Posts Tagged ‘killed and injured’

Iraqi Christians face ‘systematic violence’

July 27, 2009

By Fatih Abdulsalam, Uruknet.info, July 25, 2009

Targeting Iraqi Christians and their churches is a very dangerous thing, though it is nothing new in the ‘new’ and ‘democratic’ Iraq.

The bitter memory of what happened to Iraqi Christians last year in the northern city of Mosul is still alive and hurts everyone concerned with the well-being of Iraqis as a nation.

Mosul Christians were terrorized, forced to flee, leaving behind almost everything. Many of them were killed or injured.

What is shocking is the attitude of the Iraqi government. It did nothing to halt anti-Christian violence or alleviate the suffering of internally displaced Christians.

The outcome of the ‘independent’ investigation on the causes of the persecution is still under wraps. Like many other commissions, it will certainly never be made public.

The spate of bombings targeting Christian churches recently was met with indifference on the part of the government. There have been no tangible security measures to persuade Christians or their leaders that their future in the country is guaranteed.

But what is clear is that Iraqi Christians face systematic violence. And the government, as it does with almost every thing, puts the blame on al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda has turned into something like a hanger on which the government drapes all its dirty garments.

It is always easy to blame al-Qaeda. But when it appeared that the government had no measures in place to quell the anti-Christian violence in Mosul last year, it was clear that similar deeds were bound to happen.

It is the government which encourages violence by being so indifferent to the suffering of Iraqi Christian and other vulnerable minorities.

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UN: Sri Lankan attack a ‘bloodbath’

May 11, 2009
Al Jazeera, May 11, 2009

The pro-LTTE website Tamilnet released what they said were pictures of the shelling [AFP]

The UN has described the alleged killing of hundreds of Sri Lankan civilians in the country’s offensive against the separatist Tamil Tigers as a “bloodbath”.

The comments on Monday followed a weekend military attack on the last remaining stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE), in the northeast, that is said to have killed at least 378 civilians.

“We have consistently warned of a bloodbath scenario, and the large-scale killing of civilians over the weekend including at least more than 100 children shows that that bloodbath has now become a reality,” Gordon Weiss, the UN spokesman for Sri Lanka, told Al Jazeera.

The UN, like all international organisations and journalists, is banned from the war zone by the government.

However, Weiss said he was confident that the report of the deaths and more than 1,000 others wounded from a doctor working at a makeshift state-hospital in the area were correct.

“[Ban Ki-moon], the UN secretary-general, has consistently asked that we be allowed into the area to assess for ourselves the true condition of people there … we are relying on the only sources we have,” Weiss said.

“The government doctors reporting from that zone, to the best of our knowledge, have proved consistently reliable.”

LTTE accusations

Thileepan Parthipan, an LTTE spokesman, blamed the government for the deaths.

“In that area, there has been continuous shelling. Many Tamil civilians were killed,” he said.

Focus: Sri Lanka

Q&A: Sri Lanka’s civil war

The history of the Tamil Tigers

Timeline: Conflict in Sri Lanka

‘High cost’ of victory over Tigers

Caught in the middle

“More than 3,500 people were injured. A nearby hospital received 378 dead bodies.”Some bodies are still on the streets. There were people inside bunkers which collapsed in the shelling.”

Anton Stephan, a Catholic priest inside the zone, also spoke of heavy military bombardment.

“They are fighting civilians. They’re using cluster bombs, cannons. They’re shooting towards people,” he said.

However, the government accused the LTTE of killing civilians in order to blame the deaths on the military.

Gotobaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s defence secretary, told Al Jazeera on Monday that the government is not to blame for the civilian deaths “at all”.

“It is very easy to find out who is killing the civilians because there are 200,000 people who have escaped from the LTTE area to government-controlled areas and anybody can talk to these people,” he said.

“The day before yesterday, a thousand people tried to cross to a government-controlled area and the LTTE fired directly at these people.”

Reduced territory

The government announced on Friday new borders for the region it calls a civilian safety zone in the northeast where the fighting is happening. The coastal area is now 3sq km in size.

The UN called for fighting to halt and for the government to help civilians.

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled the northeastern war zone in recent weeks [AFP]

“The UN has repeatedly said to the government that they must not use aerial attacks and heavy ordnance in a tiny patch of land that is about the size of Central Park in New York and we have also said to the LTTE that they need to separate their forces from the civilians who are trapped in this area,” Weiss said.”There are about 50,000 to 100,000 civilians in this area and they need to let these civilians escape from this zone.”

Paul Castella, the head of International Committee of the Red Cross in Sri Lanka, told Al Jazeera that those trapped “have very little to eat, almost no medicines and very little way to protect themselves from the sun.

“In practice, at any time of the day or night, people can be hit by a shell or a stray bullet. And this is making life for the people extremely difficult.”

‘Very difficult position’

Weiss aqcknowledged that the Sri Lankan government was in “a very difficult position” regarding civilians’ safety.

“They are well within their rights to be taking the Tamil Tigers head on. The Tamil Tigers have proven themselves to be a brutal and intractable foe, and they are responsible for keeping civilians inside this zone.

“The onus is really principally on the government at this stage because they are the sovereign government of this territory”

Gordon Weiss,
UN spokesman

“But that being said, the onus is really principally on the government at this stage because they are the sovereign government of this territory. They have a higher degree of responsibility.”They are signed up to international treaties and protocols that protect civilians in precisely these circumstances and that’s why international humanitarian law and the wars law exist.”

The LTTE is believed to be close to defeat in its 26-year battle for a separate homeland in the northeast of the island for the country’s minority Tamils.

The group used to control a wide swath of Sri Lanka’s north, but the territory they hold has been reduced to the 3km strip of coastline following military advances this year.

In recent weeks fierce fighting has forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee to state-run refugee camps outside the zone, but more remain trapped by the conflict.

The government has refused to continence a humanitarian ceasefire saying it would allow the LTTE to regroup.

Sri Lanka’s war of terror

February 20, 2009

Nagesh Rao explains the historical background to the Sri Lankan government’s latest war crimes against the Tamil minority.

A group of made refugees in Sri Lanka's civil warA group of made refugees in Sri Lanka’s civil war

THE SRI LANKAN military is intensifying its war on the country’s Tamil minority–but the international media is focused far more on the violence of the Tamil resistance.

Just as the Israelis did during their most recent invasion of Gaza, Sri Lankan authorities have prevented journalists from entering war zones. Consequently, the media has largely followed official Sri Lankan pronouncements and viewed this decades-old conflict through the relatively new lens of the “war on terror.”

Meanwhile, human rights organizations, various NGOs, and Tamil organizations worldwide have produced evidence of a brutal military campaign by the Sri Lankan state directed against the Tamil population at large.

A January 28 Amnesty International press release about the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Sri Lanka stated:

“Recent fighting has placed more than a quarter of a million civilians at great risk. People displaced by the conflict are experiencing acute shortages of humanitarian aid, especially food, shelter and medical care. There has been no food convoy in the area since 16 January,” said Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International’s Sri Lanka researcher.

The Government of Sri Lanka is carrying out military operations in areas with a civilian population. The aerial and artillery bombardment has reportedly led to civilian deaths, injuries, the destruction of property and mass displacement on this island nation off India’s southeastern coast.

Sri Lankan government forces have pushed the Tamil Tigers out of all major urban areas they had held for nearly a decade and into a small pocket of land. More than 300,000 civilians who have fled the oncoming government troops are also trapped in this small area. They have been displaced multiple times and are increasingly vulnerable as fighting moves closer.

Hundreds of people have been killed or injured and such medical care as has been available is threatened due to danger to the few health workers and damage to hospitals.

The government had declared “safe zones” to allow civilians to seek shelter, but information made available to Amnesty International indicates that several civilians in the so-called safe zone have been killed or sustained injuries as a result of artillery bombardment.

A doctor working in a hospital in a “safe zone” says that about 1,000 shells fell around the hospital.

Yet even though Amnesty International demonstrated that the overwhelming responsibility for the violence lay with government authorities, it titled its press release, “Government and Tamil Tigers violating laws of war.” According to Amnesty, “in at least one instance,” the rebel Tamil Tigers blocked the movement of a Red Cross convoy of injured and at-risk people out of the war zone. The statement ends by quoting Yolanda Foster again:

The immediate priority is medical attention for the seriously wounded. The Tamil Tigers must let injured civilians go. Preventing civilians from accessing medical care constitutes a war crime.

The Amnesty International statement thus offers a lengthy list of crimes committed by the Sri Lankan military, only to end by suggesting that the obstacle to meeting the most “immediate priority” is the “war crime” being committed by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) group. Nowhere in the statement are the words “war crime” associated with the government’s actions, which are instead referred to as “a military campaign.”

In response, many Tamil activists and organizations have urged the international community to recognize the Sri Lankan government’s latest military assault on the Tamils as constituting, at a minimum, “acts of genocide” as defined by the Geneva Convention.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

ON THE streets of the capital Colombo, roving gangs of political thugs have waged a campaign of terror designed to intimidate any and all opposition to the Sri Lankan state. On January 28, human rights lawyer and activist Amitha Ariyaratne received death threats from police officers at a police station just north of Colombo. Three days later, his office was burned down by an unknown arsonist.

This came on the heels of the sensational assassination on January 8 of a leading journalist and critic of the government and editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper. Lasantha Wickramatunga was assassinated by unidentified assailants during his morning commute in rush-hour traffic. His car window was smashed in, and he was shot in the head, the chest and the stomach. He died on the way to the hospital.

Wickramatunga’s last article, “And then they came for me,” was a moving and passionate letter to his readers predicting his own death at the hands of his government. Not surprisingly, Reporters Without Borders ranks Sri Lanka 165th (out of 173 countries) in its index of press freedom around the world.

The Sri Lankan government has turned a deaf ear to international human rights organizations and Tamil NGOs who have complained about innumerable human rights violations and the ongoing humanitarian disaster in the northeast. Using “war on terror” rhetoric, Sri Lankan state propaganda has instead deflected international media attention towards war crimes allegedly committed by the LTTE.

However, the Sri Lankan government has absolved itself of its own obligation to respect human rights. In 2006 the Supreme Court declared that “[T]he Human Rights Committee at Geneva…is not reposed with judicial power under our constitution,” (see the text of the ruling here) providing a legal fig-leaf for the government’s draconian crackdown on the Tamils. The Asian Human Rights Commission has declared, “The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka is a part of the human rights violation mechanism.”

About 74 percent of the Sri Lankan population consists of Sinhala-speaking Buddhists, while the rest are Tamil-speaking Hindus and Muslims. Since the 1980s, a brutal civil war between the government forces and the Tamil Tigers has claimed over 70,000 lives, with hundreds of thousands more injured and displaced, the majority of them Tamils.

Most media reports date the origins of the conflict between the Tamils and the Sinhalese to the founding of the LTTE in the 1980s, but the Tamils have faced discrimination and repression at the hands of Colombo’s Sinhala-dominated government ever since Sri Lanka achieved its independence from Britain in 1948.

One of the first acts of the newly independent state in 1949 was to disenfranchise, at the stroke of a pen, some 1 million Tamils who had arrived in Sri Lanka in the twentieth century. They were declared non-citizens and told to return to India. Many of these “Indian Tamils” had been brought in by the British from India to not only labor in the tea plantations but to serve in the colonial administrative bureaucracy. British divide-and-rule policies resulted in special privileges for middle-class Tamils who had been educated in English in India. This bred resentment among sections of the Sinhala majority, and right-wing Sinhalese chauvinism began to gain ground during the waning years of British rule.

By disenfranchising the “Indian Tamils,” the newly-independent Sri Lankan state had resorted to a despicably ethnic-chauvinist policy, and encouraged the growth of the far right. In 1956, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) rode this wave of Sinhalese-Buddhist chauvinism to come to power and unleashed the first anti-Tamil pogrom, leaving some 100 Tamils dead and thousands displaced from their homes. The pogroms were led, and egged on, by militant and fascistic Buddhist monks.

Another wave of anti-Tamil hysteria in the 1960s resulted in the declaration of Sinhala as the only official language of the state. More pogroms followed in the early 1970s, with the monks and their allies periodically terrorizing and intimidating the Tamil population, while their political patrons reaped the rewards of a ready-made majority at the polls. In 1981, in an act that often referred to as “cultural genocide,” rioting policemen burned down the Jaffna Library, which housed much of the cultural memory of the Tamil population.

Continued >>

US Drone Strike Kills At Least 30 in South Waziristan

February 15, 2009

Official Says More Buried Under Rubble of Destroyed House

Antiwar.com

Posted February 14, 2009

A US drone launched two missiles at a large house in South Waziristan this morning, killing at least 30 and wounding seven others. A Pakistani intelligence official is quoted as saying more people are believed to be buried under the rubble.

At least 50 people were in the house at the time of the attacks, mostly Uzbeks and Arabs believed to be fighters for the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The compound reportedly was frequented by Baitullah Mehsud, a top Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader, though he does not appear to have been present during the attack.

The timing of the attack sends a clear message to the Pakistani government, which had been hoping yesterday that President Obama would reveal his “new strategy” with respect to the drones soon.

The large death toll will likely also bring uncomfortable attention to the comments by Senator Dianne Feinstein, who claimed that the drones were being “flown out of a Pakistani base”. With the Pakistani government officially complaining about the attacks amid public outrage, such a revelation would likely further destabilize an already floundering Pakistani government.

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compiled by Jason Ditz [email the author]

Venezuela cuts ties with Israel over Gaza attacks

January 15, 2009

Reuters, Jan 14, 2009

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela has cut ties with Israel in protest over its military offensive in the Gaza Strip, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

Last week President Hugo Chavez expelled Israel’s ambassador from Venezuela over the attacks, which have sparked international condemnation.

“Venezuela … has definitively decided to break diplomatic ties with the state of Israel given the inhumane persecution of the Palestinian people carried out by the authorities of Israel,” said a statement read over state television.

Israel’s 20-day offensive, launched to halt rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas Islamist militants, has killed more than 1,000 Palestinians. A Palestinian rights group said 670 of those killed were civilians. Thirteen Israelis have been killed — three civilians hit by Hamas rocket fire and 10 soldiers.

Socialist Chavez is a harsh critic of both Israel and the United States and has called the Israeli offensive in Gaza a Palestinian “holocaust.”

Bolivian President Evo Morales, a close Chavez ally, on Wednesday also cut ties with Israel to the protest the attacks.

An envoy from Israel, which is under increasing pressure to negotiate a ceasefire, is scheduled to meet Egyptian mediators in Cairo on Thursday.

Chavez in 2006 threatened to break ties with Israel over its five-week war in Lebanon in a diplomatic spat that led both countries to withdraw their envoys.

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Gaza is Sinking in a River of Blood: A Message from a Gazan to the World

January 13, 2009

by Mohammed Fares Al Majdalawi

I want to write about the suffering of my people and my family in these days of siege against the people of Gaza. 888 people have been killed and more than 3700 injured. The Red Cross has accused the Israeli military of repeatedly refusing to allow ambulances to go to Zeitoun area, so those who are injured become those who die; a premeditated and purposeful violation of human rights.

In my house we can’t get basic needs. No food. No bread. No fuel. No future. Yesterday, my father went to the bakery at 5 AM. He waited 5 hours to get one loaf of bread, which is not enough for my family because there are 11 of us. So today it was my turn. I went to all the bakeries — all were closed.

There is no safe place we can go. We cannot communicate with our relatives and friends — networks are down as missiles rain on our homes, mosques and even hospitals.

Our life is centered around the burials of those who have died, our martyrs, At night our camp, Jabalya Refugee Camp, is a ghost town, with no sounds other than those of Israeli military aircraft.

There is a horror in every minute and it is clear especially in the lives of children. For example, there were five sisters in one family killed from the Israeli occupation while they stayed in their home. But there are 800,000 other children in Gaza, all afraid, all waiting for someone or something to help them. They are caught in a prison that is becoming a concentration camp. Every day we sleep and open our eyes to the Israeli crimes of killing children and women and destroying civilians’ homes. My words are unable to convey my feelings about this life in Gaza.

I have two messages to the world, to those who claim they love peace and seek freedom.

Imagine your life consisting of no electricity, destroyed homes, the sounds and strikes of missiles, day and night, and the only hunger as great as that for food is the hunger for an end to this occupation and siege. Imagine it is not just you but your children and your family who tell you through their eyes and cries: “We are afraid of the missiles.” “We cannot sleep.” “We may never sleep again.” Imagine you are the dam and the river of blood has turned into a flash flood. How long could you stand it?

We wouldn’t have to stand it any longer if the world stood with us. If they demanded an end to the siege and the killings and demolition of houses for our children. If they demanded assistance reach the people through rallies and sit-ins.

Finally, I invite you to come to Gaza and see the Holocaust. Because despite the siege, the barriers, the killing of my people and homes, and the total destruction of our lives by the Israeli occupation, they can not and will not kill the will of our people for equality and justice.

Mohammed Al Majdawali is a university student, member of Al-Assria Children’s Library, and volunteer with Middle East Children’s Alliance. He lives in Jabalya Refugee Camp with his family and aspires to be a professional filmmaker.

To help MECA send more medical aid to Gaza for thousands of sick and injured people living under siege, www.mecaforpeace.org

Ralph Nader: Letter to Bush on Gaza Crisis

January 2, 2009

Dear George W. Bush,

Cong. Barney Frank said recently that Barack Obama’s declaration that “there is only one president at a time” over-estimated the number. He was referring to the economic crisis. But where are you on the Gaza crisis where the civilian population of Gaza, its civil servants and public facilities are being massacred and destroyed respectively by U.S built F-16s and U.S. built helicopter gunships.

The deliberate suspension of your power to stop this terrorizing of 1.5 million people, mostly refugees, blockaded for months by air, sea and land in their tiny slice of land, is in cowardly contrast to the position taken by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. That year he single handedly stopped the British, French and Israeli aircraft attack against Egypt during the Suez Canal dispute.

Fatalities in Gaza are already over 400 and injuries close to 2000 so far as is known. Total Palestinian civilian casualties are 400 times greater then the casualties incurred by Israelis. But why should anyone be surprised at your blanket support for Israel’s attack given what you have done to a far greater number of civilians in Iraq and now in Afghanistan?

Confirmed visual reports show that Israeli warplanes and warships have destroyed or severely damaged police stations, homes, hospitals, pharmacies, mosques, fishing boats, and a range of public facilities providing electricity and other necessities.

Why should this trouble you at all? It violates international law, including the Geneva Conventions and the UN Charter. You too have repeatedly violated international law and committed serious constitutional transgressions.

Then there is the matter of the Israeli government blocking imports of critical medicines, equipment such as dialysis machines, fuel, food, water, spare parts and electricity at varying intensities for almost two years. The depleted UN aid mission there has called this illegal blockade a humanitarian crisis especially devastating to children, the aged and the infirm. Chronic malnutrition among children is rising rapidly. UN rations support eighty percent of this impoverished population.

How do these incontrovertible facts affect you? Do you have any empathy or what you have called Christian charity?

What would a vastly shrunken Texas turned in an encircled Gulag do up against the 4th most powerful military in the world? Would these embattled Texans be spending their time chopping wood?

Gideon Levy, the veteran Israeli columnist for Ha’aretz, called the Israeli attack a “brutal and violent operation” far beyond what was needed for protecting the people in its south. He added: “The diplomatic efforts were just in the beginning, and I believe we could have got to a new truce without this bloodshed…..to send dozens of jets to bomb a total helpless civilian society with hundreds of bombs-just today, they were burying five sisters. I mean, this is unheard of. This cannot go on like this. And this has nothing to do with self-defense or with retaliation even. It went out of proportion, exactly like two-and-a-half years ago in Lebanon.”

Apparently, thousands of Israelis, including some army reservists, who have demonstrated against this destruction of Gaza agree with Mr. Levy. However, their courageous stands have not reached the mass media in the U.S. whose own reporters cannot even get into Gaza due to Israeli prohibitions on the international press.

Your spokespeople are making much ado about the breaking of the six month truce. Who is the occupier? Who is the most powerful military force? Who controls and blocks the necessities of life? Who has sent raiding missions across the border most often? Who has sent artillery shells and missiles at close range into populated areas? Who has refused the repeated comprehensive peace offerings of the Arab countries issued in 2002 if Israel would agree to return to the 1967 borders and agree to the creation of a small independent Palestinian state possessing just twenty two percent of the original Palestine?

The “wildly inaccurate rockets”, as reporters describe them, coming from Hamas and other groups cannot compare with the modern precision armaments and human damage generated from the Israeli side.

There are no rockets coming from the West Bank into Israel. Yet the Israeli government is still sending raiders into that essentially occupied territory, still further entrenching its colonial outposts, still taking water and land and increasing the checkpoints This is going on despite a most amenable West Bank leader, Mahmoud Abbas, whom you have met with at the White House and praised repeatedly. Is it all vague words and no real initiatives with you and your emissary Condoleezza Rice?

Peace was possible, but you provided no leadership, preferring instead to comply with all wishes and demands by the Israeli government-even resupplying it with the still active cluster bombs in south Lebanon during the invasion of that country in 2006.

The arguments about who started the latest hostilities go on and on with Israel always blaming the Palestinians to justify all kinds of violence and harsh treatment against innocent civilians.

From the Palestinian standpoint, you would do well to remember the origins of this conflict which was the dispossession of their lands. To afford you some empathy, recall the oft-quoted comment by the founder of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, who told the Zionist leader, Nahum Goldmann:

“There has been anti-Semitism the Nazis Hitler Auschwitz but was that their [the Palestinians] fault? They only see one thing: We have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?”
Alfred North Whitehead once said: “Duty arises out of the power to alter the course of events.” By that standard, you have shirked mightily your duty over the past eight years to bring peace to both Palestinians and Israelis and more security to a good part of the world.

The least you can do in your remaining days at the White House is adopt a modest profile in courage, and vigorously demand and secure a ceasefire and a solidly based truce. Then your successor, President-elect Obama can inherit something more than the usual self-censoring Washington puppet show that eschews a proper focus on the national interests of the United States.

Sincerely,
Ralph Nader

Israel vows to continue war on Gaza

December 30, 2008
Al Jazeera, Dec 30, 2008

Hundreds of people have been killed and many wounded in four days of air raids [AFP]

Israel has warned that the onslaught in the Gaza Strip could last for “weeks” as the fourth consecutive day of aerial attacks targeted several Hamas government buildings.

Around 350 people have been killed, many of them civilians, and local hospitals have warned they are unable to cope with any more casualties.

Palestinian medical workers said at least 10 people had died in the latest raids on Tuesday, with security guards and civilians among those killed.

But Israel said there would be no let up until the threat of Palestinian rockets attacks from the Gaza Strip had been removed.

“There is no room for a ceasefire,” Meir Sheetrit, Israel’s interior minister, said.

“The government is determined to remove the threat of [rocket] fire on the south.

“Therefore the Israeli army must not stop the operation before breaking the will of Palestinians, of Hamas, to continue to fire at Israel.”

Four Israeli citizens have been killed by missiles fired from Palestinian positions since the offensive began on Saturday.

Military preparations

The Israeli army has been massing infantry and armoured forces along the border amid increasing fears that a ground invasion is planned.

In depth

Focus

Arab street angry over Gaza attacks

Reaction: Raids take toll on Gaza

Gaza strikes a challenge for Obama

Videos

Gaza pounded for third straight day

US backs Israeli air raids

Hospitals in Gaza struggle to cope

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Matan Vilnai, Israel’s deputy defence minister, said the military “has made preparations for some long weeks of action”.

On Monday, areas of the border were declared “closed military zones” and thousands of reservists have been called up by the Israeli military.

Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Gaza City, said that there was little the residents of the strip 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.”

Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary-general, has added his voice to calls for an end to the violence.

Speaking at UN headquarters in New York on Monday, he said both sides should end the fighting and said regional powers should do more to help resolve the crisis.

“All this must stop,” Ban told a press conference.

“Both Israel and Hamas must halt their acts of violence and take all necessary measures to avoid civilian casualties. A ceasefire must be declared immediately. They must also curb their inflammatory rhetoric.”

Hamas blamed

Speaking to Al Jazeera, the Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, said the Israeli offensive was aimed at Hamas and not the Palestinian people, urging civilians to leave for safer places away from places close to Hamas infrastructure.

“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.

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.

Siege ends at Mumbai’s Taj hotel

November 29, 2008
Al Jazeera, Nov 29, 2008

Soldiers gained control of the Taj hotel a day after storming another hotel and a Jewish centre [Reuters]

The siege at Mumbai’s Taj Mahal hotel is over after security forces killed the remaining armed men inside the building.

The attackers were killed on Saturday, about 59 hours they took part in a string of deadly assaults across India’s financial capital.

“All (combat) operations are over. All the terrorists have been killed,” Hasan Gafoor, Mumbai’s police chief, said.

More than 195 people have been killed, including at least 21 foreigners, since the attackers began their co-ordinated assaults on Wednesday, officials have said.

At least another 295 people have been injured.

Among the foreigners who have died are five Israelis, two Americans, two French nationals, two Australians, a German, a Japanese, a Canadian, a British Cypriot, an Italian and a Singaporean.

Police said that the attacks had been carried out by 10 people who had travelled to Mumbai, police said.

“Ten people had come, we killed nine and one has been captured alive,” Gafoor said.

Final operation

At least three attackers and one security officer were killed in Saturday’s final raid at the Taj Mahal hotel, Jyoti Krishna Dutt, the country’s commando chief, said.

In depth

Timeline of Mumbai attack
Media reacts to mayhem
Voices from Mumbai
Photos: A city under fire
Video: Economic fallout
Map: Assault flashpoints
Your Views on the assault

“Our operations will continue until we check each and every room and floor,” he said.

Sniffer dogs were later taken into the hotel as security forces made a final sweep through the rooms of the building.

James Bays, Al Jazeera’s correspondent at the scene, said some Indian news journalists had been allowed into the hotel amid the clean-up operations.

“The media have been allowed a lot closer to the hotel to see what has gone on here. When you look up close you can really see the kind of battle that has taken place here. You can see glass on the ground, bullet holes … parts of the hotel are burnt out,” he said.

“This is a very large hotel, with 600 rooms for guests. I’m told that the back half of the hotel is a real maze and security forces are going through the building to clear every room. This will be a long and painstaking task.”

Nariman House siege

A day earlier, security forces took control of Mumbai’s Jewish centre, Nariman House, after exchanging gunfire with attackers inside the building.

Troops found the bodies of six hostages inside the building after killing the men who had stormed the Jewish centre.

Al Jazeera’s Matt McClure, reporting from outside Nariman House, said several armed men were killed in the assault by security forces.

Among the bodies recovered from Nariman House were those of Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, who ran the centre, and his wife, the Chabad Lubavitch organisation said.

Their two-year-old son had earlier managed to escape and is now in the care of his grandparents.

Security forces at another hotel, the Trident-Oberoi, found 24 bodies after gaining control of the building on Friday.

Attackers ‘remorseless’

Describing Friday’s security operation inside the Taj Mahal hotel, the chief of India’s marine commando force said: “The [attackers] were the kind of people with no remorse – anybody and whomsoever came in front of them, they fired.

The Taj hotel was the last building to fall into the hands of Indian security forces [Reuters]

“We could have got those terrorists but for so many hotel guests … The bodies were lying strewn here and there. There was blood all over and in trying to avoid the casualty of those civilians, we had to be that much more careful,” he said.Ratan Tata, the Indian business baron who runs the company that owns the hotel, said the attackers had detailed knowledge of the layout of the buildings.

The strikes by small bands of armed men starting on Wednesday night shocked Mumbai, the nerve-centre of India’s growing economic might and home to the Bollywood film industry.

Pointing the finger

The Indian media, citing unidentified police investigators, reported that three alleged attackers had confessed to being members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based group which aims to end Indian rule in Kashmir.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, which means army of God, had earlier denied any role in the attacks.

Earlier, a little known group calling itself the Deccan Mujahidin claimed responsibility for the attack in emails to news organisations.

In a speech on Thursday, Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, blamed “external forces”, a phrase sometimes used to refer to Pakistan-based fighters.

RK Raghavan, a former chief of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, pointed to claims that the police have seized a mobile phone which the “terrorists” used for communication with unidentified contacts in Pakistan.

“I think there is irrefutable evidence that elements which have been giving sanctuary in Pakistan are responsible,” he said.

“Presumably, initial evidence is that they have been in touch with anti-Indian elements who may or may not have any links to the Pakistani government. These elements are probably acting on their own, but they have been given a lot of freedom to move around in Pakistan.”

Raghav also named Pakistan and Bangladesh as nursing grounds for al-Qaeda-influenced groups.

Pakistani reaction

For its part, Pakistan has condemned the attacks and said it will fully co-operate with an Indian investigation.

Fresh commando raids early on Saturday ended the siege of the Taj Mahal hotel [EPA]

However, Islamabad has abandoned its earlier decision to send the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate to India.”A spokesman of the Prime Minister’s House has said that a representative of ISI will visit India instead of the Director General of the ISI to help in investigating the Mumbai terrorism incident,” a government statement, released on Saturday, said.

The Associated Press reported on Friday that US officials and Indian diplomats were working out details for the departure of a team of FBI agents to join the investigation into the attacks.

In a diplomatic exchange that raised the prospect of renewed tension between India and its neighbour, Pranab Mukherjee, the Indian foreign minister, urged Pakistan to dismantle what he called the infrastructure that supported armed groups.

Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said: “More and more people here are inclined to think that this is an indigenous, internal Indian phenomenon and that India is scapegoating Pakistan.

“The Indian media have insinuated that elements within Pakistan were involved,” he said.

“However, on the Pakistani side there has been relative quiet and also a sense of responsibility shown by the journalists not to jump to conclusions.”

US drone strike kills four in Pakistan

October 1, 2008

From correspondents in Miranshah | Herald Sun, October 01, 2008

A MISSILE strike by a suspected US spy drone hit a house in a Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan, killing at least four people and wounding nine, security officials said today.

The attack happened shortly after Pashtun tribesmen shot at three drones circling the village of Khusali Toorikhel in North Waziristan, a known haunt of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.

“After the drones came under fire a missile hit a house in the village. We have four dead now and another nine people were injured,” a local security official said.


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