Since Israel’s creation in 1948, Israeli political and military leaders have demonstrated a pattern of repeatedly violating ceasefires with their enemies in order to gain military advantage, for territorial aggrandizement, or to provoke their opponents into carrying out acts of violence that Israel can then exploit politically and/or use to justify military operations already planned.
The following fact sheet provides a brief overview of some of the most high profile and consequential ceasefire violations committed by the Israeli military over the past six decades.
2012 – On November 14, two days after Palestinian factions in Gaza agree to a truce following several days of violence, Israel assassinates the leader of Hamas’ military wing, Ahmed Jabari, threatening to escalate the violence once again after a week in which at least six Palestinian civilians are killed and dozens more wounded in Israeli attacks.
2012 – On March 9, Israel violates an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire and assassinates the head of the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees, sparking another round of violence in which at least two dozen Palestinians are killed, including at least four civilians, and scores more wounded. As usual, Israel claims it is acting in self-defense, against an imminent attack being planned by the PRC, while providing no evidence to substantiate the allegation. Following the assassination, Israeli journalist Zvi Bar’el writes in the Haaretz newspaper:
“It is hard to understand what basis there is for the assertion that Israel is not striving to escalate the situation. One could assume that an armed response by the Popular Resistance Committees or Islamic Jihad to Israel’s targeted assassination was taken into account. But did anyone weigh the possibility that the violent reaction could lead to a greater number of Israeli casualties than any terrorist attack that Zuhair al-Qaisi, the secretary-general of the Popular Resistance Committees, could have carried out? “In the absence of a clear answer to that question, one may assume that those who decided to assassinate al-Qaisi once again relied on the ‘measured response’ strategy, in which an Israeli strike draws a reaction, which draws an Israeli counter-reaction.”
Just over two months prior, on the third anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, Israeli army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz tells Israel’s Army Radio that Israel will need to attack Gaza again soon to restore its power of “deterrence,” and that the assault must be “swift and painful,” concluding, “We will act when the conditions are right.”
2011 – On October 29, Israel breaks a truce that has maintained calm for two months, killing five Islamic Jihad members in Gaza, including a senior commander. The following day, Egypt brokers another truce that Israel proceeds to immediately violate, killing another four IJ members. In the violence, a total of nine Palestinians and one Israeli are killed.
2008 – In November, Israel violates a ceasefire with Hamas and other Gaza-based militant groups that has been in place since June, launching an operation that kills six Hamas members. Militant groups respond by launching rockets into southern Israel, which Israel shortly thereafter uses to justify Operation Cast Lead, its devastating military assault on Gaza beginning on December 27. Over the next three weeks, the Israeli military kills approximately 1400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including more than 300 children. A UN Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone subsequently concludes that both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the fighting, a judgment shared by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
2002 – On July 23, hours before a widely reported ceasefire declared by Hamas and other Palestinian groups is scheduled to come into effect, Israel bombs an apartment building in the middle of the night in the densely populated Gaza Strip in order to assassinate Hamas leader Salah Shehada. Fourteen civilians, including nine children, are also killed in the attack, and 50 others wounded, leading to a scuttling of the ceasefire and a continuation of violence.
2002 – On January 14, Israel assassinates Raed Karmi, a militant leader in the Fatah party, following a ceasefire agreed to by all Palestinian militant groups the previous month, leading to its cancellation. Later in January, the first suicide bombing by the Fatah linked Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade takes place.
2001 – On November 23, Israel assassinates senior Hamas militant, Mahmoud Abu Hanoud. At the time, Hamas was adhering to an agreement made with PLO head Yasser Arafat not to attack targets inside of Israel. Following the killing, respected Israeli military correspondent of the right-leaning Yediot Ahronot newspaper, Alex Fishman, writes in a front-page story: “We again find ourselves preparing with dread for a new mass terrorist attack within the Green Line [Israel's pre-1967 border]… Whoever gave a green light to this act of liquidation knew full well that he is thereby shattering in one blow the gentleman’s agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority; under that agreement, Hamas was to avoid in the near future suicide bombings inside the Green Line…” A week later, Hamas responds with bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa.
2001 – On July 25, as Israeli and Palestinian Authority security officials meet to shore up a six-week-old ceasefire, Israel assassinates a senior Hamas member in Nablus. Nine days later, Hamas responds with a suicide bombing in a Jerusalem pizzeria.
1988 – In April, Israel assassinates senior PLO leader Khalil al-Wazir in Tunisia, even as the Reagan administration is trying to organize an international conference to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The US State Department condemns the murder as an “act of political assassination.” In ensuing protests in the occupied territories, a further seven Palestinians are gunned down by Israeli forces.
1982 – Following Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in June, and after PLO fighters depart Beirut under the terms of a US-brokered ceasefire, Israel violates the terms of the agreement and moves its armed forces into the western part of the city, where the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila are located. Shortly thereafter, Israeli soldiers surround the camps and send in their local Christian Phalangist allies – even though the long and bloody history between Palestinians and Phalangists in Lebanon is well known to the Israelis, and despite the fact that the Phalangists’ leader, Bashir Gemayel, has just been assassinated and Palestinians are rumored (incorrectly) to be responsible. Over the next three days, between 800 and 3500 Palestinian refugees, mostly women and children left behind by the PLO fighters, are butchered by the Phalangists as Israeli soldiers look on. In the wake of the massacre, an Israeli commission of inquiry, the Kahan Commission, deems that Israeli Defense Minister (and future Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon bears “personal responsibility” for the slaughter.
1981-2 – Under Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, Israel repeatedly violates a nine-month-old UN-brokered ceasefire with the PLO in Lebanon in an effort to provoke a response that will justify a large-scale invasion of the country that Sharon has been long planning. When PLO restraint fails to provide Sharon with an adequate pretext, he uses the attempted assassination of Israel’s ambassador to England to justify a massive invasion aimed at destroying the PLO – despite the fact that Israeli intelligence officials believe the PLO has nothing to do with the assassination attempt. In the ensuing invasion, more than 17,000 Lebanese are killed.
1973 – Following a ceasefire agreement arranged by the US and the Soviet Union to end the Yom Kippur War, Israel violates the agreement with a “green light” from US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. According to declassified US documents, Kissinger tells the Israelis they can take a “slightly longer” time to adhere to the truce. As a result, Israel launches an attack and surrounds the Egyptian Third Army, causing a major diplomatic crisis between the US and Soviets that pushes the two superpowers to the brink of nuclear war, with the Soviets threatening to intervene to save their Egyptian allies and the US issuing a Defcon III nuclear alert.
1967 – Israel violates the 1949 Armistice Agreement, launching a surprise attack against Egypt and Syria. Despite claims Israel is acting in self-defense against an impending attack from Egypt, Israeli leaders are well aware that Egypt poses no serious threat. Yitzhak Rabin, Chief of the General Staff of the Israeli army during the war, says in a 1968 interview that “I do not believe that Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent into Sinai on May 14 would not have been enough to unleash an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it.” And former Prime Minister Menachem Begin later admits that “Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches did not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”
1956 – Colluding with Britain and France, Israel violates the 1949 Armistice Agreement by invading Egypt and occupying the Sinai Peninsula. Israel only agrees to withdraw following pressure from US President Dwight Eisenhower.
1949 – Immediately after the UN-brokered Armistice Agreement between Israel and its neighbors goes into effect, the armed forces of the newly-created Israeli state begin violating the truce with encroachments into designated demilitarized zones and military attacks that claim numerous civilian casualties.
An Israeli court has banned the broadcast of Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem that listed the names of Palestinian children killed during Israel’s month-long offensive in the Gaza Strip.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court rejected B’Tselem’s appeal to overturn a decision by the Israel Broadcast Authority to ban a broadcast produced by the NGO, saying it is of political nature.
The broadcast listed the names of children killed in the war in the besieged enclave.
“The hidden objective of the broadcast… is to get the public to make the government stop the (Israeli army operation) in Gaza, due to civilian deaths and children in particular,” the judges’ decision read, adding, “The broadcast is clearly not meant for informative purposes only,” it added.
Israel launched the latest war against the coastal enclave on July 8, killing at least 1,962 Palestinians, including 470 children, and wounding at least 10,100 others.
On Wednesday, Israel and the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas agreed to extend a temporary truce in Gaza for five more days as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators continued talks to reach a long-term deal in the Egyptian capital Cairo.
On Thursday, Khalil al-Haya, a senior member of the Hamas delegation at the talks, said any deal with the Israel regime must include Palestinian’s demand to end the blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Israel launched the latest war against the blockaded Gaza Strip on July 8. Nearly 1,962 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have so far lost their lives and at least 10,100 have been injured in the Israeli war.
HEBRON – Undercover Israeli forces detained a Hamas leader in the town of Beit Ummar on Thursday, a local community leader said.
The spokesperson of Beit Ummar’s popular committee said Israeli forces from an undercover unit who disguise themselves as Palestinians, known in Hebrew as Mistaravim, kidnapped Ahmad Khader Abed Abu Maria, 47, from his house at 10 a.m.
His relative, Hashem Khader Abu Maria, 45, was shot and killed during a Gaza solidarity protest in the town on July 25.
Locals in the town said they noticed 15 masked men hiding in an ice-cream truck in the town and began throwing stones at the vehicle.
The masked men, who were undercover Israeli forces, fired live ammunition at the villagers, with no injuries reported.
Israeli soldiers then fired tear gas canisters at locals who had attempted to push back the undercover unit, who retreated to the nearby illegal Karmi Tsur settlement.
Israeli forces also raided the home of Muhammad Munir Radwan Qawqas, 36, and pointed a gun at his mother.
He was blindfolded, handcuffed and taken to Etzion military base.
Muhammad is an ex-prisoner who spent 10 years in Israeli prisons. He is a married father of two girls and teaches Hebrew in a school in Bethlehem.
Israeli forces also detained Usama Mahmoud Awad Kamil, 26, and Ahmad Khaled Mahmoud Kamil, 26, in the Jenin village of Qabatiya.
While Cairo is witnessing talks about a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and in light of an international effort to reach a long-term truce between Hamas and Israel, Israeli security officials have demanded that the policy of assassinations against the Palestinian leaders should not stop.
Israeli media reports quoted security officials on Tuesday as saying that currently there are three options available, namely: an international effort to extend the cease-fire, or “surrendering” to some of Hamas’ demands, or launching a new aggression against the Gaza Strip. According to the officials themselves, the latter is less likely to happen.
Security officials added that “Hamas has put on the negotiating table demands for a seaport and an airport as a counterweight to Israel’s demand to strip the sector of any weapon,” and that the Israeli security apparatus “wants to test Hamas’ long-term steps, therefore, Hamas must be prevented from achieving anything that could help the movement’s strength grow.”
The security officials explained that the security apparatus demands that the Israeli government “reserves the possibility of returning to the assassinations choice,” adding that “it is prohibited to waive this requirement in the context of the negotiations” taking place in Egypt.
Walla website quoted an Israeli security official as claiming that the assassinations issue is a “point of serious concern among the movement leaders.”
He added, in a sarcastic tone, that “if Hamas wants to control the sector, it should do so from the tunnels and cellars.”
The same security official said an agreement has been reached between the parties involved in Cairo negotiations regarding a section of the demands put forward by Hamas, including the issuance of permits for the exit of a limited number of Palestinians through Erez crossing, under the control of the Shin Bet, and the immediate expansion of the volume of goods coming into the Gaza Strip through Karam Abu Salem crossing, as well as handing over control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing to the Palestinian Authority, so that the crossing would be supervised by both Israel and Egypt.
The Israeli official also confirmed that among the agreements reached was an agreement regarding the transfer of funds from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states into the Gaza Strip, where the parties agreed that this should only happen through the Palestinian Authority and under strict international-Israeli-Egyptian supervision.
Amal Alamuddin, a British-Lebanese lawyer engaged to Hollywood actor George Clooney, announced on Monday that she would not serve on a UN investigation into human rights violations and war crimes in Gaza.
“I am honored to have received the offer, but given existing commitments — including eight ongoing cases — unfortunately could not accept this role,” she said in a statement.
It was not clear who would replace Alamuddin on the panel.
Israel’s assault on Gaza became an increasingly sensitive topic among celebrities last month. Rihanna’s #FreePalestine tweet garnered 7,000 retweets before it was deleted eight minutes later. The singer later claimed it was an “accident.”
Clooney, an American actor who has previously spoken out against genocide, has remained silent over the month-long assault on Gaza, which killed at least 1,940 people, the vast majority of them civilians.
Hollywood power couple Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz have faced serious backlash over an open letter they signed last month condemning Israel’s “genocide” in Gaza. An article in the British daily The Independent suggested several film executives were unhappy with the couple.
William Schabas, a Canadian professor of international law, will head the panel. Doudou Diene, a Senegalese veteran UN human rights expert, will also serve.
Wikileaks revealed on Friday that UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon secretly collaborated with Israel and the United States to undermine a UN investigation into Israel’s 2008-2009 assault on Gaza that killed 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians.
Among other ethical breaches, Ban apparently worked with an Israeli delegation to draft the text of the report’s cover letter.
Navi Pillay, the top UN human rights official, said on July 31 she believed Israel was deliberately defying international law in its assault on Gaza, and that world powers should hold it accountable for possible war crimes.
Israel has attacked homes, schools, hospitals, Gaza’s only power plant and UN premises in violation of the Geneva Conventions, said Pillay, a former UN war crimes judge.
Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri in Gaza said “Hamas welcomes the decision to form an investigation committee into the war crimes committed by the occupation against Gaza and it urges that it begin work as soon as possible.”
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed indirect talks mediated by Egypt on Monday on ending the war, Egypt’s state news agency said, after a new 72-hour truce appeared to be holding.
At a news conference in Gaza City, Abu Zuhri said that the lack of response undermined Palestinian demands and that “Israeli stubbornness led to not extending the ceasefire.”
A 3-day ceasefire expired Friday morning, leading to renewed clashes between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza. Another unofficial ceasefire mostly held later the same day.
Abu Zuhri accused Israel of stalling and wasting time, adding that its leader must accept all Palestinian conditions.
He said that Israel rejected the establishment of an airport or a seaport and refuses to expand the fishing zone.
Also Friday, Hamas leader Izzat al-Rashq said that the Palestinian delegation in Cairo did not receive an Israeli response to any of the Palestinian demands.
He added in a posting on Facebook that the Israeli delegation was maneuvering and held it accountable for the failure to achieve an agreement.
The following is a list of Palestinian demands presented to Israel by the Palestinian resistance in Gaza, during indirect talks held in Egypt between Israeli and Palestinians teams, as published by al-Watan News :
1. Israel totally rejects establishing either a Seaport or an Airport in the Gaza Strip.
2. Totally rejects the release of all detainees who were released under the Shalit Prisoner Swap Deal, and rearrested by Israel.
3. Israel “reserves the right” to act against the tunnels in Gaza.
4. Israel “reserves the right” to conduct targeted killings.
5. Agrees to consider the Rafah Border Terminal as an Egyptian-Palestinian issue.
6. Agrees to release the fourth phase of veteran detainees “as a goodwill gesture toward president Mahmoud Abbas.”
7. Agrees to extend the Palestinian fishing zone in Gaza territorial waters.
8. Agrees to allow the transfer of money for paying salaries in the Gaza Strip.
9. Agrees to ease restrictions on Palestinians crossing the Erez terminal, will not relax restrictions on goods.
10. Agrees to the entry of construction equipment, but only under international supervision.
Just before the 72-hour ceasefire ended on Friday morning, Israeli sources said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the army to remain ready for any possible escalation.
When the period came to an end the resistance fired a missile into the Nahal ‘Oz military base, across the border and the army bombarded several areas in the Gaza Strip.
Armed groups also fired shells into Asqalan (Ashkelon) and a number of areas.
Israeli deceptions revealed in story of ‘kidnapped’ soldier
A single incident at the weekend – the reported capture by Hamas on Friday of an Israeli soldier through a tunnel – illustrated in stark fashion the layers of deception Israel has successfully cast over its attack on Gaza.
On Sunday, as the army indicated it would start limited withdrawals, Israel claimed Hadar Goldin was dead, possibly buried in a collapsed tunnel as Israel bombarded the area in which he was seized. His family said he was being left behind.
Israeli officials or media did not view Hamas’ operation dispassionately. Goldin was not “captured” but “kidnapped” – as though he was an innocent seized by opportunistic criminals.
As occurs so often, many western journalists followed Israel’s lead. The London Times’ front page blared: “Kidnapped in Gaza”, while the Boston Globe called him the “abducted Israeli soldier”.
From western reactions, it was also clear the soldier’s capture was considered more significant news than any of the massacres of Palestinian civilians over the past weeks.
Israel’s cynical calculus – that one soldier is more valuable than large numbers of dead Palestinian civilians – was echoed in the diplomatic and editorial corridors of Washington, London and Paris.
Misleading too was the general agreement that, in attacking a group of soldiers in Rafah and seizing Goldin, Hamas had violated the first moments of a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire.
The Washington Post reported on the circumstances as a Hamas suicide bomber emerged from a tunnel to explode his vest, killing two soldiers, and Goldin was pulled into the shaft. “>On Friday morning, Israeli troops were in the southern Gaza Strip preparing to destroy a Hamas tunnel, said Israeli military officials. Suddenly, Palestinian militants emerged from a shaft.”
CBS reporter Charlie D’Agata parroted the same Israeli briefings, also inadvertently exposing the central deceit. The soldier was “suspected of being kidnapped during an operation to clear tunnels – crucially, [officials] say, this happened after the ceasefire was supposed to take place.”
So if a ceasefire was in place, what were Goldin and his comrades doing detonating tunnels, tunnels in which Israel says Hamas is hiding? Were Hamas fighters supposed to simply wait to be entombed in their bunkers during the pause in hostilities? Or was Israel the one violating the ceasefire?
And then there was the explosion of military fury as Israel realised its soldier was missing. Israeli correspondents have admitted that the notorious “Hannibal procedure” was invoked: the use of all means to stop a soldier being taken alive, including killing him. The rationale is to prevent the enemy gaining a psychological advantage in negotiations.
The unleashing of massive firepower appeared designed to ensure Goldin and his captors never made it out of their tunnel, but in the process Israel killed dozens of Palestinians.
It was another illustration of Israel’s absolute disregard for the safety of civilians. At least three-quarters of the more than 1,700 Palestinians killed so far are non-combatants, while almost all Israeli casualties have been soldiers. This has been a pattern in all Israel’s recent confrontations.
Israel’s official justifications for taking the fight into Gaza have been layered with deceit too.
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has argued that Israel was dragged into a war of necessity. Barack Obama echoed him: Israel had a right to defend itself from a barrage of rockets fired out of Gaza. Later the pretext became Israel’s need to destroy the “terror tunnels”.
The logic is deeply flawed. Israel is occupying and besieging Gaza, conferring on its inhabitants a right under international law to fight for their freedom. How does the oppressor, the lawbreaker have a right to self-defence? If Israel objects to being scratched and bruised, it should stop choking its victim.
The degree to which Israel’s narrative of “self-defence” has come to dominate news coverage and diplomatic statements was revealed in a CNN interview. Anchor Carol Costello asked a baffled interviewee in all seriousness: “Why doesn’t Hamas just show Israel where these tunnels are?”
Equally significantly, Israel has obscured the truth that it picked this particular round of its ongoing confrontation with Hamas – and did so entirely cynically.
A BBC reporter recently confirmed with an Israeli police spokesman a rumour that had been circulating among military correspondents for weeks. The group behind the abduction in June of three Israeli teens in the West Bank – the trigger for Israel’s campaign against Hamas – was a lone cell, acting on its own.
Claiming precisely the opposite – that he had cast-iron proof Hamas was responsible – Netanyahu gave the army free rein to arrest hundreds of Hamas members and smash the organisation’s institutions in the West Bank.
The crackdown created the necessary provocation: Hamas allowed Gaza’s factions to start firing limited numbers of rockets. Analyst Nathan Thrall noted recently that Hamas had impressed the Israeli army until that point by enforcing the ceasefire agreed with Israel 18 months earlier, even though Israel violated the terms by maintaining Gaza’s siege.
Now the rockets gave Netanyahu an excuse to strike.
So what was his real reason for going into Gaza? What were these many deceptions designed to hide?
It seems Netanyahu wanted to end a strategic threat: not Hamas rockets or tunnels, but the establishment of a unity government between Hamas and its long-time rivals Fatah. Palestinian unity risked reviving pressure on him to negotiate, or face a renewed and more credible Palestinian campaign for statehood at the United Nations.
But Hamas’ unexpectedly impressive martial display against Israel – killing dozens of soldiers, firing long-range rockets into Israel throughout, closing briefly the sole international airport, launching attacks into Israeli territory, and causing a loss to the economy estimated so far at more than $4bn – may have changed the calculus again.
For the moment, Netanyahu seems to prefer to pull back Israeli soldiers rather than be forced under international pressure to negotiate with Hamas. He knows that its key demand will be that Israel end the siege.
But in the longer term, Netanyahu may need Palestinian unity, at least on his terms, to undermine Hamas’ gains.
As Israel began its attack on Gaza, Netanyahu turned his attention to the West Bank. He warned that there could never be “any agreement in which we relinquish security control” over it for fear that, given the West Bank’s larger size, Israel might “create another 20 Gazas”.
He was ruling out any hope of Palestinian statehood. A “demilitarised” entity, heavily circumscribed and absolutely dependent on Israel and the US, seems to be all that Israel will ever put on the table.
Allowing Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah into Gaza could justify loosening the siege. But only as long as Abbas agrees to remove Hamas’ military infrastructure and export to the coastal enclave the model he has established in the West Bank – of endless accommodation to Israeli and US dictates.
Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books).
Writing in Commentary today, Israeli apologist and neocon propagandist Jonathan Tobin said: “…the Netanyahu government decided to accede to the [ceasefire] proposal put forward by the United States and the United Nations. But that decision has been rendered moot by the decision of Hamas to use the cover of the cease-fire to launch a suicide attack on Israeli forces that led to the possible kidnapping of a soldier.”
Not mentioned by Tobin was the ‘kidnapping’ of almost 300 Palestinians who had been taken by the Israelis during the first days of their invasion of the Strip, nor did Tobin mention that many of them had been ‘interrogated’ by Shin Bet, the Israeli security service who are notorious for their use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’, a Western euphemism for torture.
Tobin forgets that it is the Israelis that have invaded the Gaza Strip and that the Gaza people have a right at all times to defend themselves against any aggression and also have the right, as do the Israelis, to take prisoners of war.
Tobin argues that, rather than a truce, Israel should go all out to destroy Hamas and demilitarise the Gaza Strip. To ‘demilitarise’ the Gaza Strip will involve a prolonged occupation and who knows what horrors Tobin has in mind when he says ‘Hamas should be destroyed’.
Updated 3:00 pm: Israeli war jets on Saturday bombed a mosque in the northern Gaza town of Jabalia, a major university in Gaza City and flattened houses in a beach side neighborhood, bringing the Palestinian death toll to 1,654 as the US-backed assault enters day 26.
Saturday’s killings come a day after Israeli forces committed horrifying massacres in the southern town of Rafah, slaughtering about 150 men, women and children after the killing of two Israeli soldiers and the capture of a third by Palestinian commandos.
Hamas claimed responsibility for the ambush of the Israeli army officer, but said the group has lost contact with the fighters involved in the operation, and suggested that they may have been killed by Israeli shelling along with their prisoner of war.
“We lost contact with the (Hamas) troops deployed in the ambush and assess that these troops were probably killed by enemy bombardment, including the soldier said to be missing — presuming that our troops took him prisoner during the clash,” the Brigades said in a statement issued in Arabic and English.
“The Qassam Brigades has no information as of this time about the missing soldier, his whereabouts, or the circumstances of his disappearance.”
Palestinian health officials say 1,654 Palestinians, the overwhelming majority of them civilians, have been killed, including a muezzin who died in an Israeli strike on a northern mosque on Saturday.
Sixty-three Israeli soldiers have been killed, and Palestinian shelling has killed two Israelis and a Thai workers.
Air strikes and tank fire have pounded huge areas of Gaza into rubble, rendering much of it unrecognizable to one Palestinian who returned home after spending years in an Israeli jail.
“It was my dream to return to Gaza but it is a real shock,” said 30-year-old Osama who comes from the central town of Deir al-Balah.
“Everything has been destroyed.”
Since Friday, more than 400 houses have been leveled across Gaza, mostly by air strikes, Palestinian officials said.
UN figures show that up to 25 percent of Gaza’s population of 1.8 million may have been forcibly displaced, with more than a quarter of a million people now seeking safety in shelters belonging to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)
US President Barack Obama has called on the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas to “unconditionally” release an Israeli soldier captured in the Gaza Strip.
“If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible,” Obama told a news conference on Friday.
On Friday, the Israeli military confirmed that one of its soldiers was captured by Palestinian fighters in the Gaza town of Rafah.
Obama framed the release of 23-year-old Hadar Goldin as a precondition for a possible ceasefire.
“A ceasefire was one way in which we could stop the killing, to step back and try to resolve some of the underlying issues,” he said.
Obama also characterized the relentless Israeli aerial and ground attacks on Gaza– in which more than 1,650 Palestinians have been killed– as self defense.
“No country can tolerate missiles raining down on its cities… no county can or would tolerate tunnels being dug under their land,” the president stated.
The United Nations says over 80 percent of the fatalities in Gaza have been civilians. Some 9,000 people have also been injured in 26 days of Israel’s onslaught on the besieged coastal enclave.
The military wing of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, has been firing retaliatory rockets into Israel, killing dozens of its soldiers.
But What’s In It For Americans?
It is a familiar scenario. Israeli is killing hundreds of civilians, mostly women and children, and the Zionist propaganda machine is working overtime. The President of the United States reaffirms America’s solemn pledge to protect Israel at all costs and justifies the carnage by stating that Israel has a right to defend itself. Secretary of State John Kerry repeats the message and the US House and Senate pass unanimously American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) drafted resolutions affirming the same.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lies repeatedly and the US media gives him a bully pulpit to spread his disinformation about what is occurring, including the propaganda cartoon depicted above explaining why he had to use artillery and bombs to level a residential district, killing nearly 100 civilians in what was described as a “heinous massacre.”
The mainstream media obligingly toes the line, depicting something like a battle between equals pitting the Israeli Army (IDF) against Hamas militants, obfuscating the essential asymmetry of a conflict that has killed more than 1,000 Palestinians civilians. A very large percentage of the commentators on television and radio as well the authors of mainstream print media opinion are American and Israeli Jews, to include a piece by Michael Oren, former Israeli Ambassador to the US and current CNN “expert,” entitled “Israel Must be Permitted to Crush Hamas” as well as the featured appearances by Prime Minister Netanyahu on national television.
Oren’s call to crush Hamas is particularly ironic as it runs directly contrary to American interests. The US intelligence community believes that the group would likely be succeeded by something far more radical. The media, Congress, and Netanyahu all also connive to ignore the deliberate targeting of civilians to include hospitals, schools and private homes by the IDF, producing massive infrastructure damage and increasing the numbers of dead and wounded. The US media did not report how Israelis watching the bombing from their lawn chairs on a hill near Sderot were photographed cheering and applauding each time a target in Gaza exploded. They were also sharing popcorn and one described the event as “just good fun.”
Also missing in the discussion is the damage that the conflict does to the United States, which is seen throughout the world as Israel’s puppet, manifested most recently when Washington alone opposed and will presumably veto any United Nations inquiry into possible war crimes connected to the Gaza conflict.
America diplomats are supposed to support American interests while the Founding Fathers created an army and navy to defend the United States, not Israel, a fact that seems to have escaped the notice of many in the White House, Congress and in the media. In reality, Washington has no obligation to protect the Netanyahu government in international fora nor is there any treaty obligation to defend Israel or anyone else outside the NATO alliance. Israel is neither an ally nor is its self-defined security a compelling US national interest if one excludes the drumbeat of the domestic lobby that protects it no matter how badly it behaves.
The sequence of events leading up to the current slaughter is clear, though Israel’s friends pretend that it all started when the first homemade rocket landed inside Israel, justifying any subsequent steps necessary for “defense.” But the Israel-Palestine problem truly began in 1948, when armed Jews deliberately terrorized and then drove more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes. It was exacerbated when in 1967 the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza began, leading to the creation and expansion of illegal settlements on Arab land.
The current cycle of violence, rooted in the denial of viable statehood for the Palestinian people, began in April when Israel deliberately torpedoed US brokered peace talks by accelerating settlement building and failing to comply with an agreement to release prisoners. On May 15 th Israeli soldiers shot dead two Palestinian teenagers, an event that was videoed. They were among the 26 Palestinians killed by Israelis since January, with no one being held accountable. Four weeks later three Israeli teenagers from Hebron were kidnapped and later discovered dead. Netanyahu, who knew that the three young men were already dead and that the abduction had not been carried out by Hamas cynically used the kidnapping as a pretext to attack Hamas in the West Bank, blaming the group for the crime without producing one shred of evidence. An Arab teenager was subsequently burned to death by Jewish extremists and the boy’s American citizen cousin was badly beaten by police when he joined a demonstration.
Netanyahu may or may not have cared who was killing or kidnapping whom on a micro level, but he knew a good opportunity when he saw one. He took advantage of the situation to launch a plan to destroy Hamas and pari passu the Palestinian unity government. Hundreds of arrests were made, again without any evidence linking those detained with the kidnapping, and homes of suspects were demolished. When Hamas in Gaza eventually struck back with its homemade rockets, killing or injuring no one, Israel unleashed its modern army and air force on the largely unarmed and defenseless Palestinians.
Israel also has found allies in the usual places in the US media and political circles to help explain the ensuing massacre. Ayman Mohyeldin, the NBC News correspondent who personally witnessed and reported the killing by Israel of four Palestinian boys on a Gazan beach was ordered by NBC executives to leave Gaza immediately, presumably because he had strayed from the acceptable message, which is that the deaths of Palestinians is somehow their own fault. CNN also “reassigned” reporter Diana Magnay who tweeted regarding an Israeli mob that threatened her when she filmed their celebration of missile strikes in Gaza. She called her attackers “scum” and was quickly removed.
The far fewer deaths of Israelis in the conflict are, however, rather more celebrated than the mass high tech execution of Palestinians. American volunteers in the IDF are depicted as somehow doing their patriotic duty, albeit in a foreign army. The Washington Post described how the “Death of two Americans in Israel brings conflict home.” Both men identified in the article though born in the US had chosen to live in Israel, producing some pushback in the blog comments. One noted that bearing arms for a foreign country that is not in NATO is illegal (and used to lead to automatic loss of citizenship) while another comment observed that if you are by choice fighting in a foreign army you are no longer really American. I might add that directly supporting Israel’s militarized colonization of Palestinian lands is against stated US government policy and does actual damage to American interests.
The Gazans are, to be sure, an easy target, crowded into a narrow strip of land with no place to go as they are controlled on all sides by Egypt and Israel. Fleeing inhabitants cannot even turn to the sea which is controlled by the Israeli navy. A comprehensive ten year truce offer by Hamas has been rebuffed by Israel and the slaughter will presumably continue until Netanyahu decides to stop. The United Nations has suggested that what Israel is doing might fit the definition of a war crime, just as was the case back in 2009 for Operation Cast Lead, when more than 1,400 Gazans were killed and schools run by the UN were deliberately targeted, as has been the case also currently.
That the US is so tied to a rogue nation like Israel would be incomprehensible but for the action of what has been described as the Israel Lobby. As Harvard Professor Stephen Walt puts it, “AIPAC is the only explanation for America’s morally bankrupt Israel policy.” Israel is in reality a place that most Americans would find unsympathetic. It is a corrupt theocracy that denies equal rights to Christians and Muslims, a fact that is conveniently overlooked by Congress and the media. There is also a strong dose of racism and ethnocentrism in its political matrix, with broad popular support for either disenfranchising or expelling all non-Jews. Or even killing them, with crowds in Tel Aviv routinely chanting “Death to Arabs.”
An Israeli member of parliament Ayelet Shaked of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party has called all Palestinians terrorists, saying women should be especially targeted for killing during the ongoing Israeli assault on the besieged Gaza Strip because they give birth to “little snakes.” She explained “They have to die and their houses should be demolished so that they cannot bear any more terrorists,” adding “They are all our enemies and their blood should be on our hands. This also applies to the mothers of the dead terrorists.” A prominent Rabbi has also endorsed complete destruction of Gaza and genocide, as a “deterrent measure to exterminate the enemy.”
Perhaps most discouraging is the visceral hatred directed at American critics of Israeli policies that surfaces occasionally among that nation’s most zealous supporters. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, former Michael Jackson spiritual adviser and self-designated “America’s Rabbi,” has penned a piece entitled, “By Condemning Israel, Presbyterians Condemn Themselves.” He writes regarding the Presbyterian decision to divest from companies supporting the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, stating that “The rotting corpse of the Presbyterian Church suffered another nail in the coffin with its general convention vote on Friday to divest from companies doing business with Israel.”
Boteach, who has also become close to a number of prominent politicians, received no mainstream censure for this comments attacking a major Christian denomination in the vilest terms. His article also plays fast and loose with the facts. He observes “In the wake of the Oslo Accords, in which Israel granted the PLO political autonomy in the West Bank, about 60,000 Americans were murdered in Israel.” Since Oslo in 1993 the actual figure for dead Americans, many of whom were Israeli dual nationals, is 53.
That the United States has provided political support for a monster like Benjamin Netanyahu is criminal but it is a tribute to the grip that Israel’s lobby has on America’s political class and media. For starters, one might reasonably suggest that people like Boteach and the American volunteers including Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel who go to fight for Israel while eschewing any service in the US Army should perhaps move permanently to the country that they love most. The charge of dual loyalty which surfaces regularly regarding Israel’s most passionate Jewish supporters misses the point. Boteach and his friends, most certainly to include the likes of multi billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas, have no dual loyalty at all. Their only concern is for Israel and they stay in the United States to cash in and to make sure that the rest of the American people are coerced and propagandized sufficiently so as to guarantee that the US will remain Israel’s patsy. But more and more Americans are waking up to the fraud and the ongoing slaughter of another thousand or so Palestinians in Gaza virtually guarantees that there will be more questions about the relationship with Israel than answers. Eventually the truth will out.