Diana Buttu, Human rights attorney, Ramallah-based analyst, former advisor to Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian negotiators, and Policy Advisor to Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network.
George Bisharat, Professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies, and former legal consultant to the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Q – What caused this latest outburst of violence?
DB - “As soon as the Palestinian Authority national unity government was announced in April, Israel set its sights on destroying it. It did so by first pressing for the government’s isolation and, when that failed, it used the deaths of three Israelis (kidnapped in an area of the West Bank that is entirely under Israel’s control) to demonize Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Within 18 days of the Israelis going missing, Israel arrested hundreds of Palestinians in the West Bank including 11 Parliamentarians and 59 former prisoners who were released in a prisoner exchange three years ago. These people were arrested without any proof that these individuals were in any way involved in the deaths of the three Israelis. In addition, Israel killed 10 Palestinians, including three children in the West Bank and demolished three houses. Israel launched air raids on the Gaza Strip, as documented by the UN, killing two, including a 10-year-old child. This happened before a single Hamas rocket was fired from Gaza. When Israel failed to break up the unity government diplomatically, it turned to a brutal military attack. What is clear is that the status quo is not the answer. Returning to the 2012 ceasefire will not work as it was easily abused by Israel.”
GB - “Israel instrumentalized the tragic deaths of three Israeli youths, abducted and killed on June 12, to attack Hamas in the West Bank and disrupt Palestinian national reconciliation – a goal it had failed to achieve diplomatically. Israel arrested more than 400, searched 2,200 homes and other sites, and killed at least nine Palestinians in the process. We now know that Israel concealed evidence the youths were killed virtually immediately after abduction, and incited Israeli public opinion to a frenzy, directly leading to the brutal immolation of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. These cynical acts led to the escalation of violence along the Gaza border.”
NH – “Israel used the June 12 kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenage settlers to launch a brutal Israeli crackdown on the West Bank and East Jerusalem that human rights organizations have condemned as collective punishment. Israel particularly targeted Hamas members despite the lack of evidence and the organization’s denial of responsibility. The real target was the national unity agreement achieved by Hamas.
“The truth is, though, that this all-out Israeli assault on Gaza would have happened sooner or later. Israelis call their approach to Gaza “mowing the grass”. That is, they must attack and weaken Hamas every two or three years, even though Hamas has proven willing and able to respect a ceasefire, including by reining in other factions. This is one of the ways Israel “manages” its occupation and colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and its occupation and siege of Gaza.”
Q – Is Israel acting in self-defense?
DB – “No. Israel cannot claim self-defense owing to the fact that it initiated the assault on the Gaza Strip and continues to maintain a brutal military occupation over the Gaza Strip (and the West Bank). Rather, Israel has an obligation under international law to protect Palestinians living under its military rule.”
GB - “Self-defense may not be claimed by a state that initiates violence, as Israel did in its violent assault on Hamas in the West Bank.”
NH - “No. A member state of the United Nations that has signed international conventions pledging to respect the laws of war has no right to indiscriminately attack civilians and civilian infrastructure. The very high number of Palestinian civilian casualties – men, women, children – give the lie to Israel’s claims to self-defense, as does Hamas’ proven willingness to uphold a ceasefire.
“Moreover, Israel cannot claim self-defense against a people whose land it has been militarily occupying and colonizing for decades, part of whose population it has placed under siege. Only a ceasefire can protect Palestinians and Israelis alike, and only an end to the occupation and siege can pave the way to a permanent peace.
“Hamas should also refrain from targeting civilian infrastructure but it is not a UN-member state and has not signed conventions binding it to uphold international law.”
Q – Is Israel attacking “Hamas targets”?
DB – “No. Israel appears to be attacking civilian homes and civilian infrastructure. To date, according to UN estimates, 80 percent of those killed are civilians, including over 150 children. Israel has bombed hospitals, schools and mosques – all illegitimate targets under international law. More than 2,000 homes and entire neighborhoods have been destroyed by Israel’s attacks. This is inconsistent with international law. Civilian structures, such as homes, are only lawful targets when they are being used for military purposes. The Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Convention on the Law of War provides that, ‘in case of doubt whether an object which is normally dedicated to civilian purposes, such as a place of worship, a house or other dwelling or a school, is being used to make an effective contribution to military action, it shall be presumed not to be so used.’ While Israel has argued that Palestinian homes are command centers, Human Rights Watch has dismissed those claims.
“Attacks that do not discriminate between civilians and combatants are illegal. Using Israel’s logic, this also means that any home of any past or present Israeli soldier or police officer is a legitimate target or any civilian area where military is present (such as the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv). Clearly, this is not acceptable.
“This is not a video game in which the Israeli army is allowed to hunt down anyone associated with Hamas, irrespective of whether they are a combatant and without regard for civilian infrastructure.”
GB - “Israel appears to be categorizing any upper-level Hamas member as a ‘combatant,’ regardless of function. For example, it deliberately targeted Gaza police chief Taysir al-Batsh, injuring him and killing 18 members of his family, while he visited his cousin’s home. Police are civilians in international law, and this, on the face of it, appears to have been a clear war crime. So, likely, are the many other attacks that have been launched against private homes, although definitive conclusions must be left to further investigation. Israel has also attacked hospitals, water treatment facilities and sewer lines, and other civilian infrastructure that has nothing to do with Hamas. In fact, despite Israel’s claims to respect the international legal requirement of distinction between military targets and civilians, its actions speak of a policy to deliberately kill civilians as a means of weakening Hamas politically.”
NH - “No. The figures of civilian dead and injured undermine this claim. Compare the 433 Palestinian civilians killed by July 22 according to UN figures, out of an overall total of over 640 Palestinians killed, to two Israeli civilians killed.”
Q - Why has Hamas declined to accept a ceasefire?
DB - “Hamas and other factions were not consulted on the ceasefire proposal; Egypt was. Egypt does not represent or speak on behalf of Palestine or Palestinians; only Palestinians do. It is silly to think that any progress can be made without a major party to the agreement present at the table. Moreover, Israel has currently rejected a humanitarian cease-fire to allow much-needed supplies into the Gaza Strip and to allow Palestinians to bury their dead.”
GB - “Hamas declined to accept a ceasefire offer about which it had not been consulted and which failed to meet basic requirements of fairness. Within 24 hours, however, Hamas and other Palestinian groups offered Israel a ten-year truce that would have ended Israel’s siege against the Gaza Strip, thus guaranteeing long-term stability in the region. Israel had not responded to that offer, but appears to prefer to periodically ‘mow the lawn.’”
NH – “Hamas is willing to accept a ceasefire, but one that would be respected by Israel and that would lift the siege on Gaza. The Palestinians in Gaza, the vast majority of whom are civilians, as well as the members of Hamas or other factions, have since 2007 faced the choice between a slow death or a quick one. Either they die through ill health and disease due to lack of potable water, poor nutrition, and lack of medical care as a result of the draconian siege imposed by Israel on Gaza that has also been upheld by Egypt. Or they die quickly when Israel decides to ‘mow the lawn.’
“Until the border crossings are open for the movement of people and goods, the Gaza Palestinians will be forced to live without the most basic rights.”
Q – Does Hamas use Palestinians as human shields?
DB - “The Gaza Strip is an area that is 26 miles (40 km) long and seven miles (12 km) wide at its widest point. With nearly 1.8 million Palestinians, the Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Moreover, prior to this attack, 35 percent of the Gaza Strip was off limits – by threat of death – to Palestinians with Israel maintaining a ‘no-go’ zone in these areas. That said, while Hamas fights from within this small area, it does not use Palestinian civilians as cover. To date, international investigations have concluded that there is no evidence to substantiate these long-made Israeli claims and yet the claims continue to be accepted by many, unchallenged. Ironically, the converse has been well-established: Israel has used Palestinian civilians as human shields when carrying out its military operations.”
GB – “Hamas fights from within inhabited areas, as it must in the densely populated Gaza Strip. But few allegations that Hamas deliberately endangers civilians in order to escape attack have ever been substantiated. The claim seems designed to ‘blame the victim.’ Certainly, Palestinians themselves are perfectly clear that it is Israel that is spilling Palestinian blood.”
NH – “Israel has declared 44% of the Gaza Strip – an area less than half the size of New York City – a military “buffer zone.” Who is using whom as a human shield?”
Q – Does the Israeli military take all possible precautions to prevent civilian casualties?
DB - “No. The ‘knock on the roof’ procedure – dropping a missile on a house in advance of its bombing – has resulted in deaths. According to Philip Luther of Amnesty International, ‘There is no way that firing a missile at a civilian home can constitute an effective “warning.” Amnesty International has documented cases of civilians killed or injured by such missiles in previous Israeli military operations on the Gaza Strip,’ he said.
“In addition, while Israel claims that it distributes leaflets, these leaflets do not tell people where they are to go to be safe. As noted by Israeli human rights organizations, ‘Dispersal of leaflets does not grant the military permission to consider the area as if it were so-called “sterile,” assume that no civilians were left in the area and then proceed to attack civilian sites. The military must not assume that all residents have indeed left their homes.’
“Moreover, Israel claims that the Iron Dome defense system has been effective at preventing Israeli civilian deaths. Given this claim and given that the number of Israeli civilian casualties is 2 (as compared to 650 Palestinian deaths), it is clear that there are alternative means to address any rockets launched toward Israel without harming civilians in the process.”
GB - “Of course not, as several responses above indicate. Warnings to civilians to leave areas when they have no effective refuge are meaningless, and a number of Palestinians, including three boys of the Shuhaibar family, have been killed by Israel’s practice of ‘knocking on the roof’ – that is, firing what is supposed to be a warning missile before heavier ordnance is used.”
NH - “Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth. It is impossible to hit it from air, land, and sea without killing hundreds of civilians. The only way to prevent the killing and injuring of Gaza civilians is a ceasefire – and Hamas has honored past ceasefires. And the only way to achieve peace is through an agreement that ends Israel’s occupation and colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the siege of Gaza and respects other Palestinian rights long denied.”
And what The Goldstone Report found the last time Israel fired on hospitals in Gaza, and then accused Hamas of using them as military bases:
‘The Mission did not find any evidence to support the allegations that hospital facilities were used by the Gaza authorities or by Palestinian armed groups to shield military activities and that ambulances were used to transport combatants or for other military purposes. On the basis of its own investigations and the statements by UN officials, the Mission excludes that Palestinian armed groups engaged in combat activities from UN facilities that were used as shelters during the military operations’.
The Israeli government are proven liars in this regard, and no-one should be surprised if they are lying this time around as well.
That they are proven liars in this regard apparently isn’t enough to stop The Times taking the Israeli government at their word, and then publishing cartoons which can only have the effect of helping to justify war crimes.
Al-Akhbar | July 24, 2014
At least 15 people were killed, including a baby, when an Israeli tank shell slammed into a UN-run school in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, Gaza health ministry sources said.
The ministry also estimated that at least 200 people were wounded in the bombing.
A UN official confirmed “multiple dead and injured” at the school in Beit Hanoun, which was being used as a shelter by hundreds of Palestinians fleeing a major Israeli operation in the area. … continue
Senators Sanders & Leahy Join in Deeply Flawed Resolution Supporting Israel
All 100 Senators, including Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, joined in passing a Senate resolution on July 17, 2014 supporting “the State of Israel as it defends itself against unprovoked rocket attacks from the Hamas terrorist organization.”
However, the facts differ.
A report issued by the authoritative “Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center” (ITIC), a private Israeli think tank that “has close ties with the country’s military leadership,” unintentionally debunked the Senate resolution more than a week before its unanimous consent vote in the Senate. The weekly ITIC reports regarding rocket fire are frequently quoted on the Israeli government’s own web site.
The ITIC July 8, 2014 report,“News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (July 2 – 8, 2014),” states: “For the first time since Operation Pillar of Defense [November 2012], Hamas participated in and claimed responsibility for rocket fire [on July 7, 2014].”
Thus, Hamas rocket fire only re-started on July 7 after a 19 month cease-fire. As we will see, this was nearly a month after Israeli forces launched massive military operations in the West Bank and Gaza starting on June 12. But those Israeli military operations were not the only provocation.
First, about the cease fire that was in place: Operation Pillar of Defense was an 8 day aerial assault on Gaza in November 2012 that ended with a ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt. Graphs presented on the ITIC website show that the cease-fire was effective. In the weeks and months following that agreement, the ITIC consistently reported the absence of Hamas rocket fire. In addition, a May 2013 article in the Jerusalem Post, “IDF source: Hamas working to stop Gaza rockets,” reported that Hamas was policing other groups to prevent rocket fire.
The July 8 ITIC report also divulged why Hamas launched its first rocket fire at Israel in more than 19 months on July 7: On that night Israeli forces had bombed and killed 6 Hamas members in Gaza. The ITIC report includes a picture of the six Hamas members. Thus, a report from an authoritative Israeli source described the provocation for the resumption of rocket fire: Hamas rocket fire began only after Israeli forces had engaged in nearly a month of military operations in violation of the ceasefire agreement and had killed 6 Hamas members in Gaza.
The Palestine Center for Human Rights (PCHR) also issues weekly reports, these reports focus on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied territories, including the West Bank and Gaza. In its July 10 weekly report, PCHR gave further details of the events that immediately preceded the July 7 Hamas rocket launchings: PCHR reports:
Between 01:00 and 16:00, the bodies of 5 members of the ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades (the armed wing of Hamas) were recovered from a tunnel dug near Gaza International Airport in the southeast of the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. They were identified as: Ibrahim Dawod al-Bal’awi, 24; ‘Abdul Rahman Kamal al-Zamli, 22; Jum’a ‘Atiya Shallouf, 26; and Khaled ‘Abdul Hadi Abu Mur, 21, and his twin brother, Mustafa. Another three members were recovered alive, but one was in a serious condition. It should be noted that the tunnel was repeatedly bombarded by Israeli warplanes and tanks. According to medical sources, the deceased inhaled toxic gases. The ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades declared in an online statement that 5 of its members were killed as a result of airstrikes that targeted places of resistance activities.
The facts show that Israeli forces had to work quite hard to get Hamas to end its cease-fire. The killing of the six Hamas members was not an isolated event. Israeli forces and settlers had gone wild on the West Bank starting on June 12 after the kidnapping of three Israeli teens. Israeli forces had also attacked 60 targets in Gaza during those three weeks of June. Then, on the night of July 7, 2014, the Israeli Air Force had attacked approximately 50 more “terrorist targets” in the Gaza Strip, as described in the ITIC report.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on July 3:
Israel’s military operations in the West Bank following the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers have amounted to collective punishment. The military operations included unlawful use of force, arbitrary arrests, and illegal home demolitions.
The HRW report also states that:
Israeli forces have arrested about 700 Palestinians since June 12, 2014, and are currently detaining at least 450, some during the large-scale military incursions and others who are known supporters or leaders of the Hamas Reform and Change Party, which won Palestinian elections in 2006, according to Addameer, a Palestinian prisoner’s rights group.
Giving more details, several of the weekly reports from the Palestine Center for Human Rights (PCHR) indicate that Israeli forces and settlers killed 11 Palestinians and wounded 51 during 369 incursions into the West Bank between June 12 and July 2 and that Israeli forces raided hundreds of houses on the West Bank each week. Israeli forces also launched the 60 bombing attacks on Gaza and one ground incursion, wounding 27 people in Gaza during those three weeks.
While all these attacks in the West Bank and Gaza did produce rocket fire from other groups in Gaza during June–which the ITIC reports had been almost zero during the previous month–the attacks did not provoke Hamas itself to fire rockets. To predictably accomplish that feat, Israeli forces had to go further and kill the 6 Hamas members on July 7.
The Senate resolution names Hamas in nearly every one of its deeply flawed paragraphs. Yet it fails to mention any of the facts about Israel’s military operations in the West Bank and Gaza.
Let’s turn this around for a moment: Had the Israeli public been subjected to a massive military crackdown including 369 military incursions into Israel and 110 bombing attacks on Israel during which 11 Israelis had been killed, 78 wounded, and 700 arrested, and then had six Israeli soldiers been killed in a single air and ground military operation, would the Senate have omitted mention of all such facts and voted by unanimous consent that responding Israeli forces were “unprovoked?” Would the Senate have voted that the one attacking Israel was defending itself and that Israeli forces were the ones engaging in “belligerent actions?”
Why did the Senate get this so wrong? Why did Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy allow their names to be used for pro-war propaganda so at variance with the facts?
James Marc Leas is a Vermont attorney and is a past co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild Free Palestine Subcommittee. He collected evidence in the Gaza Strip from November 27 to December 3, 2012 as part of a 20 member delegation from the US and Europe and co-authored several articles describing findings. He also participated in the National Lawyers Guild delegation to Gaza after Operation Cast Lead in February 2009 and contributed to its report, Onslaught: Israel’s Attack on Gaza and the Rule of Law.
At least 15 people were killed, including a baby, when an Israeli tank shell slammed into a UN-run school in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, Gaza health ministry sources said.
The ministry also estimated that at least 200 people were wounded in the bombing.
A UN official confirmed “multiple dead and injured” at the school in Beit Hanoun, which was being used as a shelter by hundreds of Palestinians fleeing a major Israeli operation in the area.
“At 14:50, a shell landed in or near” an UNRWA school being used as a shelter, a UN official told AFP.
“People in the shelter were hurt,” he said, with a spokesman for Gaza’s emergency services reporting deaths.
The director of a local hospital said various medical centers around Beit Hanoun were receiving the wounded.
“Such a massacre requires more than one hospital to deal with it,” said Ayman Hamdan, director of the Beit Hanoun hospital.
A Reuters photographer at the scene said pools of blood had collected on the ground and on student desks in the courtyard of the school near the apparent impact mark of the shell.
Scores of crying families who had been living in the school ran with their children to the hospital where the victims were being treated a few hundred meters away.
Laila Al-Shinbari, a woman who was at school when it was shelled, told Reuters families had gathered in the courtyard expecting to be evacuated shortly in a Red Cross convoy.
“All of us sat in one place when suddenly four shells landed on our heads … Bodies were on the ground, (there was) blood and screams. My son is dead and all my relatives are wounded including my other kids,” she wept.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said that the UN agency had unsuccessfully tried to coordinate with Israeli forces prior to the attack to let civilians evacuate the school.
Israel has attacked at least three UNRWA schools in the past four days. UNRWA facilities have served as shelters for tens of thousands of Palestinians since the beginning of the offensive.
At least 76 Palestinians have been killed on Thursday, the 17th day of a deadly Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip. In total more than 770 Palestinians have been killed in Operation “Protective Edge.”
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)
The Khuza’a area of east Khan Younis was cut off from the rest of the city for hours on Wednesday night, with medics unable to enter, journalists forced out and Israeli military forces engaged in a ground and air assault that has been ongoing, and has now sparked fears of a massacre similar to the one on Sunday, in Shuja’eyya, in which more than 75 people were killed.
Early Thursday, Israeli forces agreed to let up the assault for an hour to allow medics to retrieve the bodies of the dead and wounded.
Doctor Yusef Abu Al-Rish, the Deputy Health Minister of Gaza, issued a statement that reads:
Another massacre is underway in Khan Younis, where relentless Israeli shelling and sniper fire are wreaking death and destruction on all that moves in the zone east of Khan Younis city.
The villages of Khuza’a, Al Fukhari, Abasan Alkabir, Abasan Al Sa’ir, Jarara, and Bani Suhela received no warning of the attacks, and no warnings to evacuate before the bombardment began at around 11pm last night.
The intensity of Israeli shelling around the Algerian Hospital in Abasan Alkabir shattered its windows, and led to its evacuation, leaving only the emergency department operational.
Despite residents’ frantic calls to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for help in finding a safe route and safe vehicles to escape, the ICRC was unable to get a response from Israeli authorities until dawn today, when five bodies and 17 injured were retrieved and taken to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis.
An unknown number of dead and injured remain behind, as ambulances are prevented access.
Israeli military has declared the Khuza’a area a closed military zone, preventing even medics from entering it, but reports from Khuza’a stated that 12 were dead by morning.
The casualties in other villages are unable to be established at this time. Random shelling continues unabated, and Israeli snipers inside houses are attacking anything that moves.
Homes are being destroyed over the heads of entire families. Thousands have been displaced, many fleeing to the Nasser and European Gaza Hospitals.
Even hospitals are not safe, however. Monday’s attack on Al Aqsa hospital has left staff and patients alike fearing for their lives even within medical facilities.
The reality is that there is no safe sanctuary, for residents, patients or health personnel alike.
As they did in Shuja’eyya, the Israeli military is indiscriminately attacking civilians.
As they did in Shuja’eyya, the Israelis military is refusing to provide humanitarian access to the dead and injured, in clear breach of humanitarian law.
As they did in Shuja’eyya, the Israeli military is committing war crimes, with apparent impunity.
The Ministry of Health Gaza demands that the international community require the Israeli military to
1. Immediately cease all attacks on civilian targets in Gaza;
2. Immediately cease all attacks on medical facilities and personnel in Gaza;
3. Immediately provide access to the dead and injured, as required by international humanitarian law.
Hamas has hit Palestine’s bloodthirsty occupier where it could hurt real bad — in the soft under-belly that is Ben Gurion airport. The Resistance has achieved this by lobbing a rocket too close for comfort and causing air carriers in the United States and Europe to halt flights to Tel Aviv after warnings from governmental agencies concerned about passenger safety.
“The carriers are making the right call,” said Robert Mann, an airline consultant in Port Washington, New York. “They are ultimately legally responsible for their operations and thus, they have to be at least as cautious and in many cases more cautious than any guideline that they are given.”
Reuters reported that Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, called for US airlines to resume flights to Israel. “There is no need for US carriers to suspend flights and reward terrorism,” said a statement from Israel’s Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz.
But a senior Obama administration official said: “We’re not going to overrule the FAA, period… when a rocket lands a mile from that airport, that kind of trips their wire.”
Strictly speaking Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv, belongs to the Palestinians anyway. It was formerly Lydda airport; and Lydda, a major town in its own right during the British mandate, was designated Palestinian in the 1947 UN Partition. In July 1948 Israeli terrorist troops seized Lydda, shot up the town and drove out the population as part of their ethnic cleansing programme. In the process they massacred 426 men, women, and children. 176 of them were slaughtered in the town’s main mosque. See here for the lurid details.
Those who survived were forced to walk into exile in the scalding July heat leaving a trail of bodies — men, women and children — along the way. Israeli troops carried away 1,800 truck loads of loot. Jewish immigrants then flooded in and Lydda was given a Hebrew name, Lod.
So Israel has no real right to Lydda/Lod/Ben Gurion airport — it was stolen in a terror raid, as was so much else. It’s Israeli terror that has been rewarded all these years by airline flights.
Today the airport handles over 14 million passengers a year and is the international gateway to Israel. Hamas’s thrust at Ben Gurion may be just a prick. But they only have to lob one more rocket into the vicinity and and it becomes a serious belly wound. Most visitor traffic from abroad would dry up.
Before Israel’s flag-wavers get all hot under the collar, let’s consider what happened to Gaza’s airport. The Oslo II Agreement of 1995 provided for one to be constructed. The Yasser Arafat International airport was built with funding from Japan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Germany and Morocco, and cost $86 million. Arafat and US President Clinton attended the opening in 1998. Owned and operated by the Palestinian Authority it was capable of handling 700,000 passengers a year.
In December 2001 Israel destroyed the radar station and control tower, and cut the runway.
The only usable airstrip in Gaza today is a small airfield at Gush Katif, which is only suitable for short take-off and landing aircraft. The Israeli air blockade prevents it being used.
After this and all the other economic outrages committed against the Palestinians, Hamas will taste sweet revenge it they succeed in shutting down traffic through Ben Gurion and causing grief to Israel’s tourist trade and other business.
Q: Why is Egypt preventing medical aid to Gaza?
A: So that Israel can use it as a weapon, that’s why.
This explains why dozens of volunteer medical personnel cannot reach the desperately understaffed hospitals in Gaza. It explains why Egypt turned away a convoy of desperately needed medical supplies.
In this time of crisis, Egypt has sealed the border with Gaza, except occasionally to Palestinians who are registered with Israel as residents of Gaza. For anything else, please apply to Israel.
That’s fine for UNRWA, ANERA, UPA and other groups Israel has approved as relief agencies and who buy a lot of their supplies from Israeli sources, store it in Israeli warehouses, use Israeli transportation, have personnel that live in Israel and generally meet Israeli requirements and contribute to the Israeli economy. But what about doctors that carry Lebanese passports? Or Pakistanis, Algerians, Venezuelans, Sudanese, Iranians, Cubans or Syrians? Or who are not permitted to travel to or through Israel because they are on a long list of people who are critical of Israel, such as the organizers of the relief convoy that was turned away? Until the Sisi administration they used to be able to enter through Egypt.
That’s exactly the point. Israel wants them all to go to hell because they are not friends of Israel. Even better, let the people of Gaza go to hell – its children, mothers, grandparents – let them die or better still become infirm and a burden on this already crippled society.
Ashy grey faces – Oh NO! not one more load of tens of maimed and bleeding, we still have lakes of blood on the floor in the ER, piles of dripping, blood-soaked bandages to clear out – oh – the cleaners, everywhere, swiftly shovelling the blood and discarded tissues, hair, clothes, cannulas – the leftovers from death – all taken away…to be prepared again, to be repeated all over. More then 100 cases came to Shifa last 24 hrs. enough for a large well trained hospital with everything, but here – almost nothing: electricity, water, disposables, drugs, OR-tables, instruments, monitors – all rusted and as if taken from museums of yesterdays hospitals. But they do not complain, these heroes. They get on with it, like warriors, head on, enormous resolute.
– Dr. Mads Gilbert, al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza
This is what Israel has in mind. In effect, it has turned back the clock to when it destroyed nearly two thousand homes along the Gaza border, making homeless around 20,000 Palestinians and creating the “Philadelphi corridor”, a path of destruction the width of three football fields and eight miles long. It then controlled all of the borders of the Gaza strip, encroaching and destroying everything on the Gaza side up to an average depth of a half kilometer, and in the sea from a treaty-protected twenty kilometers to less than three unprotected, confining the ever growing population into an ever shrinking area with ever fewer resources.
Now, with Israel’s sweethearts running Egypt, it is once again fully in charge of that border, as well, and can treat the Gaza Strip like a hunting reserve, where its troops can practice their skills every couple of years. This is necessary in order to assure that the new recruits acquire the same genocidal experience as their older peers and preserve Israel’s shared cultural traditions.
These are the real aims of the Gaza invasion.
Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement.
Gaza, Occupied Palestine – On the 21st July at 2:17 PM, the IDF spokesperson released an image on twitter showing an aerial picture of a building marked as ‘Al-Wafa’ hospital. In the image there is a red circle, which they designated as the location from which a M75 rocket was launched.
The building in the picture marked ‘Al-Wafa’ hospital is in fact not the el-Wafa hospital but the Right to Life Society.
“Israel has targeted our hospital based on false and misleading claims. They are targeting medical facilities, the wounded, the sick, and our children, all over the Gaza Strip. They want us to know that nowhere is safe.” Said executive director of el-Wafa hospital, Dr. Basman Alashi.
According to the Gazan Ministry of Health, seven out of 13 hospitals, including el-Wafa, have been severely damaged.
Al Atatra Medical Clinic and 12 ambulances have been completely destroyed, seven other clinics have been damaged, 12 medical staff members have been injured, and three have been killed.
El-Wafa hospital was bombed once again by the Israeli military today after Dr. Alashi, received two phone calls from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations (UN). They passed a message from the Israeli military that, “there are activities in the hospital and the Israeli military may take a bigger action against el-Wafa.”
Dr. Alashi explained to both callers that the hospital is empty; all patients were evacuated on the 17th of July and that the hospital holds seven million dollars worth of essential medical equipment, as well as two safes that were irretrievable during the emergency evacuation.
“I will hold Israel personally responsible for seven million dollars if they have destroyed the hospital. It has already been bombed and shelled, I don’t understand what they are trying to achieve.” Dr. Alashi stated to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).
Ally Cohen, media coordinator for the ISM states, “anyone on the ground in Palestine knows that the Israeli military are constantly releasing completely fabricated information and reports. The only difference in this case, is that we can prove it.”
Israel’s bombardment of Gaza continues, with a death toll that has reached 655 – and just as an array of munitions rain down indiscriminately on the heads of those living in Gaza, turning night into day and forcing the residents of one of the most densely populated places on earth into becoming mourners in an instant, Gaza’s hospitals are made to endure the incoming salvo of missiles as well as a crippling siege.
Israel has a well-documented history of deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure in Gaza and Lebanon – homes, police stations, mosques, power plants, sport facilities, schools and hospitals. On Monday in central Gaza the floor housing operating rooms and the intensive care unit of al-Aqsa Hospital was struck by at least three tank shells, which killed five, according to Al-Jazeera correspondent Stephanie Dekker in Gaza. Gaza’s Ministry of Health released a statement denouncing the attack and demanding medical facilities be protected and medical staff, who have also been targeted by Israel, be allowed to provide urgent medical care:
We deplore the escalating violence against Gazan civilians and civilian infrastructure, and demand that the Israeli occupation respect their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians, health facilities and health professionals.
We note that attacks against health facilities can be considered war crimes under international law, and call upon the international community and the United Nations to take immediate action to prevent further such outrages against the Gazan citizenry by the Israeli occupation.
Al-Aqsa Hospital was not the only medical facility directly targeted by Israel, but one of four – another casualty of Israel’s unrelenting assault on the people of Gaza is charity-run al-Wafa Medical Rehabilitation Hospital, the only medical rehabilitation hospital in Gaza that treats and rehabilitates those with special needs and functions as a nursing home. On July 11, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) released a statement on the conditions around the hospital, relaying that not only had Israel fired “warning missiles” at the roof of al-Wafa but international activists were hearing missiles falling nearby Israel and so in an act of selflessness, foreign activists from the USA, Sweden, Spain, UK, Venezuela, Australia, New Zealand and France were maintaining a presence in the hospital so as to protect the patients and doctors inside. “The civilian population of Gaza is being bombed. We will stay with them in solidarity until the international community and our governments take action to stop Israel’s crimes against humanity,” states Swedish International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist Fred Ekblad.
Joe Catron, a freelance reporter who writes for the Electronic Intifada, Middle East Eye and other media outlets, is one of the ISM activists from the United States who remained inside al-Wafa Medical Rehabilitation Hospital. He entered the Gaza Strip in 2011 as part of the first solidarity delegation to arrive after the fall of the Mubarak regime in Egypt, and has lived there since. Catron and I spoke by way of email regarding his experiences as well as how doctors and Gaza’s medical facilities are coping as a result of Israel’s continued bombing:
Al-Akhbar English (AAE): What is the situation on the ground in Gaza currently, and how are Palestinians coping?
Joe Catron (JC): The situation is very difficult. Aside from the rapidly-mounting deaths and injuries, tens of thousands have been displaced by Israel’s destruction of their homes, or shelling and airstrikes on their neighborhoods. With many businesses and charities shuttered due to the risks of commuting, obtaining even basic supplies has become difficult for many. And Israel’s attacks on electrical and water infrastructure have made these resources even more inaccessible than the ongoing siege already had.
But people are pulling together, as they always do in times of escalated Israeli aggression, opening their homes to the displaced and sharing what they have. It’s the worst of times; in a strange way, it’s also the best of times. Palestinians are rarely more united than during an offensive.
AAE: What hospitals have you visited and what have you witnessed?
JC: I and seven other foreign activists spent a week in shifts at al-Wafa hospital, the only rehabilitation facility of its kind dedicated to occupational and physical therapy in the Gaza Strip. After an initial flurry of five Israeli missiles damaged it on July 11, we hoped our presence might discourage further Israeli aggression against it.
Unfortunately, it was insufficient. After a week of telephone threats and heavy shelling of the area, Israeli forces struck the hospital hard on July 17, forcing the evacuation of its patients at great risk and leaving smoking craters in its walls.
Al-Shifa hospital, Gaza’s main and largest medical facility, is simply flooded. With new patients pouring in every hour, others are being discharged or transferred as quickly as possible.
On Sunday, four international activists accompanied rescue workers into Gaza’s Shujayeh neighborhood, the site of Israel’s largest massacre yet in its current offensive. Days of Israeli shelling have reduced this once-thriving neighborhood to an apocalyptic landscape of fire and rubble, bombed ambulances and demolished homes. We saw a young man trying to reach his family’s home and locate survivors shot by an Israeli sniper, then repeatedly shot again while prone on the ground. He lay only meters from us, but Israeli gun and artillery fire blocked us from reaching him.
AAE: What else can you tell me about the situation in the hospitals?
JC: Hospitals are crowded and chaotic, but also oddly inspiring. They’re sites to treat the wounded, but also for others to show support for them, their families, and the health care workers looking after them. A number of my friends here are doing what they can for the struggle by preparing food and bringing it to al-Shifa. Many political factions and civil society organizations are doing the same.
AAE: How are doctors dealing with what has been transpiring in Gaza?
JC: Doctors and other health care workers face grave challenges not only from a massive influx of new casualties and critical shortages of medications and other supplies, but also in threats to their own safety. Israel’s attacks on at least four hospitals and six clinics have shown that in its current offensive, they are its targets as much as anything else.
Hospitals and clinics face critical shortages not only of essential medications, but also of supplies as routine as bandages. In some cases, like Israel’s shelling of el-Wafa hospital, staff have been forced to abandon supplies in their facilities while evacuating patients, which hasn’t helped matters.
AAE: What do you want people to know about Gaza, in terms of this situation and beyond it? Anything else to add?
JC: Like most places, the Gaza Strip is a product of its history more than the news. The overwhelming majority of its population are Palestinian refugees ethnically cleansed from land now claimed by Israel. This is the single most important factor in its resistance to the occupation, and also the one most quickly obscured in mainstream reporting, which focuses instead, and almost exclusively, on the events of the day.
You can follow Joe Catron’s updates from the Gaza Strip on Twitter @jncatron
GAZA CITY – The death toll on the 16th day of Israeli military offensive on Gaza rose to 24 on Wednesday after an Israeli airstrike killed 70-year-old Hasan Abu Hein, 34-year-old Osama Abu Hein, and journalist Abdul-Rahman Abu Hein, 24, in the Shujaiyya neighborhood of Gaza City.
Several other people were also injured when Israeli forces bombarded a 700-year-old mosque known as Al-Shamaa mosque (also known as Bab ad-Darum) in the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City before noon time.
More than 650 Palestinians — the vast majority of whom have been civilians, including more than 160 children — have been killed in the assault so far, while Israel has suffered 29 deaths, 27 of whom have been soldiers.
The Gaza Strip continued to be bombarded from air, land, and sea on Wednesday morning, a day after the the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA accused Israeli of shelling a UN school sheltering the displaced for the second time in two days.
“UNRWA condemns in the strongest possible terms the shelling of one of its schools in the central area of Gaza,” it said in a statement.
“The location of the school and the fact that it was housing internally displaced persons had been formally communicated to Israel on three separate occasions. We have called on the Israeli authorities to carry out an immediate and comprehensive investigation.”
During the offensive, more than 135,000 Gazans have fled their homes, seeking shelter in 69 schools run by UNRWA.
Palestinian Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra on Wednesday said that the evacuation of dead bodies and injured people had been very slow in a number of areas because Israeli forces had impeded the movement of ambulances and rescue teams.
Al-Qidra highlighted that the total Palestinian death toll had risen to 647 on Wednesday morning, including 161 children and 35 elderly people.
More than 4,000 Palestinians had also sustained injuries in the assault, he said, while hospitals were running dangerously low on medical supplies amid the most deadly sustained Israeli assault on the besieged coastal enclave since 2008.
Israeli leaders on Tuesday hinted that the assault would not end until Hamas’ entire tunnel network had been destroyed, suggesting that the goals of the offensive had shifted from halting rocket fire to undermining the group’s military infrastructure more broadly.
Hamas, meanwhile, has demanded that any ceasefire include the lifting of the Israeli blockade, which has been in place for the last seven years and includes Israeli control over all imports, exports, and movement of people in the tiny coastal enclave.
Israel launched the assault earlier in the month after a sustained offensive on Hamas across the West Bank in June and early July in order to find three missing Israeli teenagers, which left 10 Palestinians dead, more than 130 injured, and 600 Hamas-affiliated individuals in prison.
The offensive — which was accompanied by airstrikes on the Gaza Strip — led to a sharp rise in rocket fire from the area into Israel.
24 dead Wednesday morning
Palestinian Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said on Wednesday that Nidal Hamad al-Ejla, 25, was killed and 30 others were injured, including two children with serious injuries, in Israeli shelling in the al-Shamaa area of Gaza City. The body and the injured were moved to al-Shifa medical center.
Muhammad Ziyad Habib, 30, was also killed in an Israeli attack on eastern Gaza City.
Palestinian medical sources said earlier that 12-year-old Rabee Qasim was killed and four other people injured when an Israeli shell hit a cart pulled by a donkey in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Naser in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning.
Ashraf al-Qidra said that at least five people were killed in the village of Khuzaa east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip early Wednesday as well.
Medical sources said that Adnan Ghazi Habib from al-Mughraqa neighborhood succumbed to wounds he sustained overnight.
In Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, rescue teams pulled four dead bodies from the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli airstrikes Tuesday night. Medical sources identified them as Muhammad Abu Riddiya, his wife, Shama, as well as Khalil Abu Jami and Husam al-Qarra.
Among the victims were two children Muhammad Mansour al-Bashiti, 7, and Zeinab Abu Teir. Bassam Abu Tueima, 23, Mahmoud Abu Tueima, 25, and a senior leader in the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine Ismail Abu Tharifa were also killed.
Earlier on Wednesday morning, Israeli airstrikes and artillery shells killed 18-year-old Hamza Abu Anza in Khan Younis.
Ibrahim Abu Asi and Wisam al-Najjar succumbed to their wounds also in Khan Younis.
Four Palestinians were also killed in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip in two separate Israeli airstrikes.
The first strike in the early dawn hours killed 21-year-old Osama Bahjat Rajat and 23-year-old Muhammad Dwood Hamoudah. The second strike was around 8 a.m. and it killed two people in al-Shayma neighborhood of Beit Lahiya.
Mujahid Skafi, a young man from the Tuffah neighborhood of Gaza City died Wednesday morning of wounds he sustained during artillery shelling Tuesday.
Israeli warplanes struck on Wednesday morning home of Hamas’ leader Nizar Awadallah in al-Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip for the second time.
A mosque known as Omar Ibn Abdul-Aziz Mosque in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza was also hit Wednesday morning as well as a house belonging to al-Masri family in Beit Lahiya.
The home of a leader in the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine Ziad Jarkhoun was also targeted in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
AFP contributed to this report.
The Zionist entity’s impudence knows no limits! As the death toll of the brutal Israeli offensive on the besieged strip of Gaza passes 630, with most of them children and women, Tel Aviv calls for giving it a Noble prize!
The Nobel Peace Prize should be given to Israeli forces for their “unimaginable restraint” in their offensive against the blockaded Gaza Strip, said the Israeli envoy to the United States, Ron Dermer, at a pro-Israeli event in Washington on Tuesday.
The Israeli forces “should be given the Nobel Peace Prize… a Nobel Peace Prize for fighting with unimaginable restraint,” Dermer said, claiming the Israeli soldiers do not “target a single Palestinian civilian.”
“Our soldiers are dying so that innocent Palestinians can live,” he said, censuring Human Rights Watch for its criticism of the Israeli aggression.
At a different event in Tal Aviv, UN chief Ban Ki-moon extended his condolences to the Israeli regime for its losses during the offensive against the besieged sliver.
According to Palestinian medical workers, more than 160 Gazan children have been among the martyrs.
Earlier in the day, Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), put child fatalities from the 15-day offensive at 121, adding that more than 900 Palestinian children were also injured.