Israel accused of using white phosphorus in Gaza

Israel accused of using white phosphorus in Gaza – 11 Jan 09

“Human rights groups have expressed concern that a highly flammable weapon used by Israel could be causing additional casualties among civilians in Gaza.

Al Jazeera’s Tom Ackerman examines the controversy surrounding white phosphorus munitions.”

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Israel: Stop Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza
Chemical ‘Obscurant’ Poses Serious Risk to Civilians
January 10, 2009
Source: Human Rights Watch

(Jerusalem) – Israel should stop using white phosphorus in military operations in densely populated areas of Gaza, Human Rights Watch said today. On January 9 and 10, 2009, Human Rights Watch researchers in Israel observed multiple air-bursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over what appeared to be the Gaza City/Jabaliya area.

Israel appeared to be using white phosphorus as an “obscurant” (a chemical used to hide military operations), a permissible use in principle under international humanitarian law (the laws of war). However, white phosphorus has a significant, incidental, incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures, fields, and other civilian objects in the vicinity on fire. The potential for harm to civilians is magnified by Gaza’s high population density, among the highest in the world.

“White phosphorous can burn down houses and cause horrific burns when it touches the skin,” said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch. “Israel should not use it in Gaza’s densely populated areas.”

Human Rights Watch believes that the use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas of Gaza violates the requirement under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injury and loss of life. This concern is amplified given the technique evidenced in media photographs of air-bursting white phosphorus projectiles. Air bursting of white phosphorus artillery spreads 116 burning wafers over an area between 125 and 250 meters in diameter, depending on the altitude of the burst, thereby exposing more civilians and civilian infrastructure to potential harm than a localized ground burst.

Since the beginning of Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza on January 3, 2009, there have been numerous media reports about the possible use of white phosphorous by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The IDF told both Human Rights Watch and news reporters that it is not using white phosphorus in Gaza. On January 7, an IDF spokesman told CNN, “I can tell you with certainty that white phosphorus is absolutely not being used.”

Q & A on Israel’s Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza
Source: Human Rights Watch
Date: Jan 10, 2009

Since the beginning of Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza on January 3, 2009, there have been numerous media reports about the possible use by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of white phosphorus (WP), a chemical substance used in military ordnance that has several tactical uses. The IDF has told Human Rights Watch and reporters that it is not using WP in Gaza. On January 7, an IDF spokesman told CNN, “I can tell you with certainty that white phosphorus is absolutely not being used.”

Human Rights Watch believes the IDF is using WP in Gaza. On January 9, Human Rights Watch researchers on a ridge overlooking Gaza from the northwest observed multiple air-bursts of artillery-fired WP that appeared to be over the Gaza City/Jabaliya area. In addition, Human Rights Watch has analyzed photographs taken by the media on the Israel-Gaza border showing Israeli artillery units handling fused WP artillery shells, as well as video of air bursts over Gaza followed by tendrils of smoke and flame that are highly indicative of WP use.

Israel appears to be using WP as an “obscurant” (a chemical used to hide military operations), a permissible use in principle under international humanitarian law (the laws of war). However, WP also has a significant, incidental, incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures, fields, and other civilian objects in the vicinity on fire. The potential for harm to civilians is magnified by Gaza’s high population density, among the highest in the world.

Human Rights Watch believes that the use of WP in densely populated areas of Gaza violates the requirement under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injury and loss of life. This concern is amplified given the technique evidenced in media photographs and viewed by Human Rights Watch researchers on January 9 of air-bursting WP projectiles, which spreads the burning wafers over a wider area, thereby increasing the likelihood of civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects.

What is White Phosphorous?

White phosphorous (WP) is a chemical substance dispersed in artillery shells, bombs, and rockets, used primarily to obscure military operations on the ground. It is not considered a chemical weapon and is not banned per se. WP ignites and burns on contact with oxygen and creates a smokescreen at night or during the day to mask the visual movement of troops. It also interferes with infra-red optics and weapon-tracking systems, thus protecting military forces from guided weapons such as anti-tank missiles. When WP comes into contact with people or objects, though, it creates an intense and persistent burn. It can also be used as a weapon against military targets (see below).

How is WP used?

WP can be air-burst or ground-burst. It emits a distinct “garlic” smell. When air-burst, it covers a larger area than ground-burst and is useful to mask large troop movements. However, this spreads the incendiary effect over a wider area and in densely populated areas, as in much of Gaza, increases the exposure of civilians. When the weapon is ground-burst, the endangered area is more concentrated and the smokescreen remains for longer. The cloud from WP is dependent on atmospheric conditions, so it is impossible to generalize how long it will remain in the air.

WP can also be used as a weapon. US forces used WP during the second battle of Fallujah in Iraq in 2004 to “smoke out” concealed combatants, who were then attacked.

Why is WP controversial?

WP burns anything it touches. When air-burst as an obscurant, it can fall over an area about the size of a football field, about the same area affected by a cluster bomb. Those below may receive horrific skin burns, and it can set structures, fields, and other objects on fire. Using WP against military targets in densely populated areas would also raise concerns where the weapon could not be directed at a specific military target and thus would be indiscriminate in its impact, in violation of the laws of war. Humanitarian law also places restrictions on the use of incendiary weapons like WP against military personnel when other weapons are available.

What is the status of WP under international law?

WP used as weapons are considered incendiaries. Incendiary weapons are not prohibited under the laws of war. However, the use of WP against military targets is regulated under Protocol III of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). Although Israel is not party to this treaty, customary laws of war prohibit the anti-personnel use of incendiary weapons so long as weapons less likely to cause unnecessary suffering are available.

A 1998 Israeli military manual states: “Incendiary arms are not banned. Nevertheless, because of their wide range of cover, this protocol of the CCW is meant to protect civilians and forbids making a population center a target for an incendiary weapon attack. Furthermore, it is forbidden to attack a military objective situated within a population center employing incendiary weapons. The protocol does not ban the use of these arms during combat (for instance, in flushing out bunkers).”

Is Israel’s use of WP compliant with international law?ç

WP is not an illegal obscurant or weapon. However, Israel’s use of WP as an obscurant in densely populated areas of Gaza violates the obligation to take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to the civilian population during military operations. Human Rights Watch urges Israel immediately to stop using WP in densely populated areas. Human Rights Watch will seek to investigate this matter further.

YouTube – Israel accused of using white phosphorus in Gaza – 11 Jan 09.

PRESS TV | Day 16th News Update on Gaza

YouTube – Day 16th News update on Gaza.

Israel criticised over alleged use of white phosphorus

Human rights groups are calling on Israel to stop using white phosphorus in its war on Gaza.

The use of the deadly chemical in wars is only legal in areas that are not densely populated by civilians, Human Rights Watch says.

Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin reports from the burns unit at Shifa hospital in Gaza.

This package contains images that may disturb or offend some viewers.

YouTube – Israel criticised over alleged use of white phosphorus – 11 Jan 09.

Scenes in Gaza after more Israeli raids

YouTube – Scenes in Gaza after more Israeli raids – 11 Jan 09.

UNICEF: Mobilizing emergency aid in Gaza

AMMAN, Jordan, 11 January 2009 As the conflict in the Gaza Strip continues in its third week, UNICEF teams are working to ensure that critical supplies are ready to reach women and children at risk.

Today, UNICEF managed to deliver 30,000 bottles of water and 500 family kits for water purification into Gaza, where safe-water supplies are dangerously low.

At the same time, however, aid agencies do not yet enjoy protection and safe access for their humanitarian operations.

To read the full story, visit: http://www.unicef.org/emerg/index_470…

YouTube – UNICEF: Mobilizing emergency aid in Gaza.

ei: Will Hizballah intervene in the Gaza conflict?

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, The Electronic Intifada, 11 January 2009

A mock Katyusha rocket-launcher pointed towards Israel sits next to a main highway in southern Lebanon. (Matthew Cassel)


While Israel fervently attempts to terrorize the Palestinians into submission in Gaza, many observers have started to wonder why Hizballah has refrained from stepping in militarily to assist its brothers-in-arms, Hamas. Such musings fail to take account of the constraints on Hizballah’s room for action, as well as the circumstances under which Hizballah would ignore such constraints. The question that should be posed is not so much if Hizballah will act, but when.

As things currently stand, Hizballah is not in a position to directly help Hamas militarily by opening a new front with Israel. In the first place, Hizballah and its supporters have only recently recovered from the devastating impact of Israel’s war against them in July 2006. A Hizballah offensive against northern Israel would surely be met with “disproportionate” force on Israel’s part, which Israel has been threatening as much for several months now. Mass destruction and devastation aside, Hizballah would once again be faced with intense domestic pressures to disarm, and possibly, more externally manufactured, locally-executed conspiracies hatched against it that could drag it into the kind of civil warfare that the movement found itself in during May 2008.

Armed action by Hizballah would not only hurt the movement but would also harm Hamas whose status as a nationalist resistance movement, capable of defending its own people, would be greatly undermined and its raison d’etre called into question. Furthermore, since Hamas has thus far managed to withstand the Israeli onslaught on its own without suffering any significant damage to its organizational hierarchy or military infrastructure, Hizballah does not regard an intervention on its part as an exigent need.

The preconditions for Hizballah’s active engagement in the conflict are two. First, if Hamas is left bleeding to death on the battlefield, either due to the decapitation of its leadership ranks or if its military infrastructure suffers a significant blow, drastically impairing its military performance and leading to its eventual collapse, Hizballah would likely step in. Second, if the organization is forced to accept a conditional ceasefire along the lines of the current French-Egyptian proposal that meets all of Israel’s key demands while weakening Hamas militarily and politically, Hizballah would feel compelled to come to its rescue.

For Hizballah, the need to act under such circumstances would override all the attendant costs that come with such action — a calculation which takes as its basis Hizballah’s moral responsibility towards the Palestinians and the shared strategic fate between the two resistance movements. As expressed by Hizballah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah on 16 July 2008: “[the resistance] is one project and the resistance movement is one movement and has one course, one destiny, one goal, despite its different parties, factions, beliefs, sects and intellectual and political trends … Resistance movements in this region, especially in Lebanon and Palestine, complement one another and are contiguous groups …”

Hizballah’s view of the conflict in Gaza

This moral and strategic imperative to act is also based on Hizballah’s understanding of the current war as but one episode of an open-ended and comprehensive war waged by the US-Israeli-“moderate” Arab axis against the jabhit al-mumana’a (political and military resistance front) which includes Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas. According to this narrative, the events unfolding are simply an extension of the July War of 2006, as evinced by Israel’s admission that one motive behind its current onslaught is to restore the deterrence capability and image it lost in July 2006. Further bolstering this view is the virtually identical stand moderate Arab regimes have taken on Gaza as the one taken in July 2006. In fact, the perception of the Arab role has shifted from one of “silence” and concealed “collaboration” with Israel in the July War, to open “cooperation” and “partnership” with the Zionist state in its war against Gaza. So blatant has Arab, and especially Egyptian, government support for Israel’s military campaigns become, that even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (known for his sympathies to the US and Israel) chided Arab regimes on 29 December for “not doing enough” to help the Palestinians in Gaza, while Israeli officials and media continue to knowingly embarrass their moderate Arab allies by flaunting their newly out-of-the closet relationship.

Considering the extent of Arab cooperation with Israel in its latest military (mis)adventure and in view of the ferocity of the latter, the current Gaza episode is deemed a particularly dangerous moment in the regional conflict insofar as it represents not merely a war against Hamas, but against the Palestinian cause, or as Nasrallah described it on 29 December, “the fate of Palestine.” Given that the Palestinian cause is embodied by Hamas and defines the political identity of its regional allies, this conflict is one in which the ideological and strategic stakes for all members of the resistance front are extremely high. Nasrallah admitted as much in his 28 December speech: “what is happening in Gaza will have repercussions not only for Gaza alone or Palestine, but for the entire umma [a term used to refer to the Arab nation in a secular nationalist context and for the world community of Muslims]. We must continue work and not be satisfied with an activity here, a demonstration there … we must exert every effort to defend our people.”

Hizballah’s regional strategy in the Gaza conflict

For Hizballah, the Israeli offensive against Gaza must have been foreseeable given Israel’s repeated violations of its ceasefire agreement with Hamas over the past several months and the latter’s refusal to renew it at least a month before it expired. It is more than likely that Hizballah has been preparing for this eventuality alongside Hamas for some time now. In a sign of such coordination, on 15 December Nasrallah used a televised speech to mobilize popular support for an “open ended” campaign to lift the siege on Gaza that was to be launched on 19 December, several days before the Israeli assault began. It is no coincidence that the Hizballah leader chose to make this announcement one day after Hamas’ political head, Khaled Meshal, formally declared the movement’s ceasefire with Israel over on 14 December.

Over and above this political coordination, Hizballah must have helped Hamas ready itself for such an Israeli operation by providing weapons and training, as well as through joint military planning. Hizballah officials’ strong confidence in Hamas’ military performance appears to stem from an intimate knowledge of the organization’s capabilities. This conclusion reveals itself in the assertion made by the head of Hizballah’s parliamentary bloc, Mohammad Raad, who claimed on 2 January that “the enemy will be surprised by the range of rockets found in the resistance’s arsenal in Gaza.” This argument is further bolstered by Nasrallah’s admission in March 2002 that the three Hizballah officials whom Jordan had captured as they were trying to smuggle weapons into the West Bank, did in fact belong to the movement, as well as his declaration at the time that “to supply arms to the Palestinians is a duty … it is shameful to consider such an act as a crime.”

Hamas’ fighting style also seems to bear the hallmarks of the military tactics Hizballah used during the July War such as its use of underground bunkers and tunnel networks, as well as adopting similar rocket tactics, all of which suggest Hizballah’s extensive training of Hamas’ military forces. Nasrallah came close to admitting as much when he claimed on 31 December that “the resistance in Gaza benefitted more from these lessons [from the July War] than the Israelis.” More than simply receiving military training, Hamas’s military strategy appears to conform to the “new school of fighting” founded by Hizballah’s assassinated military leader, Imad Mughniyeh (himself rumored to have personally trained and equipped several Palestinian groups over the years), which combines conventional and non-conventional, guerilla warfare that functions not only to liberate occupied territory, but to defend it from aggression.

Hizballah’s strategy vis-a-vis Egypt

Not only did Hizballah coordinate its activity on the Gaza crisis with Hamas, but also with Iran. One such indication of this coordination was the fact that the Iranian campaign against Egypt’s closure of the Rafah crossing was launched several days in advance of the one kicked off by Nasrallah, prompting Cairo to recall its diplomatic envoy from Tehran. On 12 December, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a member of the Assembly of Experts with strong ties to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Imam Khamenei, disparaged Arab regimes in language reminiscent of Khomeini’s revolutionary discourse of the 1980s: “Forget about silence. They are cooperating with Israel.” Referring to Egypt by name, in light of its cooperation with Israel on the Gaza siege, Khatami asked: “where has your Islam gone, where has your humanity gone?” In a similar vein, in his 28 December speech Nasrallah denied the existence of an Arab “silence,” insisting that it was an Arab “partnership” with Israel. Like Khatami, Nasrallah also singled out Egypt by name, warning it that if did not open the crossing then it too would be “partners to the crime, partners to the murders and partners to the Palestinian tragedy.” To that end, the Hizballah leader called on “millions” of Egyptians to brave government repression and take to the streets to express their outrage, similarly urging the Egyptian armed forces to apply pressure on the regime to open the crossing.

While many have dismissed Nasrallah’s verbal barrage on the Mubarak regime as little more than a diversionary or compensatory tactic designed to divert attention from or compensate for Hizballah’s inaction, such a view fails to appreciate the unprecedented nature of this attack, as well as the wider strategy underpinning it. Not since the 1980s has Hizballah adopted such an inflammatory discourse against an Arab regime, or even singled out any one for attack. Not even during the July War, when Arab complicity with Israel was at its peak, did Nasrallah call on the Arab masses to exert pressure on their governments, nor did Hizballah’s relations with those regimes take a turn for the worse thereafter. At the time, Hizballah clearly did not want to burn its bridges with Arab regimes or provide them with ammunition to invoke the Shiite scarecrow and stoke Sunni-Shiite tensions. In Gaza though, Hizballah has not found any such room for diplomacy and self-restraint. In his 7 January speech, Nasrallah warned that although Hizballah did not make enemies of those who had betrayed it during the July War, “we will make those who collaborate against Gaza and its people our enemies.”

Hizballah’s policy shift and its coordination with Iran on this matter signal a joint Iranian-Hizballah strategy of exposing the Mubarak regime’s collusion with Israel and pressuring it to lift its siege of Gaza. These goals also fulfill the grander objective of shaking the foundations of the Egyptian-Israeli alliance which, in turn, would serve to weaken Israel’s regional position. A strategy of this kind is deemed necessary given Egypt’s “public embrace” of Israel, as one Israeli journalist put it (Haaretz, 9 January). In contrast to the July War when Egypt and other moderate regimes confined their collaborative role to blaming Hizballah for Israel’s aggression, this time round Egypt has not even bothered to feign neutrality while secretly trying to benefit from Israel’s campaign against Hamas. In this war, Egypt cannot even play the role of conspiring mediator because it is in fact, a party to the conflict. Egypt’s foreknowledge of Israel’s operation — some would even argue, its demand that Israel launch such an operation — is now common knowledge, as is the false sense of security it lulled Hamas into prior to the Israeli assault.

But the most palpable indication of Egypt’s shared war aims with Israel is in its siege of Gaza and its ardent refusal to lift it. Hizballah and its allies view the opening of the Rafah crossing as being key to the outcome of the conflict. As Nasrallah explained on 28 December: “today the Egyptian stand is the cornerstone of what is going on in Gaza. If the crossing is opened, and water, food, medicine, and money, and even arms reach our people in Gaza, the epic victory in Lebanon will be repeated.” Hizballah’s wartime experiences demonstrate this fact only too well. Syria’s opening of its border crossing with Lebanon, permitting the movement of weapons, goods and refugees, was pivotal to Hizballah’s military success in 2006. In the case of Rafah, the opening of the border crossing is deemed even more indispensable for the Palestinians considering that it is not merely a supply line for Hamas, but a lifeline for Gaza’s population who are besieged from all sides.

While Nasrallah’s strategy has failed to persuade Mubarak to open the crossing, it did serve to greatly embarrass his domestic and regional standing and reduce his regime’s role to a purely defensive one, preoccupied with formulating lamentable counter-arguments to the Hizballah chief’s accusations, and rallying its moderate allies to its defense. Furthermore, to cover up for its moral bankruptcy the Egyptian regime has now formulated a ceasefire initiative in the vain hope that it can somehow restore its lost regional role. For the Palestinians though (not to mention the vast majority of Egyptians and Arabs), no action on Egypt’s part can compensate for the opening of the Rafah border crossing. Moreover, the initiative itself serves Israel’s interests and military objectives, as well as as those of Mahmoud Abbas, in so far as it merely seeks to reinstate the Fatah-Israel agreement of 2005 which called for the supervision of the border by Fatah security men and European monitors. Although Hizballah has yet to comment on the initiative, Hamas has expressed “major reservations” about it, while Iran has rejected it outright. It can be therefore surmised that Hizballah’s and Iran’s forthcoming strategy will be to ensure that Hamas is not pressured to accept the Egyptian proposal, which would weaken it politically and militarily. Hizballah and its allies will strongly back Hamas’ refusal to become the Islamist equivalent of Fatah.

Hizballah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah speaks to thousands of supporters on the one year anniversary of the 2006 war. (Matthew Cassel)


Hizballah’s readiness to intervene militarily

While some commentators have suggested that a rift has emerged within Hizballah over the circumstances under which it should assist Hamas militarily, such assumptions seem implausible. As mentioned earlier, Israel’s offensive against Gaza could not have taken Hizballah by surprise and it is therefore highly unlikely that the party’s leadership was caught off guard and has suddenly found itself subject to internal pressures to take immediate action. As one of the pillars of Hizballah’s ideology and strategic vision, defending Hamas and the Palestinians from Israel, is by necessity an issue which enjoys a party consensus.

Moreover, the party leadership has not publicly committed itself to a policy of restraint, nor is it likely that it has done so behind the scenes as some Lebanese officials in the rival March 14 camp have been claiming. When Lebanese parliament majority leader Saad Hariri announced earlier this month that he had received assurances from Saeed Jalili, the head of Iran’s National Security Council, while the latter visited Beirut that Hizballah would not respond to the Israeli assault on Gaza, Nasrallah lambasted him for granting “free assurances” to Israel. In fact, upon contacting a reliable source at the Iranian embassy in Lebanon, this author was informed that no such assurances were given to Hariri on Jalili’s part.

The reason then for Hizballah’s constructive ambiguity, whereby it neither confirms nor denies its intent to join the conflict, is clear: although its resistance has so far remained on the sidelines of the conflict, it is highly improbable that it would continue to do so if Hamas were on the verge of collapse. Based on the centrality of the Palestinian cause to Hizballah and its strategic role in confronting the US-Israeli project, it cannot allow Hamas to be crushed militarily on the battlefield or politically, by means of a humiliating ceasefire arrangement that would weaken the movement. It is in this context that we should read Hizballah’s recent pledges to “never abandon” the Palestinian cause. In another indication of the resistance movement’s readiness to militarily support Hamas, Nasrallah made an underreported request to his followers in one of his addresses on 29 December marking the Muslim holy day of Ashura: “I hope that you who gather in this place … will always be ready to respond to any call, position and decision.” While this can be construed to mean that Hizballah’s followers were merely being asked to support its right to defend itself in case of an Israeli attack on Lebanon, it could be argued that Hizballah hardly needs to ask the party faithful who have more than proven their loyalty to the resistance movement to support its right to self-defense. Besides, Hizballah does not formulate positions or decisions on self-defense, which is considered not merely a non-negotiable right but a duty that is incumbent upon it.

Scenarios of intervention

Although an armed intervention on Hizbullah’s part would incur the wrath of Israel, rallying popular Shiite support for such a strategy would not prove too difficult if Hizballah depicted it not so much as opening a new front but as legitimate self-defense. Israel has provided the resistance movement with more than enough provocations of which it can avail itself and thereby use to ignite a war with the Zionist state. Aside from Israel’s continued occupation of the Shebaa Farms and Ghajar, which the Lebanese government has thus far been unable to liberate through diplomatic means, Israel routinely abducts Lebanese civilians from the Lebanese side of the Blue Line, most recently in December 2008.

More frequently still, Israeli planes violate Lebanese airspace on a daily basis in violation of UN Resolution 1701. In fact, Hizballah issued a statement in July 2008 decrying the incursions as “provocative, unacceptable and condemned,” urging the Lebanese government and relevant UN bodies to take necessary measures to end the violations. On 31 July 2008, Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper, considered close to the movement, also reported that Hizballah was planning to take “practical measures” in response to the violations. Around the same time, several reports emerged in Arab media of the planned deployment of anti-aircraft missile launchers in the Lebanese mountains for the purpose of shooting down Israeli planes. But irrespective of the veracity of such reports, Hizballah would not even have to down any jets to protest the overflights, but could settle for firing anti-aircraft guns that “accidently” fall on northern Israeli settlements as it has done in the past.

Retaliating for Israel’s assassination of Mughniyeh would also enable Hizballah to spark a war with Israel. That Hizballah will respond to the assassination is almost a certainty considering his political and military significance to the movement and recalling Nasrallah’s 14 February declaration to engage in an “open war” with Israel, as well as the oath he made on 22 February to avenge his death: “Oh Hajj Imad, I swear by God that your blood will not go in vain.” Perhaps Hizballah has reserved its right to respond for such a time when it would serve a much wider strategic purpose than mere tit-for-tat. What better purpose than to save the Palestinian cause from possible collapse?

Whichever scenario unfolds, Hizballah would still have to explain the timing of any defensive measure it takes. The movement would be fully justified in presenting its attack as a preemptive one and could legitimately argue that it lies next in the line of fire by an emboldened Israel that had succeeded in finishing off Hamas politically or militarily. As warned by Nasrallah on 28 December and again on 7 January, the possibility of an impending Israeli attack on Lebanon remained a very real one which Hizballah was more than ready to confront. As a matter of fact, Israel’s threats against Lebanon did not commence with the war on Gaza but have been a persistent feature of its official discourse for well over a year now.

Hizballah’s readiness for war

Hizballah began to respond to those threats not only with counter-threats but with a new discourse emphasizing the eradication of Israel as a Zionist state by means of “destroying its army.” The linkage between Israel’s survival as a state and its deterrence capability was not a new one for Hizballah, but as Nasrallah explained on 22 February 2008, the notion of destroying its “remaining deterrence” once and for all was. On Hizballah’s first July War anniversary on 14 August 2007, Nasrallah stunned his supporters and Israel alike when he “promised” a “big surprise” in any upcoming war with Israel “that could change the course of the war and the fate of the region,” and which would enable Hizballah to score “a historic and decisive victory.” Not only would Hizballah decisively eliminate Israel’s remaining deterrence, but it would do so quickly: “Any new war will be swift and the victory shall be fast” Nasrallah stated on 24 August 2008.

While many have conjectured that Nasrallah’s threats suggest Hizballah’s acquisition of advanced weapons such as anti-aircraft missiles, an equally valid conclusion (and one that doesn’t rule out the former) would be that it has developed a new method or strategy of warfare involving a much larger number of fighters than has been used in the past. As declared by Nasrallah on 14 February 2008: “In any coming war, not just one Imad Mughniyeh will be waiting for you, and not just a few thousand fighters. Imad Mughniyeh has left behind him tens of thousands of trained, equipped and ready-for-martyrdom fighters.” These fighters would display “an unprecedented method of fighting” which Israel had supposedly “never seen since its establishment,” Nasrallah stated on 24 August 2008.

Regardless of Hizballah’s readiness for war, and its potential to destroy Israel’s military deterrence, what is certain is that for the movement and many of its supporters and allies, destroying the Zionist regime in Israel is no longer confined to the ideological realm but has entered the realm of strategic interests as well. Regional security requires that the perpetual threat that Israel poses to its neighbors be neutralized once and for all. While such logic may seem like a throw back to the 1950s and 1960s, the new thinking shares more in common with the American notion of “regime change” and one-state solution proposals rather than with “throwing the Jews into the sea.” If the war against Gaza has achieved anything, it is that it has succeeded in drumming this logic in the Arab and Muslim political consciousness.

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb is a Lebanese political scientist, scholar and analyst who teaches at Lebanese American University, and author of book Hizbullah: Politics and Religion. She is currently working on a book on Iran’s regional alliances with Hizballah, Hamas and Syria for IB Taurus which is due to be published in 2010.

ei: Will Hizballah intervene in the Gaza conflict?.

ei: Phoning my in-laws in Gaza

Xen Hasan writing from Manchester, UK, Live from Palestine, 11 January 2009

Palestinian children queue for drinking water in the al-Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City, 10 January 2009. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)


We haven’t been able to get hold of my sister-in-law for a couple of days. It’s nerve wracking. Soul destroying. I find myself doing horrifying mental arithmetic. I don’t know why, I can’t seem to help it. The UN stated on Thursday that 758 people had been killed. That’s one person for each 2,000 in Gaza. What are the odds that one of them might be Nareman, or one of her family?

I shouldn’t think like that. Nareman always amazes and humbles me with her resilience. Last time we spoke the first thing she said was “how’s the pregnancy going?” She’s living in the midst of bombs and artillery fire, and she’s concerned about my pregnancy! Her teenage daughter told me about the classes she is missing for tawjihi — the general secondary school examination — and how she needs those classes to get good grades to go to university. I wonder how many A-Level students here in the UK would be concerned about missing school if they were in her shoes.

Their windows were blown in a few days ago. They didn’t even tell us, we found out from someone else and called Nareman to ask her. She said she hadn’t mentioned it because she didn’t want to worry us. In the middle of the night the house next to theirs was bombed. The force of the blast blew the whole window, frame and all, onto the girls’ bed. All the windows in the house blew in and a huge crack appeared in the wall nearest to the explosion. Afraid that the house might collapse, they ran barefoot over the rubble 500 meters to a friend’s house. In the morning their house was still standing, so they moved back in, but now they all sleep on the ground floor. The house has three flats over three floors, housing Nareman’s mother-in-law, three of her sons, and their three families. They are all huddling in one room to sleep now, sleeping fully dressed in case they need to escape again, and huddling together for warmth in a house with no windows.

When we spoke, they had some rice, salt and sugar. They had run out of canned food, and they can’t leave the house, even if there were any shops open to go to. Every day or so one of the older boys runs to the neighboring mosque to fetch water. It’s a heart-stopping round trip for all the family. It’s an impossible choice: to stay in the house with young kids and Nareman’s elderly mother-in-law, with no water to wash or drink with or to cook the rice, the only food they have left, or to wait for a lull in the artillery fire and the bombing, and allow one of the boys to run out.

I’ve never even met them face to face although we talk regularly on the phone. Since I married Nareman’s brother we have not been able to get in to Gaza, and she has not been able to leave, so we have never seen each other. She lives with her husband and their eight kids. The youngest will be one year old next week. I pray that they will be in a situation to be able to celebrate by then. I wonder how many kids have had birthdays, how many women have given birth, happy events that can’t be celebrated under these atrocious conditions. I think of all the Christians in Gaza who celebrate the Orthodox Christmas on 7 January — there was no celebrating this year.

I try to get some work done, and at the same time I’ve got one eye on the news. I see sickening reports from the International Committee of the Red Cross, a group who are usually very reserved, this time they are speaking out about not being able to get access to injured people for four days and about finding young children lying next to their dead mothers. That’s in the Zeitoun area of Gaza City, where Nareman lives. I see reports of 10,000 people made homeless in an already overpopulated and imprisoned war zone, as part of an Israeli army “clearance” of a 600 meter strip of housing near the border with Egypt. Thats far away from where Nareman lives, which is scant comfort when it just means that its someone else’s family who is made homeless, or who is caught in the carpet bombing. I receive an email that says figures have reached 850 dead and 3,800 injured, shattering statistics, and I can’t stop myself doing the math again — one in 1,765 killed; one in 400 injured.

My husband managed to get hold of his sister today in a short and crackly phone call. She is fine, they are all fine, thank God. They have rice still, and they’ve managed to get some candles. We’ll phone again tomorrow. I pray that soon we’ll be able to have normal conversations again — what did you do at school today? How was work? What are you making for dinner? I dream of being able to ask these ordinary questions. How many more days do we have to keep making that nerve-wracking phone call, and wondering who those statistics represent?

Xen Hasan is Scottish and lives in Manchester, England. She works for the Manchester -ased Olive Cooperative www.olivecoop.com organizing study tours of Palestine and Israel.

 

ei: Phoning my in-laws in Gaza.

ei: Witnessing a war waged against your people

Mohammed Abu Asaker writing from Sudan, Live from Palestine, 11 January 2009

Thick smoke rises after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, 9 January 2009. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)


Sixteen days since it began, the war on Gaza rages on. It’s a war that does not exempt from its targets a child, a woman, or old man, or a school, a mosque or a house.

I am still following the news minute by minute to check on my family in Gaza; it is so hard to see a real war waged against your people, and you far away and can’t do anything to help them.

Western media present it as a war against Hamas, yet what is happening on the ground is a war against civilian people. So far, more than 800 persons have been killed and at least 3,500 injured. Thirty-five percent are children and women. Mosques, United Nations-administered schools and houses are attacked, which means that no place is safe in Gaza.

All of my family are staying in one room. Expecting that a missile could attack them any moment, they prefer to die all together. My little brothers and sisters are very scared and don’t sleep well and the bombing goes on day and night.

My pregnant sister, and she is due next week, and she is having a very hard time. My niece Basmala, three years old, is very scared as well, and when I talked to her she said: “I am afraid from the missile, it destroys our house, it killed my friends whom went with me to the kindergarten.” Her friends were four-year-old Deema and three-and-a-half year old Ahmad who were attacked by an F-16 rocket while they were staying with their family at home. The rocket killed three other brothers, 13-year-old Sudqi, 12-year-old Ahmed and 15-year-old Muhammad. Their sister Alaa is 11 years old and lost her arm and their mother is in trauma. This is an example of a family that lives not far from my house. In addition, eight houses in my neighborhood were completely destroyed. This is why I am so worried about my family.

The day Israel began bombarding Gaza, an acquaintance of mine, Ayman, a 23-year-old from Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip, went to check on his fiance in Jabaliya refugee camp. He was having a cup of tea with his fiance when a rocket attacked the house and killed him.

I cannot express enough how dirty this war is, and the amount of destruction it has made. My family tells me that Gaza is completely different now. Israeli aircraft changed the whole Gaza Strip. This happens after a year and a half of closure, causing widespread shortages of basic commodities and fuel. My family has had no power or water for 15 days. Luckily, the telecommunication is still working, otherwise I would go crazy.

Hospitals in Gaza lack medical support; it reached a point where there injured are treated on the floor, as there are no more beds available. The morgues are filled to capacity with those who have been killed.

The UN Security Council called for ceasefire, but Israeli forces do not care. I wonder when the so-called international community will take real action to stop this war.

However, the people of Gaza are very pleased by all demonstrations going on in the world in solidarity with them, as they make them feel that they are not alone.

Palestinians are human beings, and they are asking for the protection and freedom enjoyed by other people in the world. They want to live peacefully, and move freely. Yet, they still need your prayers.

Originally from Gaza, Palestine, Mohammed Abu Asaker holds a BA in English from the Islamic University of Gaza and has attended leadership, management and peace trainings in the United States, Japan, Egypt and Palestine. He worked for three years with USAID sub-contractors in Gaza as a project coordinator and project manager. In 2002 Mohammed published a human rights report in The Palestinian Human Rights Monitor entitled, “Misfortunate Rafah: Destruction and Suffering Everywhere.”

 

ei: Witnessing a war waged against your people.

ei: All signs point to systematic targeting of civilians

Ewa Jasiewicz writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 11 January 2009

Palestinian firefighters try to extinguish a fire following an Israeli air strike on Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 11 January 2009. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)


Last night was a quiet one in Jabaliya. “Only” six homes bombed into the ground, the market, again, maybe four lightly injured people — shrapnel to the face injuries — and no martyrs. Beit Hanoun saw a young woman, Nariman Ahmad Abu Owder, just 17, shot dead as she made tea in her family’s kitchen. It was 9pm in the Hay Amel area when witnesses reported “thousands” of bullets shot by tanks onto homes in Azrah Street.

We got a call to go to Tel al-Zaater looking for the dead and injured, around 2am. “This area is dangerous, very very dangerous,” warned one volunteer rescuer, Muhammad al-Sharif, as our ambulance bumped along sandy, lumpy ground, illuminating piles of burning rubbish, stray cats, political graffiti, and the ubiquitous strung-out colored sack cloth and stripey material in large thin squares, tenting the pavements. What is it? Protection, I am told, so that the surveillance planes won’t see the fighters. Palestinian body armor.

Muhammad, and Ahmad Abu Foul, a Civil Defense medical services coordinator, told me they had been shot at by Israeli snipers yesterday. Muhammad had recounted the story, still counting his blessings, earlier on at the ambulance station. They’d gone hurtling over graves and tombstones to fetch casualties when Israeli snipers opened fire. They’d laid down flat on the ground until the firing stopped. Ahmad, 24, another rescuer here, told me he had been shot in the chest — in his bullet-proof vest — close to the Atarturah area while trying to evacuate corpses three days ago. His brother, he had told me, had been injured 14 times working as a paramedic. “Fourteen times. Then he got hit by an Apache. Then it was serious. That took him out of work for a few months,” he explained.

Back to Tel al-Zaater, we searched with micro torches, sweeping over slabs of broken homes and free-running water from freshly smashed pipes. A black goat was trapped in a rubble nest. We stepped over broken blown-in metal doors off their hinges. Nothing, none, “snipers” on our minds. We ended up leaving with one casualty, lightly injured, more in shock than anything else. Explosions continued through the night. Abrupt slumps into concrete echoing around the hospital, like rapid beats to a taut drum skin.

This morning was a different story. I’ve been finding that the most missile-heavy times seem to be between 7-9am. I counted 20 strikes in those two hours this morning. I’d come to Muhammad’s house. He went straight to bed, exhausted. I’d caught some sleep spread across the front seats of the rickety ambulance, waking up periodically to respond to calls.

At Muhammad’s I did some badly overdue washing and went towards the roof with it. “Ewa, do you want to martyr yourself?” said Sousou, Muhammd’s 19-year-old sister, a bright sciences student unable to finish her studies due to her university — the Islamic University — having been bombed last week. Hanging out washing on the roof here is a potential act of suicide; there are stories of people having been shot dead on rooftops. Walking down the street to buy bread, also a potential act of suicide. Visiting family, going to the market, drinking tea in your own home — a potential act of suicide. In the end I do go up, with nine-year-old plucky Afnan, who hands me pegs nervously as we scan the skies periodically, while the murderous sneer of Israeli surveillance drones leers above us.

Zomou

The call comes as soon as I get to al-Awda Hospital. It’s 11:40am. A strike in
Mahkema street, Zoumou, eastern Jabaliya. The streets of Moaskar Jabaliya are fuller than I’ve seen them for weeks. Fruit and vegetable sellers with wooden carts full of potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, mountains of strawberries, bags of flour, plastic bottles of vegetable oil and rice, line the streets. The reason everyone’s here, exposed like this is because with the market being bombed, the streets have become the market.

We roar through manically, siren blaring. Abu Bassem, one of the oldest and most hyper ambulance drivers, yells hoarsely at anyone nonchalant enough to not notice the screaming column of ambulances zooming towards them, past broken buildings, debris-covered streets, twisted tin can warehouses and rubble homes.

Out of the city, we’re met by a crowd running towards us with a blanket hump on the back of a donkey cart. Jumping out I see bloodied legs and arms sticking it out of it, “Shuhada!” — martyrs! — yells the crowd running along with it, while others gesture wildly to go on, go on ahead. Jumping back in we get to the house where it all happened. A woman in her 50s, in black, has her arms around a large, lifeless woman. Pools of blood surround them. They’re cramped into a corner, the woman crying and clinging to her. We need to peel her away and lift the woman, cold, lifeless and shoeless, onto a stretcher. This is Randa Abed Rabu, 38. Her relative or friend comes in too, unable to stand, unable to speak or move; we drag her on and she has to slump on the ambulance floor. Next we bring in Ahmad Mohammad Nuffar Salem, 21, with 16 shrapnel injuries, tearing at his own clothes in pain, they needed to be cut off.

Six members of the Abed Rabu family were killed in the strike on their house. It happened at 11:40am. Ahmad, 21, explains, “We were all eating together, and then we were struck.” The consensus amongst paramedics was that it was a tank shell, although the family thought it was a shell from an Israeli navel vessel.

Muhammad Abed Rabu, 50, explains to me, that in the night his other family homes were struck three times by F-16 fighter jets. “Thirty of us spent the whole of last night hiding under ground, in the basement. Our whole street was full of fire. They [the Israelis] spent one and a half hours attacking us. They destroyed three of our family’s homes. All the martyrs today, they were underground with us last night.”

Kamal Odwan’s “Mosque”

Kamal Odwan Hospital is the main port of call for the bulk of emergency services, once a local clinic, it has now grown, concomitantly with the population of the north, now 350,000, into a hospital. Since the bombing of an average of one in 10 mosques in the Jabaliya area according to local Imams, Kamal Odwan is now also a prayer site, an open-air mosque. Rows of men kneel together daily in the car-park round the corner from the overflowing morgue; praying also takes place at the side of the lines of parked ambulances and in the little garden area in front of the reception and emergency room. The emergency staff, the families and friends of new martyrs, all pray together in perhaps the last place of sanctuary in Jabaliya, knowing that as soon as they set foot outside, they’re fair game for snipers, surveillance drones, Apaches, Cobras, F-16- and F-15-fired missiles, shrapnel, flying chunks of house, glass, and nails that are shredding people here. White phosphorous too is reportedly being used, along with a white mist of nerve gas hanging in Jabaliya a few days ago and over Beit Hanoun, in the Zoumou street area.

Today at least three casualties, all of them elderly women, were brought into Beit Hanoun hospital suffering from inhalation of this gas, which chokes people, tightening chests and nasal passages and rendering people dizzy and disorientated; we were all affected by it, despite being maybe half a kilometer away from the site of its release. As I finish writing this now, in the offices of Ramatan News, the same gas, nerve fraying, chest tightening, tear-inducing and confusing is seeping into the offices.

The director of public relations at Kamal Odwan, Moayad Al Masri, whose family now lives in the Fakhoura school in Jabaliya refugee camp gives me the stats for the past week. Every day approximately 20 people in Jabaliya are being killed, by tank shelling, Apache, F-16, and surveillance plane missile strikes. On 27 December, 14 people killed, 52 injured; December 28, six killed, 22 injured; December 29, 15 killed, 102 injured; 30 December, two killed, 11 injure; 31 December, three killed, three injured; New Year’s Day, 17 killed, 67 injured; 2 January, six killed, 10 injured; 3 January, 13 killed, 43 injured; 4 January, 28 killed, 35 injured; 5 January, 15 killed, 98 injured; 6 January 50 killed, 101 injured; 7 January, 17 killed, 33 injured; 8 January, 11 killed, 53 injured; 9 January, 15 killed and 63 injured; 10 January, 22 killed and 53 injured, and today, this morning, six people had been killed so far. Four of them were childre: ssters Saher (16) and Haowla Ghabban (14), and Fatima Mahrouf (16) and Haitham Mahrouf. Witnesses report that they were leaving their home at the United Nations-administered Beit Lahiya school, to go home to wash and make food. They were walking near strawberry fields in Sheyma when they were struck by a surveillance plane missile.

I go to meet a friend from Beit Hanoun at the hospital. It takes stopping five different taxi drivers before I finally get one who agrees to take me. Missiles have been falling throughout the afternoon “ceasefire.” Everyone has heard about cars and their passengers zapped in two by missiles from surveillance drones. We all engage in a kind of Russian roulette every time we move, knowing we might be the next unlucky ones.

In Beit Hanoun we hear about six families from the Abu Amsha House — 50 people — having to flee their four-story home after the Israeli occupation forces called to give them five minutes to leave before being bombed. As the families frantically gathered their belongings — mattresses, blankets, clothes, documents, photographs — and made their way down the stairs, an Israeli F-16 war plane bombed them. Twenty-seven were injured, four of them seriously, including one with shrapnel in the spinal area.

A house upon them

We meet Muhammad Zuadi Abu Amsha, a United Nations employee running a local job creation program and the son of Hajj Zohaadi Amsha, the owner of the destroyed house. Muhammad’s house, opposite his father’s house, had its windows blown out in the attack. I asked him why he thinks the house was targeted. “This is the policy of Israel, the logic is to make us leave this land, make us leave our homes, to clear this land for their occupation and ownership of it. That’s what this is about. There were no fighters here by the way,” he says. “This is a civilian house, my father is 80 years old, he worked as a teacher for the UN.” As we’re talking, children who have gathered around us point to the sky and say “look, look, Apache.” And we look at it, flying silently across the sky, puffing out a perfect line of burning dazzle flares. A boy of about 10 spots a piece of missile, the size of a large marrow, electronic parts still intact, and lugs it up to us, “Take care” we shout to him; he scrambles over debris and then lobs it onto the ground in front of us. All our hearts skip a beat.

Back at Kamal Odwan, we hear the news. Wafa al-Masri, 40 years old, and nine months pregnant was walking to Kamal Odwan Hospital to give birth. With her was her sister, 26-year-old Raghada Masri. They were passing through the Diwar Mabub crossroads in the Beit Lahiya Project area. It was 4:30pm. Witnesses said they were hit directly by a missile from a surveillance drone. Daniel, a half-Ukrainian paramedic here described the scene. “Her legs were shredded, there was just meat, and she had a serious chest injury, hypoxemia.” Wafa was transferred to al-Shifa Hospital for a double leg amputation, from the upper thigh area down. Paramedics were apprehensive about her or her unborn child making it. Medics managed to save the right foot of Raghada Masri, 26. I visited her at Kamal Odwan today. Visibly distressed and writhing in pain, she recounted the story: ‘We were walking down the street when we heard the sound of the plane, I can still hear ringing in my ears. We were hit by a missile. We were in the area right in the main street, in broad daylight. We would never have expected this. I saw smoke, and I saw Wafa’s legs all mangled. She was thrown meters away from me, I was thrown too. Her scarf was torn off her head, her hair was all burnt, she didn’t look like my sister, her hair was gone, everyone was saying to me, ‘She’s a martyr, she’s a martyr.'” Today I learned medics managed to save one leg and that she gave birth to a healthy boy.

Bombing civilians

At 5pm, while we’re gathering information on the bombing of Wafa and her sister, ambulances and taxis bring over casualties. There’s been a tank bombing of an apartment building, the Burj al-Sultan, in Jabaliya. Three dead, two of them children, and five injured. Again Daniel brought them in. He’s sitting in the ambulance stunned and staring into space. “In all my days, I’ve never seen anything like this,” he says. “First they fired one missile at the roof of the building, this got people running out of the building. Then they fired another one, at the people outside, and then when we turned up, they fired another one. I don’t understand. And they were all civilians.” The weapon of choice was a tank shell that releases tiny flachettes, spiked arrows that tear into flesh at lightning speed. Daniel went on to say that ambulance staff and helpers were shot at by snipers when evacuating casualties. Ashar al-Battish, 33, lost his two brothers in the attack. “Kids were playing in the street, and then three missiles were shot at us,” he explains. Gesturing to his brother on an emergency room bed, Ashar adds, “he was shot by a sniper in the chest, and another sniper’s bullet grazed his face.”

When I began writing this I was on the fifth floor of the al-Awda Hospital, a few things have happened in between. I was buying coffee, Snickers bars to chop up for the guys, and some shampoo from the local shop when we got a call at around 9:30pm, to pick up casualties from the Beir Najje area, western Jabaliya. We wove our way up, a column of rickety vans. Our ambulance had a plastic bag held up with brown parcel tape for a back window after it was blasted out last week — too close to an F-16 repeat attack.

When we reached the casualty zone, near a mini roundabout flanked with painted portraits of pale Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine fighters, and orange groves on our right, we drove slowly up towards the leading ambulance which had stopped up ahead. As we were approaching, the crew suddenly came running towards us, waving their arms for us to move, move, get back, get back. We reversed sharply and a minute later advanced again as they receded back to the ambulance. I jump out with the stretcher and start to assemble it but I’m told, “Get back inside, get back inside, this is a dangerous area!” They have their casualty, we pick up another with a leg injury on our way back, and when we get back to base it transpires that a surveillance plane missile was shot directly onto the crew ahead but failed to explode. Unknown to us, it had been lying beside the ambulance when we came up to see about the injured.

As well as this, there were two F-16 missile strikes on targets just a few hundred meters away from al-Awda. Both enormous bangs shook the building, shattered a window and sent everyone running for cover.

An empty dead-zone

I asked the paramedics what happened when they went to collect bodies and the injured from the areas where street fighting is taking place, places like Tel al-Zaater, Salah al-din Street, Atahtura, Azbet Abu Rabu — closed to everyone and anyone but the Israeli occupation forces. During 1-4pm there is supposed to be a ceasefire and coordination between paramedics and the Israeli army, through the Red Cross. Of the three paramedics I asked, all of their replies were the same. “We saw none.” “It was like a ghost town.” Despite finding bodies over the past week, including one baby which had been half eaten by dogs — photos, film and witnesses at Kamal Odwan confirm it — and bodies which had been run over by tanks, when they went yesterday, they found nobody, and came back to base empty-handed. “I think the Israelis must have taken the bodies away, I think they must have taken them away by bulldozer and buried them.” The terrifying thing is that there are still people trapped in their homes if their homes are still standing, without food, water, or electricity. Refugees at the al-Fakhoura school report not being able to recognize their areas, their streets after the heavy fighting and destruction of so many houses. When these areas are finally accessible to people, the full extent of the killing and destruction will at last be known.

Meanwhile, as the killing continues, the Ministry of Health ambulances in the north are becoming slowly paralyzed. Four Ministry of Health ambulances based at Kamal Odwan have no fuel and have been grounded, two have just half a tank each. One in Beit Hanoun has also been immobilized. A senior source coordinating the rescue services who did not wish to be named, said, “We don’t have the capacity now to respond. The Civil Defense and the Red Crescent will go out; we cannot, only in case of a major emergency. In case of another strike like the one at Fakhoura [which killed 43 people taking shelter at the school], the injured will have to be transported by donkey cart. People will die.” Petrol is available, just a short drive away in Salah al-Din Street, but Israeli occupation forces control the area and won’t let any vehicle pass. To add to the Ministry of Health’s woes, the radios they’ve had since the beginning of the invasion have had no service — there’s been no radio contact between the base and ambulances and the Jawwal mobile phone network is also frequently down.

So everybody who can, still keeps going. Israeli war planes keep targeting civilians. The evidence piling up points to a deliberate campaign and policy of targeting civilians. And the bombs keep falling, thudding all around all of us, everywhere we go, everywhere we sleep, everywhere we walk, drive, sit and pray. Everyone is exhausted and just wants these attacks to end and for a real ceasefire to materialize.

Ewa Jasiewicz is an experienced journalist, community and union organizer, and solidarity worker. She is currently Gaza Project Co-coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement (www.FreeGaza.org).

ei: All signs point to systematic targeting of civilians.

ei: Gaza is sinking in a river of blood

Mohammed Fares Al Majdalawi writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 11 January 2009

Mourning Israel’s victims at the al-Shifa Hospital morgue, Gaza City, 11 January 2009. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)


I want to write about the suffering of my people and my family in these days of siege against the people of Gaza. At least 888 people have been killed and more than 3,700 injured. The International Committee of the Red Cross has accused the Israeli military of repeatedly refusing to allow ambulances to go to the al-Zeitoun area of Gaza City. As a result, those who are injured become those who die, a premeditated and willful violation of human rights.

In my house we can’t get basic needs. No food. No bread. No fuel. No future. Yesterday, my father went to the bakery at 5am. He waited 5 hours to get one loaf of bread, which is not enough for my family because there are 11 of us. So today it was my turn. I went to all the bakeries — all were closed.

There is no safe place we can go. We cannot communicate with our relatives and friends — networks are down as missiles rain on our homes, mosques and even hospitals.

Our life is centered around the burials of those who have died, our martyrs. At night our camp, Jabaliya refugee camp, is a ghost town, with no sounds other than those of Israeli military aircraft.

There is horror every minute and it is clear especially in the lives of children. For example, there were five sisters in one family killed in their home by the Israeli occupation forces. But there are 800,000 other children in Gaza, all afraid, all waiting for someone or something to help them. They are caught in a prison that is becoming a concentration camp. Every day we sleep and open our eyes to the Israeli crimes of killing children and women and destroying civilians’ homes. My words are unable to convey my feelings about this life in Gaza.

I have two messages to the world, to those who claim they love peace and seek freedom.

Imagine your life consisting of no electricity, destroyed homes, the sounds and strikes of missiles, day and night, and the only hunger as great as that for food is the hunger for an end to this occupation and siege. Imagine it is not just you but your children and your family who tell you through their eyes and cries: “We are afraid of the missiles.” “We cannot sleep.” “We may never sleep again.” Imagine you are the dam and the river of blood has turned into a flash flood. How long could you stand it?

We wouldn’t have to stand it any longer if the world stood with us. If they demanded an end to the siege and the killings and demolition of houses for our children. If they demanded assistance reach the people through rallies and sit-ins.

Finally, I invite you to come to Gaza and see the Holocaust. Because despite the siege, the barriers, the killing of my people and the destruction of their homes, and the total destruction of our lives by the Israeli occupation, they cannot and will not kill the will of our people for equality and justice.

Update: After taking this testimony, the Middle East Children’s Alliance received a message from Mohammed that all the homes in his neighborhood have been destroyed. He and his family are now staying at the United Nations-administered school in Jabaliya, where 43 people were killed in an Israeli attack on 6 January. He cannot reach his brother and does not know if he is alive.

Mohammed Fares Al Majdawali is a university student, member of al-Assria Children’s Library, and volunteer with Middle East Children’s Alliance, which is sending medical aid to Gazans under siege (www.mecaforpeace.org). He lives in Jabaliya Refugee Camp with his family and aspires to be a professional filmmaker.

 

ei: Gaza is sinking in a river of blood.