Sunday, September 7, 2014

Gaza dream of a normal life

Routine counter insurgents patrol door to door

A spokesperson for the IDF defended the presence of troops in the home.
"The premises and its surrounding grounds house are frequently used by Palestinians to hurl rocks at a main road, route 60, that is located just a few meters away," she told VICE News. "In May alone there were over nine instances of rock hurling that took place in the immediate vicinity. In light of the danger to commuters the forces acted in order to safeguard all drivers on the road and prevent such acts of violence from being carried out."
It is not uncommon for Israeli soldiers to take over homes and other buildings in occupied Palestine.
"There's a pattern whereby Israeli forces use civilian structures or privately-owned land for training or operational purposes, often leaving the area in shambles and riddled with unused weaponry," Ivan Karakashian, an advocacy coordinator at Defense for Children International Palestine (DCI-Palestine), told VICE News.


Gaza Under Assault

BY Noam Chomsky

An old man in Gaza held a placard that read: “You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all, but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.”

The old man's message provides the proper context for the latest episode in the savage punishment of Gaza. The crimes trace back to 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled from their homes in terror or were expelled to Gaza by conquering Israeli forces, who continued to truck Palestinians over the border for years after the official cease-fire.
The punishment took new forms when Israel conquered Gaza in 1967. From recent Israeli scholarship (primarily Avi Raz’s The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War), we learn that the government's goal was to drive the refugees into the Sinai Peninsula—and, if feasible, the rest of the population too.
Expulsions from Gaza were carried out under the direct orders of Gen. Yeshayahu Gavish, commander of the Israel Defense Forces Southern Command. Expulsions from the West Bank were far more extreme, and Israel resorted to devious means to prevent the return of those expelled, in direct violation of U.N. Security Council orders.
The reasons were made clear in internal discussions immediately after the war. Golda Meir, later prime minister, informed her Labor Party colleagues that Israel should keep the Gaza Strip while “getting rid of its Arabs.” Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and others agreed.
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol explained that those expelled could not be allowed to return because “we cannot increase the Arab population in Israel”—referring to the newly occupied territories, already considered part of Israel.
In accord with this conception, all of Israel's maps were changed, expunging the Green Line (the internationally recognized borders) —though publication of the maps was delayed to permit Abba Eban, an Israeli ambassador to the UN, to attain what he called a “favorable impasse” at the General Assembly by concealing Israel's intentions.
The goals of expulsion may remain alive today, and might be a factor in contributing to Egypt's reluctance to open the border to free passage of people and goods barred by the U.S.-backed Israeli siege.
The current upsurge of U.S.-Israeli violence dates to January 2006, when Palestinians voted “the wrong way” in the first free election in the Arab world.
Israel and the U.S. reacted at once with harsh punishment of the miscreants, and preparation of a military coup to overthrow the elected government—the routine procedure. The punishment was radically intensified in 2007, when the coup attempt was beaten back and the elected Hamas government established full control over Gaza.
Ignoring immediate offers from Hamas for a truce after the 2006 election, Israel launched attacks that killed 660 Palestinians in 2006, most of whom were civilians (a third were minors). According to UN reports, 2,879 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire from April 2006 through July 2012, along with several dozen Israelis killed by fire from Gaza.
A short-lived truce in 2008 was honored by Hamas until Israel broke it in November. Ignoring further truce offers, Israel launched the murderous Cast Lead operation in December.
So matters have continued, while the United States and Israel also continue to reject Hamas calls for a long-term truce and a political settlement for a two-state solution in accord with the international consensus that the U.S. has blocked since 1976 when the U.S. vetoed a Security Council resolution to this effect, brought by the major Arab states.
This week, Washington devoted every effort to blocking a Palestinian initiative to upgrade its status at the UN but failed, in virtual international isolation as usual. The reasons were revealing: Palestine might approach the International Criminal Court about Israel's U.S.-backed crimes.
One element of the unremitting torture of Gaza is Israel's “buffer zone” within Gaza, from which Palestinians are barred entry to almost half of Gaza's limited arable land.
From January 2012 to the launching of Israel’s latest killing spree on November 14, Operation Pillar of Defense, one Israeli was killed by fire from Gaza while 78 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire.
The full story is naturally more complex, and uglier.
The first act of Operation Pillar of Defense was to murder Ahmed Jabari. Aluf Benn, editor of the newspaper Haaretz, describes him as Israel's “subcontractor” and “border guard” in Gaza, who enforced relative quiet there for more than five years.
The pretext for the assassination was that during these five years Jabari had been creating a Hamas military force, with missiles from Iran. A more credible reason was provided by Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who had been involved in direct negotiations with Jabari for years, including plans for the eventual release of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Baskin reports that hours before he was assassinated, Jabari “received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the cease-fire in the case of a flare-up between Israel and the factions in the Gaza Strip.”
A truce was then in place, called by Hamas on November 12. Israel apparently exploited the truce, Reuters reports, directing attention to the Syrian border in the hope that Hamas leaders would relax their guard and be easier to assassinate.
Throughout these years, Gaza has been kept on a level of bare survival, imprisoned by land, sea and air. On the eve of the latest attack, the WHO reported that 40 percent of essential drugs and more than half of essential medical items were out of stock.
In November, one of the first in a series of hideous photos sent from Gaza showed a doctor holding the charred corpse of a murdered child. That one had a personal resonance. The doctor is the director and head of surgery at Khan Yunis hospital, which I had visited a few weeks earlier.
In writing about the trip, I reported his passionate appeal for desperately needed medicine and surgical equipment. These are among the crimes of the U.S.-Israeli siege, and of Egyptian complicity.
The casualty rates from the November episode were about average: more than 160 Palestinian dead, including many children, and six Israelis.
Among the dead were three journalists. The official Israeli justification was that “The targets are people who have relevance to terror activity.” Reporting the “execution” in the New York Times, the reporter David Carr observed that “it has come to this: Killing members of the news media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as `relevance to terror activity.' “
The massive destruction was all in Gaza. Israel used advanced U.S. military equipment and relied on U.S. diplomatic support, including the usual U.S. intervention efforts to block a Security Council call for a cease-fire.
With each such exploit, Israel's global image erodes. The photos and videos of terror and devastation, and the character of the conflict, leave few remaining shreds of credibility to the self-declared “most moral army in the world,” at least among people whose eyes are open.
The pretexts for the assault were also the usual ones. We can put aside the predictable declarations of the perpetrators in Israel and Washington. But even decent people ask what Israel should do when attacked by a barrage of missiles. It's a fair question, and there are straightforward answers.
One response would be to observe international law, which allows the use of force without Security Council authorization in exactly one case: in self-defense after informing the Security Council of an armed attack, until the Council acts, in accord with the U.N. Charter, Article 51.
Israel is well familiar with that Charter provision, which it invoked at the outbreak of the June 1967 war. But, of course, Israel's appeal went nowhere when it was quickly ascertained that Israel had launched the attack. Israel did not follow this course in November, knowing what would be revealed in a Security Council debate.
Another narrow response would be to agree to a truce, as appeared quite possible before the operation was launched on November 14.
There are more far-reaching responses. By coincidence, one is discussed in the current issue of the journal National Interest. Asia scholars Raffaello Pantucci and Alexandros Petersen describe China's reaction after rioting in western Xinjiang province, “in which mobs of Uighurs marched around the city beating hapless Han (Chinese) to death.”
Chinese president Hu Jintao quickly flew to the province to take charge; senior leaders in the security establishment were fired; and a wide range of development projects were undertaken to address underlying causes of the unrest.
In Gaza, too, a civilized reaction is possible. The United States and Israel could end the merciless, unremitting assault, open the borders and provide for reconstruction—and if it were imaginable, reparations for decades of violence and repression.
The cease-fire agreement stated that the measures to implement the end of the siege and the targeting of residents in border areas “shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the cease-fire.”
There is no sign of steps in this direction. Nor is there any indication of a U.S.-Israeli willingness to rescind their separation of Gaza from the West Bank in violation of the Oslo Accords, to end the illegal settlement and development programs in the West Bank that are designed to undermine a political settlement, or in any other way to abandon the rejectionism of the past decades.
Someday, and it must be soon, the world will respond to the plea issued by the distinguished Gazan human-rights lawyer Raji Sourani while the bombs were once again raining down on defenseless civilians in Gaza: “We demand justice and accountability. We dream of a normal life, in freedom and dignity.”

There is a crisis in almost every aspect of life in Gaza, and Palestinians will never have decent living conditions unless the blockade is lifted, Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, told RT.

­RT: Your agency has hit back at Israeli allegations that it allows its facilities in the Gaza Strip to be used by Hamas to launch rockets towards Israel. Have your schools and hospitals been used for this? Do Hamas fighters hide behind so-called "human shields?"

CG: As far as our facilities are concerned, absolutely no credible evidence at all has been produced to substantiate any allegations – at all. Now, on the question of whether Hamas hides behind our installations, you must understand: we’re humanitarian agency and we do not patrol the streets outside our facilities. We don’t have a police force, we don’t have an intelligence service. So it’s very hard for us to say what’s happening outside our facilities. We are, however, responsible for what happens inside our facilities. And although during the last fighting in Gaza in 2008-2009 there were indeed accusations that there were militants inside our compound and in our installations, these were never ever substantiated.

RT: Why would Israel make these allegations, though?

CG: You’d need to ask the Israelis that.

RT: How would you describe the humanitarian situation in Gaza now, and how long will it take for Gaza to recover from these latest attacks?

CG: Well, even before the current upsurge in fighting, there was a crisis in almost every aspect of life in Gaza. There was a crisis of education; we’re in the process of building a hundred new schools, because there is acute overcrowding in schools in Gaza. There is a crisis of public health, because, for example, 90% of all water in Gaza is undrinkable. Millions of liters of raw sewage are flowing into the sea every day because the sewage system is not functional. And the list goes on: there’s a crisis, as I say, in nearly every aspect of life. The economic conditions are not good – the United Nations recently produced the report Gaza 2020, which showed that there would be 500,000 new human beings in Gaza [by the year 2020], and all of the, you know, burdens of that increase on the public services.

RT: 2020 was the deadline in this UN report, by which the place will no longer be habitable. Has what’s happened in the last eight to nine days brought that day forward?

CG: Well, it’s hard for me to say anything meaningful about that, but I can tell you that a humanitarian crisis has been made more acute, because, obviously, buildings have been destroyed – not on the scale I’d venture to say as we saw during 2008-2009. UNRWA has begun an assessment of the damages, and it’s going to take us a long time. But already as far as our beneficiaries are concerned, and there 1.2 million beneficiaries of UNRWA in Gaza. We’ve started to give rental subsidies to people whose homes were completely destroyed, to give out subsidies for people so they can repair their homes. And that’s why we’ve launched an appeal for $12.7 million for the mediate recovery period – that’s for food and non-food items – and we hope that our donors will respond generously. Individuals can go to and give also.

RT: Hamas claims that Israel has made some concessions for the people of Gaza. We have heard that the blockade may be eased to allow the flow of people and goods. What's your understanding of this – will it help the humanitarian mess in Gaza?

CG: Well, we have to see what is going to happen as far the blockade regime is concerned. We have always called for the blockade to be lifted. We’ve said that it’s a collective punishment of 1.7 million people. It has to end and we have to see what kind of new arrangement has been decided in relation to the blockade. We hope it’s good news for the people of Gaza.

People in Gaza and southern Israel are starting to return to normal life following Wednesday's ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

A number of rockets were fired from Gaza in the first few hours of the truce, but Israel did not respond.

However, Israeli schools close to the Gaza Strip were kept closed on Thursday as a precaution.

Overnight, Israeli security forces arrested 55 people in the West Bank who it said were "terror operatives".

The arrests come after a series of angry protests in the Palestinian territory over Israel's operation in Gaza. Two protesters were killed during clashes with Israeli soldiers.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the arrested people were all affiliated with terror groups and included a number of "senior level operatives".

The arrests, including 13 in Hebron, were part of efforts to "restore calm" to the area, said the IDF.

The Israeli military said three rockets were fired from Gaza shortly after the ceasefire came into effect, one of which was shot down by the Iron Dome defence system. It said there had been no fire in either direction since midnight.

Iran has supplied military assistance to Hamas in Gaza, including technology needed to build long-range Fajr-5 rockets used to target Tel Aviv, a military leader from the Islamic republic said.

"Gaza is under siege, so we cannot help them. The Fajr-5 missiles have not been shipped from Iran. Its technology has been transferred and (the missiles are) being produced quickly," the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted as saying by the semiofficial ISNA news agency on Wednesday.

Israel has long accused Iran of supplying Hamas with its Fajr 5 missile, which has been used to target Tel Aviv and Jerusalem since the Israeli Defense Force's (IDF) ongoing military operation in Gaza was launched one week ago.

Iranian lawmaker Ali Larijani said on Wednesday his country was “proud” to defend the people of Palestine and Hamas according to remarks published on the Islamic Republic’s parliamentary website.

Larijani stressed the assistance had been both “financial and military." On Tuesday, Larijani lauded the Palestinian missile capability, saying it had given them a “strategic [source] of power.”

Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ramadhan Abdallah Shalah also told Al-Jazeera TV on Tuesday: “the weapons that are fighting the Israeli aggression and arrogance in Palestine come mainly from Iran, as the entire world knows. This is no secret. These are either Iranian weapons or weapons financed by Iran.”

On Thursday two Fajr rockets struck on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, marking the first time the metropolitan area had been targeted with missiles since the Gulf War. Two more Fajr-5 missiles launched towards the city were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome air defense system on Saturday, while another pair of rockets exploded on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Two more errant rockets targeting Jerusalem landed in the West Bank on Tuesday. No casualties have been reported from any of the strikes.

The Iranian produced Fajr-5 missile has an approximate range of 75 kilometers, which far exceeds the more mobile Palestinian-made Qassam rockets which came into use following the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2001.

The introduction of long-range missiles into Hamas’ arsenal came as a surprise to the Israeli military, who had initially viewed Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as out of play in the run up to Operation Pillar of Defense.

The IDF was forced to revise infographics enumerating the Hamas rocket threat following the introduction of the Fajr rockets into the conflict. Israel’s Iron Dome system has mostly neutralized this Hamas’ newly acquired threat, however, with the periodic air raid sirens having more of a psychological impact than a material one.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei was highly critical of other Muslim states for not standing behind Gaza during the week-long Israeli military operation that has seen at least 140 Palestinians killed following a thousand-plus IDF airstrikes.

"Some of them sufficed with words, and some others did not condemn [Israel]," the official Islamic Republic News Agency cites Khamenei as saying.

Top Ten Myths about Israeli Attack on Gaza

Posted on 11/17/2012 by Juan Cole

1. Israeli hawks represent themselves as engaged in a ‘peace process’ with the Palestinians in which Hamas refuses to join. In fact, Israel has refused to cease colonizing and stealing Palestinian land long enough to engage in fruitful negotiations with them. Tel Aviv routinely announces new, unilateral house-building on the Palestinian West Bank. There is no peace process. It is an Israeli and American sham. Talking about a peace process is giving cover to Israeli nationalists who are determined to grab everything the Palestinians have and reduce them to penniless refugees (again).

2. Actions such as the assault on Gaza can achieve no genuine long-term strategic purpose. They are being launched to ensure that Jewish-Israelis are the first to exploit key resources. Rattling sabers at the Palestinians creates a pretext for further land-grabs and colonies on Palestinian land. That is, the military action against the people of Gaza is a diversion tactic; the real goal is Greater Israel, an assertion of Israeli sovereignty over all the territory once held by the British Mandate of Palestine.

3. Israeli hawks represent their war of aggression as in ‘self-defense.’ But the UK Israeli chief rabbi admitted on camera that that the Gaza attack actually ‘had something to do with Iran.’

4. Israeli hawks demonize the Palestinians of Gaza as “bad neighbors” who don’t accept Israel. But 40% of the people in Gaza are refugees, mostly living in refugee camps, from families in pre-1948 Palestine that had lived there for millennia.
They were expelled from what is now Israel in the 1948 Zionist ethnic cleansing campaign. Israelis are now living in their homes and farming their land, and they were never paid any reparations for the crimes done to them. [pdf] “Israel’s failure to provide reparations to Palestinian refugees over the past six decades is in blatant violation of international law.” Israel does not accept Palestine’s right to exist, even though it is constantly demanding that everyone, including the displaced and occupied Palestinians, recognize Israel’s right to exist.

5. Israeli hawks and their American clones depict Gaza as a foreign, hostile state with which Israel is at war. In fact, the Gaza strip is a small territory of 1.7 million people militarily occupied by Israel (something in which the UN and other international bodies concur). Israelis do not allow it to have a port or airport, nor to export most of what it produces. Palestinians cannot work about a third of its land, which is reserved by Israel as a security buffer. As an occupied territory, it is covered by the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 on the treatment of occupied populations by their military occupier. Indiscriminate bombing of occupied territories by the occupier is clearly illegal in international law.

6. Israeli hawks see themselves as innocent victims of bewildering Palestinian rage from Gaza. But Israel not only has kept Palestinians of Gaza in the world’s largest outdoor penitentiary, they have them under an illegal blockade that for some years aimed at limiting their nutrition without altogether starving them to death. I wrote earlier:

“The food blockade had real effects. About ten percent of Palestinian children in Gaza under 5 have had their growth stunted by malnutrition. A recent report [pdf] by Save the Children and Medical Aid for Palestinians found that, in addition, anemia is widespread, affecting over two-thirds of infants, 58.6 percent of schoolchildren, and over a third of pregnant mothers. “

If any foreign power surrounded Israel, destroyed Haifa port and Tel Aviv airport, and prevented Israeli exports from being exported, what do you think Israelis would do? Oh, that’s right, it is rude to see both Palestinians and Israelis as equal human beings.

7. Israeli hawks demonize the Palestinian residents of Gaza as followers of Hamas, a party-militia of the Muslim religious right. But half of Palestinians in Gaza are minors, who never voted for Hamas and cannot be held collectively responsible for that party.

8. Israeli hawks justify their aggression on the Palestinians on grounds of self-defense. But Israel is a country of 7.5 million people with tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, helicopter gunships and F-16s and F-18s, plus 400 nuclear warheads. Gaza is a small occupied territory of 1.7 million which has no heavy weaponry, just some old guns and some largely ineffectual rockets. (Israelis cite hundreds of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza in 2012; but until Israel’s recent attack they had killed not a single Israeli, though they did wound a few last March when fighting between Palestinians and Israelis escalated.) Gaza is a threat to Israel the way the Transkei Bantustan was a threat to Apartheid South Africa. As for genuine asymmetrical threats from Gaza to Israel, they could be dealt with by giving the Palestinians a state and ceasing the blockade imposed on them, or in the worst case scenario counter-terrorism targeted at terrorists rather than indiscriminate bombing campaigns.

9. Israeli hawks maintain that they were provoked into the attack. But actually Ahmad Jabari, the Hamas leader the Israelis assassinated earlier this week, had been engaged in talks with the Israelis about a truce. Assassinations achieved by the ruse of openness to peace talks are guarantees of no further peace talks.

10. Although most American media is a cheering section for the Likud Party, in fact the world is increasingly done out with Israel’s aggressiveness. Boycotts and sanctions will likely grow over time, leaving Israeli hawks with a deficit…

Gaza’s Health Crisis and Israel’s Crimes Against Humanity

Israeli air strikes for the past 6 days have killed over 100 Palestinians in Gaza, many of them women and children; one strike deliberately targeted a media building that Israeli government knew to house journalists. Medics announced Monday that they are running out of key medicines (Gaza is under Israeli blockade). Military strikes are also interfering in the delivery of medical and other aid by international organizations in the Strip.

This Arabic-language report says that Israeli warplanes targeted the Jordanian field hospital late on Monday. I have not been able to find confirmation for this report, but if it is true, and deliberate, it would be a war crime.

A WHO spokesman reported Monday that injured individuals showing up at Gaza hospitals had “dramatically increased in the last 24 hours”. Some 700 have come to hospital, 252 of them children. Nurses at Shifa Hospital, who work 12-hour shifts, say that the injuries they are seeing are unprecedented. One said, “It’s very hard now, with many injured people coming every hour. Women and children outnumbered men, especially with the new wave [of attacks] targeting houses and civilian buildings.”

A recent World Health Organization Report worries that in just 8 years, in 2020, if current Israeli policies continue, Gaza will be virtually uninhabitable. Israel as the occupying power since 1967 is directly responsible in international law for the well-being of its occupied populations, and is in severe violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of the occupied. Moreover, since Israeli policies of Apartheid, discrimination, exile, restriction of movement and infliction of harm on Palestinians in Gaza are long-standing, deliberate and systematic, Israeli leaders are guilty in this regard of crimes against humanity.
The WHO report:
“Ms. [Jean] Gough [of UNICEF] said that demand for drinking water was projected to increase by 60 per cent while damage to the aquifer, the major water source, would become irreversible without remedial action now. Mr.[Robert] Turner [of UNRWA] added that more than 440 additional schools, 800 hospital beds and more than 1,000 doctors would be needed by 2020.”
Israeli airstrikes are exacerbating what had already been a parlous health care situation for Palestinians in Gaza.

When Will the Economic Blockade of Gaza End?

By Robert Wright
Nov 19 2012, 7:42 PM ET

President Obama and Bibi Netanyahu are on the same page when it comes to the justification for Israel's bombardment of Gaza. Netanyahu : "No country in the world would agree to a situation in which its population lives under a constant missile threat." Obama: "There's no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders."

It's true that if, say, Canada were lobbing missiles into the US, the US wouldn't tolerate it. But here's another thing the US wouldn't tolerate: If Canada imposed a crippling economic blockade, denying America the import of essential goods and hugely restricting American exports. That would be taken as an act of war, and America would if necessary respond with force--by, perhaps, lobbing missiles into Canada.

This is the situation Gaza has faced for years: a crippling economic blockade imposed by Israel. Under international pressure, Israel has relaxed the import restrictions, but even so such basic things as cement, gravel, and steel are prohibited from entering Gaza. The rationale is that these items are "dual use" and could be put to military ends. But this logic doesn't explain the most devastating part of the blockade--the severe restrictions on Gaza's exports.

Gazans can't export anything to anyone by sea or air, and there are extensive constraints on what they can export by land. They can't even sell things to their fellow Palestinians in the West Bank. According to the Israeli NGO Gisha, the number of truckloads of goods that leave Gaza each month is two percent of what it was before the blockade was imposed. (A black market trade via tunnels to Egypt has taken up some, but by no means all, of the slack.)

No wonder Gaza's unemployment rate has risen to 28 percent. No wonder 70 percent of Gazans receive humanitarian aid. No wonder there's a shortage of schools--it's hard to build them without construction materials.

If you mention the blockade to the average reasonably well-informed American or Israeli, you'll likely get a reply such as: Well, if the Gazans don't like economic strangulation, Hamas should quit firing missiles at Israel; or Hamas should recognize the state of Israel; or Hamas should do something else Israel wants it to do.

So, over the past couple of days, I tried to find out exactly what actions on the part of Hamas would suffice to end the blockade. And, after contacting various experts by email, I discovered that the answer is: nothing would suffice. At least, nothing we know of. Apparently Israel hasn't articulated clear conditions under which the blockade would end.

As law professor Noura Erakat has written in a journal article:

Despite claims of self-defense, Israel has not defined a definitive purpose for the blockade, the achievement of which would indicate its end. Official Israeli goals have ranged from limiting Hamas's access to weapons, to seeking retribution for the pain caused to Israeli civilians, and to compelling the Palestinian population to overthrow the Hamas government...

A decisive conclusion is necessary


Anyone who thinks Hamas is going to beg for a cease-fire, that Operation Pillar of Defense will draw to a close and quiet will reign in the South because we hit targets in the Gaza Strip, needs to think again.

With the elimination of a murderous terrorist and the destruction of Hamas’s long-range missile stockpile, the operation was off to an auspicious start, but what now? This must not be allowed to end as did Operation Cast Lead: We bomb them, they fire missiles at us, and then a cease-fire, followed by “showers” – namely sporadic missile fire and isolated incidents along the fence. Life under such a rain of death is no life at all, and we cannot allow ourselves to become resigned to it.

A strong opening isn’t enough, you also have to know how to finish – and finish decisively. If it isn’t clear whether the ball crossed the goal-line or not, the goal isn’t decisive. The ball needs to hit the net, visible to all. What does a decisive victory sound like? A Tarzan-like cry that lets the entire jungle know in no uncertain terms just who won, and just who was defeated.

To accomplish this, you need to achieve what the other side can’t bear, can’t live with, and our initial bombing campaign isn’t it.

THE DESIRE to prevent harm to innocent civilians in Gaza will ultimately lead to harming the truly innocent: the residents of southern Israel. The residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas. The Gazans aren’t hostages; they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.

The Gaza Strip functions as a state – it has a government and conducts foreign relations, there are schools, medical facilities, there are armed forces and all the other trappings of statehood. We have no territorial conflict with “Gaza State,” and it is not under Israeli siege – it shares a border with Egypt. Despite this, it fires on our citizens without restraint.

Why do our citizens have to live with rocket fire from Gaza while we fight with our hands tied? Why are the citizens of Gaza immune? If the Syrians were to open fire on our towns, would we not attack Damascus? If the Cubans were to fire at Miami, wouldn’t Havana suffer the consequences? That’s what’s called “deterrence” – if you shoot at me, I’ll shoot at you. There is no justification for the State of Gaza being able to shoot at our towns with impunity. We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.

There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire.

Were this to happen, the images from Gaza might be unpleasant – but victory would be swift, and the lives of our soldiers and civilians spared.

IF THE government isn’t prepared to go all the way on this, it will mean reoccupying the entire Gaza Strip. Not a few neighborhoods in the suburbs, as with Cast Lead, but the entire Strip, like in Defensive Shield, so that rockets can no longer be fired.

There is no middle path here – either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip. Otherwise there will be no decisive victory. And we’re running out of time – we must achieve victory quickly. The Netanyahu government is on a short international leash. Soon the pressure will start – and a million civilians can’t live under fire for long. This needs to end quickly – with a bang, not a whimper.

Israel's intensifying its barrage of Gaza on the fourth day of hostilities, and stepping up preparations for a ground invasion. Militants are firing back with unguided rockets that mostly fall off target, while Israeli precision strikes are leading to a rising number of civilian deaths. Film-maker and activist Harry Fear has been in Gaza since the first bombs fell. He says Israel has the capability to avoid collateral damage - but has instead chosen to attack indiscriminately.

Today, Israeli forces attacked two media buildings in Gaza, drawing round condemnations and notes of caution from media accuracy groups. Reuters reported that the Israeli government justified the attacks by explaining they were targeting "Hamas communications devices" atop the buildings. Nonetheless, eight journalists were injured in the attacks. The Associated Press released a video of smoke pouring from one of the buildings' roofs in the aftermath of the attack.

Bomb The Press

by Ali Gharib Nov 18, 2012 2:30 PM EST

"Journalists are civilians and are protected under international law in military conflict," Robert Mahoney, the head of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a release. "Israel knows this and should cease targeting facilities housing media organizations and journalists immediately." Reporters Without Borders (RSF) was even more harsh, outright condemning the attacks. In a statement, RSF head Christophe Deloire said: "Even if the targeted media support Hamas, this does not in any way legitimize the attacks. We call for a transparent investigation into the circumstances of these air strikes. Attacks on civilian targets are war crimes and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions. Those responsible must be identified."

Israel's media strategy centers on demonstrating that it's pursuing Hamas targets like missile stockpiles and military officials in the Islamist organization, all the while, apparently, expanding operations in response to each subsequent Hamas escalation. The short-sightedness of the tack mirrors that of the larger strategy, or lack thereof: the Israeli failure to realize that Hamas is here to stay, in large part due to the fact that its curriculum vitae contains more than just its role as an eliminationist terror group. Just as Hamas must end its morally bankrupt targeting of (or, for the more credulous, disregard for) Israeli civilians, so too must Israel acknowledge that it cannot at will hit Hamas "devices" that make up its non-military power structure in Gaza. That's precisely why there is no military solution to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

(Reuters) - Some of the Palestinian rockets fired far into Israel during the Gaza flare-up have lacked powerful warheads because they were stripped down to increase range and spread alarm over a wider population, Israeli security sources said on Sunday.

"Our assessment is that the prestige of setting off alarms deep in Israel, and being perceived as fighting on, is as important to them now as spilling our blood," said an Israeli official briefed on security cabinet decisions.

The official and two other sources who spoke to Reuters on the matter did not specify how many of the almost 900 rockets and mortars fired since fighting erupted on Wednesday had been deliberately sapped.

The official said "not a few" of the rockets reaching Tel Aviv and cities closer to Gaza were designed for much shorter ranges but had been shorn of their weighty warheads so that they flew further.

"They're pipes, basically," said the official, who declined to be identified.

Hamas, the militant Islamist movement governing Gaza, had no immediate comment. The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), another outgunned Palestinian faction taking part in the five days of clashes, dismissed the Israeli allegations.

"Israeli leaders are trying to assure their terrified public that those rockets are not dangerous, to minimize their fear. They will never succeed, and time will tell they lied to their people," PRC spokesman Abu Mujahed said.

Israeli air force and artillery strikes on Gaza, a small, densely populated enclave, have killed some 56 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Palestinian rockets have killed three civilians and wounded dozens of others in Israel since Wednesday, driving entire populations into bomb shelters.

Tel Aviv has become a target from the air for the first time since 1991, when Saddam Hussein's Iraq fired Scud missiles at Israel's biggest city. A rocket also crashed near Jerusalem for the first time in four decades.


The enemies have hotly disputed the condition of Gaza's most potent rockets, with Israel saying its air force has destroyed the bulk of them on the ground and the Palestinians insisting they were continuing to strike at the heart of the Jewish state.

For the fourth time in as many days, rockets were launched at Tel Aviv, some 70 km (44 miles) from Gaza, on Sunday. The salvo, claimed by Hamas, set off sirens in Israel's coastal commercial hub and suburbs. The Iron Dome interceptor shot down two rockets.

A third source who receives regular briefings from Israel's air defense corps said some of the furthest-reaching Palestinian rockets had warheads that were lighter than they were designed to have.

"Yes, this was to increase range, but we have no indication of rockets without warheads being used," the third source said.

Israel's military and police declined comment.

The discrepancy between the Israeli disclosures could be due to the difficulty of studying rocket debris left over from Iron Dome interceptions, or the possibility that not all of the sources were privy to intelligence data on Palestinian tactics.

Hamas said the rockets it has fired at Tel Aviv were Iranian-designed Fajr-5s, with ranges of 75 km (46 miles) and 175 kg (385 lb) warheads that can shear through buildings.

But there has been no word of direct impacts in Tel Aviv. The rockets were either blown out of the sky by Iron Dome or, according to some witnesses, fell harmlessly into the sea.

If any did land in unpopulated areas, the locations were not disclosed by Israeli authorities, in order to deprive the rocket crews of any information that could help them adjust their aim. Iron Dome is designed to intercept any rocket or mortar on course to hit a populated area.

Hamas also launched, on Friday, a rocket that it dubbed a homemade "Qassam M-75" at Jerusalem, which has no Iron Dome shield. That launch set off sirens throughout the holy city and some witnesses reported hearing an explosion to the south.

Police have not published extensive details on the incident.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Douglas Hamilton)

The suffering impinged on the Palestinian people feel truly hopeless. Those, in both the West and the Arab world, who most self-righteously denounced Assad in Syria, have closed their eyes to the ever-repeating tragedy in Gaza; The shallowness of their human rights rhetoric exposed.

(Reuters) - Ten Palestinian civilians were killed on Sunday in an Israeli air strike on a house in Gaza, Palestinian medics said, the highest civilian death toll in a single incident during five days of fighting.

An Israeli military spokesman said he was checking the report.

Medics said three women, six children and one man were killed in the attack on the three-storey building. Rescue workers were still at the site searching for people who might be buried under the rubble.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Maayan Lubell; editing by Crispian Balmer)

Nov. 18, 13:00 GMT: President Obama says "We are fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself'", discussing Gaza crisis during his Thailand visit. The US President also says will know in the next 36 to 48 hours whether progress can be made in halting Gaza crisis.

Israeli airstrikes killed four children
and wounded several others in Gaza on Sunday. At least nine children have been killed since Operation Pillar of Defense began. That number could potentially rise if Israel launches a ground operation on Gaza.

Eighteen-month-old Iyyad Abu Khusa was killed in a strike east of the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza. His brothers, aged four and five, were seriously wounded in the raid, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP.

Hours earlier, two toddlers were killed by strikes in the towns of Beit Hanun and Beit Lahiya. The children were identified as three-year-old Tamer Abu Saeyfan and his one-year-old sister, Jumana Abu Saeyfan.

Thirteen-year-old Tasneem Nahal was also among the children killed. She died of massive shrapnel wounds to the head after an Israeli strike hit a refugee camp in Gaza City.

Several women could be heard screaming and weeping after she was killed, AFP reported.

The tragic deaths of Gazan children killed in Israeli air strikes have angered the Arab and Islamic world.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that sooner or later, Israel would be held accountable for the “massacre.”

The child death toll is expected to rise unless the two sides enter negotiations soon.

“The Israeli military is prepared to significantly expand the operation. The soldiers are ready for any activity that could take place…the Israel Defense Forces have attacked more than 1,000 terror targets in the Gaza Strip and it continues its operation in this very moment,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a weekly cabinet meeting.

On Friday, Israel called up 75,000 army reservists to prepare for a possible ground operation against Gaza.

"We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water,” Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said, as quoted by Yeshiva World News.

The chief of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has ordered the increase of sorties against militants in Gaza.

However, many world leaders believe a ceasefire could be foreseeable in the near future.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is set to hold talks with Israeli authorities and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas during a one-day trip to the region.

He is expected “to call on all the parties to stop the escalation and offer France’s help to reach an immediate ceasefire,” his ministry said in a statement.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is expected to arrive in Israel on Monday, to attempt to advance a ceasefire.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is pushing for a truce, too.

“There are some indications that there could be a ceasefire soon…but there are no guarantees,” he said in a statement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will meet with Morsi and other officials in Egypt on Monday, according to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.

The Arab League has called an emergency meeting on the conflict in Cairo. Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Cairo is in Egypt for the talks, which aren’t expected to take place before Monday.

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) killed Jabari in an airstrike on his car in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. Israel's TV Channel 2 says his son also died in the missile attack.

Assassinating The Chance For Calm
by Gershon Baskin Nov 15, 2012 10:45 AM EST

Shortly after the return of Gilad Shalit, I drafted a proposal to the Government of Israel and Hamas to enter into a long term ceasefire arrangement based on the assumption that, for the time being, neither side was interested in engaging in renewed warfare. The assumption was well founded and based on the experience that I gained directly in helping to arrange a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza after the terrorist attack across the Sinai border in August 2011, while the Shalit negotiations were taking place.

Repeated rounds of rocket fire over the following year yielded the same results with both sides seeking a ladder to step down and avoid full escalation, which would not bring any political or military gains. Since that time, with the exception of the last round of violence two weeks ago, the rocket fire from Gaza was launched after a pre-emptive Israeli strike against terror cells. Based on Israeli intelligence information, pre-emptive strikes were conducted primarily against cells from the Islamic Jihad and the popular resistance committees. Hamas almost always sat on the sidelines and allowed the other factions in Gaza to shoot their rockets until the price in human life became too high. At that point, Hamas urged the Egyptians to intervene to secure a return to calm. In the last rounds, Hamas, under pressure from its public, joined in the shooting of rockets—but it almost always aimed its rockets at open spaces in Israel and their damage was minimal. It was clear to all involved that Hamas was not interested in escalating the situation and for its own reasons and agreed to impose the ceasefire on all of the other factions, and on itself.

The key actor on the Hamas side was Ahmed Jaabari, the commander of Ezedin al Qassam, the military wing of Hamas. When he was convinced that Israel was ready to stand down as well, Jaabari was always ready to take the orders to force the ceasefire on all of the other factions and on Hamas.

Both Israel and Hamas had decided months ago not to take action on my proposed ceasefire option, which included within it a mechanism that would prevent Israeli pre-emptive actions and would enable Hamas to prove that it was prepared to prevent terror attacks against Israel. Both sides responded very seriously to the proposal, but without any signal that there was an openness on the other side, neither was willing to advance the possibility for testing it.

Several weeks ago, I decided to try once again and, through my counterpart in Hamas, we both began speaking to high level officials on both sides. A few days ago I met my counterpart in Cairo and we agreed that he would draft a new proposal based on our common understanding of what was required to make it work.

Yesterday morning, hours before Israel assassinated Ahmed Jaabari, my counterpart in Hamas presented the draft to Jaabari and to other Hamas leaders. Senior Hamas leaders on the outside had already seen it and had instructed him to check the reactions to it in Gaza. I was supposed to receive the draft yesterday evening to present to Israeli officials who were waiting for me to send it to them.

That option is now off the table. Jaabari is dead and so is the chance for a mutually beneficial long term ceasefire understanding. Why did Benjamin Netanyahu do it? The cynical answer already offered by Aluf Benn in Haaretz is elections consideration. Cast Lead was also conducted before elections. Hitting Jaabari, according to Netanyahu’s thinking, would help him in the upcoming Israeli elections. Perhaps this is true, perhaps not.

It seems to me that some of the commanders of the Israeli army have been very frustrated that the previous agreements to return to calm left Israel in a weaker position, with Hamas calling the shots. They have been calling to rebuild Israel’s deterrence. Let them in Gaza feel the pain of a serious Israeli attack and then they will think seven times before shooting more rockets, is what they proposed. In the last days there has been a lot of talk from politicians, military experts and officers to return to the policy of “targeted killings.” This, they claim, would make the Hamas leaders hide for their lives and stop shooting at us. These military geniuses failed to realize that what never worked in the past will not work now either.

Now millions of Israelis and Palestinians are living under the terror of attack. Many more Gazans will be killed than Israelis, but is this a worthy achievement that we can be proud of and that will guarantee our long term security? I don’t think so.

I can only imagine that the assassination of Jaabari has bought us the entry card to Cast Lead II. This time, the experts say, “Let’s finish them off. Let’s do the job that we didn’t do last time. Let’s do a regime change.” Well, I ask: what then? Do we really want to reoccupy Gaza, because that will be the consequence of a regime change. I don’t believe that Netanyahu wants re-occupation. So if that is not what he wants, he must be aware that, on the morning after, we will still be living next to Gaza, which still be run by Hamas. They are not going away and the people of Gaza are not going away.

The assassination of Jaabari was a pre-emptive strike against the possibility of a long term ceasefire. Netanyahu has acted with extreme irresponsibility. He has endangered the people of Israel and struck a real blow against the few important more pragmatic elements within Hamas. He has given another victory to those who seek our destruction, rather than strengthen those who are seeking to find a possibility to live side-by-side, not in peace, but in quiet.

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