News and not news


It’s news because its revelatory but it’s not news because it happens time and time again between Israel and its interaction with its neighbors.  The latest Gaza incursion was a bloodfest which made it a war crime.  Max Blumenthal writes about that conclusively here.

Dan Cohen and I conducted an interview with two ICRC volunteers from Gaza, 25-year-old Ahmed Awad, and 24-year-old Ala’a Alkusofi, who worked with ambulance crews throughout the war, the video of which will be released in the near future. They recalled entering Khuza’a during the siege of the town to collect the body of Mohamed Abadla, a local man who had been tied to a tree by both arms and riddled with bullets. When they arrived at the execution site, a group of Israeli soldiers ordered one of the volunteers’ colleagues to exit the ambulance, walk five meters forward, then light a cigarette lighters. When he did so, they shot him in the heart and leg, killing him in front of his colleagues.

The ICRC volunteers told us they later found a man in Khuza’a with rigor mortis, holding both hands over his head in surrender, his body filled with bullets. They then discovered a family — men, women and children — so badly decomposed they had to bury them with a bulldozer in a mass grave. The vast majority of bullet wounds they found were to the head and chest.

In Beit Hanoun, a northern border city that had been comprehensively by Israeli shelling, I met Abdul Rahman, a 50-year-old farmer whose orange groves, bee farm, goat herd, wheat fields and four story home had all been destroyed prior to or during Operation Protective Edge. Rahman told me how his neighbors, the Wahadan family, had been prevented from evacuating by Israeli forces, who warned them they would be shot if they left. Remember that the Israeli military dropped leaflets on Beit Hanoun warning its residents to leave just prior to the ground invasion. A week after trapping seven members of the Wahadan family, the Israeli air force bombed their home, killing seven members, including two-year-old Ghena Wahadan. The survivors of the family were male relatives who had been abducted and interrogated for days in Israeli prisons.

shieldWere the Wahadans used as human shields? That’s an open and legitimate question. In other areas, I documented cases in which the use of human shields by Israeli soldiers was undeniable. On the outskirts of Rafah, for instance, soldiers stripped 19-year-old Mahmoud Abu Said of his clothes and stood him in front of windows in his home while they sniped at his neighbors. In Khuza’a, members of the Najjar family told me soldiers forced them to stand at opposite corners of their roof for a full day. And in the northern village of Oum Al Nasser, members of the Mismeh, Madhoun and Jarrad family told me they forced to sit in the center of town for three hours between 6:30am and 9:30am on July 18 — 100 meters in front of Israeli tanks.

 

You will not hear about this case of Israel using human shields as it kills Palestinians although the contrast is certainly the case.  Also you can be sure nothing will happen as a result of this exposure although plenty will be said about any cases where Palestinians did such a criminal act and some sort of punitive action will result this is why although it is newsworthy this happened repeatedly during the Gaza invasion last month, nothing will result from it.

Images from Gaza, post Israeli war of aggression


Hat tip to the Electronic Intifada

(Shujaeeyah neighborhood of Gaza)

 

Another reason to oppose the current government of Egypt


…they are engaging in fratricide in ways that call to mind some of the world’s worst dictatorships.

Egyptian security forces intentionally killed at least 817 protesters during last August’s Rabaa massacre, in a premeditated attack equal to or worse than China’s Tiananmen Square killings in 1989, Human RightsWatch (HRW) has argued in a report.

The 195-page investigation based on interviews with 122 survivors and witnesses has found Egypt‘s police and army “systematically and deliberately killed largely unarmed protesters on political grounds” in actions that “likely amounted to crimes against humanity”.

The report recommends that several senior individuals within Egypt’s security apparatus be investigated and, where appropriate, held to account for their role in the planning of both the Rabaa massacre and others that occurred last summer – including Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Egypt’s then defence minister and new president. As head of the army at the time, Sisi had overall responsibility for the army’s role at Rabaa, and has publicly acknowledged spending “very many long days to discuss all the details”.

 

In other words, the current President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is a war criminal who encouraged his army to commit crimes against humanity on several occasions!! In an extreme example of chutzpah, this government of war criminals went on to declare the party they ousted and enforced that coup with murder of its citizens, the Sisi regime went on to criminalize the Muslim Brotherhood, calling it a terrorist organization and sentencing close to 200 members of that group with death for “taking part in a deadly attack on a police station”.  What’s important to remember is this is the government which slaughters its citizens in much the same way the Israelis slaughtered people of Gaza that is negotiating on behalf of those Palestinians.  To renew the saying, ‘ it’s the fox guarding the chickens’……

The “specialness” of Israel


Israel claimed Hamas used the civilians of Gaza as human shields for their rocket attacks when it fact it turns out Israeli forces used Palestinians in that way.  Here is the story and eye witness accounts of what happened.

The article below describes how US officials have enabled the Israeli regime to commit and get away with war crimes and are as accountable as the very Israelis who are responsible for the Gaza massacre.  Unfortunately, American administrations are quick to hurl accusations of illegality towards members of the international community but are almost never willing to prosecute its own for illegal acts. In the case of Israel, even when there is compelling evidence that crimes were committed such an acknowledgment is never forthcoming from an American administration.  The ramifications of that are severe for America…..making it as much a pariah state as the one it enables.

 

You knew it was headed here


Even though there may be a cessation of hostilities, there are some who will try to manifest them this way

Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Knesset and member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party, Moshe Feiglin, has called for the use of concentration camps for the “conquest of the entire Gaza Strip, and annihilation of all fighting forces and their supporters.”

Sharing a plan for the destruction of Gaza in a letter addressed to Netanyahu on his Facebook page on August 1, Feiglin wrote “What is required now is that we internalize the fact that Oslo is finished, that this is our country – our country exclusively, including Gaza.”

In his letter, Feiglin urged Netanyahu to “turn Gaza into Jaffa, a flourishing Israeli city with a minimum number of hostile civilians,” in reference to a Palestinian coastal city that was ethnically cleansed by in 1948 and incorporated into present-day Israel.

He called for tent encampments where the Palestinian civilian population would be “concentrated” to be established along the Sinai border until relevant emigration destinations are determined, adding that the supply of electricity and water to the formerly populated areas will be disconnected while they are “shelled with maximum fire power” in order to destroy the civilian and military infrastructure of Hamas as well as its means of communication and of logistics.

….so Israel wants to move from genocide to ethnic cleansing. Does Israel really want to be identified with Buchenwaldconcentration camps on today’s world stage or are they so oblivious that they just don’t care?Perhaps this is the same attitude of the 40s that led people to oppose the nascent zionist regime.  It’s not that people don’t want to live peacefully with Israel as their neighbor it’s that they simply want to live as Palestinians.

 

The truth about Gaza’s tunnels


A thing or two about “terror tunnels”

SAMI KISHAWI

When I visited family in Gaza City in 2011, they reluctantly agreed to take me to see some of the tunnels that had been constructed in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

At the time, there were an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 tunnels criss-crossing their ways underneath Gaza’s border with Egypt. Designed to outsmart the blockade that had essentially cut the coastal territory off from the world since 2006, the tunnels instantly grew in popularity. They were seen as a source of relief. The food, construction materials, and even animals that Israel had banned from entering the Strip was finding another way in.

As Israel and the Egyptian government cooperated to keep even the most basic necessities out of the Gaza Strip, smugglers went to work. In just three to ten minutes, a runner could smuggle anything he wanted from one of the tunnel to the other. Many requests were bold — new cars, tunnel-kfc deliveryhealthy sheep, a family who had waited too long at the border — and some were ridiculous — a family meal from KFC, and why not a wife — but they all got through. So is the quick-witted brilliance of the Palestinian under occupation.

With the popularity grew attention, and the Israeli and Egyptian governments agreed to handle the threatening illusion of freedom with force. Egyptian armed forces demolished any tunnel they uncovered. The Israeli military launched air strikes even during periods of rest with the same purpose in mind.

Since then, the number of tunnels in Gaza has certainly grown. It is a bafflingly elaborate system, and although few people will ever be able to conceptually grasp the full extensiveness of the tunnel network, a quick look at the tunnels themselves reveal just how much time and effort goes into them.tunnel-bride

As I stood at the mouth of a tunnel used primarily to shuttle fish from an Egyptian port, one smuggler gave me a brief rundown of how the tunnels are built and, in some cases, destroyed. Curiously, he had no qualms about me taking photographs. Israel knew everything there was to know about his tunnels, he informed me. The one that smuggled fish and other small food goods had been hit six times already, prompting him to reinforce the interior of his tunnel with steel plates. Three years later, I am unsure if his tunnels still exist.

This is what the tunnels were built for in the first place, and for the most part, this is what they continue to be used for. Israel knowingly targets them, claiming them to be security concerns when all the tunnels really do is relieve a bit of the pressure that people in Gaza have had to face for almost a decade now.

There are other tunnels that are used to connect opposite ends of the Gaza Strip without exposure to Israeli weaponry. These tunnels are used by Palestinian government leaders who constantly have to duck Israeli assassination attempts as well as resistance fighters who are legally entitled to resist their occupier. Never forget this last part, I am always told.

These very same tunnels were the ones used to keep Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit alive when he was captured and taken as a prisoner of war on June 25, 2006. Shalit would later be swapped in a prisoner exchange with the Israeli government.

Lately, however, new tunnels have been uncovered in the northern Gaza Strip that are being used in the defense of Palestine. As part of the Israeli military’s egregious public relations campaign, Israel has officially dubbed them “terror tunnels,” carrying absolutely no context whatsoever.

tunnel-sheepTo Israel, every tunnel — be it one that brings food into an impoverished Gaza Strip where over half of the population depends on food aid or one that delivers sheep to a Khan Younis farmer who lost his other farm animals to a prior Israeli incursion — is a “terror tunnel”. The phrase alone has given Israel the impunity it feels it needs to enact vengeance against the Gaza’s population. After all, “terror tunnels” was the pretext for Israel’s repeated bombardment of the Shuja’iyya neighborhood or the Jabalya Refugee Camp, where hundreds including many children were massacred and thousands displaced.

“Terror tunnels” is also why entire city blocks were wiped off the map, or why every single building in Beit Hanoun is either damaged or demolished, or why Eid Al-Fitr wasn’t celebrated in Gaza. “Terror tunnels” is Israel’s attempt at justifying war crimes and human rights abuses in the Strip, which are increasingly being investigated by the United Nations and other international observers.

Israel’s media strategists and spokespeople have been trained to bring up the “terror tunnels” as often as possible. In some cases, they even present the tunnels with unsubstantiated claims that they were built to ‘massacre’ Israelis.

The message they give is that Palestinians are popping out of the ground like groundhogs, and that Israel is simply hammering them back into the ground. Israel is, in essence, basing its invasion of the Gaza Strip on a hypothetical. But Gaza is all too familiar with this. Each Israeli major military offensive on the Gaza Strip has been announced as a necessary defensive maneuver to keep Israel from being wiped off of the map. Meanwhile, Israel wipes Gaza off the map.

Incidentally, one such “terror tunnel” made its way onto cameras yesterday when Hamas fighters filmed their infiltration of the Nahal Oz military base in southern Israel. Five Israeli soldiers were reported killed.

In another “terror tunnel” story that happened today, three Israeli soldiers fell into a booby-trapped tunnel entrance in the southern Gaza Strip.

While the Israeli government continues to purport the idea that the tunnels are meant to target thousands of Israelis, we are left with the very obvious: every single military assault carried out by Palestinian fighters that has used an infiltrating tunnel has only ever targeted Israeli soldiers. In other words, armed tunnel activity is targeting armed and active combatants, not civilians or noncombatants. Maybe Israel can learn a thing or two.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Gaza has just exceeded 1,300. Most of the dead, according to the United Nations, are civilians, with over 250 children.

Israel, who says that it acts solely in self-defense, is enacting on Gaza the kind of destruction and misery that it projects to the world as its greatest fear.

Israel, whose spokespeople say it acts “as surgically as is humanly possible,” has no regard for civilians in the Gaza Strip.

Israel, with its seemingly endless supply of advanced and pinpoint-accurate weaponry, has demolished entire neighborhoods and taken so many lives in search of tunnel entrances no larger than two meters in width.

Who Broke the Ceasefire?


By Max Blumenthal, Allison Deger

A beleaguered looking President Barack Obama appeared before the Washington press corps Friday to lash into Hamas for supposedly violating the 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire that his Secretary of State John Kerry and the United Nations had labored so tirelessly to secure.

“I have unequivocally condemned Hamas and the Palestinian factions that were responsible for killing two Israeli soldiers and abducting a third minutes after a cease-fire was announced,” Obama said.

But evidence supporting Obama’s claim of Hamas responsibility has been difficult to come by. Indeed, even the Israeli Army news desk was unable to provide AlterNet with a clear narrative or substantial evidence regarding the incident in question. Moreover, accounts published in Arabic by Hamas’s military wing along with details provided by the PLO indicate that the killing of two soldiers and disappearance of another actually occurred before the cease-fire went into effect — when Israel was assaulting Rafah.

“Today at 9:30, terrorists executed an attack from which two soldiers were killed and an additional is now missing and therefore he is suspected to have been abducted,” an Israeli army spokesperson told AlterNet. The army spokesperson went on to state that Hamas and the army “exchanged shelling,” yet they were unable to provide details on the source of the Palestinian fire. “They used several forms of fire simultaneously,” was all the spokesperson could divulge.

“I cannot confirm at the moment as we are still looking into it, but it may have been live bullets and a suicide belt,” which killed the soldiers, the army spokesperson said.

When asked why the army did not have a solid account of the events that broke the promised 72-hour cease-fire, the army spokesperson maintained, “There were terrorists and they attacked the soldiers, two soldiers didn’t just drop dead.”

Tweets from Gaza contradict official US-Israeli claims

The PLO and Palestinian Authority both insisted to AlterNet that Hamas fighters engaged Israeli soldiers inside Gaza well before the cease-fire took effect – and during an Israeli assault on Rafah leading up to the 8am cease-fire.

“They aborted the cease-fire from the beginning,” said Nabil Shaath from the PLO’s Central Committee.

A veteran negotiator, Shaath has become the de facto liaison between the PLO and Hamas. He confirmed to AlterNet that PA President Mahmoud Abbas received a briefing from Hamas this morning on the incident near Rafah. Shaath’s account reflects details provided directly by Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip.

According to Shaath, at 6am Hamas fighters engaged Israeli forces in Rafah. He maintained that it was then — almost two hours before the cease-fire went into effect — that the two Israeli soldiers were killed and the other went missing.

Shaath’s account was supported by dispatches published before the cease-fire went into effect by the official Twitter account of Hamas’s Qassam Brigades military wing. In a tweet published at 7:34 a.m. on August 1, the Qassam Brigades stated, “At 7 a.m. a group [of Hamas fighters] clashed with [Israeli] forces east of Rafah and caused many injuries and death to them.”

In a separate tweet published at 6:22 a.m. on the say day, the Qassam Brigades declared, “At 6:30 a.m., a group of the Qassam infiltrated behind enemy lines at east Rafah and bombed a house that the enemy had taken as a stronghold with a Tandem missile after the enemies bombed the whole area.”

The following day, Qassam Brigades reiterated its description of the incident in an official statement: “The clashes began at 7.00am, before the proposed truce was in effect, while the enemy launched its attack on civilians at 10 a.m, blatantly violating the truce in aims of finding a missing soldier.”

Qassam Brigades added that it had “no knowledge regarding the soldier missing in action [Lt. Hadar Goldin] or his location or the circumstances of his disappearance” — a departure from previous instances when it trumpeted claims that it had captured Israeli troops. Despite the denial, Obama vehemently demanded that Hamas unconditionally release Goldin.

The cease-fire was first violated at 8:30 a.m., according to Shaath, when the Israeli army destroyed 19 buildings in an operation to demolish tunnels. “Destroying tunnels is destroying houses,” Shaath said, noting that the cease-fire allowed hostile Israeli forces to continue to operate inside the Gaza Strip, making violence almost inevitable. “We do not accept a cease-fire that allows the invader to attack and murder,” he declared.

Conflicting claims and evidence ignored

In announcing the brief cease-fire, Kerry said its terms authorized Israeli forces to carry out“defensive” operations against tunnels. He seemed unaware of the ramifications of such an agreement, or what Israel’s attacks on tunnels actually entailed. A glimpse at Human Rights Watch’s bracing report on the Israeli army’s brutal assault on Rafah in 2004, “Razing Rafah,” which it conducted under the auspices of anti-tunnel operations, would have offered a glimpse of what was to come. (American activist Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer during the 2003 attack on Rafah).

Following the incident in Rafah that left two Israeli soldiers dead and one presumed missing, Kerry immediately declared that Hamas had committed an “outrageous violation of the cease-fire.” White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest echoed Kerry by accusing Hamas of “a barbaric violation of the cease-fire agreement.”

But sources offer starkly conflicting accounts of the incident in question. The Israeli army claimed to AlterNet that Lt. Hadar Goldin went missing at 9:30 a.m., an hour and a half after the cease-fire was declared. Yet Obama claimed that the attack occurred “minutes after the cease-fire began.” For their part, Qassam reported engaging and killing Israeli soldiers well before 8 a.m.

So when did the incident actually occur? And why was Obama’s information so dramatically different from details the Israeli army was furnishing journalists with?

More importantly, why was the Obama administration so quick to jump to conclusions?

Framing Hamas, driving the death toll

Perhaps the answer was credulousness or sheer laziness, with its diplomatic corps and intelligence services neglecting to examine sensitive details from sources on the ground. But the more likely explanation is that Washington has sought to frame Hamas as the aggressor to enable Israel to intensify military operations disproportionately directed against a besieged civilian population.

Since violence escalated in mid-July, the Obama administration has demonstrated a disturbing pattern of legitimizing suspect Israeli claims about Hamas’s malevolence and bad faith. In each case, the administration provided political cover for disproportionate Israeli violence, deepening the damage to civilian life in the West Bank and Gaza. And in each case, Washington’s claims were ultimately discredited — but only after Israel had ratcheted the violence up to a frightening new stage.

The first case of irresponsible enabling by the Obama administration occurred in the immediate wake of the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in the occupied West Bank on June 12. It was on June 15, before evidence was made public about the kidnapping suspects’ identities, that Kerry pointed the finger at Hamas, suggesting that the organization’s leadership had authorized the crime. His words helped justify Operation Brother’s Keeper, an army rampage through the West Bank in which thousands of Palestinian homes were raided, over 500 were arrested without charges, and 6 civilians were killed.

A month later, Israeli Police Spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld finally admitted what was widely known and had been extensively documented: Hamas leadership had no role in or advance knowledge of the kidnappings. But by then, the damage to the West Bank had already been done. Kerry has yet to retract his demonstrably false and damaging claim.

The next case of Obama administration enabling came on July 15 as the military regime of Egypt – a ferocious antagonist of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas – introduced a cease-fire proposal developed in intimate collaboration with Israel that would not have lifted the 8-year-long siege of Gaza. Hamas had not been consulted on the proposal or even briefed on its details, exposing it as a hollow document conceived as a ruse to frame the Palestinian faction as rejectionists. Kerry brought the Israeli-Egyptian scheme to its fulfillment when he launched into an indignant condemnation of Hamas for rejecting the Egyptian proposal, accusing the group of “purposely playing politics.”

Kerry’s statement was a political boon to Netanyahu, providing the Prime Minister with all the cover he sought to initiate and expand ground invasion of Gaza. Hamas’s refusal to accept the proposal “gives Israel full legitimacy to expand the operation to protect our people,” Netanyahu declared on July 15.

Human catastrophe with no end in sight

Some thousand civilian deaths later, with morgues filled with the bodies of children and the UN no longer able to care for the 25% of the Gaza Strip forced to flee from sectors of the Gaza Strip that resemble post-apocalyptic moonscapes, the Obama administration was at it again. As before, they blamed Hamas without the benefit of anything remotely resembling substantial evidence.

In turn, Washington provided political legitimacy to military operations aimed at an occupied and vulnerable civilian population with nowhere to flee, allowing the killing to continue unabated. Following the collapse of the cease-fire, Israel bombarded Rafah with US-supplied F-16’s and tank artillery, decimating the center of the city and killing over 70. At the time of publication, the death toll is rapidly rising.

Meanwhile, the talks scheduled to take place in Egypt over the next 72 hours seem to have fallen into shambles.

Obama has described the scenes of human misery pouring out of the Gaza Strip as “heartbreaking.” If only he and his administration had demanded evidence before enabling Israeli aggression, he might have been able to forgo the empty displays of hand-wringing. More importantly, hundreds of innocent lives might have been spared from a marauding army operating behind a shroud of impunity.