Adnan Abu Amer reports: As Cairo’s indirect negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians started on Sept. 23 toward a cease-fire agreement in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian negotiations between Fatah and Hamas also kicked off on files related to the reconciliation reached in April.
The Palestinian dialogue comes amid tensions between Fatah and Hamas that escalated immediately after the end of the Israeli war on Gaza Aug. 26, due to disputes regarding the reconstruction of Gaza and the unpaid wages of former government employees.
Speaking at a celebration organized by the International Union of Muslim Scholars on Sept. 21, before the Cairo talks, Khaled Meshaal, Hamas’ political bureau chief, said: “As soon as the Gaza war ended, the attack against Hamas started. This aims at stirring a hostile media campaign. Hamas has no time to waste on secondary battles. We have priorities, most important of which is the issue concerning the reconstruction of Gaza. We will not tolerate negligence in any issue and we will not accept the cancelation of any part stipulated in the reconciliation.” [Continue reading...]
Haaretz reports: Thousands of Palestinians have left the Gaza Strip for Europe using tunnels, traffickers and boats, testimonies obtained by Haaretz show.
Gazans have been fleeing the Strip since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, but their escape was hardly covered in the media since they have been leaving clandestinely, with the help of paid smugglers.
The sinking of two ships carrying Palestinians from Gaza — one off the coast of Malta last week, and the other off the coast of Egypt — and the drowning of hundreds of passengers have focused attention on the trend.
The Palestinian Embassy in Greece reported yesterday that the ship that sank off the coast of Malta was carrying more than 450 passengers, most of them Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, and that it was rammed intentionally by another ship run by rival smugglers. [Read more...]
The New York Times reports: Denouncing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians under occupation, a group of veterans from an elite, secretive military intelligence unit have declared they will no longer “take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians” in required reserve duty because of what they called “our moral duty to act.”
In a letter sent Thursday night to their commanders as well as Israel’s prime minister and army chief, 43 veterans of the clandestine Unit 8200 complained that Israel made “no distinction between Palestinians who are and are not involved in violence” and that information collected “harms innocent people.” Intelligence “is used for political persecution,” they wrote, which “does not allow for people to lead normal lives, and fuels more violence, further distancing us from the end of the conflict.”
The letter, revealed Friday in Israel’s Yediot Aharonot newspaper as well as The Guardian in Britain, echoes similar periodic protests by reservists over the years, including a group of 27 pilots who refused to participate in what Israel calls targeted assassinations, and 13 members of the vaunted commando unit known as Sayeret Matkal, both in 2003. But it is the first public collective refusal by intelligence officers rather that combat troops. Unit 8200 has a special role in Israeli society as a coveted pipeline to its high-technology industry.
“After our service we started seeing a more complex picture of a nondemocratic, oppressive regime that controls the lives of millions of people,” said one of the group’s organizers, a 32-year-old sergeant major who was on active duty from 2001 to 2005. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because the military prohibits Unit 8200 members from being publicly identified. [Continue reading...]
Samer Badawi writes: As the smoke clears over Gaza and its residents begin to assess the damage of Israel’s 50-day war, no group has been more traumatized than this enclave’s children. They represent roughly half of Gaza’s population and, according to a report released on August 27, died at a rate of twelve a day, every day, during the conflict. Their parents, too, have perished in unprecedented numbers, leaving more than 1,500 of Gaza’s children orphaned.
Alaa Balata is one of them.
I met Alaa during one of the war’s temporary ceasefires. Israeli drones buzzed overhead, and the 17-year-old was surrounded by relatives who had been keeping a close eye on him since his parents perished. It had been fewer than two weeks since the incident, and Alaa spoke in the steady understatement of a person in shock, damming the sadness — at least for now.
When I asked him what happened, Alaa gestured toward the heap of rubble that was his uncle’s home. We were sitting on plastic chairs in a dirt alley flanked by cinder-block walls — a familiar scene in any Palestinian refugee camp. But here, in the heart of Jabalia, the path was strewn with shrapnel—the same dense metal that tore through every member of Alaa’s immediate family on the afternoon of July 29.
“It was the second day of Eid,” Alaa told me. A day earlier, on the first day of the Muslim feast marking the end of Ramadan, Alaa’s father decided to move the family to his brother’s house, which was was deep inside the camp and farther from the Israeli tanks shelling everywhere along Gaza’s border.
“He thought we would be safer here,” Alaa said. [Continue reading...]
Is there nowhere on the face of the Earth where opinion polls aren’t taken? In the wake of the 50-day Israeli assault on Gaza, parts of that tiny strip of land now look, according to photographs, like a moonscape of destruction. At least 10,000 homes were obliterated and thousands more damaged; at least 175 major factories were pummeled into the dust. Its only power plant was destroyed, damaging electricity, water, and sewage systems. Large apartment houses, as well as the ministry of education, schools, and other sites, were hit and sometimes reduced to so much rubble. It was all part of a massive Israeli assault on Hamas, several of whose senior leaders were assassinated, but also on the Palestinian population, involving what looked like collective punishment for its support of that organization or simply living in proximity to it. And indeed, with almost no hope of rebuilding much of their world any time soon, you might think that Palestinians would hold the Hamas leadership at least somewhat responsible for the destruction that has rained down, as assumedly the Israelis wanted them to. But a recent poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), begun in the last day before the ceasefire took hold, and carried out, in part, amid the rubble that is now Gaza, suggests otherwise.
It finds that Palestinian opinion couldn’t be clearer. Support hasn’t been this high for Hamas since 2006, when it won a fair and square democratic election. If a presidential vote were held today, the pollsters of PSR discovered, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would beat Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas hands down. Here are just a few of the findings: “79% [of Palestinians] believe that Hamas has won the Gaza War; 3% believe Israel came out the winner; and 17% believe the two sides were losers… If new presidential elections are held today and only two [candidates] were nominated, Haniyeh, for the first time since we have started asking about his popularity about eight years ago, would receive a majority of 61% and Abbas would receive 32%. [The] vote for Haniyeh stands at 53% in the Gaza Strip and 66% in the West Bank. Abbas receives 43% in the Gaza Strip and 25% in the West Bank… A majority of 53% believe that armed confrontation is the most effective means to establish a Palestinian state next to the state of Israel. Only 22% believe negotiation is the best means to establish a Palestinian state and 20% believe that popular non-violent resistance is the most effective route to statehood.”
As historically has often been the case, massive bombings and other assaults do not destroy the support of populations for movements or governments, but tend to solidify it. In other words, Israeli policy is reducing civilized life for Palestinians in a major way and yet increasing the urge both to fight on and the desire for revenge. It’s an ugly pattern and, as TomDispatch regular Noam Chomsky (whose latest book, Masters of Mankind, is due out this week) indicates today, it’s been going on in this same fashion for a remarkably long time, as Israel continues to gobble up Palestinian lands on the West Bank, while working to hem Palestinians in yet further in the Gaza Strip. Tom Engelhardt
Ceasefires in which violations never cease
What’s next for Israel, Hamas, and Gaza?
By Noam Chomsky
On August 26th, Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) both accepted a ceasefire agreement after a 50-day Israeli assault on Gaza that left 2,100 Palestinians dead and vast landscapes of destruction behind. The agreement calls for an end to military action by both Israel and Hamas, as well as an easing of the Israeli siege that has strangled Gaza for many years.
This is, however, just the most recent of a series of ceasefire agreements reached after each of Israel’s periodic escalations of its unremitting assault on Gaza. Throughout this period, the terms of these agreements remain essentially the same. The regular pattern is for Israel, then, to disregard whatever agreement is in place, while Hamas observes it — as Israel has officially recognized — until a sharp increase in Israeli violence elicits a Hamas response, followed by even fiercer brutality. These escalations, which amount to shooting fish in a pond, are called “mowing the lawn” in Israeli parlance. The most recent was more accurately described as “removing the topsoil” by a senior U.S. military officer, appalled by the practices of the self-described “most moral army in the world.”
Avi Shlaim writes: Israel has a habit of justifying its actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, however illegal and indecent, in the name of security. But denying any security to the other side only perpetuates the conflict.
Five days after reaching a ceasefire with Hamas to end the latest round of fighting in Gaza, the Israeli cabinet decided to appropriate 988 acres of land on the West Bank, near the place where three Israeli teenagers were recently abducted and murdered, to make way for another illegal Jewish city. This is the biggest land grab in three decades. As the justice minister, Tzipi Livni, pointed out: “It was a decision that weakens Israel and damages its security.” What it proves, if further proof is needed, is that Israel’s leaders are determined to prevent a two-state solution to the conflict.
Operation Protective Edge, which came to an end after 50 days of fighting, was the third and deadliest war in six years between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement that rules Gaza. Israel lost 66 soldiers and six civilians. On the Palestinian side, the war left 2,104 dead, mostly civilians, and 12,656 injured; 17,000 houses were destroyed or damaged; 520,000 people, out of a population of 1.8 million, were displaced. The damage to buildings and to the civilian infrastructure, estimated at $6bn, will take many years to repair.
What did Israel gain by unleashing the deadly firepower of the IDF against the caged population of this tiny coastal enclave? Virtually nothing. [Continue reading...]
The Hannibal Directive: How Israel killed its own troops and massacred Palestinians to prevent soldiers’ capture
Max Blumenthal writes: In the southern city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, Aug. 1, 2014 is known as Black Friday. This was the day the Israeli military bombarded the city with almost every mode of destruction available to it, from F-16 missiles to Apache rockets to naval shelling to drone strikes and mortars.
Bulldozers ripped down homes at random while tanks barreled through neighborhoods, shelling anything in sight. In a matter of hours, at least 500 artillery shells and hundreds of missiles were dumped on the city, almost entirely in civilian areas. By the end, at least 190 people had been killed, so many that unequipped local hospitals were forced to store their corpses and body parts in ice cream coolers.
The target of the operation was not necessarily Rafah’s civilian population, though attacking it was part of the Israeli military’s underlying logic. Instead, the army apparently aimed to kill one of its own. Indeed, Israeli forces had invoked the Hannibal Directive, opening up an indiscriminate assault on the entire circumference of the area where one of its soldiers, Lt. Hadar Goldin, was allegedly taken captive by an ambush team from the Hamas military wing known as the Qassam Brigades.
Bethan Staton writes: Just over a week ago, a young Long Islander called Yochanan Gordon published a blog in the Times of Israel. It argued – poorly – that the only way to deal with the “enemy” facing the Israeli people was to “obliterate them completely.” The headline – “When genocide is permissible” – left little doubt over precisely what this meant.
The outcry that followed the publication – and the Times’ swift removal and apology – showed the sentiment was far from representative of wider society. Because the paper operates an open blog policy the piece hadn’t been seen by any editors before being uploaded. Gordon was a total unknown who in his pompous bio listed a family connection to journalism as his only professional qualification. For many reasons, Yochanan’s argument looked a lot like an aberration.
Except it wasn’t. In the heightened tension following the abduction and murder of three settler teenagers in the West Bank and the Gaza war that followed, Gordon’s blog was merely the crudest note in a chorus of calls for war crimes, of the grimmest hue, against the Palestinian people.
After the bodies of missing teens Gilad, Naftali and Eyal were found, the secretary general of the world’s largest youth Zionist movement, Rabbi Noam Perel, called for a murderous revenge that would “not stop at 300 Philistine foreskins.” At the end of July, Chief Rabbi of the Kiryat Arba settlement Dov Lior used religious texts to justify the potential “destruction of Gaza,” writing that in wartime a “nation under attack” could punish its adversaries in any way, including “taking crushing deterring steps to exterminate the enemy.”
Such words demand a response. “When it comes to language that incites to hatred and violence, it’s a human rights obligation on the state to take action,” explains Michael Kearney, a law lecturer at Sussex University who researches propaganda and incitement in international law. “Direct and public incitement to genocide is, in itself, what we’d call a crime in customary international law. Basically it’s binding on all states to live up to that obligation to prevent genocide and to deal with people who do explicitly incite to genocide.”
Precisely how that obligation might manifest itself is up to the state in question: often symbolic steps to demonstrate that such incitement is not acceptable, Kearney says, might be appropriate.
There has been much outcry among Israeli, Jewish and American communities over statements like these: After widespread condemnation, indeed, Rabbi Perel retracted his statements and apologized. But few measures have been taken against the writers and commentators in question here. Worse, incitement from Israeli politicians hasn’t resulted in serious consequences. At the beginning of July, Knesset member Ayelet Shaked posted an extract from an article by Uri Elitzur on her Facebook page. It defined the “enemy” as the “entire Palestinian people,” and wrote that the “mothers of terrorists” should be destroyed, “as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes.” Aside from the condemnation of commentators, Shaked received no official censure: a day after, three Israeli men kidnapped 16-year-old Mohamed Abu Khdeir and burned him to death. [Continue reading...]
Azzam Tamimi writes: First: For the people of Gaza, the recent ceasefire deal between the resistance and Israel did not accomplish all they were seeking. Yet, at the same time, it achieved none of what the Israelis were hoping for. Perhaps the reason the two sides managed to agree, finally, on a ceasefire, was their conviction that there was no way any of them could achieve more under the prevalent circumstances.
It is true that the Israelis have enjoyed unprecedented Arab support in their war against Gaza and continuous encouragement from certain Arab quarters to inflict as much damage as they could on Gaza to pressure Hamas into capitulation. Yet, they have not been able to cripple the resistance or force it to surrender. As for the resistance, it has indeed enjoyed the full and unconditional backing of the people of Gaza, despite the siege and the pain, in the hope that this latest round of conflict would led to lifting the siege that has been imposed on the Strip for nearly eight years. Yet, it has not been possible for the resistance to obtain guarantees that the siege would finally be ended.
Second: The artillery and the rockets have gone silent and the annoying buzzing and whizzing of Israeli warplanes in Gaza’s skies is no longer there, yet the propaganda warfare will continue for some time to come. Each side will seek to prove it came out victorious having achieved its objectives.
The Israelis consider the continuation of the siege a sign of their success whereas the resistance considers the failure of the Israelis to impose demilitarisation a sign of victory. However, one can see a marked difference between the two sides. As soon as the ceasefire deal went into effect, the masses in Gaza took to the streets to celebrate and express joy over what they truly believed was victory.
On the other side, the Israeli masses seemed confused and even distressed. Few Israelis believe that the war has accomplished much for them. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu started the offensive against Gaza with high expectations. He promised his public that he would dismantle the military infrastructure of Hamas and the other resistance factions, that he would destroy the tunnels and that he would put an end to the firing of the rockets from Gaza. However, none of this was achieved. [Continue reading...]
Ynet: In a survey released Saturday by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO), the majority of Gaza’s residents said that they supported a long-term agreement for peace with Israel, but that disarmament of the Gaza Strip was an unacceptable demand from the Jewish State.
PCPO workers went door to door to ask their subjects some important questions and 87.6% of those asked said that they wanted a long-term agreement to be reached to stop the fighting, but even more, 93.2% said that disarmament of Hamas and the Gaza Strip was out of the question.
Al Jazeera reports: Hala Hamad first received the news of her husband Khaled’s death in a television report. “My family were telling me, ‘No, it’s not him,’ but I knew [from] his camera and his vest written Press on it,” she told Al Jazeera, breaking down in tears.
Twenty-four-year-old Khaled Hamad worked for a local media company in Gaza City called ‘Continue’ Production Films. He was killed alongside 28-year-old ambulance driver Fouad Jaber when an Israeli tank shell struck the ambulance in which they were travelling.
The two were in the hard-hit neighbourhood of Shujayea, as Jaber’s ambulance was one of the first to arrive to evacuate the wounded, and collect the dead bodies.
“I had an unusual feeling, something etched deep in my heart,” said Abu Fouad, about the day his son was killed. [Continue reading...]
Reuters reports: Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip fired rockets at Israel for a second day on Wednesday after fighting resumed with the collapse of truce talks and an Israeli air strike that killed three people in Gaza.
Charging Israel had “opened a gateway to hell,” Hamas’s armed wing vowed to target Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport with rocket fire, possibly to retaliate for what Hamas was quoted by Israeli media as saying was an Israeli attempt to assassinate its top militant leader, Mohammed Deif, in a Gaza City strike.
It was not clear whether Deif, who has survived previous Israeli attacks, had survived the strike that killed a woman and a two-year-old girl who media reports said may have been his wife and daughter.
Deif has topped Israel’s wanted lists for years, as mastermind of deadly suicide bombings more than a decade ago. He is currently believed to be a behind-the-scenes leader of Hamas’s campaign against Israel.
Ynet adds: Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk charged on Wednesday after Gaza truce talks collapsed in a spasm of violence that Israel had targeted the group’s armed wing leader Mohammed Deif in one of its air strikes on Tuesday in the coastal territory.
The IDF would not specify any of the targets of some 30 attacks across Gaza in response to rocket fire aimed at Israel. Marzouk said Israel had ruptured the truce alleging it was in order “to assassinate Mohammed Deif,” but that civilians were killed at the site of the attack.
Max Blumenthal reports: As the five-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took hold on August 15, residents of Shujaiya returned to the shattered remains of their homes. They pitched tents and erected signs asserting their claim to their property, sorting determinedly through the ruins of their lives.
Those who managed to survive the Israeli bombardment have come home to bedrooms obliterated by tank shells, kitchens pierced by Hellfire missiles, and boudoirs looted by soldiers who used their homes as bases of operations before embarking on a series of massacres. Once a solidly middle-class suburb of Gaza City comprised of multi-family apartments and stately homes, the neighborhood of Shujaiya was transformed into a gigantic crime scene.
The attack on Shujaiya began at 11pm on July 19, with a combined Israeli bombardment from F-16s, tanks and mortar launchers. It was a night of hell which more than 100 did not survive and that none have recovered from. Inside the ruins of what used to be homes, returning locals related stories of survival and selflessness, detailing a harrowing night of death and destruction.
Outside a barely intact four-level, multi-family home that was hardly distinguishable from the other mangled structures lining the dusty roads of Shujaiya, I met members of the Atash family reclining on mats beside a makeshift stove. Khalil Atash, the 63-year-old patriarch of the family, motioned to his son heating a teapot above a few logs and muttered, “They’ve set us back a hundred years. Look at us, we’re now burning wood to survive.” [Continue reading...]
The New York Times reports: On Sunday, more than 235,000 people were still crammed into 81 of the United Nations’ 156 schools, where classes are supposed to start next Sunday. “The chances of that,” acknowledged Scott Anderson, deputy director of the agency that runs them, “are zero.”
After a month of fierce fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants that killed more than 1,900 Gaza residents, the extension of a temporary cease-fire through Monday was a great relief. But with an estimated 11,000 homes destroyed and many more severely damaged, Gaza’s housing and humanitarian crises are just beginning, and the uncertainty over the timing and terms for a more durable truce makes recovery planning elusive.
“Our fate at the end will be in the street,” lamented Alia Kamal Elaf, a 35-year-old mother of eight who has been staying at a school since fleeing the Shejaiya neighborhood in east Gaza City at the onset of Israel’s ground incursion on July 17.
The destruction has been far more severe than in previous rounds of Israeli attacks, especially in Shejaiya, the northern border town of Beit Hanoun and the southeastern village of Khuza’a, where little at all is left. Palestinian leaders plan to ask international donors for $6 billion at a conference scheduled for September, but there are many challenges money cannot solve.
The Hamas-run government that ruled Gaza since 2007 resigned in June, but the Palestinian Authority has yet to take control of its ministries. So who will assess damage or coordinate reconstruction?
Israel currently bans the import of construction materials for private projects, citing security concerns. In any case, several of Gaza’s cement-mixing plants and other factories that make doors, windows and floor tiles have been reduced to rubble.
Many aid workers think cash grants would provide the most efficient relief: People could fix homes that are still standing, rent new spaces or offset expenses as they cram in with relatives. But the United States will not give cash directly to people because it is too complicated to determine their possible connections with Hamas, which is deemed a terrorist organization by Washington.
“We’ll get lots of money to rebuild homes we can’t rebuild, but we won’t get the money to help these people help themselves,” said Robert Turner, director of Gaza operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides education, health and other services to the 70 percent of Gaza residents who are classified as refugees. “You cannot do widespread shelter construction unless construction material is free and available in the local market. Which it’s not, and is it ever going to be?” [Continue reading...]
B’Tselem: During the fighting in Gaza, dozens of residences were bombed while residents were at home. The following infographic lists members of families killed in their homes in 59 incidents of bombing or shelling. In these incidents, 458 people were killed, including 108 women under the age of 60, 214 minors, and 18 people over the age of 60. Mouse over the houses for more details. [Continue reading...]
The Guardian reports: At least 59 Palestinian families suffered multiple casualties over four weeks of Israeli bombardment in Gaza, according to data collated by the Guardian. The youngest casualty was 10-day old Hala Abu Madi, who died on 2 August; the oldest was Abdel al-Masri, aged 97, who was killed on 3 August.
The figures are based on data from three independent Palestinian human rights organisations – the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and Al Mezan, both based in Gaza, and the West Bank-based Al-Haq; the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem; and the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
However, it is almost certainly an incomplete picture. Systematic identification of bodies and logging of data have been hampered by the sheer scale of the casualties in Gaza – about 2,000 killed in total, and 10,000 wounded – types of injuries, and the need for swift burial.
Among families in which four or more people died, 479 people were killed in total, including 212 children under the age of 18, and 15 people aged 60 and over. The deadliest day was 30 July, when 95 members of 10 families were killed. On 20 July, 65 members of 10 families died, and on 21 July, 71 members of six families were killed.
The Guardian has interviewed six families who suffered multiple casualties. In each case, relatives say there was no warning of attack, and all deny any connection with militant organisations in Gaza.
However, in many cases there may have been a military target among the dead. But the number of women and children killed in such attacks has led human rights organisations and international observers to question whether Israel’s use of force was proportionate and in keeping with the obligation under international law to protect civilians in war.
Hamdi Shaqqura, of the PCHR, said: “What has been significant about this onslaught is the deliberate attacks on families – whole families have been smashed under the rubble. We have documented 134 families, in which two or more members have been hit by Israeli forces – a total of 750 people. [Continue reading...]