariel Sharon genocidal policy not to abandon the Palestinian people to his "evil ideology" of destroying the Palestinian people as an independent political and social entity. Every nation in a civilised community has an obligation to reject Nazism, and support the Palestinian rights of return to their homeland and self-determination. To trust Ariel Sharon ‘disengagement’ plan is to be complicit in Sharon’s history of crimes against the Palestinian people.
Ghali Hassan lives in Perth, Western Australia.
Media Lies and PalestineFebruary 17, 2008
Toronto, Canada
Well, another day another blown up house in Gaza. Just add it to the list. Don’t worry though – it wasn’t the Israelis, it was just a coincidence that one of their F-15s flew overhead right before the explosion, which killed not just a Palestinian militant but his wife and kids, plus another 17 local children. And even if it was the Israelis, well, it’s just a response to Palestinian terror. Right?The way the media spins it, everything that happens in Palestine/Israel is the result of those unruly Palestinians. They’re just so…so extreme. Can you imagine, firing rockets into Israel?Of course, the reporting on Israel’s regular bombardments with helicopter gunships, tanks and jet fighters – provided by US taxpayers for America’s most important military base, I mean ally – is either non-existent or makes it seem like poor Israel is besieged by irrational lunatics. So, for instance, a Globe & Mail story that was online Sunday said that Israeli Prime Minister Olmert had given his military a “free hand” after a Palestinian rocket “slammed” into a house in Israel on Saturday.They don’t mention that the rocket attack was a response to Israeli bombardment that happened on Friday, and which killed 8 people and wounded dozens of others. They also don’t mention that Israel has been bombing and invading Gaza almost every day of the week since Hamas took over, in order to break the Palestinians’ resistance.Nor is it ever mentioned that the Palestinians have been systematically robbed of their land and dignity within living memory, nor that the Israeli ‘security wall’ is being used to expand Israel’s borders, separate Palestinian towns from their agricultural fields and olive groves (regular bulldozed to expand settlements).Even now, Gaza is the world’s largest open-air prison with an illegal Israeli lockdown on fuel and medical supplies, even food. As Israeli officials were noting publicly back in 2006:“Israel's policy was summed up by Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, earlier this year. 'The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger,' he said. The hunger pangs are supposed to encourage the Palestinians to force Hamas to change its attitude towards Israel or force Hamas out of government.”By the way, collective punishment is a war crime and is disturbingly reminiscent of the treatment meted out to Jewish populations in Europe under the Nazis. I remember reading about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and how the Nazis sought to starve the Jews into submission and, ultimately out of existence.And Israel regularly blows up any infrastructure that would allow the Palestinians to maintain some self-sufficiency, starting with Gaza’s only power plant. But it’s continued since then.
[An Israeli] warplane fired four missiles at a large vegetable storage facility in al-Shaboura refugee camp in Rafah. As a result, the facility was destroyed completely. The owners of the 800-square-meter facility estimated their loss at approximately $700,000 US. Forty workers at this facility, which is owned by Dr. Abdul-Hadi Qishta, lost their jobs.The strike also targeted another vegetable factory owned by the Shabana Company. The factory's owners estimated their loss at approximately $350,000. The factory employed 80 workers in two shifts. Fourteen houses in the area were damaged partially or severely; one of them was destroyed completely and its owner and his wife received minor injuries. These fourteen homes were inhabited by 106 persons. Ten citizens were injured in this shelling; most of them were children.Later that night, at approximately 11:55pm, IOF warplanes launched four air strikes at an unfinished training site in the town of Bani Suhaila, east of Khan Younis. The attack caused damage to the building.A few minutes later, at approximately 12:30am (10 February), IOF warplanes fired a missile at a steel factory in al-Zaitoun neighborhood, southeast of Gaza City, destroying it completely and causing severe damage to a nearby workshop. The factory is owned by Yasin al-Madhoun. The shelling also caused damage to many houses and injury to 13 people from the neighborhood, including four children and six women.
Is it any wonder that the Palestinians celebrated when the border with Egypt came down? It was the worlds largest prison break, no matter how much western and Israeli media tried to spin it as some kind of frivolous shopping spree. It was desperation and resistance. It's clear that Israel will continue to produce the former and that the Palestinians have no choice but to continue the latter. And the media will continue to lie about both.But let's not kid ourselves, when one side has helicopter gunships, jet fighters, nukes and tank brigades and the other side has to stuff pieces of metal into tennis ball tubes to use them as missiles, there is no symmetry. When one side is the largest recipient of US aid - receiving as much as the entire rest of the US aid budget. When one side can starve, colonize, invade, harass and blow up the other side at will, the actions of those who are being starved, colonized and blown up are acts of resistance. The real terrorists are those who hide behind the 5th most powerful army in the world, supported by the most powerful empire in world history, to kill the indigenous populations of this tragic land.