Posts Tagged ‘tunnels’

U.S. policy in Gaza remains unchanged

January 22, 2010

by Charles Fromm and Ellen Massey, Inter Press Service News

WASHINGTON, Jan 22, 2010 (IPS) – One year ago Thursday, the last Israeli tanks were lumbering out of the Gaza Strip, ending the 22-day Gaza War and leaving in their wake a decimated landscape and population.

A year later, the humanitarian and security situation in the devastated coastal enclave remains dire, yet the Barack Obama administration continues to overlook the crisis in Gaza, an approach which some experts say is an extension of the previous administration’s policy.

This policy has also done little to alleviate what human rights groups warn is a growing humanitarian crisis, plunging the Gaza Strip further into poverty and insecurity.

Continues >>

Advertisements

Wall on Gaza Violates International Law

December 13, 2009

by César Chelala, CommonDreams.org, Dec 14, 2009

The collusion between Egypt and the U.S. to build a wall separating Egypt from Gaza not only threatens Gazans’ health and quality of life, already severely deteriorated by the de facto Israeli blockade, it is a serious violation of international law.

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, Egypt is installing an underground metal wall 70-100 feet deep along the border strip where Palestinians have dug a maze-like set of tunnels to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. The construction of the wall, carried out with the collaboration of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, has been denied by the Egyptian government.

Continues >>

Canadian speaks out for Palestinians

March 26, 2009

Antonia Zerbisias | The Toronto Star, March 25, 2009

Kim Elliott speaks in tones so soft that it’s sometimes tough to hear her.

But she uses her voice effectively, making her more courageous than many other Canadians who shout a good game about human rights and freedom of expression, but who slink away when it comes to talking the talk about Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

That despite the awful allegations about Israeli army actions that started to dribble out last week: children being used as human shields, civilians being shot for not instantly obeying commands, units buying T-shirts depicting pregnant Palestinian women with targets on their bellies.

Elliott not only speaks out but, as the publisher of the online magazine Rabble.ca, walks the walk.

This month, she went all the way to and around Gaza where she, along with 59 other (mostly women) peace and human rights activists, entered at the invitation of the United Nations.

“There was this doctor we met who told us of `caged rats syndrome,'” she tells me. “It’s like putting a bunch of rats in a cage and seeing what happens. It’s limiting their movement and packing them in really densely so they turn on each other. They want to get out but can’t. Anger just boils over.”

Among her fellow sojourners are five Canadians, including Sandra Ruch, one of the Jewish women who occupied Toronto’s Israeli consulate in January in protest of the invasion, as well as American author Alice Walker (The Color Purple) and Code Pink leaders Medea Benjamin and (former colonel and diplomat) Ann Wright, whose peace activism in the U.S. led to their being barred from entering Canada in 2007.

(On a side note: never in my life had I been ashamed of my country until the Stephen Harper government began to transform it into NeoConada. Last week’s banning of British MP George Galloway for unspecified security reasons was just the last straw.)

The group had freedom to tour at will, Elliott insists. “We didn’t have anything to do with Hamas other than that they stamped our passports. We wandered around by ourselves all night. We were safe because, as we’d heard, Hamas had so cracked down on the gangs that had started to take over.”

Elliott, whose interest in the Palestinians began long ago and who has visited the Middle East many times, went to Gaza so she could bear witness to the effect of the attack and Israel’s long-running siege, which strangles the movement of food, medical supplies and other necessities into Gaza.

Which is why there are tunnels from Egypt.

The media emphasize that the tunnels are used to smuggle rockets and weapons into Gaza – true – but everything from zoo animals to seedlings also move underground. Just this week, Egypt seized 560 sheep that were being herded through.

“The inhumanity of the border is, oddly enough, what left the most striking impression – more than the incredible destruction of homes,” Elliott explains. “The Red Crescent Society said they need at least about 1,000 trucks a day to go through every day to properly sustain the people. On average since the siege, it’s about 100 trucks. Some days, there are none. Most of what is feeding the people is going through the tunnels.”

So, with all the injustices around the world, why focus on Palestinians?

“I got my human rights background at Amnesty International and, up until very recently, they wouldn’t touch this issue, in Canada especially. People felt so threatened!” she says.

“So, not only were the Palestinians suffering enormous human rights abuses…but the focus of the media in disenfranchising them and the way people are attacked for working this issue motivated me.”

Antonia Zerbisias is a Living section columnist. azerbisias@thestar.ca. She blogs at thestar.blogs.com.

MIDEAST: Border Areas Bombed Again

March 13, 2009

By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa Al-Omrani | Inter Press Service

CAIRO, Mar 12 (IPS) – Almost two months after the war on the Gaza Strip, the border area between the battered coastal enclave and Egypt continues to come under frequent Israeli aerial bombardment. Israeli officials say the strikes target cross-border tunnels used to smuggle weapons to Palestinian resistance factions.

“Israel is still regularly launching air strikes on the border area,” Ibrahim Mansour, political analyst and executive editor-in-chief of independent daily Al-Dustour told IPS. “Such attacks represent a violation of all international rules and agreements, including the Egypt-Israel Camp David peace agreement.”

Throughout the course of Israel’s recent assault on the Gaza Strip (Dec. 27 to Jan. 17), the border zone between Egypt and Gaza was pummelled by hundreds of Israeli air strikes. Sources in the area also say that Egyptian airspace was repeatedly violated by Israeli aircraft during the campaign.

The onslaught officially ended with a unilateral ceasefire announcement by Israel. Since then, however, Israel has continued to strike at targets both inside the Gaza Strip – governed by Palestinian resistance faction Hamas – and along the strip’s 14-kilometre border with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

“Air strikes on the border zone have continued on and off since the end of Israel’s war on Gaza,” Hatem Al-Bulk, local journalist and political activist told IPS. “Some weeks see as many as three or four strikes on the area.”

The last week has been no exception. According to Israeli daily Haaretz, Israeli aircraft bombed alleged smuggling tunnels on Sunday March 8  in retaliation against three rockets fired into Israel earlier the same day by Gaza-based resistance factions. On Wednesday (Mar. 11) Israeli warplanes again bombed the border area, injuring two Palestinians, according to Palestinian Health Ministry sources.

Local sources near Rafah, which straddles the border between Egyptian Sinai and the Gaza Strip, say the effects of the blasts are frequently felt on the Egyptian side of the divided town.

“Israel is using earth-penetrating munitions against targets in the border zone, explosions from which cause damage on the Egyptian side,” said Al- Bulk, a resident of Al-Arish, located some 40 kilometres west of the border. “Since the beginning of Israel’s assault on Gaza until now, hundreds of homes in Egyptian Rafah have been damaged as a result of Israeli bombardments.

“There are also suspicions that Israel might be using depleted uranium in some of these munitions, which could have a catastrophic effect on the local environment,” added Al-Bulk.

On Jan. 16 – a day before Israel’s unilateral ceasefire – the U.S. and Israel signed a memorandum of understanding with the ostensible aim of combating alleged arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip. In general terms, the accord commits Washington to “accelerate its efforts to provide logistical and technical assistance and to train and equip regional security forces in counter-smuggling tactics.”

Egypt, which was not a signatory to the document, quickly rejected it as an infringement of its sovereignty. “We are not bound by anything except the safety and national security of the Egyptian people and Egypt’s ability to protect its borders,” Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said Jan. 17.

The agreement did not expressly call for international peacekeepers or monitors to be deployed to Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip. But on the same day, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak felt it necessary to stress Egypt’s refusal of “any foreign presence or monitors” on Egyptian territory. “This is a red line no one will be permitted to cross,” Mubarak said in a televised speech.

Since then, however, Egypt – anxious to prove its capacity for policing its borders – has beefed up security throughout the Sinai Peninsula, while new surveillance cameras have been set up along the border.

“Within the last two months, Egypt has installed advanced surveillance equipment in the area, which it received from the U.S.,” said Al-Bulk. “Egyptian security officers are also receiving training in the U.S. on how to search for and destroy smuggling tunnels.”

Inspections of the sensitive border area by U.S. officials have become commonplace since the end of the recent Gaza crisis.

“An official delegation from the U.S. embassy comes to inspect the border about once every five days. In the last six weeks, there have been roughly eight such visits,” said Al-Bulk. “They examine the Rafah crossing with Gaza, visit the Al-Auja and Kerem Abu Saalim border crossings (with Israel) and are shown tunnels discovered by Egyptian authorities.”

According to Mansour, the new border security measures come as a direct result of pressure on Egypt from Israel and the U.S.

“Israel constantly complains to Washington that Egypt ‘isn’t doing enough’ to thwart arms smuggling into Gaza,” said Mansour. “This translates into constant U.S. pressure on Egypt to tighten security on the border. Egypt is therefore accepting advanced surveillance equipment from the U.S. and allowing regular inspections of the border by U.S. officials in order to prove its commitment to combating smuggling.”

Some commentators say most tunnels are used for smuggling basic commodities that have become increasingly scarce due to the longstanding embargo on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Ever since the resistance group won Palestinian legislative elections in early 2006, the Gaza Strip has been hermetically sealed, with both Israel and Egypt keeping their borders with the territory tightly shut to people and goods.

“Most of the tunnels are of a commercial nature,” said Al-Bulk. “Some specialise in transporting livestock and poultry and others are equipped with railways to carry heavier goods. But relatively little is known about tunnels allegedly used for arms smuggling.”

“Most of the tunnels are used to transport everyday goods such as food and fuel, in order to offset the depravations of the three-year-old siege,” agreed Mansour. “If the siege was lifted, and Gazans had access to basic supplies, most smuggling activity would evaporate overnight.”

Over the regular Israeli air strikes on the border zone, Mansour questioned the lack of official reaction from Egypt.

“Egypt isn’t raising any objections at all to these regular strikes,” he said. “This raises questions about the covert relationship between Egypt and Israel – and even suggests the possibility that Egypt is tacitly permitting the strikes.”

Can Gaza Be Rebuilt Through Tunnels?

February 25, 2009

The Blockade Continues—No Supplies, No Rebuilding

by Ann Wright | CommonDreams.org, Feb 24, 2009

How do you rebuild 5,000 homes, businesses and government buildings when the only way supplies come into the prison called Gaza is through tunnels.  Will the steel I-beams for roofs bend 90 degrees to go through the tunnels from Egypt?   Will the tons of cement, lumber, roofing materials, nails, dry wall and paint be hauled by hand, load after load, 70 feet underground, through a tunnel 500 to 900 feet long and then pulled up a 70 foot hole and put into waiting truck in Gaza?

The gates to Gaza slammed shut again on Thursday, February 5, the day our three person group departed Gaza, having been allowed in for only 48 hours.  The Egyptian government closed the border crossing into Gaza continuing the sixteen month international blockade and siege.  The crossing had been briefly open to allow medical and humanitarian supplies into Gaza following the devastating 22 day attack by the Israeli military.  The attacks killed 1330 Palestinians and injured over 5,500.  The Israeli government said the attacks were to punish Hamas and other groups for firing unguided rockets into Israeli, rockets that over the past two years have killed about 25 Israelis.  Most international observers have called the Israeli response to the rocket attacks disproportionate and collective punishment, elements of war crimes.

Today, seventeen days after the gates swung closed on Gaza, they remain firmly locked.  Ceasefire talks in Cairo between the Israeli government and Hamas are stalled.  Opening the border with Egypt is a contentious point in the ceasefire negotiations.

For the people of Gaza, rebuilding their homes, businesses, factories is on hold.  Over 5,000 homes and apartment buildings were destroyed and hundreds of government buildings, including the Parliament building, were smashed. Building supplies, cement, wood, nails, glass will have to be brought in from outside Gaza.  Two cement factories in northern Gaza were completely destroyed by Israeli bombs.  Prime Minister Olmert’s spokesperson Mark Regev said reconstruction supplies like steel and cement can be used by Hamas to build more bunkers and rockets. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090218/wl_nm/us_palestinians_israel_5

Dissension in the Palestinian ranks between Fatah and Hamas continues, even after the brutal Israeli attack on Gaza.  Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad wants aid (perhaps as high as $2 billion) for rebuilding Gaza to be sent directly to each homeowner in Gaza, allowing donors to avoid the elected Hamas government.  The U.S., Israeli and other countries have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization, and do not want international aid in Gaza administered by Hamas, even though the people of Gaza elected the Hamas government.  On March 2, an international donor conference will be held in Egypt to discuss the costs of rebuilding Gaza. (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090218/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_palestinians_rebuilding_gaza_2)

Who Profits from War and Occupation?

Building supplies will have to be brought from outside Gaza.  Israel controls 90 percent of the land borders to Gaza-the northern and eastern borders and 100 percent of the ocean on the west side of Gaza.  Egypt controls the southern border with Gaza.

The Israelis who bombed Gaza will be the primary financial beneficiaries of the rebuilding of Gaza.  They bombed it and now will sell construction materials to rebuild what they have bombed, exactly like the United States has done in Iraq.  Egyptians too will benefit financially from the reconstruction-high priced small construction materials that will fit into the tunnels are no doubt have been transiting through the tunnels for the past 6 weeks.  Israeli women had created a website detailing who profits from occupation (http://www.whoprofits.org/)

No doubt a second website is under construction that will track which Israeli, Egyptian and American companies will benefit from the bombing of Gaza

Prisoner Exchanges as a Part of the Ceasefire

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his security cabinet said this week that no border crossings will be open until the Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit is returned to Israel.  Schalit was captured by Hamas in 2006 in an Israeli cross border raid into Gaza. Hamas has demanded the release of up to 1,400 Palestinian soldiers in exchange for Shalit

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Hamas “had no objection” to Shalit’s release if Israel would release 1,400 of 11,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, including Parliamentarians elected in Gaza in 2006. In the past, Israel has agreed to exchanges of large numbers of Palestinian prisoners for a few captured troops or their bodies.  But Israeli and Palestinian officials had not agreed where the released prisoners would be sent after the swap. Israeli wants the prisoners expelled out of the country and Hamas wants them returned to their homes in Gaza or the West Bank. (http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090218/wl_nm/us_palestinians_israel_5)

“Open the Borders” International Delegation to Gaza

On March 5, I will be part of a 30-member international delegation that will travel to the Gaza border with Egypt in solidarity with the women of Gaza for International Women’s Day.  Israeli women will be at the Israeli border crossing into Gaza.   Groups all over the world will join in with pressure on the Israeli, Egyptian and American governments to open the border to Gaza and let the people of Gaza rebuild their lives.  For more information about the international delegation, see http://www.codepinkalert.org/article.php?id=4675

Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.  She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia.  In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.  She is the co-author of the book “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”  (www.voicesofconscience.com)

Gaza: Inside the world’s biggest prison

February 13, 2009

Global Research, February 13, 2009

The Irish Times – 2009-01-24

http://www.globalresearch.ca/site_images/emailfriend.gifEmail this article to a friend

http://www.globalresearch.ca/site_images/printfriendly.gifPrint this article

Evidence is mounting that the Israeli defence forces used the Gaza assault as a testing ground for new, horrific weapons that have confounded doctors’ attempts to save the wounded.

THERE WERE MANY ways to die during the Israeli offensive on Gaza.

From their hospital beds at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, Atallah Saad, 13, and Yussef Salem, 17, told me how “zananas” – remotely piloted drones that fire missiles – wounded them and killed Atallah’s mother and pregnant sister-in-law, and two of Yussef’s school friends. The drones were given the nickname because they make a loud z-z-z-z-z sound. But the most shocking thing about them is that an Israeli operator watches his target – in these cases, all civilians – through a surveillance camera before launching the missile. Death by remote control.

White phosphorous was another, much publicised means of death. Each M82581 artillery shell, manufactured by General Dynamics in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, bears the initials PB. And each of the 155mm shells contains 116 felt wafers soaked in phosphorus, which ignites on contact with oxygen. The phosphorous makes the white jellyfish-shaped clouds seen on television during the December 27th-January 17th Israeli offensive. It provides cover for advancing troops, but it also burns houses and people. If one of the felt pads lands on your skin, it burns until all the fuel is consumed, creating deep, wide, chemical burns, often to the bone.

Dr Nafiz Abu Shabaan pulls a plastic bag from under his desk. It is filled with white phosphorous, buried in sand. The brown pieces look like dog dirt, and re-ignite if broken open. Mahmoud al Jamal, 18, sits in the doctor’s office, his right ear congealed, his fingers and part of his chest eaten away by white phosphorous. The unsightly wounds make him look like a leper.

Al Jamal was walking at dawn when he saw the white jellyfish in the sky. “Everything was set on fire around me. I felt my body burning. I fell down and I asked the man lying next to me to help me, but he was dead. Then I lost consciousness.” Al Jamal’s brother later told him how smoke poured from his body in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

The Israeli’s use of white phosphorous is amply documented. Israel says it is legal, but human-rights groups say its use in civilian areas might constitute a war crime. Dr Abu Shabaan is more concerned by evidence of new, mysterious weapons and appeals for an impartial international investigation into Israel’s use of new weapons.

“We’ve seen many, many cases of amputation – like a cauterised wound, with no bleeding,” he recounts.

“Some have minor chest injuries, but the X-rays show nothing and they die suddenly, without explanation.”

Palestinian and foreign doctors who’ have treated the war-wounded at Shifa suspect the injuries may be caused by Dense Inert Metal Explosive, also known as Focus Lethality Munition, a weapon invented through Israeli-American cooperation.

“We are guinea pigs to the Americans and Israelis,” says Dr Abu Shabaan. “The Americans give the Israelis new weapons, and they try them out on us.”

“They are definitely testing weapons on us,” says Dr Sobhi Skaik, a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh and the head of the surgery department at Shifa. “The amount of damage done by these weapons is not commensurate to the wounds. We found computer chips, magnetic pieces and transistors in wounds. Sometimes there are only minute pin-point punctures to the abdomen and chest, but you see huge damage to internal organs. One patient had his liver burned black, as if it had been grilled. We think there must be something embedded in the human body that is releasing poison and killing.”

YET FOR ALL the high-tech and Frankenstein weaponry, perhaps Israel’s most vicious arm against the Palestinians has been “al-hissar”, the siege, imposed on the Gaza Strip 19 months ago when Hamas, after winning a democratic election that the world refused to recognise, seized power from the Fatah Palestinian Authority.

The world turned a blind eye as Gazans languished in the world’s biggest prison, unable to travel, import, export or interact with anyone or anything beyond their borders. And the world largely ignored the rockets Hamas fired in anger and frustration from within the siege.

As a result of this dual negligence the conflict exploded, killing 13 Israelis and 1,300 Palestinians.

The siege was one reason casualties were so high in the three-week war, says Fred Abrahams of Human Rights Watch. With the Israeli and Egyptian borders closed, “It wasn’t possible for Gazans to escape. The only way to get out was on a stretcher.”

For 19 months, Gaza has endured shortages of fuel, food, medicine and building materials. The Palestinians suffer the additional humiliation of using their tormentors’ currency, but two months ago the Israeli government cut the supply of shekels, creating a severe cash shortage. Fayad Salam, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, was forced to plea with the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert.

There were long queues at ATMs in Gaza City this week, but no matter how much they have in salary or savings, cash is rationed and Palestinians can withdraw only 1,000 Israeli shekels per month. “If the Israelis could deprive us of air, they would do it,” says a Palestinian doctor.

The siege of Gaza lies at the heart of the conflict. “If the Israelis want the war to end, they must open all the borders and end the siege,” says Hamas government spokesman Tahir al-Nounou. “Because the siege is war; the siege is killing our people.”

The only lifeline for Gaza are some 1,300 tunnels beneath the Gaza-Egyptian border. It costs $10,000 (€7,800) to dig a tunnel. The best tunnels are bored with sophisticated machines that compress earthen walls so no give-away sand appears outside. Some have railway tracks and electricity, and the tunnels are a lucrative business for Gazans and Egyptians. Because Hamas is believed to import weapons through the tunnels, Israel carpet-bombed them during the offensive. Yet only an estimated 400 were destroyed, and by mid-week the tunnels were again open. Huge plastic cubes in metal frames, holding petrol, appeared on the pavements of Gaza City.

But the return to a semblance of normality cannot efface the three-week nightmare. Whole families were wiped out. Abu Mohamed Balousha, who lost five daughters, and the Samounis of Zeitoun, where a four-year-old boy was the only survivor in a family of 30, have become causes célèbres.

Everyone has a worst memory. For ambulance driver Hathem Saleh, it was desperate telephone calls from the wounded. “When you have been talking to him on the phone and you cannot reach him because the Israeli tank will hit you – it happened to me many times . . . I could hear cries and the Israelis were shooting at us.”

Dr Mahmoud al Khozendar, a chest physician, tells of a colleague whose Russian wife was cut in half when an Israeli missile hit their home. It also killed their six-month-old child. “He took the two parts of his wife and put her on the bed with the baby. He escaped with a wounded son and daughter, and asked the Red Crescent to go back for the bodies.”

At Shifa, al Khozendar had a room full of limbs he could not match with bodies, and one body with two heads. “Most of the bodies were buried without names,” he says.

THERE WERE MANY ways to die during the Israeli offensive on Gaza. Perhaps the greatest number killed were crushed to death when the Israelis fired heavy tank artillery at their houses. Halima Radwan, 60, seemed particularly symbolic to me. Radwan was a young woman when she and her family fled from Israel in the 1967 war. She spent her life as a wandering Palestinian, moving to Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt. In 1996, in the glory days when Gaza had an airport and Palestinians carried passports, she and her husband Ahmad, a PLO official, decided to move back to “Palestine”. They built a five-bedroom villa in the Abed Rabbo district of Gaza. A month before the offensive, they paid off their debts and celebrated.

Maher Radwan, 36, is Halima and Ahmad’s only son and a mechanical engineer with the Palestinian Authority. He, his wife and children lived with his parents. “Before the ground offensive started, I decided to take my wife and children further from the border,” Maher recounts in front of the ruined villa. “I begged my parents to come with us, but they said ‘No, we are old. The Israelis won’t harm us’.”

On January 6th, an Israeli tank fired a shell at the Radwans’ house. Ahmad was wounded in the head and walked out with a white flag. He begged the Israelis to allow the Red Crescent to rescue his wife Halima, who was buried alive in her kitchen. The Israelis said no. Halima lived for four days under the debris of her house, which the Israelis then dynamited.

“They knew she was there and they saw her, because they searched the house before they destroyed it,” says Maher.

As soon as the ceasefire took effect last Sunday, he went with friends and relatives to dig his mother out. “I had the tiniest hope she might still be alive.” But Halima’s legs, shoulder and head had been crushed by concrete.

Broken porcelain, a framed verse from the Koran and a piece of plaster with Hebrew writing by the Israeli soldiers are scattered in the ruins of the Radwan family home. The pigeons they raised have returned to roost on the broken roof. Maher Radwan’s neighbours say there can be no peace with the Israelis who did this. But Maher is more sad than angry. Peace might still be possible, he says, “if only there were wise Israeli people”.

How Do People Keep Going in Gaza?

February 10, 2009

What Americans Can’t See About Gaza

Kathy Kelly | Counterpunch, Feb 10, 2009

People have asked me, since I returned from Gaza, how people manage? How do they keep going after being traumatized by bombing and punished by a comprehensive state of siege? I wonder myself. I know that whether the loss of life is on the Gazan or the Israeli side of the border, bereaved survivors feel the same pain and misery. On both sides of the border, I think children pull people through horrendous and horrifying nightmares. Adults squelch their panic, cry in private, and strive to regain semblances of normal life, wanting to carry their children through a precarious ordeal.

And the children want to help their parents. In Rafah, the morning of January 18th, when it appeared there would be at least a lull in the bombing, I watched children heap pieces of wood on plastic tarps and then haul their piles toward their homes. The little ones seemed proud to be helping their parents recover from the bombing. I’d seen just this happy resilience among Iraqi children, after the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing, as they found bricks for their parents to use for a makeshift shelter in a bombed military base.

Children who survive bombing are eager to rebuild. They don’t know how jeopardized their lives are, how ready adults are to bomb them again.

In Rafah, that morning, an older man stood next to me, watching the children at work. “You see,” he said, looking upward as an Israeli military surveillance drone flew past, “if I pick up a piece of wood, if they see me carrying just a piece of wood, they might mistake it for a weapon, and I will be a target. So these children collect the wood.”

While the high-tech drone collected information,– “intelligence” that helps determine targets for more bombing, –toddlers collected wood. Their parents, whose homes were partially destroyed, needed the wood for warmth at night and for cooking. Because of the Israeli blockade against Gaza, there wasn’t any gas.

With the border crossing at Rafah now sealed again, people who want to obtain food, fuel, water, construction supplies and goods needed for everyday life will have to rely, increasingly, on the damaged tunnel industry to import these items from the Egyptian side of the border. Israel’s government says that Hamas could use the tunnels to import weapons, and weapons could kill innocent civilians, so the Israeli military has no choice but to bomb the neighborhood built up along the border, as they have been doing.

Suppose that the U.S. weapon makers had to use a tunnel to deliver weapons to Israel. The U.S. would have to build a mighty big tunnel to accommodate the weapons that Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Caterpillar have supplied to Israel. The size of such a tunnel would be an eighth wonder of the world, a Grand Canyon of a tunnel, an engineering feat of the ages.

Think of what would have to come through.

Imagine Boeing’s shipments to Israel traveling through an enormous underground tunnel, large enough to accommodate the wingspans of planes, sturdy enough to allow passage of trucks laden with missiles. According to UK’s Indymedia Corporate Watch, 2009, Boeing has sent Israel 18 AH-64D Apache Longbow fighter helicopters, 63 Boeing F15 Eagle fighter planes, 102 Boeing F16 Eagle fighter planes, 42 Boeing AH-64 Apache fighter helicopters, F-16 Peace Marble II & III Aircraft, 4 Boeing 777s, and Arrow II interceptors, plus IAI-developed arrow missiles, and Boeing AGM-114 D Longbow Hellfire missiles,

In September of last year, the U.S. government approved the sale of 1,000 Boeing GBU-9 small diameter bombs to Israel, in a deal valued at up to 77 million.

Now that Israel has dropped so many of those bombs on Gaza, Boeing shareholders can count on more sales, more profits, if Israel buys new bombs from them from them. Perhaps there are more massacres in store. It would be important to maintain the tunnel carefully.

Raytheon, one of the largest U.S. arms manufacturers, with annual revenues of around $20 billion, is one of Israel’s main suppliers of weapons. In September last year, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency approved the sale of Raytheon kits to upgrade Israel’s Patriot missile system at a cost of $164 million. Raytheon would also use the tunnel to bring in Bunker Buster bombs as well as Tomahawk and Patriot missiles.

Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest defense contractor by revenue, with reported sales, in 2008, of $42.7 billion. Lockheed Martin’s products include the Hellfire precision-guided missile system, which has reportedly been used in the recent Gaza attacks. Israel also possesses 350 F-16 jets, some purchased from Lockheed Martin.

Think of them coming through the largest tunnel in the world.

Maybe Caterpillar Inc. could help build such a tunnel. Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of construction (and destruction) equipment, with more than $30 billion in assets, holds Israel’s sole contract for the production of the D9 military bulldozer, specifically designed for use in invasions of built-up areas. The U.S. government buys Caterpillar bulldozers and sends them to the Israeli army as part of its annual foreign military assistance package. Such sales are governed by the US Arms Export Control Act, which limits the use of U.S. military aid to “internal security” and “legitimate self defense” and prohibits its use against civilians.

Israel topples family houses with these bulldozers to make room for settlements. All too often, they topple them on the families inside. American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death standing between one of these bulldozers and a Palestinian doctor’s house.

In truth, there’s no actual tunnel bringing U.S. made weapons to Israel. But the transfers of weapons and the U.S. complicity in Israel’s war crimes are completely invisible to many U.S. people.

The United States is the primary source of Israel’s arsenal. For more than 30 years, Israel has been the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance and since 1985 Israel has received about 3 billion dollars, each year, in military and economic aid from the U.S. (“U.S. and Israel Up in Arms,” Frida Berrigan, Foreign Policy in Focus, January 17, 2009)

So many Americans can’t even see this flood of weapons, and what it means, for us, for Gaza’s and Israel’s children, for the world’s children.

And so, people in Gaza have a right to ask us, how do you manage? How do you keep going? How can you sit back and watch while your taxes pay to massacre us? If it would be wrong to send rifles and bullets and primitive rockets into Gaza, weapons that could kill innocent Israelis, then isn’t it also wrong to send Israelis the massive arsenal that has been used against us, killing over 400 of our children, in the past six weeks, maiming and wounding thousands more?

But, standing over the tunnels in Rafah, that morning, under a sunny Gazan sky, hearing the constant droning buzz of mechanical spies waiting to call in an aerial bombardment, no one asked me, an American, those hard questions. The man standing next to me pointed to a small shed where he and others had built a fire in an ash can. They wanted me to come inside, warm up, and receive a cup of tea.

Kathy Kelly, a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, is writing from Arish, a town near the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza. Bill Quigley, a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola New Orleans and Audrey Stewart are also in Egypt and contributed to this article. Kathy Kelly is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams (published by CounterPunch/AK Press). Her email is kathy@vcnv.org


%d bloggers like this: