Smashing up Gaza
From Electronic Intifada’s page of photographs, November 20, 2012
Palestinians carry the bodies of Jumana and Tamer Eseifan, both under the age of four, who were killed when an Israeli warplane fired a missile at an agricultural plot near their home in the Tal al-Zatar area of Jabaliya town, 18 November. Photo by Majdi Fathi,APA images
A Palestinian woman looks at her destroyed home following Israeli air strikes on the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, 18 November. Photo by Eyad Al Baba/APA images)
UPDATED: In addition to the photographs above, this posting has four items:
1) Kim Sengupta: Air strikes have dismantled the infrastructure;
2) Chris McGreal: Israelis talk about fear, Palestinians talk about death;
3) Eve Bartlett: In Gaza – some glimpses, day 7;
4) Muhammad Abdul Bari: Israel’s scorched earth policy in Gaza could prove fatal;
Bombs both sides of the border, but it’s Gaza that’s been reduced to rubble
Israel’s air strikes have dismantled the infrastructure of the under-siege city with precision
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent
November 21/22 2012
GAZA CITY–The air strikes have been surgical to avoid collateral damage, the Israeli military have insisted since this campaign began; an assertion not totally borne out by the mounting toll of casualties.
What is happening with precision, however, is the dismantling of the infrastructure of Gaza. Many of the institutions affiliated to Hamas were destroyed in the first rounds of air strikes. The latest assaults have focused on municipal buildings, the Palestine Legislative Council, the main bridge, a bank, a media centre and a sports complex.
There has been ancillary damage; a set of legal chambers, the city’s main travel agency, a shopping mall have all been hit. As a ceasefire deal is finally struck in Cairo, what is left of civic society here continues to crumble. Abu Khadra, the biggest government complex, essential for almost every aspect of official business here, was the biggest wreckage site in Gaza, a mass of burnt and twisted metal and broken buildings still smouldering six hours after being hit by six missiles. Acres of documents on computers and paper have been incinerated, with little or no chance of the contents being retrieved. Abu Khadra was one of several targets in central Gaza City on Tuesday night. A few hours previously the Israeli military had dropped leaflets on border villages stating: “For your safety we demand you evacuate your houses immediately and move towards the centre of Gaza City.”
Razai Abdelkarem Abu-Shaban, whose family home across the street was wrecked in the blast, asked: “Why do you think they did that? There have been people who have arrived here from those areas. Are they all right? You can see for yourself what the Israelis have done to the centre.”
The Khadra buildings were was used by the Israelis while they ran Gaza and have had the same role after control passed to the Palestinians. Some of the ministries have moved out, but it remained an administrative hub. Haitam Ahmed Al-Naasri had left his desk at 4.30pm as waves of air strikes hit the city on Tuesday afternoon. He heard about the attack and turned up yesterday morning to see if anything was left. “I never thought I would see it like this, never. They have attacked this before, but now there is nothing left,” Mr Al-Naasri, 48, said, shaking his head.
“We dealt with everything here. You wanted to buy a house you came here, you wanted to travel outside you came here, you wanted to get married, the same.
“Everything to do with the public sector in Gaza had to go through here. We shall have to start work somewhere else, but we won’t get all the information again.”
The private sector was having its own problems, some of a similar kind. The office of Saadi Abdullah, a lawyer, was blown up in the same area. “All my files have gone, case papers, legal histories, everything. None of it was political, it was to do with buying property, commercial matters, some of it from outside Gaza. It is such a mess,” he said.
“Look, I am a lawyer. I want to see our cause as Palestinians taken forward the diplomatic way. We all want a peace agreement. But the Israelis are making sure that the only ones the people in Gaza can turn to are the men with guns.”
The travel agency nearby was established by Wasim Mushtaha’s grandfather and was in business for an uninterrupted 46 years – until yesterday. Mr Mushtaha had helped many local people chart the logistical and bureaucratic maze to travel abroad.
“We arranged holidays, people who had to go for medical treatment, for the Haj, they have destroyed this,” an angry Mr Mushtata said, waving a piece of what was once his shopfront. “We employed 20 people, each one of them had maybe six in their family. It is very difficult for people to find jobs here. What will happen to them? Who’s going to feed their childr
The current war in Gaza will lead to little other than more dead civilians and a fresh impetus to fight, say its residents
By Chris McGreal in Beit Lahiya, guardian.co.uk
November 20, 2012
Mohammed al-Khoudry was staring at the rubble of a house where two young children and their father died on Tuesday.
“I’ve really tried to understand the Israelis. I used to work on a farm in Israel. I speak Hebrew. I watch their news. All the time they talk about fear. How they have to run to their bunkers to hide from the rockets. How their children can’t sleep because of the sirens. This is not a good way for them to live,” said Khoudry, who now scrapes a living growing his own produce.
“We Palestinians don’t talk about fear, we talk about death. Our rockets scare them; their rockets kill us. We have no bomb shelters, we have no sirens, we have nowhere we can take our children and keep them safe. They are scared. We are dying.”
The dying continued on Tuesday even as a ceasefire was being negotiated. The victims included Suhaib and Mohammed Hejazi, aged three and four, and their father Fuad, killed when an Israeli missile hit their house in Beit Lahiya as they were sleeping. The boys’ mother, Amna, was badly wounded.
As the day wore on, and word came from Cairo that a halt to the violence may be just hours away, the bombardment intensified with Israeli missile strikes on cars in Gaza City and buildings to the north. Scores of casualties were packed into ambulances.
The Palestinian death toll rose above 120, a large number of them civilians, including at least 27 children. In Israel, three people, all civilians, have been killed by the hundreds of rockets fired from the Gaza enclave.
Khoudry joined the funeral procession for the Hejazi brothers through the streets of Beit Lahiya. The boys were swaddled in white cloth and Hamas flags. They might have been mistaken for sleeping if it weren’t for the bruising and cuts to their faces.
A few hours after the funeral, the shelling gave way to a different bombardment: thousands of leaflets floating down on Beit Lahiya warning of worse to come. They told tens of thousands of people to get out of parts of northern and eastern Gaza nearest to the Israeli border. Some families did not hesitate, although they were not sure what the leaflets meant. Was it to warn of even more bombing? Or were the tanks on their way? What did it mean for a ceasefire?
Israel has sent its armour tanks into northern Gaza often enough that Palestinians around Beit Lahiya – where the open ground has been a favourite launching site for rockets into Israel – know what to expect.
Within hours, hundreds of people were following the explicit Israeli instructions to take specific roads to Gaza City and shelter there. Others headed to United Nations-run schools in the hope they would be protected from attack. But some stayed put, saying they had nowhere to go or that they would take their chances.
The deaths of the Hejazi brothers was regarded by many in Beit Lahiya not only as a tragedy but a crime.
If Israelis live in fear of the randomness of Hamas rockets, Gazans have a perhaps over-confident sense of Israel being in absolute control of where its missiles land.
On Sunday, Fateh Nasser, a resident of a block of flats in neighbouring Jabaliya that was home to five families, received a phone call in which an anonymous voice told him that everyone had five minutes to get out of the building. Minutes later it was destroyed by an Israeli missile. That sense of Israeli all-pervasiveness draws many Palestinians towards what they say is an inevitable conclusion.
“If they know who to call, then they know who they are killing,” said Mohammed Yunis at his vegetable stall. “They know every inch of Gaza. They have maps from the occupation. They have cameras in the drones. How can it be an accident that our children are killed?”
Other leaflets dropped by the Israelis on Tuesday warned Palestinians to stay away from Hamas.
That’s not easy even if the Hamas leadership and functionaries, such as policemen, have gone underground over the past week, or are at least sticking to the shadows. Hamas has abandoned police stations, government offices and the border post from northern Gaza into Israel. Instead, passport control is at a small desk far from the frontier.
But if the Israeli intent is to try and break Hamas’s authority in the enclave, there’s little sign that is working. No one else, least of all its rival, Fatah, which controls those parts of the West Bank run by the Palestinian Authority, is stepping into the breach.
And if anyone was in any doubt that Hamas continues to exert a form of authority, even from the shadows, the bodies of six men alleged to be collaborators with Israel were dumped on a Gaza City street on Tuesday afternoon. Some of their bodies were dragged through the streets, tied to the backs of motorcycles driven by armed men.
Few Palestinians are prepared to publicly question whether the one-sided battle of the past week has been worth it, mostly out of solidarity with the right of resistance against Israel. The hoped-for truce is presented as a victory on the streets.
“The Jews brought all their tanks to the edge of Gaza and then they thought about what would happen if they came here,” said Ayman Salameh, after attending the Hejazi boys’ funeral. “Many Palestinians would die, yes. But so would many Israelis. For what? Do they think the resistance will go away? They will have to kill every Palestinian. They know this. It is the lesson the Americans learned in Iraq and Afghanistan. When resistance is everywhere, the size of your guns doesn’t matter.”
But ask about why the fighting happened in the first place and a less belligerent answer is sometimes offered.
Khoudry said the bloodletting was provoked by the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, because he has an election coming up.
“Killing Palestinians makes him look strong. It is good politics in Israel,” he said, adding cryptically: “He is lucky he has Hamas.”
What does he mean?Khoudry hesitates. “Hamas will always fight,” he said.
Photo of leaflets the Israeli army has dropped on various parts of Gaza (confirmed the north of Gaza and Tel el Howa, likely more areas). There may be more than one variety of leaflet, but at least one, reports Al Jazeera, says for residents of northern Gaza to head towards central Gaza. In other words, evacuate your homes again because we are going to destroy them again.
“It does seem as though Israel is prepared to really target that area in the next few hours… They’re being told to leave the border areas. These areas are usually quite heavily targeted anyhow, they’re very vulnerable… there are regular Israeli incursions into these areas…They’re being told to get out. The problem is, though, where will they go? This is where they live, this is where their homes are…the Gaza Strip is tiny and there aren’t places set up for them to go.” (Al Jazeera)
Lebanon’s Daily Star reported on this:
Israel’s air force dropped leaflets across Gaza City on Tuesday urging people to evacuate their homes “immediately” amid fears the military was poised to launch a ground operation.
“For your own safety, you are required to immediately evacuate your homes and move toward Gaza City centre,” the Arabic-language leaflet said, specifying certain roads that should be used.
I’m working on an update about some of the victims (martyrs and injured) we saw at Aqsa hospital in Deir al Balah today.
As I work, get a phone call from Adie, a British activist in Gaza for many months now, who tells me about a conversation with the Director of Shifa who has said tests from Israel’s last major bombing and invasion of Gaza (23 days in 2008-2009) show the presence of uranium in some of the injured Palestinians. Fair to say that if uranium, in addition to white phosphorous, was used last time round it could as well be used in the current bombings.
The local mosque rings out with an announcement of the latest martyr from this area of Deir al Balah.
Al Jazeera‘s latest tally of Palestinians killed by these Zionist attacks put the number at 116 since November 14 (not including Israel’s murders of children and other civilians in the week leading up to the 14). Adie says Gaza’s Ministry of Health has declared the number of injured to be well over 1000.
Bearing in mind that “injuries” here are usually severed, Adie says that from what he’s seen at Shifa hospital and heard from doctors there, a single injured person may have up to 6 or so different injuries: shrapnel, hemmoraging, trauma, fractures, lost limbs…a longer list of cruel injuries that the few I’ve typed. Meaning various operations on just one person, which Adie says the hospitals just aren’t equipped for. “They don’t have the manpower,” for one thing. “Hospitals are lacking in bandages, sutures, anasthetics, antibiotics…” for another.
He tells me that Ahmed, a brave and dedicated medic I worked with 4 years ago during the 2008-2009 attacks (it is truly miraculous Ahmed is still alive, tho he has suffered various injuries, including gunshot wounds and shrapnel, during the various Israeli attacks over the years, including prior to 2008), spoke of 4 medics who were attacked in the line of their duty by the Israeli army. Nothing new, sadly, not even medics are protected from Israel’s blood lust.
Bizarrely, with F-16s and drones polluting the skies, the mosque crying out for the dead, children in our neighbourhood (and all over Gaza) defy the lethal danger above them, playing in the streets. They are playing, getting rid of energy (school has been cancelled since the attacks began; children are terrified at night and have a lot of energy to get rid of), and though playing there is a lot more yelling than usual. Their playing and laughter are so incongruous with all that is happening. Then again, life in Gaza is full of incongruities, people trying to be steadfast and get on with their lives while at the same time being bombed by a Zionist entity that seems to wish to end their existence.
Israel’s scorched earth policy in Gaza could prove fatal
The US and other western governments have failed to publicly criticise Israel for its iron-fist policy on Palestine.
By Muhammad Abdul Bari, Al Jazeera
November 20, 2012
The recent Israeli pounding on Gaza reminds us of the brutal Gaza invasion in 2009 that resulted “in between 1,166 and 1,417 Palestinian and 13 Israeli deaths (four from friendly fire)”. The human toll and the destruction of the infrastructure in Gaza nearly five years ago still reverberates. The current bombing spate by the Netanyahu government from the air and sea is again turning Gaza into rubble.
This, according to the Israeli government, is in response to hundreds of rockets fired at Israel by Hamas from Gaza, that has created fear amongst the Israeli population and claimed three Israeli lives. But this is asymmetric warfare: The death toll in Gaza has already crossed 100, including many women and children.
Israel says it is only targeting selective targets with “surgical precision”. But its claims are not substantiated by facts: The majority of victims are innocent civilians. Despite some pressures from America and Britain, Israel is massing its troops near Gaza; a ground invasion seems possible.
The Gazan people’s back has been to the wall for some time; they have been subjected to inhumane conditions under almost total siege by Israel for some years – something considered illegal under international humanitarian law.
According to a UN report, Gaza in 2020: A liveable place?, “Israel’s Operation ‘Cast Lead’ in 2008-09 ’caused a total of US$181 million in direct and US$88 million in longer-term costs for Gaza’s agriculture; generated about 600,000 tonnes of rubble and US$ 44 million in environmental costs.”
The trauma it created is irreparable and the conditions are dismal. As late as 2010, British Prime Minister David Cameron termed Gaza as a prison camp and the former US President, Jimmy Carter, called Gaza a prison.
Atmosphere of despair
Beyond Gaza, the situation in historic Palestine is not much different. Israeli land grabbing, illegal settlements and ethnic cleansing in occupied territories, forced removal of families from their homes, the increasing refugee problems, massive unemployment, daily humiliation of Palestinian people in the crossings, the erection of the “apartheid wall” – have all created an atmosphere of despair.
As in its 2009 operation, Israel is trying to match its overwhelming military might with its superior media outreach in the western world. As a result, and due to what seems to be America’s depressingly unquestioned support for Israel, many in the West buy in to the Israeli narrative claiming Hamas as a “terrorist” organisation.
Sadly, people have a short memory. They forget that Hamas, for all its flaws, formed the legitimate Palestinian government after winning an internationally-accepted election in 2006 (but they were conveniently dumped by the US and other western governments).
The fear of being accused as anti-Semitic has inhibited many in the West from publicly criticising Israel’s historic injustice to the Palestinians. Some try to be ambivalent; in order to prove their neutrality, the only thing they do is offer some advice to Israeli and Palestinian politicians to sort out the mess on the negation table.
However, an overwhelming majority of people in the Muslim world and many in Asia, Africa and Latin America consider Israel a pariah state, supported by the world’s sole superpower, the United States. Many consider Israel as a Goliath when it comes to the Palestinian people.
The US and other western governments have failed to publicly criticise Israel for its iron-fist policy on Palestine. That has made them incapable of becoming honest peace-brokers between the two sides. The so called “road map for peace“, initiated by the US in 2002, was rejected by Israel and did not see the light of the day.
The recent call from some western leaders for a “de-escalation” of the crisis by asking Hamas to stop firing the rockets and pleading with Israel not to wreck “international support” only shows impotence. There is a clear lack of leadership from western leaders, particularly the US administration.
Israel has massive political and military might and the Israeli leadership is also known to be politically smarter than the Arab leaders. Israel has become a garrison state with conventional and weapons of mass destruction that include nuclear bombs (although not publicly acknowledged). It has the unconditional backing of the largest military power on earth. This has blinded Israel’s judgment and made it arrogant.
But in the greater scheme of things, the Israeli leadership lacks strategic wisdom that is needed for its future. With all its military, diplomatic and media advantage, time is not on Israel’s side. History also teaches us that the days of injustice do not last long.
The Palestinian people may be underdogs now, but people with insight can see they are the ones who are setting the future agenda. Whatever Hamas is doing – out of madness, desperation or a long-term strategy – Israel seems to be falling in their trap of an un-winnable, long and protracted war.
The Israeli strength so far has lain with the disunity and incompetence of the Arab regimes. But things are changing within the Arab world, as we all know. Plus the tectonic plate of world economic power is shifting towards the East; with it the global political and military power may change at some time in the future.
During the 2009 Gaza crisis, two prominent Muslim countries – Turkey and Egypt – carried little weight in the world. Now they are trying to assert their rightful place. Their position on the Arab-Israeli conflict is now clearer. For the first time in many decades, the world attention has focused on Egypt. Whether its President Morsi succeeds in bringing the two sides to a ceasefire agreement will be interesting to see, but a new chapter seems to be dawning in the Middle East.
A just and lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is not only essential for Israeli and Palestinian people, but also for the whole world. This needs a clear “thinking outside the box” by the Israeli leadership and their backers in America. And it must come soon.
Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari is the former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (2006-10). He is an educationalist, community activist and parenting consultant. He is a founding member of The East London Communities Organisation (TELCO) and currently Chairman of the East London Mosque Trust.
Follow him on Twitter: @MAbdulBari