The mass murder and destruction that has been carried out in Gaza on such a large scale throughout the past month by the Israeli Defense Forces, under the command of the right-wing Likud leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has led many observers around the world to refer openly to the unyielding aggression against the trapped Palestinian population by a term once thought politically impossible: genocide. What else could Netanyahu and his fascists have in store when they knowingly attack and destroy the livelihood of more than 1.8 million people who are trapped and confined to one of the most densely-populated areas on earth? – An area which the latest attacks has reduced by a startling 44%. This is the third murderous military campaign against this mercilessly persecuted people in just five and a half years, all of which were a result of Israel’s American-supported blockade of the last 8 years, cruelly precalculated and executed as to make life in the world’s largest concentration camp as unbearable as possible without outright killing its inhabitants. The embargo served its purpose of increasingly tightening the noose around the Strip’s neck by severely restricting access to food, water, health care, and electricity, as well as crippling the economy by cutting off even the most minimal forms of trade with the outside world. Israel’s role as occupier only intensified after militarily “pulling-out” from the strip in 2005 once it seized control of Gaza’s access to the sea, air, land and every other aspect of existence, imprisoning Gaza’s inhabitants behind a large wall in what some have called a modern-day Warsaw ghetto. The Israeli military’s recurring strategy of intentionally and repeatedly bombarding everything from U.N. schools, civilian homes and neighborhoods, hospitals, mosques, churches, disability centers, refugee camps and even children playing on the beach is rooted in a cynical belief that delivering more destruction will cause Palestinian Arabs to turn against and reject their more militant resistance leaders and replace them with Palestinian Authorities subservient to Israel’s demands, essentially resigning themselves to a fate of permanent occupation. The 2006 election of Hamas in the democratically-held election in Gaza was seen quite rightly by Israel as signifying a Palestinian population that would not simply disappear quietly as they are being ethnically-cleansed from their homeland in order to make way for the Jewish state, and that is why a special enmity has been reserved for them by the state. The past 27 days of the misleadingly titled Operation Protective Edge have seen a wildly disproportionate amount of casualties on the Palestinian side – 1,850 dead and counting (80% of them civilians), some 10,000 injured, and close to half-a-million residents displaced by the mass destruction of homes and shelters. (*) (**) Many bodies will probably never be recovered as they have been completely obliterated. This, combined with Tuesday’s targeted explosion of the Gaza strip’s largest electricity plant and Bibi Netanyahu’s callous declaration that there is no end in sight to the carnage, shows that the world is clearly witnessing a bloodbath which history will record was directly sanctioned by the Western powers in their earnest support for Israel – even as it piled up a list of war crimes that would never be tolerated by any other nation except for the United States itself.
Even before Israel opened the gates of hell on the Palestinians in Gaza with its latest round of attacks, the living situation was deteriorating because of the blockade. A United Nations report in 2012 detailed how Gaza would become virtually unlivable by the year 2020 due to food, water and electricity shortages. (The same year U.N. investigators found that up to 90% of Gaza’s water was not safe for drinking or cooking due to contamination.) Tuesday’s shelling of the region’s primary power plant severely exasperated a crisis already spiraling out of control, leaving thousands of injured patients without even the most basic medical care, though doctors and medical technicians are trying desperately to save as many lives as they can. It doesn’t help matters much when Israeli “Defense” Forces repeatedly fire on and kill municipal workers trying to alleviate the suffering. In the words of the International Red Cross, “…people [are] getting killed while on duty and traveling in clearly labeled cars with municipality logo.“
The silence is deafening…
Hospitals treating the thousands of wounded have also come under repeated attack, and it appears this is being done purposely. How else could a single, “well-marked hospital” come under repeated attack were it not a designated target? Al-Aqsa Hospital, Al-Wafa Hospital and hospitals located in Beit Hanoun are among those that have been in the direct line of fire. According to a July 25th report by the International Solidarity Movement, “13 ambulances have been completely destroyed and two paramedics have been killed. Throughout the massacre, medical staff and facilities have been repeatedly targeted” – an act Jacques de Maio of the International Red Cross called “a serious violation of the laws of war.” A woman by the name of Hanoud Abu Jarad and her six year-old daughter witnessed members of their family being blown apart and decapitated right before their very eyes. Responding to an Israeli “warning” to abandon the area, Jarad threw her hands up and asked, “Where should I go? They are striking people in the street.” A relative of the Abu Musallam family is in mourning after multiple family members were killed. “They were just asleep in warm beds a few hours ago,” said a relative. “Now they are all cold in a morgue, dead… What did [they] do to Israel to deserve this?” Thousands of homes and apartment complexes have been completely wiped out, meaning the families who dwelled in them will be without a roof over their head even after Israel’s latest offensive comes to an end. The irrevocable damage that has been wrought upon the civilian population is perhaps best evidenced by the heartbreaking situation people like 37 year-old Gaza resident Siham Kafarneh now find themselves in. After more than ten years of hard work and dedication, Kafarneh saved up enough earnings to be able to buy a home of her own just two months ago, only to see it blown to smithereens in a merciless Israeli assault. Even temporary “cease-fires” are not respected, such as the one Israel violated on Friday less than three hours after it was announced.
The most unconscionable of all the atrocities committed in the past 28 days of war are without a doubt the deliberate attacks on United Nations International Schools being used as refugee camps. On at least five different occasions, the most deadly being on July 25th and August 3rd, schools at which United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) workers attempted to offer refuge to the many terrorized refugees came under direct shelling from Israeli military forces. That these attacks were intentional, and not a case of “misfire”, there is little doubt. According to testimony given by UNRWA workers Robert Turner and Chris Gunness soon after the July 25 attack in Beit Hanoun, “We gave the Israelis the precise GPS coordinates of the Beit Hanoun shelter. We were trying to coordinate a window [for evacuation], and that was never granted.” As UNRWA workers tried to get the IDF to allow civilians to move to another location before the next attack started, civilians began gathering outside awaiting an International Red Cross convoy to arrive and transport them to a different location. But shortly after being given the exact coordinates to the UN school, the IDF fired four shells on the civilian population as they attempted to evacuate. According to a survivor named Hammud, “Two people from the municipality told us to collect our things, gather in the school bus-yard and wait for a bus… After ten minutes four shells fell.” After that he saw “children and adults blown to pieces outside.” In the words of another survivor, Laila al-Shiribari, “All of us sat in one place, when suddenly four shells landed on our heads… Bodies were on the ground. [There was] blood and screams. My son is dead, and all my relatives are wounded, including my other kids.” After an international outcry came shortly after, Israel tried to suggest that maybe it could’ve been a misfired Hamas missile that landed on the school by accident. However, witnesses who survived are well acquainted with the sounds and capabilities of gunfire from Israeli tanks. On top of that “Israeli munitions litter the district and the fire appears to have come from the Israeli side near the Erez border crossing.” Gunness also told of two incidents in which teams of UN workers came directly under Israeli fire as they were attempting to investigate attacks on the UNRWA. (^) The most recent bombing of a UN refugee school came in Rafah on August 3rd. Understandably the people of Gaza feel they aren’t really safe anywhere.
Chris Gunness of the UNRWA has certainly witnessed humanitarian crises before, but the devastation he’s witnessed first hand in Gaza the past month is appears to be having an unprecedented effect on him, as he broke down in front of the camera when speaking of the desperate plight of the Palestinians. Earlier he remarked, “UNRWA is overwhelmed in Gaza. We have reached the breaking point; our staff is being killed, our shelters overflowing… UNRWA now has 225,178 displaced in 86 shelters. But Gaza is being destroyed. So when the war is over, where will these people go?”
With three U.N. schools housing refugees being bombarded in less than 10 days – Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahiya and Rafah – the condemnation from the international community has been a bit more pointed than usual. The senior official of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Navi Pillay, called what Israel is doing a “deliberate defiance of obligations that international law imposes.” And UNRWA commissioner-general Pierre Kranhenbuhl summed it up best when he declared, “Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced.” Notably even the United States, which gives well over $3 billion to Israel’s so-called “defense” annually, condemned the shelling of U.N. schools, conveniently stopping short of naming Israel as the perpetrator however. In the end this condemnation amounted to very little. For almost immediately after criticizing the barbarity of these acts, both Houses of Congress passed a bill allowing for another $255 million in military aid for Israel. And it was dutifully signed into law by U.S. President Barack Obama on August 4th. Navi Pillay took the U.S. to task for the shameful role it’s playing in the slaughter of so many Palestinian civilians, declaring:
“They [the United States] have not only provided the heavy weaponry which is now being used by Israel in Gaza, but they’ve also provided almost $1bn in providing the Iron Domes to protect Israelis from the rockets attacks,” she said.
“No such protection has been provided to Gazans against the shelling.”
The numerous amount of “cease-fires” that have been proposed in the past 30 days have unanimously fallen short because of one main underlying reason: Israel’s continuing occupation and settlement expansion in Palestinian territory. Hamas has made it quite clear that, as the elected representatives of the people of Gaza, they will not stop resisting either Israeli aggression nor the cruel embargo which has been crippling every fabric of Palestinian life. Hamas’ Sami Abu Zuhri makes it quite clear, “When we have Israeli commitment with an international obligation of a humanitarian cease-fire, we will study it. But declaring a unilateral truce while the occupation kills our children, this will never happen.” And in the words of former Hamas official Ahmed Yousef, “It is not acceptable to go back to a situation where we are being squeezed to death and where the whole society is being paralyzed.”
If Israelis thought Operation Protective Edge was going to break the back of Hamas by causing the Palestinians to blame their misfortunes on the organization, they were mistaken. The hellish nightmare Israel has brought down on the people of Gaza appears to have strengthened Hamas like never before, because now it is clear to everyone why Resistance is absolutely essential. The people of Gaza have been so long oppressed that many no longer feel they have anything left to live for, and people who have nothing to live for do not fear death. They will fight to be free even if they have to give up their own lives in the process. A plumber named Faraj al-Loul put it this way, “We want a cease-fire, of course, but it has to be based on the demands of the resistance. If they refuse to open the crossings, then we’ll all become martyrs, God willing.” Another Gaza refugee named Inaf Hillis, speaking from a tent behind a hospital, told of the effects these scenes of death are likely going to have on the psyche of Gaza’s young children. “Look at where they [the Israelis] have forced us to live. Every family here has a son or father or brother who has been killed, and all of their children will grow up wanting revenge.” Ibrahim Mahmoud Daoud, an elderly man whose home was completely demolished during the first week of the conflict, voiced feelings of desperation that many Gazans felt in decades past. “We don’t need houses. What we need is a country,” said the 77 year-old father of eight. “I wish I were a young man, so I could wear a suicide belt and go blow myself up in Tel Aviv.” A man who once resided in Gaza city, Zaki al-Masri, underscored the fact that even if a unilateral cease-fire were declared (*as of Tuesday Aug. 5th a 72-hour cease-fire appears to be holding) and the Israeli army withdrew tomorrow, it is the people of Gaza who will “be left in this awful situation as usual.”
Unfortunately it’s unclear if there will be an end to the crisis any time soon, as Netanyahu has vowed to fight on, and UNRWA workers have seen their resources and facilities stretched to the absolute limit. Despite nearly half-a-million people having been forced to flee their homes, the refugee facilities are only able to house 240,000 and in very tight quarters. In the meantime the densely-packed rooms and widespread injuries are threatening to lead to an even larger health crisis. In the words of UNRWA’s Pierre Krahenbuhl, “Infection is beginning with skin rashes, scabies and others… I feel we are facing a precedent… [Gaza] will be unlivable in a matter of year unless urgent steps are taken.”
* This is in stark contrast to the casualties on the Israeli side, on which there have have been about 60 deaths so far, 5% of them civilian deaths.
** That Israel has regularly targeted civilian populations on purpose as a strategic military tactic is certainly nothing new, and it has been around in some form or another since the earliest days of the nation’s existence. It was revealed rather explicitly in a 1978 Ha’aretz article written by Israeli military analyst Ze’ev Schiff. Referencing an interview conducted with the Israeli Defense Forces’ 10th Chief of Staff, Modechai Gur, Schiff wrote:
“In South Lebanon we struck the civilian population consciously, because they deserved it…the importance of Gur’s remarks is the admission that the Israeli Army has always struck civilian populations, purposely and consciously…the Army, he said, has never distinguished civilian [from military] targets…[but] purposely attacked civilian targets even when Israeli settlements had not been struck.”
— Israeli military analyst, Ze’ev Schiff (Haaretz, May 15, 1978).
Christopher Gunness, the UNRWA’s spokesman, said the attack was a “source of universal shame” and blamed Israeli forces.
“We have visited the site and gathered evidence. We have analysed fragments, examined craters and other damage. Our initial assessment is that it was Israeli artillery that hit our school, in which 3,300 people had sought refuge.
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces. I call on the international community to take deliberate international political action to put an immediate end to the continuing carnage.”
Gunness said that UN representatives have informed Israeli forces about the exact location of the school 17 times.
- ‘Israel Provoked This War’ by Henry Siegman
- US resupplies Israel with weapons as death toll rises
- Journalist Rami Rayan Killed In Gaza Attack
- Bowing to AIPAC, Senate unanimously passes resolution supporting Israel
- House passes resolution to condemn Hamas for Israel rocket attacks
- Israel’s Illegal Use of White Phosphorus During ‘Operation Cast Lead’ (2009)
- Rain of Fire: Israel’s Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza
- White phosphorus; American-manufactured for Israel to use on civilians (2009 Photographs)
- Human Rights in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories (2009 UN Report)
- ‘Am I Going to Die, Daddy?’ the Child in Gaza Asked
- CNN Removes Reporter Diana Magnay From Israel-Gaza After ‘Scum’ Tweet
- Through Lens, 4 Boys Dead by Gaza Shore
- ‘Most moral military’ targets, kills Palestinian children
[*** WARNING: The following VIDEOS and IMAGES will be incredibly disturbing for some viewers to look at. Be advised NOT to view them in the presence of small children***]
.:VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED:.
But most of all my heart goes out to the father of Sahir Abu Namous, the once-smiling 4-year old boy whose head was so brutally decapitated by Israeli military weaponry, funded for and provided by the U.S.A.