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Israel’s atrocities in Gaza prompt unprecedented political fallout


By Ben White
Original Published Middle East Monitor

Friday, 08 August 2014 16:58

‘Now with the evidence of new war crimes there for all to see, Israel’s isolation will only increase, and, despite the predictable backlash, Palestine solidarity campaigning will take a significant step forward.’

“Carnage” in Gaza – “the killing of children and the slaughter of civilians”. Not the words of a Palestinian spokesperson but rather French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Australia’s FM Julie Bishop condemned what she called “shocking” and “indefensible” incidents, with “hundreds of innocent people” killed.Just two examples of how Israel’s strongest allies have criticised the conduct of ‘Operation Protective Edge’ in unprecedentedly harsh terms. In the UK specifically, there has been an undeniable sea-change in the way that self-declared ‘friends’ of Israel have drawn a red line – adding their voices of criticism to more vociferous condemnation heard at numerous, large-scale demonstrations.

More on this in a moment. For now let us recap the devastation visited upon the Gaza Strip where, in the words of Human Rights Watch, Israel has killed “very large numbers of civilians” with “advanced weapons”. In the most recent update, Gaza’s Ministry of Health reported a death toll of 1,893 Palestinians, including 430 children. In one single F-16 strike on July 30, 19 children were killed. A further 9,805 Palestinians have been wounded, including almost 3,000 children. At least 122 families have lost three or more family members in the same attack, killing a total of 652 civilians in those strikes alone.

Many of the wounded are suffering from serious burns, or face life-long disabilities (physical as well as mental). In a fenced-in, blockaded territory, Israel’s attacks displaced almost 30 percent of the population. Israel has destroyed or severely damaged more than 10,000 housing units – many more have sustained less serious damage.

Shops, mosques, government buildings, all lie in ruins – the power plant is out of action, and 134 factories were destroyed. A low-end estimate cost of the damage is $5 billion. The health sector is in a state of emergency, while Amnesty International yesterday released evidence of the Israeli military conducting “deliberate attacks against hospitals and health professionals“. Nor were journalists immune: 13 Palestinian media workers were killed during the course of the attack.

The evidence of atrocities is mounting. One of the defining horrors of this attack has been the targeting of family homesclose to 1,000 homes have been destroyed or severely damaged by Israeli airstrikes. Reporting on the issue, the Associated Press said that the Israeli military did not respond to repeated requests “to explain in detail why even one of [the homes] was targeted”.

Earlier on in the operation, Israeli NGO B’Tselem noted how the Israel military itself had “acknowledged” conducting attacks that were “illegally aimed at homes that were not military targets”. A senior officer, commenting on the bombing of a senior al-Qassam Brigades figure’s house, said: “You call it a home, we call it a command centre and a military post for all intents and purposes”.

As Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard put it, the Israeli military’s “combat doctrine…redefines what constitutes a legitimate target for attack” so that it includes “houses belonging to Hamas commanders and operatives” (it should be noted homes have also been hit lacking even this ‘link’).

Another example of Israel’s war crimes – the intense and indiscriminate attack on Rafah on August 1, when the Israeli military killed an estimated 130 Palestinians, mostly civilians, after soldier Hadar Goldin was feared captured. Haaretz referred to “dozens of innocents killed” in a “massive use of force” – another item reported “the demolition of houses with bulldozers and very aggressive artillery, aerial and tank fire“. The Givati brigade responsible is commanded by Ofer Winter, who had told his soldiers prior to the ground invasion they were “engaged in a war to ‘wipe out’ an ‘enemy who defames’ God.”

Then there is the devastation of Shuja’iyya, when IDF officers boasted of “taking off the gloves” and tanks received orders “to open fire at anything that moved”. A brutal attack which, in the words of Israeli analyst Ron Ben-Yishai, was the very “essence of the deterrence” sought by Israel in its battering of Gaza. In Khuza’a, Israeli forces fired on and killed fleeing civilians, with a “furious assault” that left “whole streets flattened” and “its nine mosques…in pieces”. And so it goes on.

A report in Haaretz a week ago said that more than 30,000 artillery shells had landed in Gaza, in addition to the then-4,000 “targets” struck by airstrikes. It is vital to recall, when considering the bigger picture of Israel’s military operations, that the army’s own legal advice strips civilians of their protected status, in what has been described as “a ‘targeted assassination’ of the principles of international law“.

Meanwhile, Israel is preparing for the anticipated legal ramifications of its war crimes – a reasonable expectation given the calls already made by the likes of Amnesty International for an arms embargo, as well as the UN Human Rights Commission inquiry.

According to the Israeli media, for domestic consumption officials describe the damage done to Gaza “as the main deterrent” – but “play down this claim in the international arena”, as they are “aware the destruction will have serious political ramifications”. On July 10, a military source claimed that when “Gaza residents see the great damage to the Strip“, it “will speak for itself”.

The Israeli military has already established a team “in case the army is accused of war crimes” consisting of senior army officials, as well as representatives of the Foreign and Defense Ministries. Their remit also includes “organizing a diplomatic and public relations offensive“.

They will have their work cut out. In recent weeks, Israel’s image has taken a battering in Britain. The public has taken a clear stand on what it thinks of the Gaza attack, while politicians and pundits from both the Right and centre-left have condemned the killing of Palestinian civilians. Palestine has shaped the domestic political agenda in a way perhaps never seen before.

Tory war over Gaza‘, ran a front page headline in The Times, in the aftermath of Sayeeda Warsi’s resignation. A self-defined pro-Israel Conservative MP spoke out against the “swift, and terrible, elimination of so many Palestinian lives, homes, hospitals and schools”. Newspapers have focused on the arms trade, as campaigners and senior politicians alike call for an embargo.

From celebrity tweets to Jon Snow’s emotional broadcasts – this summer would appear to be a watershed moment in how Israel is perceived, and treated, in the UK. No wonder that the Israeli embassy has almost begged for help in its embattled propaganda drive, while the country’s defenders issue desperate-sounding “choose which side you are on“-style pleas.

Take a step back from the summer’s bloodshed and remember where things stood in the spring. An intransigent Israeli government was winning few friends abroad, as the US-led peace process died on its feet. Israeli settlements in the West Bank were increasingly the target of mainstream anger and boycotts, as a growing chorus warned that Israeli colonisation policies had made a Palestinian state impossible. BDS campaigns were growing, in trade unions, faith communities, and on campuses.

Israel already stood charged with systematic violations of international law, apartheid, and institutionalised discrimination, even before the barbaric attack on the Gaza Strip. Now with the evidence of new war crimes there for all to see, Israel’s isolation will only increase, and, despite the predictable backlash, Palestine solidarity campaigning will take a significant step forward.

– See more at: http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/debate/13342-israels-atrocities-in-gaza-prompt-unprecedented-political-fallout#sthash.ESI8pbDa.dpuf

‘Now with the evidence of new war crimes there for all to see, Israel’s isolation will only increase, and, despite the predictable backlash, Palestine solidarity campaigning will take a significant step forward.’

Ben White is a freelance journalist, writer and activist, specialising in Palestine/Israel. He has been visiting the region since 2003 and his articles have been widely published in the likes of The Guardian’s Comment is free, Al Jazeera, Electronic Intifada, New Statesman, Salon, Christian Science Monitor, Middle East International, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and others. He currently works as a writer and researcher for Middle East Monitor and Journal of Palestine Studies.

Latest link to Ben White’s pieces

1 Israel’s atrocities in Gaza prompt unprecedented political fallout Friday, 08 August 2014
2 Aid for Gaza, arms for Israel – UK must end complicity and ensure accountability Thursday, 31 July 2014
3 Premeditated murder: the Shuja’iyya massacre and Israeli criminality Tuesday, 22 July 2014
4 Israel’s Palestinian citizens feeling the heat, as space for dissent shrinks Wednesday, 02 July 2014
5 New ‘security’-focused plan advances Israel’s colonisation of East Jerusalem Monday, 30 June 2014
http://rt.com/op-edge/178228-israel-war-crimes-gaza/ 6 Fighting a losing battle, UK’s Israel lobby bolsters links with Christian fundamentalists Thursday, 26 June 2014
7 Israel studies conference to feature far-right speakers, hasbara activists Saturday, 21 June 2014
8 Israeli ministers join vicious new attack on Palestinian MK Haneen Zoabi Thursday, 19 June 2014
9 Israel’s president-elect Reuven Rivlin in his own words Wednesday, 11 June 2014
10 Israeli film festival in London part of efforts to rebrand apartheid Monday, 02 June 2014

Children suffering devastating impact of Gaza crisis – UN rights committee


Posted on November 22, 2012 by Akashma Online News

Source UN Press Center

Young boys playing in the rubble of the Palestine Stadium in Gaza City which was the target of Israeli airstrikes. UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan

The conflict between Hamas and Israel is having a “devastating and lasting impact” on children, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child said today, stressing that the recent crisis would have long-term psychological effects on youth.

“This impact extends from a large number of deaths and injuries in Gaza to deep trauma and other psychological effects on children on both sides of the border,” the Committee said. “These experiences may affect them for many years to come, including into adulthood.”

While the Committee welcomed the ceasefire announced yesterday after a week of devastating violence in southern Israel and Gaza, it urged all parties to abide by their international obligation to ensure the protection of children.

The violence claimed the lives of at least 26 children, and more than 400 were injured, some gravely, by Israel attacks on Gaza, while Hamas shellfire into southern Israel wounded 14 children, the Committee said.

“Over the past week, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian and Israeli children have lived under the terror of explosions caused by rocket attacks or air strikes and shelling,” the Committee said, adding that over the past few days, children were reported to be displaying signs of stress, including excessive crying, bed wetting, and screaming during the frequent explosions.

“Many other children in Gaza have lost parents or other loved ones, and are left deeply traumatized,” the Committee added.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also drew attention to the fact that many children had been forced to sleep in the cold in Gaza, because their windows had been shattered by explosions, or because they had kept the windows open, to avoid injury from shards of glass. In southern Israel, children also lived in fear and were forced to go into bomb shelters or to seek shelter in other parts of the country.

“Destruction of homes and damage to schools, streets and other public facilities gravely affect children and deprive them of their basic rights,” the Committee said. “The recent air and naval strikes on densely populated areas in Gaza with significant presence of children constitute gross violations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict and international humanitarian law.”

Meanwhile, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), today announced its 245 schools would be opening on Saturday, resuming classes for 225,000 children. The schools were used during the crisis to shelter some 10,000 displaced people who have now returned to their homes following the ceasefire.

UNRWA, which currently has a counselor in most of its schools, will additionally step up its psycho-social support in the wake of the fighting, offering increased services to traumatized children.

During the latest round of fighting, UNRWA was able to maintain health care in 19 centres, food distribution to 800,000 refugees, and the provision of essential sanitation services. The agency also donated $400,000 worth of medication and medical supplies from its stock to the World Health Organization (WHO) to assist health centres across the Gaza Strip, where there has been a shortage of medical resources.

“The vast majority of UNRWA’s primary health-care centers have remained open throughout the fighting, but even before this recent escalation, there were significant shortages of medicines and supplies for Gaza’s hospitals,” said Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza Robert Turner.

UNRWA has also begun assessing damage to refugee shelters and will start providing cash for rent if homes are destroyed, or support to repair damaged buildings.

“As we continue with our immediate emergency and recovery work, we must not forget that almost every humanitarian and economic indicator shows a very bleak outlook,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

UN Secretary-General says a further escalation of violence in Gaza ‘benefits no one’

Illegal Detention Of Palestinian Children


Illegal Detention Of Palestinian Children

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