Posts Tagged ‘Gaza City’

Family who lost 29 members in Gaza War: We envy the dead

October 19, 2009

By Amira Hass, Haaretz/Israel, Oct 18, 2009

Richard Goldstone visited the Gaza City neighborhood of Zaytoun in late June to tour the compound of the extended Samouni family, the subject of coverage here in recent weeks (“‘I fed him like a baby bird,'” September 17; “Death in the Samouni compound,” September 25). Twenty-nine members of the family, all of them civilians, were killed in the Israel Defense Force’s winter assault – 21 during the shelling of a house where IDF soldiers had gathered some 100 members of the family a day earlier.

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Israel’s Doctrine of Destruction

January 21, 2009

By JONATHAN COOK | Counterpunch, Jan 20, 2009

Nazareth.

In the last days before Israel imposed a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza to avoid embarrassing the incoming Obama administration, it upped its assault, driving troops deeper into Gaza City, intensifying its artillery bombardment and creating thousands more displaced people.

Israel’s military strategy in Gaza, even in what its officials were calling the “final act”, followed a blueprint laid down during the Lebanon war more than two years ago.

Then, Israel destroyed much of Lebanon’s infrastructure in a month of intensive air strikes. Even in the war’s last few hours, as a ceasefire was being finalised, Israel fired more than a million cluster bombs over south Lebanon, apparently in the hope that the area could be made as uninhabitable as possible.

Similarly, Israel’s destruction of Gaza continued with unrelenting vigour to the very last moment, even though according to reports in the Israeli media the air force exhausted what it called its “bank of Hamas targets” in the first few days of fighting.

The military sidestepped the problem by widening its definition of Hamas-affiliated buildings. Or as one senior official explained: “There are many aspects of Hamas, and we are trying to hit the whole spectrum because everything is connected and everything supports terrorism against Israel.”

That included mosques, universities, most government buildings, the courts, 25 schools, 20 ambulances and several hospitals, as well as bridges, roads, 10 electricity generating stations, sewage lines, and 1,500 factories, workshops and shops.

Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah estimate the damage so far at $1.9 billion, pointing out that at least 21,000 residential apartment buildings need repairing or rebuilding, forcing 100,000 Palestinians into refugeedom once again. In addition, 80 per cent of all agricultural infrastructure and crops were destroyed. The PA has described its estimate as “conservative”.

None of this will be regretted by Israel. In fact the general devastation, far from being unfortunate collateral damage, has been the offensive’s unstated goal. Israel has sought the political, as well as military, emasculation of Hamas through the widespread destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure and economy.

This is known as the “Dahiya Doctrine”, named after a suburb of Beirut that was almost levelled during Israel’s attack on Lebanon in summer 2006. The doctrine was encapsulated in a phrase used by Dan Halutz, Israel’s chief of staff, at the time. He said Lebanon’s bombardment would “turn back the clock 20 years”.

The commanding officer in Israel’s south, Yoav Galant, echoed those sentiments on the Gaza offensive’s first day: the aim, he said, was to “send Gaza decades into the past”.

Beyond these soundbites, Gadi Eisenkot, the head of Israel’s northern command, clarified in October the practical aspects of the strategy: “What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases. This is not a recommendation. This is a plan.”

In the interview, Gen Eisenkot was discussing the next round of hostilities with Hizbollah. However, the doctrine was intended for use in Gaza, too.

Gabriel Siboni, a colonel in the reserves, set out the new “security concept” in an article published by Tel Aviv University’s Institute of National Security Studies two months before the assault on Gaza. Conventional military strategies for waging war against states and armies, he wrote, could not defeat sub-national resistance movements, such as Hizbollah and Hamas, that have deep roots in the local population.

The goal instead was to use “disproportionate force”, thereby “inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes”.

Col Siboni identified the chief target of Israel’s rampages as “decision makers and the power elite”, including “economic interests and the centres of civilian power that support the [enemy] organisation”.

The best Israel could hope for against Hamas and Hizbollah, Col Siboni conceded, was a ceasefire on improved terms for Israel and delaying the next confrontation by leaving “the enemy floundering in expensive, long-term processes of reconstruction”.

In the case of Gaza’s lengthy reconstruction, however, Israel says it hopes not to repeat the mistakes of Lebanon. Then, Hizbollah, aided by Iranian funds, further bolstered its reputation among the local population by quickly moving to finance the rebuilding of Lebanese homes destroyed by Israel.

According to the Israeli media, the foreign ministry has already assembled a task force for “the day after” to ensure neither Hamas nor Iran take the credit for Gaza’s reconstruction.

Israel wants all aid to be be channelled either through the Palestinian Authority or international bodies. Sealing off Gaza, by preventing smuggling through tunnels under the border with Egypt, is an integral part of this strategy.

Much to Israel’s satisfaction, the rebuilding of Gaza is likely to be even slower than might have been expected.

Diplomats point out that, even if western aid flows to the Palestinian Authority, it will make little effect if Israel maintains the blockade, curbing imports of steel, cement and money.

And international donors are already reported to be tired of funding building projects in Gaza only to see them destroyed by Israel a short time later.

With more than a hint of exasperation, Norway’s foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Stoere, summed up the general view of donors last week: “Shall we give once more for the construction of something which is being destroyed, re-constructed and destroyed?”

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

Broken town shows Gaza destruction

January 19, 2009

BBC, January 18, 2009

Gazans returning to their homes in Beit Lahiya were shocked

The BBC’s Paul Wood is part of the first group of journalists to gain independent access to Gaza from Israel. He reports from Gaza City on his impressions as he entered northern Gaza hours after Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire.

The Erez crossing from Israel into Gaza is an eerie place at the best of times.

The first hours of a shaky ceasefire are not “the best of times”.

As we stepped out of the concrete tunnel which leads from Israeli passport control, we could hear tanks manoeuvring nearby.

Their spent shells were on the ground. Israeli drones – un-manned aircraft – were circling overhead.

Unsurprisingly, the road was completely deserted, save for a couple of wild dogs and a donkey whose owner had long since fled.

The Hamas customs post, too, was abandoned – destroyed by Israeli fire.

Residents in Gaza describe their ordeal

But it was in the nearby town of Beit Lahiya that we saw the first real destruction and a hint of how so many lives have been lost here.

There were streets churned up by Israeli heavy armour; overturned cars; a lake of raw sewage in the street and a mosque left as a broken, charred ruin and smoke was still rising from a large school building across the way.

A Palestinian man carrying a white cane told me how his 13-year-old son had been killed by a tank shell.

“We were sleeping in our beds,” he says, “I am nearly blind. We were no threat to the Israelis.”

Everyone here denied there were military targets in the homes fired on by the Israeli forces.

But Hamas officials stopped us from filming at one site where bodies were still being removed.

This was a sign, perhaps, that there had indeed been some kind of military target if not in the houses then nearby.

Who is to blame for the loss of life in Gaza will be fiercely disputed between Israel and Hamas even as the final death toll is calculated.

Gazans fear Israel using phosphorus

January 12, 2009
Al Jazeera, January 12, 2008

Human Rights Watch said it was clear Israel had fired shells containing white phopshorus[GALLO/GETTY]

Doctors in Gaza City have told Al Jazeera that people have been admitted suffering burns consistent with the use of the controversial chemical white phosphorus.

Human rights campaigners say that Israeli forces have used the munition, which can burn away human flesh to the bone, over Gaza City and Jabaliya in recent days.

Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, said: “Doctors here say they are seeing unprecedented levels of deep burns.

“They cannot categorically say that white phosphorus is being used, they are saying that the munitions being dropped are unprecendented.”

Residents in densely-packed Jabaliya have described Israeli forces exploding shells that drop scores of burning fragments and spread suffocating smoke.

“Its the first time we see this type of weapon, it must be new and its seems like its phosphorous,” one resident told Al Jazeera.

“Its suffocating and has a deadly poisonous smell that I am sure will cause a lot of sickness and disease on all of the civilians here,” he said.

Another witness said she saw “… a bright flash and then all of these sparks fell on our area … landing all around us and in our homes. Our mattresses caught on fire”.

Law ‘violated’

The use of the munition in densely-populated areas violates the requirement under international humanitarian law for all feasible precautions to be taken to avoid civilian injury and loss of life, Human Rights Watch said.

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International law permits the use of white phosphorus in order to cover troop movements and prevent enemies from using certain guided weapons.

Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst at the human rights group told Al Jazeera on Saturday that he had watched Israeli ground forces using white phosphorus.

“Clearly it is [white phosphorus], we can tell by the explosions and the tendrils that go down [and] the fires that were burning,” he said.

“Today there were massive attacks in Jabaliya when we were there. We saw that there were numerous fires once the white phosphorus had gone in.

“We went by Israeli artillery units that had white phosphorus rounds with the fuses in them.”

Major Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, told Al Jazeera that the Israeli army was “using munitions with accordance to international law”.

“The policy of the IDF [Israeli Defence Force] is to not specify the types of munition, we have not done it before and we will not do it now.”

Mark Regev, the Israeli government spokesman, said he was unable to confirm or deny whether the military was using the chemical, but that Israel did not use munitions that were banned under international law.

“I don’t have the knowledge of the detail of what ammunition we are using. I can only know for a fact that Israel uses no ammunition that is outlawed under conventions and that Nato forces would not use in a similar combat situation,” he told Al Jazeera.

Israel used white phosphorus during its 34-day war against Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement in 2006, while the United States used it during the controversial siege of the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004.

Israeli savagery in Gaza

January 5, 2009

Eric Ruder reports on Israel’s savage invasion into one of the most densely populated places on earth.

Israeli tanks mass on border before ground invasion of Gaza (Rafael Ben-Ari | Chameleons Eye)Israeli tanks mass on border before ground invasion of Gaza (Rafael Ben-Ari | Chameleons Eye)

THE ISRAELI military stormed into Gaza January 3 with thousands of troops, tanks, armored personnel carriers and bulldozers, inflicting a new round of death and suffering on Gaza’s population.

“This will not be easy, and it will not be short,” said Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Israeli television as the ground invasion began. Major Gen. Yoav Galant, a top commander of Israel’s ground forces, told reporters that the aim of the operation was to “send Gaza decades into the past” and inflict “the maximum number of enemy casualties.”

The latest surge of Israel’s violence pushed the death toll among Palestinians to more than 500 and the injured to more than 2,500 as the weekend came to an end. More than one in three people in Gaza has no access to water and electricity, and sewage flows in the streets.

After a week of punishing air strikes and then heavy artillery barrages, Gaza’s residents live in a state of constant fear. As Ayman Mohyeldin, Al Jazeera’s Gaza correspondent, reported:

The Israeli military continues to pound targets everywhere in the territory. On the eighth day of attacks, people here are very much terrorized by what is going on. The Israeli military is engaging in very aggressive psychological warfare.

They have been dropping leaflets warning Palestinians that they have to flee their homes, and warning that anyone who lives in an area that could be a possible target that their home will be targeted as well. So that is causing a ripple effect of fear, but the question is where do 1.5 million Palestinians trapped in Gaza go?

What you can do

Protests against Israel’s assault on Gaza have already taken place in cities around the country, with more planned for the coming days. Contact local organizers for details where you live.

For updates on the current situation, plus commentary and analysis on the background to the war, read the Electronic Intifada Web site. Electronic Intifada Executive Director Ali Abunimah’s “Gaza massacres must spur us to action” is a good starting point for further reading.

You can also find updated coverage on conditions in Gaza and the efforts of activists to stand up to the Israeli war at the Free Gaza Web site.

Between the Lines: Readings on Israel, the Palestinians and the U.S. “War on Terror,” by Tikva Honig-Parnass and Toufic Haddad, documents the apartheid-like conditions that Palestinians live under today.

For background on Israel’s war and the Palestinian struggle for freedom, read The Struggle for Palestine, a collection of essays edited by Lance Selfa on the history of the occupation and Palestinian resistance.

Despite the scale of the human suffering, the U.S. government–predictably enough–blocked a proposed United Nations Security Council statement that expressed concern at the escalating violence between Israel and Hamas, and called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, according to the Associated Press.

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WITH THEIR incursion, Israeli forces encircled Gaza City and effectively sliced the territory into northern and southern halves. But rather than enter Gaza’s population centers, Israeli troops remained poised on the outskirts, sending columns of troops and tanks to seize strategic hilltops above urban areas–putting them in the position of the military equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel.

At the opening of the ground offensive January 4, the New York Times faithfully reported the assertion by Israeli Defense Ministry spokesperson Shlomo Dror that “Hamas can stop it whenever it wants,” by stopping its rocket fire.

This idea–that Hamas provoked Israel into attacking Gaza, and therefore bears primary responsibility for the bloodshed–serves as the primary justification for the Israeli military’s war crimes. But it was Israel that broke the truce with Hamas–back on November 5, with an attack that killed six Palestinians. Until that point, the Palestinians had scrupulously abided by the 5-month-old truce, only firing rockets after Israel attacked.

But Israel has never needed the excuse of Palestinian attacks to unleash violence. As Ilan Pappe, part of a school of “new historians” in Israel that has challenged many of the central myths of the country’s founding, wrote:

There are no boundaries to the hypocrisy that a righteous fury produces. The discourse of the generals and the politicians is moving erratically between self-compliments of the humanity the army displays in its “surgical” operations on the one hand, and the need to destroy Gaza for once and for all, in a humane way, of course, on the other.

This righteous fury is a constant phenomenon in the Israeli, and before that Zionist, dispossession of Palestine. Every act–whether it was ethnic cleansing, occupation, massacre or destruction–was always portrayed as morally just and as a pure act of self-defense, reluctantly perpetrated by Israel in its war against the worst kind of human beings…

Today in Israel, from left to right, from [the conservative party] Likud to [the centrist party] Kadima, from academia to the media, one can hear this righteous fury of a state that is more busy than any other state in the world in destroying and dispossessing an indigenous population.

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AS THE superpower of the Middle East, Israel has used its massive military superiority to physically annihilate the civilian and government infrastructure of Gaza. But it still faces a thorny problem. “Though Israel has struck at hundreds of targets across the Gaza Strip, it has yet to seriously injure Hamas’s fighting force,” according to the Christian Science Monitor.

This is the same problem that every conventional military power pitted against a resistance movement must contend with–from the French forces occupying Algeria in the 1950s, to the U.S. in Vietnam in the 1960s, to the American occupiers in Iraq today.

“One of the most important things in this conflict between state and non=state actors is what is the meaning of victory,” said Eitan Azani, a former Israeli colonel at the Institute for Counter Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. “A lot of people from [Hamas] dying? A collapse? Or most of the operational capability destroyed? This is up for debate. We are in a very complicated situation.”

The harder Israel tries to pound Gaza’s residents into submission from afar, the more fierce becomes support for the Hamas resistance fighters that Israel is seeking to isolate. But if Israeli troops attempt to fight Hamas militants at close quarters, conventional military superiority would be transformed from an advantage into a weakness–tanks and troops would become targets for a resistance that can choose when and where to strike, and then slip away.

In the words of Israeli-based journalist Jonathan Cook:

Gaza, as Israelis know only too well, is one mammoth refugee camp. Its narrow alleys, incapable of being negotiated by Merkava tanks, will force Israeli soldiers out into the open. Gaza, in the Israeli imagination, is a death trap.

Similarly, no one has forgotten the heavy toll on Israeli soldiers during the ground war [against Lebanon] with Hezbollah in 2006. In a country such as Israel, with a citizen army, the public has become positively phobic of a war in which large numbers of its sons will be placed in the firing line.

That fear is only heightened by reports in the Israeli media that Hamas is praying for the chance to engage Israel’s army in serious combat. The decision to sacrifice many soldiers in Gaza is not one [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak, leader of the Labor Party, will take lightly with an election in six weeks.

This dilemma has caused anxiety within the Israeli establishment about how to avoid the defeat the Israeli military suffered in 2006 when a month-long assault on Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon failed to achieve any of its strategic objectives, while Israeli troops were killed, injured and captured.

In this sense, despite the overwhelming force that Israel is using, it’s too soon to say that it has won. “The main risk for Israel is that it will drag out into a full occupation of the Gaza Strip,” worried Shlomo Brom, former director of the Israeli army’s planning division. “If we have very few casualties in this operation, it may lead some to ask why don’t we topple Hamas?”

Meanwhile, around the world, there has been an outpouring of solidarity for the people of Gaza–from Palestinians living in Israel, who staged a huge demonstration over the weekend; to Arab citizens around the Middle East; to supporters of Palestinian rights in Europe and the U.S.

This is critical to bringing pressure to bear on Israel–and its chief backer, the U.S.

Building this pressure will require patient explanation and sustained campaigning against the central justifications offered by Israel for its war of terror against the people of Gaza. It’s Israel, not Hamas, that can end this conflict at any time. When Israel ends its occupation of the Palestinian homeland, then the resistance will end.

As Ilan Pappe put it:

Despite the predictable accusation of anti-Semitism and what have you, it is time to associate in the public mind the Zionist ideology with the by-now familiar historical landmarks of the land: the ethnic cleansing of 1948, the oppression of the Palestinians in Israel during the days of the military rule, the brutal occupation of the West Bank and now the massacre of Gaza.

Very much as the apartheid ideology explained the oppressive policies of the South African government, this ideology–in its most consensual and simplistic variety–allowed all the Israeli governments in the past and the present to dehumanize the Palestinians wherever they are and strive to destroy them…

By connecting the Zionist ideology and the policies of the past with the present atrocities, we will be able to provide a clear and logical explanation for the campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions. Challenging by nonviolent means a self-righteous ideological state that allows itself, aided by a mute world, to dispossess and destroy the indigenous people of Palestine is a just and moral cause.

Inside Gaza: ‘The hospital morgues were already full. The dead were piled on top of each other outside’

December 28, 2008

By Sami Abdel-Shafi in Gaza city
The Independent, UK, Sunday, 28 December 2008

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I am safe, and yet I feel like a walking dead person. Everything around me shows it. It is hard to write something of any coherence while exposed to cold winter air and to the smell that lingers after the detonation of Israeli bombs. They must have been massive. During the bombing I opened all the windows around my apartment to avoid them imploding as a result of the vacuum shocks sweeping through Gaza City after each enormous bang. While the bombing continued, I jumped down two flights of stairs to my father’s house, to make sure he was OK. Should I open up all his windows too? That would expose the old man to the risk of illness. We have no medical care or medication. However, the risk from shattering glass was greater, so I opened them all.

Mobile phones did not work, because of electricity outages and the flood of attempted calls. I flipped the electricity generator on so that we could watch the news. We wanted to understand what was going on in our own neighbourhood. However, this was impossible. Israeli surveillance drones flew overhead, scrambling the reception. All I could do was step outside, where I found crowds of frantic people, lines of rising smoke and the smell of charred buildings and bodies that lay around targeted sites nearby. Somebody said the bombs had been launched in parallel raids over the entire Gaza Strip. What was the target here? Perhaps a police station about 200 metres away. Other bombs annihilated blocks less than a kilometre away, where one of the main police training centres stood. When the strikes began, a graduation ceremony for more than 100 recruits in a civil law enforcement programme was under way. These were the young men trained to organise traffic, instil civil safety and maintain law and order. Many of them were killed, it is said, in addition to the Gaza Strip’s police chief.

News came by word of mouth. There had been more than 150 deaths and more than 200 people were injured or missing under rubble after the first two hours of bombing. Israel had said it would continue the offensive and deepen it if necessary. Likewise, it was said that Hamas had launched more rockets at southern Israeli towns, causing one death and four injuries. Gaza had never seen anything like the numbers of dead bodies lying on its streets. Hospital morgues were already full. The dead were piled on top of each other outside.

Bombs targeting a Hamas security force building badly damaged an adjacent school, and several children were injured. We heard of many other targets around the Gaza Strip. It reminds me of the “shock and awe” campaign the Allies launched over Baghdad in 2003. But shock and awe did not bring stability or peace.

These bombs were launched by Israel, as we had known they would be. The world watched the situation simmer then boil over, but did nothing. There are some who believe that hell is divided into different classes. The ordinary people of Gaza have long been caught in the tormenting underworld. Now, if the world does not heed what has happened here, our situation will worsen. We will be trapped in the first class of hell.


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