In recent weeks an escalation in violence between Israel and Palestinian resistance factions in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip has claimed the lives of more than a dozen Palestinians, the youngest of them 10-year-old Mahmoud Jalal al-Hilu.
Does this escalation increase the likelihood of another large-scale assault on Gaza similar to “Operation Cast Lead” in winter 2008-2009 that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians? There are worrying signs Israel — by its words and deeds — could be laying the ground for an attack.
The ratchet of violence took another turn in the small hours of 2 April when Israel carried out an air attack on the Gaza Strip killing three members of Hamas’ military wing.
Israel did not claim that the three Hamas men were engaged in any hostile activity at the time they were killed (riding in a car), but a statement from the Israeli army alleged that they were “planning to kidnap Israelis over the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover” — several weeks in the future.
Israel’s latest attack constituted an extrajudicial killing, in which Israel, the occupying power, acted as judge, jury and executioner, issuing allegations for which it offered no evidence, after it had already carried out the death sentence. Under international law, this is a war crime.
Global media tend to report these events as Israeli “retaliation” for Palestinian attacks, but a close reading of Israeli media presents a very different picture: deliberate provocation and escalation by Israel.
On 23 March, Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel writing in the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that, “The current tensions began exactly a week ago when Israel launched an air attack on a Hamas base in the ruins of the settlement of Netzarim, killing two Hamas men. That attack came in response to a Qassam [rocket] fired from Gaza that landed in an open area.” Palestinians responded with a barrage of 50 projectiles into Israel.
Israel then “launched a series of air attacks in which a number of Hamas militants were wounded.” And on 22 March Israeli forces launched the shelling which killed Mahmoud al-Hilu and three other civilians, allegedly in response to mortar fire from an olive grove on the Gaza side (“A small war is starting along Gaza border“).
On 24 March, Issacharoff and Harel observed, “Despite the escalation, Hamas does not seem to want large-scale clashes yet. The organization actually has good reasons to believe that Israel is the one heating up the southern front. It began with a bombardment a few weeks ago that disrupted the transfer of a large amount of money from Egypt to the Gaza Strip, continued with the interrogation of engineer and Hamas member Dirar Abu Sisi [whom Israeli agents kidnapped from Ukraine] in Israel, and ended with last week’s bombing of a Hamas training base in which two Hamas militants were killed. It is noteworthy that Hamas has not fired at Israel over the past two days, even after four Palestinian civilians were killed by errant IDF [Israeli army] mortar fire on Tuesday [22 March]” (“Hamas not likely behind Jerusalem bombing“).
Issacharoff and Harel added in a 25 March analysis that the Israeli attack on the Hamas outpost at Netzarim “is believed to have been authorized by the defense minister and the chief of staff, who should have known there would be people at the outpost during the day and that causing casualties would have different consequences than a routine attack on empty offices. Israel assumed — mistakenly — that Hamas would not respond to the bombing. In fact, Hamas responded by firing 50 mortar shells on Saturday morning” (“Escalation approaching“).
It is difficult to believe, especially in light of the extrajudicial executions on 2 April, that Israeli leaders did not know that killing Palestinians would prompt further retaliation from the Palestinian side. It seems very likely this was their intention.
These events are worryingly similar to the sequence that preceded “Operation Cast Lead.” After a bloody spring of 2008 in which hundreds of Palestinians were killed and injured in Israeli attacks on Gaza, Israel and Hamas negotiated a mutual ceasefire beginning on 19 June 2008. By Israel’s own admission, this mutual truce resulted in a 97 percent reduction in rockets being fired from Gaza over the subsequent four months, and none of the handful of projectiles that were fired were launched by Hamas, nor did they cause any injuries to Israelis.
A mutually agreed ceasefire proved to be the most effective way to achieve the goal Israel claimed was most important: protecting Israeli civilians from rocket fire from Gaza. But on the night of 4-5 November 2008, Israel decided to end the truce. As The Guardian reported on 5 November 2008, “A four-month ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza was in jeopardy today after Israeli troops killed six Hamas gunmen in a raid into the territory” (“Gaza truce broken as Israeli raid kills six Hamas gunmen“).
Then, just as it has with its latest attack, Israel justified the killings with the unverifiable claim that those it killed were involved in a plot to kidnap Israelis.
On 21 March, amid the escalating violence, Hamas’ military wing itself stated that it would be willing to abide by another mutual truce if Israel agreed to one, but Israel showed no interest (“Gaza: Hamas calls for truce,” Ma’an News Agency, 21 March 2011).
Israel’s seemingly constant and deliberate provocation of violence along the border with Gaza comes against a backdrop of belligerent statements and propaganda exercises by Israeli leaders. On 15 March, Israel intercepted a ship en route from Turkey to Alexandria in Egypt, which it alleged without providing evidence, was carrying arms destined for Gaza.
Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom told Israel Radio on 23 March that Israel may have to carry out another large scale attack on Gaza to topple Hamas, adding, “I say this despite the fact that I know such a thing would, of course, bring the region to a far more combustible situation.”
Culture minister Limor Livnat warned, according to Haaretz, Israel might have no choice but to carry out “Operation Cast Lead 2.”
Shalom, reversing the facts and laying the blame for the escalating violence on the Palestinians, put the possibility of a renewed war on Gaza in an overtly political context. Hamas, the vice premier claimed, according to Haaretz, “might have opened a new front with Israel ‘to stop any possibility of dialogue among the Palestinians or to come to the intra-Palestinian negotiation in a far stronger position'” (“Netanyahu: Israel will continue to operate against terrorists in Gaza,” 23 March 2011).
In other words, according to Shalom, it is the continued strength of Hamas that prevents an intra-Palestinian reconciliation on terms favorable to the Israeli-backed Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) of Mahmoud Abbas.
Whether Israel is deliberately laying the ground for a new assault on Gaza, or stumbles into one — if the current escalation does not stop — any such attack must be understood in political terms. It would be an effort to finish the unfinished business of destroying Hamas and any other island of Palestinian resistance.
The commitment of any significant Palestinian group to resistance — political or military — remains a major obstacle to the full legitimation of the warm embrace between Israel and the Abbas-led PA, whose extent was recently laid bare in the Palestine Papers. Indeed the relationship is so friendly that last October the top echelons of the PA in Bethlehem received then Israeli Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi — who commanded Operation Cast Lead — as their honored guest, even providing him with a guided tour of the Church of the Nativity (“Israeli army chief visits Bethlehem,” Ma’an News Agency, 3 October 2010).
Ironically, Hamas remains much less intransigent than Israel, as evidenced by the movement’s repeated offers of ceasefires which Israel rejects or violates; its constant noises about “reconciliation” with Abbas without insisting that the latter terminate his “security” relationship with Israel; and its embrace of the defunct “two-state solution.” Despite these unacknowledged political concessions, Hamas retains a military capability that Israel is unwilling to tolerate either as a challenge to itself, or to the PA.
Until now, there have been good reasons to believe Israel would hesitate to launch a new major military assault on Gaza. It is still suffering the diplomatic and political fallout of Cast Lead, including the UN-commissioned Goldstone report, as well as its massacre of nine activists aboard the Mavi Marmara during last spring’s Gaza Freedom Flotilla.
Without exaggerating the risks, the constraints on Israel may be loosening. In the wake of the revolution in Egypt and amid the political upheaval in the Arab world, some Israelis may think they have a “last chance” to act in the interregnum before a new and less friendly government is seated in Cairo. Western and Saudi military interventions in Libya and Bahrain respectively have also provided new respectability to using military force for political ends.
International complicity also continues to send Israel a clear message that its impunity is guaranteed. The Obama administration’s recent veto of a UN Security Council resolution that merely restated US policy on Israel’s settlement construction in the West Bank was one sure sign that Israel still has a blank check from the United States.
Tragically, the biggest contributor to renewed confidence in Israel that it could once again get away with murder in Gaza, may be Judge Richard Goldstone himself. Israeli leaders have seized on his apologetic 1 April op-ed in The Washington Post as vindication and proof that Israel never committed war crimes in Gaza, and was the victim a “blood libel,” as Jeffrey Goldberg, former Israeli occupation army volunteer and The Atlantic blogger put it.
While Goldstone was clearly trying to appease Zionists who subjected him to an intense campaign of personal vilification and ostracism his article did not in fact repudiate one single concrete finding in the report that bears his name (“Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes,” 2 April 2011).
Two important analyses of Goldstone’s op-ed, and how it is in no way a repudiation of the Goldstone report, appeared on Mondoweiss on 2 April: “What the Goldstone op-ed doesn’t say” by Yaniv Reich, and “Goldstone op-ed praises Israeli investigation of Gaza war crimes, but UN committee paints a different picture,” by Adam Horowitz. Goldstone’s op-ed is the personal opinion of one person. The Goldstone report, an official UN document authored by a commission, remains a compendium of acts by Israel — and indeed by Hamas — uncontradicted by any new evidence, much less by Israel’s self-serving “investigations.”
Yet as we have sadly learned so many times, proper analysis and respect for basic facts have little bearing in the “fog of war,” especially when Israel is that party that launches that war.
Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse and is a contributor to The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict.
Last week Ynetnews.com published an article by Johnnie Moore, a Christian evangelical pastor and vice president of Liberty University (the largest evangelical university in the world, founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell). Moore was visiting Israel with a group of students on a trip that ended 24 hours before the bombing in Jerusalem. A Christian tourist was killed in the bombing, and Pastor Moore was moved to write about the terror attack and his views on Israel and the Palestinians. The article, entitled “No Excuse for Brutality,” was one-sided and inflammatory, asserting that Palestinians are entirely to blame for the conflict.
Normally, as a Palestinian I would brush off such an article as an example of the natural, emotional responses that arise from tragedies and traumas like last month’s bombing. However, Moore’s article is more than a reactionary piece; his comments also reflect the views of many Christian evangelicals in the United States. As a result, I feel it is important to respond to some of the points Moore raised.
Moore opened his article by claiming that the media is biased against Israel, and has justified the terror attack. The effort of some media outlets of putting the attack in context is not to be interpreted as a bias. The political stalemate, the continuation of the occupation, the confiscation of land and demolishing of Palestinian homes, and the “price tag” attacks by settlers executed all over the West Bank explains the rise of violent tendencies. These things should not be used as a justification but rather provide contextual analysis for the cycle of violence endemic to the conflict.
Moore writes that the Jerusalem bombing “should be an embarrassment to every supporter of the Palestinian cause. Instead… this act of war will be met with cheers in Hamas’ training camps even as Palestinian leaders give lip service to the international community and condemn the attacks in English, while praising them privately in Arabic.” This is problematic, first because many supporters of the Palestinian cause did view the bombing as shameful, and second because Moore assumes that the Palestinians are praising the attack in Arabic. As a writer for Al-Quds I can testify that Arab leaders condemned the attack in Arabic just as they did in English, and many Palestinians were outraged by the bombing.
In fact, those who criticize the Palestinian Authority for failing to prevent attacks like these should take a hard look at the situation in the West Bank. The PA controls around 14% of the West Bank, and cannot even issue a building permit for most Palestinians. However, it is expected to police the West Bank in ways that even Israel, with its vastly superior training and weaponry, has been unable to do.
Perhaps the most ill-informed statement in Pastor Moore’s article is his statement that “I knew the message [of Israeli victimization] was understood when one of our students asked, ‘I see Palestinian neighborhoods all over Israel, what is the problem with Israelis having neighborhoods (settlements) within Palestinian areas?’ [The student’s] point was poignant as it highlighted Israel’s preparedness to live in peace with its neighbors and the refusal with which this has been met.”
The comparison between settlements and Arab villages in Israel shows a complete lack of knowledge of historical context. This is not surprising, as few American Christians are familiar with the Palestinian narrative. Palestinian villages in Israel were all founded long before the 1948 war, and since the formation of the Israeli state the Israel government has not allowed new Arab towns to be created within its borders.
On the other hand, in the Palestinians territories (which currently comprise only 22% of the area of the British mandate for Palestine), all Israeli settlements were built in the last 44 years. Moreover, settlements in the West Bank are generally built on privately owned Palestinian land that has been confiscated, while Arab towns in Israel were not built on confiscated land. Another important fact is that Prime Minister Fayyad has indicated on more than one occasion that Jews are welcome to become Palestinian citizens in any future Palestinian state.
Ironically, Moore and his student also seem unaware that many of the “Arab neighborhoods” in Israel are populated by Palestinian Christians. This is a common oversight in American Christian rhetoric about Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When Americans do recognize the existence of Palestinian Christians, it is often only to use their situation to support anti-Muslim propaganda. For example, according to a poll conducted by Zogby International, 45.9% of Americans blame Muslims for the Christian immigration out of the Holy Land, while only 7.4% of Americans cite Israeli restrictions as contributing to Arab Christian immigration. However, when Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem were asked about the primary cause for Christian immigration out of the area, 78% cited Israeli restrictions as their reason for leaving.
Ultimately, Dr. Moore concludes that Israel has a right to exist without the threat of terrorism. There is nothing wrong with this idea: Moore is completely correct in saying that Israel has that right to exist free from fear. However, rights are symmetrical, and Palestinians also have the right to live free of fear and free from the yoke of occupation.
Palestinians often feel the West views Palestinian rights as less important than Israeli rights, and that our blood is valued less than Jewish blood. When American Christian leaders like Moore write articles condemning bombings in Israel but are silent about bombings in Gaza (the most recent of which resulted in the death of 3 children), it tells Palestinians that we are viewed as sub-human. However, we also bleed, just as we care for the blood of others. I myself felt disgusted at the Itamar attack and the bombing in Jerusalem.
I must say that I don’t understand Christians who value the life of one group over another. Even if American Christians consider Muslims as enemies, in the New Testament Jesus commanded his followers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. The word he used for “love” in Greek (agapao) means to entertain or to welcome in. This concept seems to be in direct opposition to the doctrine of Islamophobia spread by many Christian evangelical groups in the United States. Moreover, Isaiah says “”Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” The scripture does not apply only to Jews, to the “foreigner” and “alien.” Hundreds of millions of Americans profess to be Christians and believe in the divine inspiration of these verses, so where are these “believers” when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Moore’s article is a reminder that many American Christians view supporting Israel as a tenant of faith, without thinking critically about the theological and practical implications of this viewpoint. As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” Like many Christian groups who visit Israel, Moore’s group did not bother to visit any Palestinian towns. My guess is that neither Moore nor any of his church members have ever even met a Palestinian. Perhaps then their demonization of Palestinians is unsurprising.
When I was ten, my brother was murdered by Israeli soldiers. As a result, I understand how easy it is to seek revenge and find justifications for violence. As Solomon said, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” However, I long to see more religious people practice these verses which speak of justice as a higher form of religion, and I long for the day when religion becomes more a tool for bringing people together than for dividing them. On that day the prophecy of Isaiah will be realized “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
Aziz Abu Sarah is a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem who spends his time between Jerusalem and Washington D.C. Aziz is a columnist with Alquds Newspaper and is the director of the Middle East Projects at the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University. Aziz runs alternative tours to Israel and the West-Bank through MEJDI a social enterprise he co-founded. His blog can be found at http://azizabusarah.wordpress.com
The FDA is Asleep at the Switch
Recently, a senior scientist with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made this comment to the news media about radioactive fallout being detected in milk in the United States from the nuclear catastrophe in Japan:
“Radiation is all around us in our daily lives, and these findings are a miniscule amount compared Fukushima-Daiichi to what people experience every day. For example, a person would be exposed to low levels of radiation on a round trip cross country flight, watching television, and even from construction materials.”
No matter how small the dose might be, it is disingenuous to compare an exposure to a specific radioisotope that is released by a major nuclear accident, with radiation exposures in every-day life. The FDA spokesperson should have informed the public that radioactive iodine provides a unique form of exposure in that it concentrates rapidly in dairy products and in the human thyroid. The dose received, based on official measurements, may be quite small, and pose an equally small risk. However, making a conclusion on the basis of one measurement is fragmentary at best and unscientific at worst. As the accident in Fukushima continues to unfold, the public should be provided with all measurements made of radioactive fallout from the Fukushima reactors to allow for independent analyses.
Moreover, the FDA has been asleep at the switch when it comes to protecting public health from medical radiation exposures. According to the National Council on Radiation Protection, radiation exposures to the American public from medical devices, which the FDA regulates, have soared by nearly 600 percent since 1982. In 2002, the NCRP estimated that the public received an extra 53 millirem (0.53 mSv) per person per year from medical radiation sources. In 2006, the NCRP estimates that this dose has jumped to 300 millirem (3mSv)–nearly three times the annual dose allowed by the U.S. EPA from nuclear facilities.
The single largest contributor responsible for half of this dose to the American public is from Computed Tomography or CT Scans, whose use has skyrocketed over the past several years. According to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, as many as 29,000 future cancers could be related to CT scans performed in 2007 alone.
According to several articles in the New York Times, an alarming number of people have been severely overexposed to CT scans. FDA has yet to comment on how this may be affecting the health of the Americans in every-day life.
Robert Alvarez, an Institute for Policy Studies senior scholar, served as senior policy adviser to the Energy Department’s secretary from 1993 to 1999.
Gulf War SyndromeThere were two images from the Libyan war that are likely to spell real trouble in the coming years. One was of several U.S. A-10 attack planes, ungainly looking machines ugly enough to be nick named “Warthogs,” taxiing down a runway. The other was of several rebel fighters dancing on top of a burning tank.
That tank, an old Russian-era T-72, was likely knocked out by one of those A-10s, which means those rebels fighters are almost certainly going to be in a world of hurt. Because, while they were celebrating, they were also breathing in the residue from the shell that killed that tank, a 30 mm depleted uranium munition (DUA).
DUA is the weapon of choice when it comes to killing armored vehicles, and A-10s are specialists at using it. The U.S. used 320 tons of it in the first Gulf War, 10 tons in Kosovo, and over 1,000 tons in the invasion of Iraq. It is lethal to tanks, but it also damages anything that comes into contact with it. Common photos back in 1991 were of U.S. soldiers climbing on top of knocked-out Iraqi tanks to have their pictures taken or to look for souvenirs. When they did, they inhaled uranium oxide or impregnated their uniforms with it.
The soldiers didn’t know better because the U.S. Defense Department (DOA) told them DUA was harmless, even though the DOA knew better. In 1991 the U.S. Army’s Armament Munitions and Chemical Command concluded that “any system struck by DUA penetrator can be assumed to be contaminated with DU,” and instructed soldiers to wear protective masks, clothes and respirators “as a minimum,” and dispose of the clothing afterward.
The only problem was that the Army never told the troops, even those whose job it was to deal with vehicles hit by DUA. No one said a word to the 144th National Guard Supply Company of the 24th Infantry Division which picked up 29 U.S. armored vehicles hit by DUA “friendly fire” to ship them home. When the tanks and armored personnel carriers arrived in South Carolina, they were interned in a radioactive waste dump. If the soldiers didn’t know the objects were “hot,” the brass did.
Many of those members of that National Guard company subsequently came down with the “Gulf War Syndrome” (GWS) that afflicted at least 118,000 out of the 700,000 soldiers who served in the 1990-91 conflict. Veterans suffer from chronic fatigue, headaches, muscle spasms, joint pains, memory loss, anxiety and balance problems; were twice as likely to develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig Disease); and between two and three times more likely to have children with birth defects.
DUA is one of the most deadly anti-tank weapons around. The enormous weight of the DUA “arrow” in each shell can penetrate four inches of armor as if it were margarine. It then explodes in a 10,000-degree fireball that reduces up 70 percent of the munition to powder. The powder can travel up to 25 miles from the initial blast site.
Depleted uranium is not highly radioactive, but it has a half-life of 4.4 billion years, and, if it gets into your system, it can be very dangerous. According to the U.S. Environmental Policy Institute, DUA “has the potential to generate significant medical consequences.”
“People have always assumed low doses are not much of a problem,” Alexander Miller of the U.S. Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute told the Guardian (British), “but they can cause more damage than people think.” A study by the Institute found that DUA could damage bone marrow chromosomes.
Not all of the Gulf War butcher bill can be laid at the feet of DUA. After 11 years of denying there was anything to GWS, the Pentagon finally admitted that at least 130,000 soldiers had been exposed to chemical weapon residue when the Iraqi arms depot at Kamisiyah was blown up. Modern battlefields tend to be toxic nightmares, and that was doubly so in Iraq.
But there is no question that DUA was a major contributor to the syndrome, particularly for those who developed immune related diseases. A standard effect of radiation is suppression of the immune system.
The effects of low-level radiation are hard to track, because many “hard” cancers take 16 to 24 years to develop. Iraqi medical authorities claim that the cancer rate in Basra—an area that was saturated with DUA in the Gulf war and the Iraq War—has jumped ten fold, and birth defects are much higher than in the rest of the country.
DUA is also used in 25 mm cannon shells, and 105 MM and 120 MM tank shells. The Army is using it to manufacture 50-caliber machine gun ammunition and is experimenting with using it for standard issue infantry weapons. It is also used to coat armored vehicles, making them almost impervious to non-DUA shells.
The U.S. is selling DUA to Israel, Egypt, Pakistan, some of our NATO allies—Germany and Italy won’t use it—Sweden, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Thailand, and other countries that the Pentagon will not reveal in the name of “national security.”
Depleted uranium is also a highly toxic metal and can damage the liver and kidneys, particularly if it gets into the water supply. If a DUA round misses a target, its “penetrators” are so heavy that they tend to go deep into the soil. “A major concern of the potential environmental effects of intact [DUA] penetrators or large penetrator fragments,” notes the World Health Organization, “is the potential contamination of ground water after weathering.”
Because of the dangers associated with DUA, in August 2002 a subcommittee of the United Nations found that the weapons violated seven international agreements, including the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions. Efforts to ban it, however, have been vetoed by the U.S., France and Britain. In 2009 Belgium became the first country to ban the use of DUA, and in the same year the Latin American Parliament voted for a moratorium on its use.
The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons that includes 120 non-governmental organizations is currently lobbying to get the weapons eliminated.
There are other rough beasts being visited on the Libyans these days as well, including cluster weapons, highly explosive canisters that can shred everything from people to tanks. U.S. warplanes have been dropping CBU-103, 104, 105, and AGM-154 A and B, all of which have a failure rate of anywhere from 5 to 23 percent. These unexploded “bomblets” can kill for decades.
During the bombing of Laos from 1964 to 1973, 90 million cluster munitions were dropped, killing more than 12,000 civilians. The bomblets continue exact a yearly toll of 100 to 200 people. More than 50 million clusters were dropped during the 1991 Gulf War, and in the two years that followed the war’s end, they killed 1,400 Kuwaiti citizens. A U.S. company hired to clear cluster weapons from a small area in Kuwait found 95,700 unexploded MK-118 submunitions from the notoriously unreliable CBU-99 “Rockeye” cluster bomb.
Unexploded clusters are still causing problems in Kosovo, and they take a steady toll of civilians in Afghanistan.
Libya has no-go areas dating back to the Second World War, when Italians, Germans and British seeded their fronts with land mines. Whatever government emerges in Libya today will have to deal with the aftermath of yet another war, this time created by DUA and cluster weapons. “The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without,” Dwight Eisenhower once remarked.
A problem indeed. One hopes Libya manages to avoid what a village in Vietnam experienced, the one that was destroyed in order to save it.
RAMALLAH — Israeli forces entered the central West Bank village of Bil’in on Monday morning, searching homes and harassing residents, reportedly in search of international solidarity activists who often remain in the area to document rights violations.
A spokesperson for the local popular committee said the raid began at 1:30 a.m. and lasted approximately an hour. The official said the homes of village residents Ali Birnat and Khamis Abu Rahma were targeted and searched.
Local committee members attempting to document the raid were prevented from accessing the scene of the searches.
An Israeli military spokeswoman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
A statement from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee said Abu Rahma was questioned about who was residing in his house, noting soldiers were “interested in internationals, although they could not find any,” noting that soldiers and police searched Abu Rahma’s home and garden, including the garbage and inside cars located nearby.
Groups of solidarity activists have for the past year stayed frequently in the village, which hosts the longest running weekly protest against Israel’s separation wall.
The prominent popular committee in the village has organized a yearly conference on popular non-violent resistance, and gained international support for its initiatives.
Since the early years of the protests, international solidarity activists have joined the demonstrations in an effort to mitigate the use of violence against the villagers. The use of high-velocity tear-gas canisters have caused death and injury to residents, and solidarity activists say an international presence witnessing and documenting the action often reduces the use of force.
Once activists left the village at the close of the protests, particularly during 2009 and 2010, Israeli forces would enter and detain teens they said were throwing stones at the soldiers, and later targeted protest leaders for detentions.
Activists began staying overnight in the village to document the night raids they said were being used to intimidate villagers, who have also launched court actions against the confiscation of land by Israel’s separation wall.
Sixty percent of the village lands now stand on the far side of the wall, and are largely inaccessible but for a gate that opens periodically allowing farmers to tend crops, without the use of heavy machinery or equipment.
Yemeni security forces shot dead 15 anti-regime demonstrators and wounded scores more on Monday, on the second day of lethal clashes in Taez, south of the capital, medics said.
The bloodshed came as demonstrators staged a march on the governorate headquarters in the city to demand the ouster of Yemen’s embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Witnesses said the demonstrators stormed the courtyard of the governorate and that plainclothes gunmen opened fire in an attempt to push them back.
The bloodshed, a day after another protester was shot dead in Taez, sent the death toll to more than 100 in a crackdown on protests in the impoverished Arabian peninsula state since late January.
In a similar confrontation, 13 people were shot and wounded late on Sunday as police clashed with tens of thousands of demonstrators in the western city of Hudaydah, according to witnesses.
Police opened fire as the protesters marched on to the Red City sea’s main local government building, the witnesses said. Thirteen were wounded by live bullets, another 30 by batons and rocks, while 400 others suffered from the effects of tear gas inhalation.
According to a report in the New York Times on Sunday, citing US and Yemeni officials, the US government is dropping its support for Saleh and taking part in efforts to negotiate his departure and a transitional handover.
US officials have told allies they see Saleh’s position as untenable due to the widespread protests, and believe he should leave office, the paper said, adding that negotiations over his departure began more than a week ago.
GAZA — 32 Palestinians have died and 118 have sustained injuries in Israeli aggressions during the first quarter of 2011, said Adham Abu Salmiyya, spokesman for the Gaza emergency services.
Many of those deaths took place in the second half of March and included children as the Israeli army bombed numerous targets amid threats of a new war on the Gaza Strip.
The count is high compared to first three months of the previous year, when 15 Palestinians died and 70 were injured.
According to Salmiyya, several civilian sites had been targeted, including the largest, one of the Gaza health ministry’s drug reserves in mid-February. A health clinic also sustained damage during the Israeli escalation on the Gaza Strip late March.
In the aftermath of the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Strip, 18 have been killed, including 5 children, and 52 have been injured, including 17 children and six women, according to the official figures.
Israel has launched so far 34 air strikes against civilian targets and fired at least 90 artillery shells. The latest attack was an admitted assassination of leaders in Hamas’s armed wing Saturday morning in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip.
The Israeli army targeted more than 15 sites in February and killed seven Palestinians and caused injury to 46 others, among them children. Two others were killed the same month by artillery shells fired by Israeli forces.
He pointed out that explosive objects left behind by occupation forces killed two men and wounded six in January. Three others died that month in air strikes.
Salmiyya highlighted that a number of government and private buildings underwent significant damage during the recent attacks. They include a soft drink factory east of the Al-Zatoun district in Gaza, a health clinic in Tawam, a metal workshop, a brick factory, a tire shop and a warehouse in Khan Younis.