Note: Abbas Wears the Wrong Flag (and I’m not talking about Egypt’s flag)
“For a second day, Israeli aircraft have pounded what they say are Hamas targets in Gaza. The death toll has risen to at least 280, among them women and children.
Hamas has vowed not to cave in, but Israel’s operation could soon escalate. Tanks have massed at the Gazan border, and Ehud Olmert’s office says military reservists are being mobilised.
The UN Security Council has demanded an immediate end to the violence, and Egypt is trying to broker a ceasefire. But the airs raids are continuing, as Clayton Swisher reports.”
“28th December 2008 – Israeli air-strikes on the Palestinian city of Rafah in Gaza.”
Related News Item:
Two People Killed as Smuggling Tunnels Destroyed in Renewed Israeli Air Raids
Date: Sunday December 28, 2008 19:15
Renewed Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip this evening resulted in the death of two people, and the injury of at least twenty others, medics and witnesses reported.
Israeli warplanes this afternoon raided the Egyptian-Palestinian border lines in the southern Gaza Strip, destroying scores of underground tunnels used by Palestinians to bring in essential goods that a prolonged Israeli closure has made scarce.
Medics said that pillars of smoke filled the sky as some of the tunnels that were hit had been used to bring in gasoline from nearby Egypt. Many of the people on the border line with Egypt escaped the fire to the Egyptian side of the border, witnesses said. Witnesses added that Egyptian security personnel opened fire towards the crowds, causing the many Palestinians to be injured.
Also, Israel sealed off the Rafah crossing terminal following the incidents, after it was reopened yesterday to let wounded cross. A few hours later, Israeli warplanes attacked three other targets; a Hamas-run security post, a car and an apartment. Witnesses in Gaza city said that the attacks hit the post and an apartment in the Tal-Alhawa neighborhood, while the third attack struck a car on the outskirts of the Nuseirat Refugee camp in central Gaza.
Commander of the Gaza region in the Israeli Army, Moshe Livy, was quoted by Israeli media sources saying that the army operations in Gaza will continue without a specific timetable. He added that the operations are aimed to undermine the infrastructure of the Hamas party in Gaza in order to stop what he called “firing homemade rockets from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns.” Meanwhile, medics said that for the past couple of days Israeli attacks on Gaza have claimed the lives of about 292 Palestinians and have wounded more than 1000 others, including 180 critically.
Ewa Jasiewicz writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 28 December 2008
|Palestinian children attend funeral processions for victims of Israeli missile strikes in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 28 December 2008. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)|
27 December 2008
As I write this, Israeli jets are bombing the areas of Zeitoun and Rimal in central Gaza City. The family I am staying with has moved into the internal corridor of their home to shelter from the bombing. The windows nearly blew out just five minutes ago as a massive explosion rocked the house. Apache helicopters are hovering above us, while F-16s soar overhead.
United Nations radio reports say one blast was a target close to the main gate of al-Shifa hospital — the largest medical facility in Gaza. Another was a plastics factory. More bombs continue to pound the Strip.
Sirens are wailing on the streets outside. Regular power cuts plunge the city into blackness every night and tonight is no exception. Only perhaps tonight it is the darkest night people have seen here in their lifetimes.
As of this writing, more than 220 people have been killed and at least 400 injured through attacks that shocked the Strip in the space of 15 minutes. Hospitals are overloaded and unable to cope. These attacks come on top of the already existing humanitarian crisis that came about because of the 18-month Israeli siege which has resulted in a lack of medicines, bread, flour, gas, electricity, fuel and freedom of movement.
Doctors at al-Shifa Hospital had to scramble together 10 make-shift operating theaters to deal with the wounded. The hospital’s maternity ward had to transform their operating room into an emergency theater. Al-Shifa only had 12 beds in their intensive care unit, they had to make space for 27 today.
There is a shortage of medicine — over 105 key items are not in stock, and blood and spare generator parts are desperately needed.
Al-Shifa’s main generator is the life support machine of the entire hospital. It’s the apparatus keeping the ventilators and monitors and lights turned on that keep people inside alive. And it doesn’t have the spare parts it needs, despite the International Committee for the Red Cross urging Israel to allow it to transport them through Erez checkpoint.
Al-Shifa’s Head of Casualty, Dr. Maowiya Abu Hassanieh explained that “We had over 300 injured in over 30 minutes. There were people on the floor of the operating theater, in the reception area, in the corridors; we were sending patients to other hospitals. Not even the most advanced hospital in the world could cope with this number of casualties in such a short space of time.”
As Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, the Israeli occupation forces Chief of Staff, said this morning, “This is only the beginning.”
But this isn’t the beginning — it is an ongoing policy of collective punishment and killing with impunity practiced by Israel for decades. It has seen its most intensified level today. But the weight of dread, revenge and isolation hangs thick over Gaza. People are all asking: If this is only the beginning, what will the end look like?
Alberto Acre, a Spanish journalist, and I were on the border village of Sirej near the city of Khan Younis in the south of the Strip. We had driven there at 8am with the mobile clinic of the Union of Palestinian Relief Committees. The clinic regularly visits exposed, frequently raided villages far from medical facilities. We had been interviewing residents about conditions on the border. Stories of olive and orange groves, and family farmland, bulldozed to make way for a clear line of sight for Israeli army watch towers and border guards. Prior to today, Israeli attacks have been frequent — indiscriminate fire and shelling sprayed homes and land on the front line of the south eastern border. One elderly farmer showed us the grave-size ditch he had dug to climb into when Israeli soldiers would shoot into his fields.
Alberto was interviewing a family that had survived an Israeli missile attack on their home last month. It had been a response to rocket fire from resistance fighters nearby. Four fighters were killed in a field by the border. Israel had rained rockets and M-16 fire back. The family, caught in the crossfire, has not returned to their home.
I was waiting for Alberto to return when ground shaking thuds tilted us off our feet. This was the sound of surface to air fired missiles and F-16 bombs slamming into the police stations and bases of the Hamas authority across Gaza. We zoomed out of the village in our ambulance, and onto the main road to Gaza City, before jumping out to film the smoldering remains of a police station in Deir al-Balah near Khan Younis. Eyewitnesses said two Israeli missiles had destroyed the station. One had soared through a children’s playground and a busy fruit and vegetable market before striking its target.
There was blood on a broken plastic yellow slide, and a crippled, dead donkey with an upturned vegetable cart beside it. Aubergines and splattered blood covered the ground. A market trader present during the attack began to explain in broken English what happened: “It was full here, full, three people dead, many, many injured.” An elderly man with a white kuffiyeh scarf around his head threw his hands down to his blood-drenched trousers and cried, “Look! Look at this! Shame on all governments, shame on Israel, look how they kill us, they are killing us and what does the world do? Where is the world, where are they, we are being killed here, hell upon them!”
He began to pick up splattered tomatoes he had lost from his cart, picking them up jerkily, and putting them into plastic bags, quickly. Behind a small tile and brick building, a man was sitting against the wall, his legs were bloodied. He couldn’t get up and was sitting, visibly in pain and shock, trying to adjust himself, to orientate himself.
The Deir al-Balah police station itself was a wreck, a mess of twisted piles of concrete — broken floors upon floors. Smashed cars and a split palm tree split the road.
We walked on, hurriedly, with everyone else, eyes skyward at four US-made Apache helicopters whose trigger mechanisms are supplied by the United Kingdom’s Brighton-Based EDM Technologies. They were dropping smoky bright flares — a defense against any attempt at Palestinian missile retaliation.
Turning down the road leading to the Deir al-Balah Civil Defense Force headquarters we suddenly saw a rush of people streaming across the road, shouting “They’ve been bombing twice, they’ve been bombing twice!” We ran too, but towards the crowds and away from “a ministry building,” which our friend explained could be a possible second target as the Apaches rumbled above.
Arriving at the police station we saw the remains of a life at work smashed short. A prayer matt clotted with dust, a policeman’s hat, the ubiquitous bright flower-patterned mattresses, burst open. A crater around 20 feet in diameter was filled with pulverized walls and floors and a motorbike, tossed on its side like a toy.
Policemen were frantically trying to get a fellow worker out from under the rubble. Everyone was trying to call him on his cell phone. “Stop it everyone, just one, one of you ring,” shouted an officer. A fire licked the underside of a room now crushed to just three feet high. The men rapidly grasped and threw back rocks, blocks and debris to reach the man.
We made our way to al-Aqsa Hospital. Trucks and cars loaded with the men of entire families — uncles, nephews, brothers — piled high and speeding to the hospital to check on loved ones, horns blaring without interruption.
Hospitals on the brink
Entering al-Aqsa was overwhelming — pure pandemonium, charged with grief, horror, distress and shock. Limp, blood-covered and burnt bodies streamed by us on rickety stretchers. Before the morgue, tens of shouting relatives crammed up to its open double doors. Our friend explained that “they could not even identify who was who, whether it is their brother or cousin or who, because they are so burned.” Many were transferred, in ambulances and the back of trucks and cars to al-Shifa Hospital.
The injured couldn’t speak. Causality after casualty sat propped against the outside walls, being comforted by relatives, with wounds temporarily dressed. The more drastically injured were inside, where relatives jostled with doctors in constant motion to bring in their injured in scuffed blankets. Drips, bloody faces, scorched hair and shrapnel cuts to hands, chests, legs, arms and heads dominated the reception area, wards and operating theaters.
We saw a bearded man on a stretcher on the floor of an intensive care unit, shaking and shaking, involuntarily, legs rigid and thrusting downwards — a spasm consistent with a spinal cord injury. Would he ever walk again or talk again? In another unit, a baby girl, no older than six months, had shrapnel wounds to her face. A relative lifted a blanket to show us her fragile bandaged leg. Her eyes were saucer-wide and she was making stilted, repetitive, squeaking sounds.
A first estimate at al-Aqsa Hospital was 40 dead and 120 injured. The hospital was dealing with casualties from the bombed market, a playground, a Civil Defense Force’s station, a civil and traffic police stations — all were leveled. Two of the dead were carried out on stretchers from the hospital. Their bodies were lifted up by crowds of grief-stricken men and taken to the graveyard accompanied by cries of “There is not God but God!”
Many Palestinians in Gaza feel that no one is looking out for them apart from God. Back in al-Shifa Hospital tonight, we met the brother of a security guard who was sitting in the doorway of the former headquarters of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The building collapsed on top of him after an Israeli missile strike. He said to us, “We don’t have anyone but God. We feel alone. Where is the world? Where is the action to stop these attacks?”
Majid Salim, stood beside his comatose mother, Fatima. Earlier today she had been sitting at her desk at work at the Khadija Arafat Charity, located near the headquarters of Hamas’ security forces in Gaza City. Israel’s attack had left her with multiple internal and head injuries, a tube down her throat and a ventilator keeping her alive. Majid gestured to her, “We didn’t attack Israel, my mother didn’t fire rockets at Israel. This is the biggest terrorism, to have our mother bombarded at work.”
The groups of men lining the corridors of the over-stretched al-Shifa hospital are stunned, agitated, patient and lost. We spoke to a group of men whose brother had both arms broken and serious facial and head injuries. They explained that “We couldn’t recognize his face, it was so black from the weapons used.” Another man turns to me and said. “I am a teacher. I teach human rights — this is a course we have, human rights.” He paused. ‘How can I teach, my son, my children, about the meaning of human rights under these conditions, under this siege?”
The UN Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and local government schools have developed a human rights syllabus, which teaches children about international law, the Geneva Conventions, the International Declaration on Human Rights, and The Hague Regulations. One goal of the program is to develop a culture of human rights in Gaza, and to help generate more self-confidence and a sense of security and dignity for the children. But the contradiction between what should be adhered to as a common code of conduct agreed to by most states, including Israel, and the realities on the ground is stark. International law is not being applied or enforced with respect to Israeli policies toward Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, inside Israel, or the millions of refugees living in camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
How can a new consciousness and practice of human rights ever graduate from rhetoric to reality when everything points to the contrary in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Israel? The United Nations have been spurned and shut out by Israel. Earlier this month, Richard Falk, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, was held prisoner at Ben Gurion Airport before being unceremoniously deported. The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated regions on the planet. In the Jabaliya refugee camp alone, Gaza’s largest, 125,000 people are crowded into a space of only two square kilometers. Bombardment by F-16s and Apache helicopters at mid-morning, as children leave their schools for home, reveals an utter contempt for civilian safety. This is compounded by an 18-month siege that bans all imports and exports, and has resulted in the deaths of more than 270 people as a result of a lack of access to essential medicines and treatment. Israel is granted immunity by an international community that offers empty phrases for Israel to “urge restraint” and “minimize civilian casualties.”
There is a saying here in Gaza: “At the end of the tunnel, there is another tunnel.” Not so funny when you consider that Gaza is being kept alive through the smuggling of food, fuel and medicine through an exploitative industry of over 1,000 tunnels running from Egypt to the southern city of Rafah. On average, one to two people die every week in the tunnels. Some embark on a humiliating crawl to get their education, see their families, to find work, on their hands and knees. Other tunnels are reportedly big enough to drive through.
As bombs continue to blast buildings around us, jarring the children in this house from their fitful sleep, the saying could take on another twist. After today’s killing of more than 200, is it that at the end of the tunnel, there is another tunnel, and then a grave? Or is it a wall of international complicity and silence?
Yet, there is a light through the wall — a light of conscience turned into activism by people all over the world. We can turn a spotlight onto Israel’s crimes against humanity and the enduring injustice here in Palestine, by coming out onto the streets and pressuring our governments; demanding an end to Israeli apartheid and occupation, broadening our call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, and for a genuine and just peace. Through institutional, governmental, and popular means, this can be the light at the end of the Gaza’s tunnel.
Ewa Jasiewicz is a journalist, community and union organizer, and solidarity worker. She is currently Gaza Project Co-coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement.
Safa Joudeh writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 28 December 2008
|The scene of an Israeli missile strike in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 28 December 2008. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)|
Here’s an update on what’s happening here from where I am, the second night of Israeli air (and sea) raids on Gaza.
It’s 1:30am but it feels like the sun should be up already. For the past few hours there’s been simultaneous, heavy aerial bombardment of Gaza City and the northern Gaza Strip. It feels like the longest night of my life. In my area it started with the bombing of workshops (usually located in the ground floor of private/family residential buildings), garages and warehouses in one of the most highly condensed areas in Gaza City, “Askoola.”
About an hour ago they bombed the Islamic University, destroying the laboratory building. As I mentioned in an earlier account, my home is close to the university. We heard the first explosion, the windows shook, the walls shook and my heart felt like it would literally jump out of my mouth. My parents, siblings and cousins, who have been staying with us since their home was damaged the first day of the air raids, had been trying to get some sleep. We all rushed to the side of the house that was farthest from the bombing. Hala, my 11-year-old sister stood motionless and had to be dragged to the other room. I still have marks on my shoulder from when Aya, my 13-year-old cousin held on to me during the next four explosions, each one as violent and heart-stopping as the next. Looking out of the window moments later the night sky had turned to a dirty navy-gray from the smoke.
Israeli warships rocketed Gaza’s only sea port only moments ago; 15 missiles exploded, destroying boats and parts of the ports. These are just initial reports over the radio. We don’t know what the extent of the damage is. We do know that the fishing industry that thousands of families depend on either directly or indirectly didn’t pose a threat on Israeli security. The radio reporter started counting the explosions; I think he lost count after six. At this moment we heard three more blasts. “I’m mostly scared of the whoosh,” I told my sister, referring to the sound a missile makes before it hits. Those moments of wondering where it’s going to fall are agonizing. Once the whooshes and hits were over the radio reporter announced that the fish market (vacant, of course) had been bombed.
We just heard that four sisters from the Balousha family were killed in an attack that targeted the mosque by their home in the northern Gaza Strip.
You know what bothers me more than the bangs and the blasts, the smoke, the ambulance sirens and the whooshes? The constant, ominous, maddening droning sound of the Apache helicopters overhead that has been buzzing in my head day and night. It’s like I’m hearing things, which I’m not, but I am.
Safa Joudeh is an master’s candidate in public policy at Stony Brook University in the US. She returned to Gaza in September 2007 where she currently works as a freelance journalist.
Appeal, The Higher Follow Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, 28 December 2008
In the presence of all national alliances, an urgent meeting for the Follow up Committee was held today declaring Sunday 28 December 2008 a general strike in protest of the Israeli massacres committed against Palestinians in Gaza. The meeting called for the organization of demonstrations and marches in every Arab town in al-Naqab [Negev], the Triangle, the Galilee areas and coastal towns as a symbol of the rage and severe grief of the Palestinian nation upon the loss of hundreds of its citizens in Gaza.
It was decided that the High Follow Up Committee remains on alert to hold further meetings to take steps in resistance and to stop the consistent aggression and break the siege on Gaza including the opening of all border crossings especially that of Rafah.
The following political message stemmed from the meeting:
- Considering the Israeli aggression against Palestinians in Gaza an assault against Palestinian People everywhere and our duty is to resist it and break the siege.
- Recognizing Israel and its political and security forces as a criminal state committing acts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity against our people in the Gaza Strip. This with the assurance that the current Israeli parliamentary election campaign is fueled by the Palestinian bloodshed.
- Saluting the determination and will of Palestinian people in the face of the aggressive Israeli scheme to break their steadfastness and human dignity.
- Condemning the international complicity with the official Israeli aggression, and considering its silence and complicity as partnership in the crime. the meeting also stressed the absolute rejection of holding the Palestinian people or the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) responsible for the situation and while exempting Israel from its total responsibility.
- Calling upon the international community to take its legal and moral responsibility, to sanction Israel and boycott it as a state that pursues terrorism, war crimes and crimes against humanity with premeditation.
- Condemning Arab Official complicity used by Israel to cover for its predefined aggression and condemning the general Arab weakness and calling them to shut down their embassies in Israel and boycott it. We call upon Egypt to open all crossings with Gaza and break its siege.
- Condemning the complying Arab and Official political voices which held the Palestinian leadership in Gaza responsible for the Israeli aggression and calling the head of the Palestinian National Authority to immediately stop the negotiations with Israel used to further fuel the Palestinian split in the West Bank and in Gaza.
- Assuring the call for national Palestinian unity and its total support of the Palestinian struggle and resistance in the face of Israeli aggression.
- Paying tribute to the heroic steadfastness of our people and supporters in the Arab world and elsewhere and the masses in the homeland that stood in the face of the bloody aggression and supported the steadfastness in Gaza.
- Calling on the masses of our people to exercise the highest degree of readiness to contribute, on individual and collective levels, in the national relief campaign, which includes the donation of medical supplies, food and blood donation in support of Gaza and in contribution to the breaking of the siege.
- Calling on the masses of our people and supporters in the world to share the worry and to have more readiness to escalate the struggle in order to defeat the Israeli aggression and provide protection for our heroic Palestinian nation.
The Higher Follow Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel is the highest representative body of the 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel. It includes all Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) as well as elected mayors and local officials.
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Press release, Al Mezan, 28 December 2008
|A Palestinian family rushes from the scene of an Israeli missile strike on a building in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 28 December 2008. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)|
In one of its bloodiest military operations, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) initiated a wide-scale air strike operation against the Gaza Strip. Dozens of targets were attacked from the air simultaneously using heavy missiles and bombs. Mostly, the strikes targeted police and security installations across the densely populated Gaza Strip, which is indicative of IOF’s disregard for civilian life and well-being. More than 900 people have been killed and injured, most of whom are non-combatants. The number of casualties was because the timing of the strike, which coincided with the change in school shifts when tens of thousands of schoolchildren were on their way to or from school. Seven UNRWA [the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees] Gaza Vocational Training Center students were also killed in one of the air strikes in Gaza City.
According to Al Mezan’s monitoring, at approximately 11:30am on Saturday 27 December 2008, Israeli military aircraft launched a coordinated series of air strikes targeting dozens of police, security and other premises across the Gaza Strip. The first wave of attacks lasted for less than five minutes, during which more than 100 missiles and bombs were dropped on Gaza. One of the largest strikes targeted the Arafat Police Town, which is located near several UNRWA schools. Dozens of people were killed in this attack, including tens of young men who were undergoing training to join the police. Moreover, Colonel General Tawfik Jabir, who is the Police General Director in the Gaza Strip, and Captain Ahmed al-Jabari, the Director of the Security and Protection Apparatus, were killed in the same attack.
The IOF air strikes were unprecedented in their fierceness. Police stations located in densely populated neighborhoods were attacked, destroying them and causing severe damage to tens of schools and homes and killing dozens of civilians, including children and old people.
Air strikes have continued through the night, targeting houses and other civilian premises, including water-wells, workshops, mosques and communications facilities. A guard of a water well and three employees of the Palestinian Telecommunications Company were killed in North Gaza. Another two men were killed in a strike that targeted the al-Borno Mosque near al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. The hospital was damaged in the same strike. Moreover, IOF targeted prisons, including Gaza’s main prison facility of al-Saraya at noon today. Initial reports indicate that many policemen and prisoners were killed and injured in this attack.
Additionally, dozens of homes were destroyed, along with tens of UNRWA and government schools and clinics. Local government offices and private vehicles were also destroyed. Al Mezan’s initial monitoring indicates that at least 257 people have been killed in the IOF’s strikes in the last 24 hours. Of those, the vast majority are non-combatants and civilians; including 20 children, nine women and 60 civilians. The majority of the rest of the casualties are members of the civilian police who were inside their stations or undertaking training. At least 597 people were also injured, including 35 children whose wounds were reportedly critical. Al Mezan believes that the number of casualties is expected to increase as many victims have been buried by their families without being registered at hospitals. Furthermore, a high number of people lie at hospitals between death and life. Moreover, dozens of people who were lightly wounded and therefore not admitted to hospitals were not counted. As the air strikes continue, more people fall victim to them. This makes this operation one of Israel’s bloodiest, most criminal military actions in Gaza in the past few decades.
This escalation comes amidst unprecedented deterioration of the humanitarian conditions Gaza’s 1.5 million persons face because of Israel’s tight siege which prevents their access to food, medicine and power. Ordinary Gazans have particularly been suffering from shortages in water supplies, cooking gas and foodstuffs. The siege has also impacted hospitals’ capacity to function under severe shortages in medicines and equipment. Hospitals’ ability to handle very high numbers of casualties in a short time since yesterday has been particularly problematic, and particularly during the first hour after the first wave of attacks yesterday. With the strongest possible terms, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns the IOF’s criminal military escalation in the Gaza Strip, which indiscriminately harms civilians and civilian property, and blatantly breaches the rules of international humanitarian law, qualifying as war crimes. Al Mezan particularly condemns the IOF attacks against civilian objects in which children and uninvolved civilians have been killed and maimed despite the advanced technological capabilities that the IOF employs in their surveillance of the Gaza Strip.
Al Mezan stresses that police members who do not take part in any hostilities are not considered legitimate military targets under international humanitarian law and must not be deliberately targeted. It further stresses that Israel must respect the rules of international law at all times, particularly when the use of force is involved. A reaction to rocket attacks cannot justify the perpetration of grave breaches of international humanitarian law, i.e. war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Al Mezan warns about the continued silence of the international community in the face of Israel’s escalation, which only encourages Israel to further escalate its attacks. Al Mezan calls on the international community to intervene urgently to protect the civilian population in harmony with its legal and ethical obligations under international law. International intervention is required urgently as the IOF’s attacks on Gaza continue.
This press release has been edited for clarity.
Mel Frykberg, The Electronic Intifada, 28 December 2008
|Palestinians in Nablus demonstrate against the ongoing Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, 27 December 2008. (Rami Swidan/MaanImages)|
RAMALLAH, occupied West Bank (IPS) – Anger, shock and revulsion at the continuing carnage in Gaza has ignited spontaneous demonstrations and riots across the West Bank and Israel, sparking concerns of a possible third Palestinian uprising or intifada.
More than 300 Palestinians were killed and at least 900 wounded following an intensive Israeli air bombing campaign over the Gaza strip through the weekend.
This followed a barrage of rockets fired by Palestinian fighters at Israeli towns and cities bordering the coastal territory in the last few weeks which caused some damage but no casualties.
Hamas leader-in-exile, Damascus-based Khaled Meshal, has called on Palestinians to rise up against Israel. The Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank called for a three-day strike in sympathy with Gaza’s plight.
Following Israel’s aerial assault, one Israeli was killed and several wounded in retaliatory rocket fire from Gaza Saturday afternoon. This was Israel’s first fatality in many months.
Following the initial clash, rioting and protests spread spontaneously to all of Gaza and the West Bank, leading to a popular uprising which lasted for several years. This followed years of Palestinian resentment and bitterness towards a brutal Israeli occupation.
Palestinians in Israel clashed Saturday with Israeli police throughout the state.
In the Bedouin village of Rahat in the Negev desert, around 400 residents protested the attacks, while mosques throughout the town broadcast prayers of mourning.
Several hundred left-wing Israelis marched through the streets of Tel Aviv towards the Israeli defense ministry headquarters chanting “No to war, yes to peace.”
The left-wing protestors carried signs saying “Israel’s government is committing war crimes,” “Negotiation instead of slaughter,” and “Lift the siege from Gaza.”
Several Israeli protestors were arrested. Matan Kaminer, an Israeli student who took part in the protest, told the Israeli daily Haaretz that “no one can tell us that slaughtering the citizens of Gaza is meant to protect the citizens of Sderot and Ashkelon,” referring to two Israeli towns bordering the Gaza Strip.
An Israeli police officer was deliberately run over by a Palestinian in East Jerusalem as groups of Palestinian youths clashed with police in the city, stoning them and setting dumpsters on fire.
Palestinian protestors from West Bank towns and refugee camps took to the streets and marched on Israeli checkpoints and Israeli settlements. Many were injured by rubber bullets — marble-sized metal balls covered in half a millimeter of rubber — and tear gas shot by Israeli soldiers.
In Ramallah hundreds of protestors from the various Palestinian factions waved banners and flags, and decried the Gaza slaughter. They called for unity and for Gaza’s Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and West Bank Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to bury their differences and put the Palestinian cause above their personal politics.
Many in the crowd waved Fatah flags, associated with Abbas and the PA, showing clearly their empathy with fellow Palestinians despite the political divide between the two Palestinian territories.
IPS joined the demonstration as it marched around Ramallah city. In the crowd were people from all sections of Palestinian society. Elegantly turned out middle-aged women from Ramallah’s Christian minority marched side by side with tough young men from the surrounding refugee camps.
Grandmothers, journalists, factional leaders, and mothers with toddlers walked linking arms with a scattering of international sympathizers based in the cosmopolitan central West Bank city. Many countries have representative offices to the PA in Ramallah.
This was one of the largest demonstrations that Ramallah witnessed in the last few years of conflict.
“I couldn’t just sit at home. I felt overwhelming anger at the situation in Gaza and I needed to show my solidarity,” Munther, a young computer programmer from the Palestinian Legislative Council who voted for Abbas in the last election told IPS.
As the crowd circled the city center, the Palestinian police looked on quietly and stood back. But when the demonstrators marched on the Muqata, the government headquarters of the PA where Abbas was in his office, the mood of the Palestinian security forces changed.
On approaching the Muqata’s entrance the crowd was met by Palestinian soldiers who took up positions and held their weapons at the ready. But the Shebab, or youth in Arabic, decided to head towards the nearby Israeli military checkpoint of Beit El.
While the more cautious in the crowd stood back, the young men headed towards waiting Israeli military jeeps and tanks and started to sling stones at them, and set tires alight to block the road.
The Israelis responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, injuring a number of youngsters who were rushed to nearby hospitals in Palestinian ambulances.
This IPS correspondent helped two youths injured by rubber bullets to hospital. They were shot as they stoned the soldiers.
As dozens of Palestinian riot police arrived on the scene to disperse the protestors, one of them remarked that the police arrival had been coordinated with their Israeli colleagues on the other side of the checkpoint.
“They are nothing but quislings and a militia of the Israelis. Hundreds of Palestinians were killed in Gaza, and who do they aim their weapons at? Not the Israelis but us, their brethren protesting the slaughter,” said one of the youths.
“There will be more protests tomorrow and I will be back,” he added, as he stepped out of the taxi and limped towards the emergency room.
All rights reserved, IPS – Inter Press Service (2008). Total or partial publication, retransmission or sale forbidden.
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Sameh A. Habeeb
More than 230 killed, hundreds injured due to Israeli bombings against Gaza.
Night Update: Israel is phoning civilians requesting they evacuate houses or they will be bombed. More bombings taking place Now. Casualties up to 230.
Israeli army targets Al Shifa’ hospital and Aqsa space Chanal now!
Gaza Strip, 28, Dec, 2008- Saturday morning started as usual but dramatically changed by 11AM. Sixty Israeli F16 bombarded around 100 police stations, civil and governmental offices across Gaza Strip. The bombardment which simultaneously took place left 160 people killed and around 3 hundred wounded. A number of wounded is expected to die while many corps still under the rubbles of buildings.
Palestinian victims were amalgamation of policemen and civilians who were visiting some police stations for civic affairs. Al Jawazat police station witnessed the bloodiest Israeli attack in which around 70 killed mostly policemen. The victims of police of Al Jawzat were holding a graduation ceremony for new young police groups.
A family of 9 members, 15 young children, and some women were killed but not recognized. Ministry of Health is not able to recognize the ID’s of casualties. Tawfiq Jaber, Director of Gaza police was killed in the air raids along with Ismail El Jabari head of security section in the police. Governor of central Gaza governorates and camps was killed as Israel hit his car.
Ma’waya Hasanian, head of Emergency and Ambulances said that around 230 people killed and 200 injured. He added that a big number of victims was civilians from women, children and old people. Civic cars referred wounded civilians to the hospitals due to lack of medical cars and vehicles.
Gaza hospitals announced inability of receiving wounded due to lack medical equipments and tools. Corps of Palestinians threw on the corridors, rooms and units of hospitals. Meanwhile 2-3 wounded victims shared one bed due to lack of medical equipments resulted in Israeli siege imposed 2 years ago. Basim Nai’m, Health Minster in Gaza said that Gaza medical sector needs tens of medical equipments and tools.A number of 70 wounded were referred to Egyptian hospital.
According to Naser Al laham, Chif-Editor of Maan News Agency said that around 60 Israeli warplanes carried out the Massacre which surprisingly took place in Gaza.
The raids targeted all areas of Gaza Strip, cities, villages and towns. The hit cities are Gaza, Rafah, Khanyonis, Nusairat, Maghazi, Bait Lahia, Jabalia, Bait Hanoun. Refugee camps of Jabalia, Al Shati’, Rafah an mid areas were targeted as well. Some of the destroyed compounds included Palestinian prisoners under penal for criminal issus.
The Israeli bombings is flagrantly violating all laws which call for protecting civilians. This was so obvious from the number of civilian casualties. The brutal bombings happened in time of school children were going home after a normal day of study. A considerable number of children were killed, but medical soruces didn’t announce official numbers in this respect. Identities of killed people are still unknown but few ones.
On the other side, Israel officially announced the start of a full-scale military operation in Gaza. She has called on settlers to go down to bonkers bordering Gaza after 1 Israeli killed and several injured in a homemade rocket fired from Gaza.
Israeli official Television broadcasted footage of the settlements hit by Gazan fighters and ironically ignored what’s happening in Gaza. The television stated that today’s military operations is the start for a long-term massive war actions against Gaza. Israeli army named the operation in Gaza ” Lead Pouring Out ” which entirely means surprisingly decapitation of Palestinian factions in Gaza.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared the 20 square kilometers of Gaza a “special military zone.” The classification is one degree below a declaration of total war against an enemy state. The announcement was made Saturday morning.
Israeli channel 10 announced that the current situation does not amount to a declaration of war, but the operation against the Gaza Strip is intended to last throughout Saturday and perhaps into Sunday. It asserted that Israel prepared an operation that could take several weeks. Preparations have also been taken to contain any expected response in the West Bank.
Ehud Barak said that this operation would roll out in all Gaza’s areas and it will last for a longer time. He vowed of a painfull military strike of Hamas pinting out “there is a time for peace and time for War.” According to Barak the operation aims at topple down Hamas government and stopping the homemade rockets.
Maan Agency reports: Israeli sources also asserted that the operation would not topple Hamas, but rather will ensure that homemade projectiles from the Gaza Strip will stop. This was confirmed in a statement released by prime minister’s office, as well.
Regional efforts are being exerted to pressure on Israel to immediately stop the war crimes perpetrated in Gaza. Turkey expressed its deep anger towards the surprising actions done by Israel. Turkish government held a meeting to discuss the possibilities of reaching truce. Premire of Turkey, Abdallah Gul, condemned the Israeli brutal actions in Gaza.
Meanwhile Syrian President, Bashar Al Asad, Yamini Presdient Ali Abdallah Saleh called for an immediate meeting for Arab league to discuss Gaza’s situation. Additionally Qatar and the Sudan called on that too. An expected session for the United Nations would be heled upon a request from Arab countries.
On the popular level, demonstrations took place in the West Bank cities, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan. Lebanese people protest ahead to Egyptian embassy in Bairot considering it as part of siege on Gaza.
Israel warcraft still hover on low distance on Gaza vowing of a hot night!
To Be Continued….