Wednesday, June 14, 2006

IDF in denial over shelling Gaza beach

GUERNICA. Legend has it a Nazi officer seeing the work in Paris asked the artist "did you do this?"
No, replied Picasso. "YOU did".

Fascist propganda claimed for years that Basques destroyed their own city with landmines. Grmany has apologised to the Basque people.
In February 2003, the Guernica tapestry at the UN was screened off so as not to provide a backdrop when Colin Powell made US case for war with Iraq.

Israeli military blames "landmine" for death of kids

IT has happened. As Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert completes his mission to shore up Western support, the Israeli military has fallen back on an old formula for explaining away the killing of "enemy" civilians.

Ten people, including seven members of one family, three of them children, were killed when Israeli shells hit a beach at Beit Lahiya, on the Gaza coast where families were picnicking and bathing. The atrocity came after artillery barrages pouring hundreds of shells into the Gaza strip.

Demonstrators shouted "murderer" and "terrorist" as Olmert's car left Britain's Houses of Parliament yesterday with a heavy police escort. Armed police were on duty in Whitehall. Earlier Olmert had sought backing from Tony Blair for what the media called "partial withdrawal" - in reality, unilaterally imposing permanent seizure of Palestinian lands.

As Olmert moved on to Paris, an Israeli military inquiry announced that the people killed on the beach had not been killed by them.

Israel blames Hamas for beach deaths
· Military says landmine exploded after shelling
· Palestinians accuse army of trying to protect Olmert
(Guardian, Wednesday 14 June).

An Israeli military investigation has blamed the killing of seven members of a Palestinian family including five children on a Gaza beach, on a landmine planted by Hamas or other buried explosive, not shelling by the army.

But Palestinian leaders described the army's conclusions as a cover-up and a former Pentagon analyst, sent by a US human rights group to investigate the deaths, said the military had ignored evidence that left little doubt the family and an eighth casualty were killed by a stray Israeli shell.

The Palestinians accused the army of rushing to clear itself to save Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, embarrassment as he tours Britain and other European countries to win support for his plan to draw the Jewish state's final borders by annexing part of the West Bank.

Television pictures of 10-year-old Huda Ghalia crying on the beach over the bodies of her dead father, step-mother and five siblings on Friday had threatened to derail Mr Olmert's public relations drive and severely embarrassed the army at home. Mr Olmert initially said he regretted the killings, but in London on Monday he sought to distance Israel from responsibility.

Yesterday the defence minister, Amir Peretz, said a military investigation had ruled out any possibility the army was involved. "The accumulating evidence proves that this incident was not due to Israeli forces," he said.
The military says that it fired six shells on to and around the beach where Huda Ghalia's family died, and one of them fell about 100 yards away, but by coincidence another explosion - probably a mine planted by Hamas or a buried shell - occurred in the same area at the same time. The military backed its claim with analysis of aerial photographs, shrapnel and intelligence that Hamas had mined beaches to stop Israeli forces landing, although it is not known to have used such a tactic before".,,1797065,00.html

Some of my Israeli friends sadly say that what used to be said of Prussia is true of Israel - it is not so much a state with an army, but an army with a state. Having aroused hopes that things might change when he became Labour leader, Amir Peretz has betrayed them, and sold his own working class, by all too quickly learning what is expected of him as a Moroccan boy allowed into the Defence Ministry. He has announced that Israel is launching an international propaganda campaign to counter criticism over attacks like that on the beach at Gaza.

If it is, maybe it could do with something more original to explain away the beach deaths. Landmines? The story is as old as the Nazi bombing of Guernica. It was market day in the old Basque town, April 26 1937. After news reports appeared in London and New York stating whose airplanes had attacked Guernica, and how, in consistent eyewitness reports, the fascists denied the attack, saying that bomb craters had been caused by land mines and the fires by "Red incendiaries."

Then there was the killing of 68 people in a market area of Sarajevo on February 5, 1994, during the Serb nationalist siege and mortar shelling. Seeing the world's horror, Serb propagandists, and some UN officers too claimed "the Muslims" had fired the shells responsible, but they could not all get the story right (Britain's General Sir Michael Rose gave two versions), and some brought remotely-detonated explosives planted beforehand into the tale.

"First General Milan Gvero, still in the uniform of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), claimed that no one had fired on Sarajevo that day. Rather confused, and wearing the same uniform, he claimed that evening that the shells were in fact anti-infantry landmines, and that the Bosnians were killing themselves in order to lay the blame on the Serbs. It turned out the next day that the shells in question were mortar shells. Karadzic's propaganda still clings to the same theory without proof. Without counting the July 25, 1993 attack on UNPROFOR, a similar thing happens every time a mortar or shell kills ten or more people at once. It is always the Bosnians who are shelling their own people in order to lay the blame with the Serbs".
February 14, 1994 Vreme News Digest Agency No 125

The Guardian's report continues:-
According to the head of the Israeli inquiry, Major General Meir Klifi, shrapnel taken from two wounded Palestinians treated in Israeli hospitals was not shell fragments. "There is no chance that a shell hit this area. Absolutely no chance," he said.

But an expert sent by the New York-based Human Rights Watch to investigate the death of the family has concluded that there is little doubt they were killed by an Israeli shell dropping from the sky.
"All the evidence points to the fact that it couldn't have been a mine," said Marc Garlasco, a former Pentagon adviser on battlefields who led the US military's battle damage assessment team in Kosovo and worked for its intelligence wing, the Defense Intelligence Agency. "You have the crater size, the shrapnel, the types of injuries, their location on the bodies. That all points to a shell dropping from the sky, not explosives under the sand," he said.

The army says an eight-minute gap between when the last shell was fired and when the Palestinians were killed means there is no connection. However, there is a dispute over the timings, with the Palestinian ambulance service logging an emergency call just before Israel says it stopped firing shells.

The army also says that aerial pictures of the blast crater show it is more likely to have been made by a mine under the sand than a explosion from above. But after investigating the scene, Mr Garlasco concluded that the army's explanation was deeply flawed. Among the new shrapnel he collected at the scene was a piece stamped with the figures: 155MM.

"The 155mm shell is what Israel uses in the howitzers that regularly shell northern Gaza," he said. "The Israelis have been postulating that it's a land mine. I've been to hospital and seen the injuries. The doctors say they are primarily to the head and torso. That is consistent with a shell exploding above the ground not a mine under it. If it were a mine or kids playing with an old shell you would expect severe leg injuries as well, even legs blown off."

Doctors also said that the shrapnel pulled from the survivors included copper used to case or line shells. Mr Garlasco said the crater where the family was killed closely resembles others scattered the length of the beach caused by Israeli shells. Each is lined with a white power left by the explosion.
"To say you have five or six rounds in an area and coincidentally there's a land mine next to it and it goes off at the same time is asking a lot," said Mr Garlasco.

see also:-
the shrapnel evidence that points to Israel's guilt
By Donald Macintyre
in Beit Lahiya, Gaza
14 June

And while the Israeli Defence Minister was announcing his international campaign, back in Gaza the real Israeli campaign was continuing:
"An Israeli air strike on a busy Gaza City street killed 11 people yesterday, including two young children and their father, after Palestinians who ran to help those wounded by the first missile were caught by the blast from a second rocket.

Nine civilians, including two ambulance men, and two members of Islamic Jihad died. The Israeli military said the missile strike was against a minivan "loaded with Katyushas [rocket launchers]" destined to be fired into Israel.
(Guardian June 14)

And now, let's hear from the Other Israel;

Adam Keller reports:

Demo against IDF Chief Of Staff, Dan Haultz,
in front of his home

June 10, 2006,

The horror on the beach of Gaza once again drove hundreds of us into the streets on short notice. This time we are not facing the closed gates of the Defence Ministry compound but, at the idea of the Anarchists, went after Chief of Staff Dan Halutz at his own home at Tzahala – the affluent Tel-Aviv suburb especially for serving and retired military officers.

Among these neat houses and well-manicured lawns demonstrations are not a usual phenomenon. Certainly no processions of angry mostly young people full of moral indignation, waving militant banners and fists in the air and ceaselessly shouting at the top of their voices: "Dan Halutz, Child Murderer - Get out of the Territories!"; "Peretz, Peretz - After Murder Apology is not Enough!"; "No Mistake Nor Error - Occupation Kills!"; "All Ministers War Criminals!"; Halutz to the Hague, Peretz to the Hague!"; "Blood on your hands, blood on your hands!"; "A brave Minister of Defence drops bombs on children!"; "Pilots rape, and murder too!" (referring to a recent horrific story of sexual abuse at an Air Force base); "Occupation is Terror - the Refuser is the Hero!"; "Gunners and Pilots - Refuse to be Murderers!".

The flustered police were mainly concerned to stop this tide short of the chief general's home. Their cordon managed to block the procession two streets before the target, in the midst of a well-appointed playground, equiped with everything needed for the hours of happy play which is the due of all children. This setting made all the more poignant the spreading of colour photos of the torn and bleeding children, yesterday there in Gaza.

"Peretz, Halutz, hey hey hey, How many kids did you kill today" went on the chant again and again. "Ooops, another light blow on the wing" read a banner, referring to what Halutz had said following an earlier day of bloodshed in Gaza. The well-known Gush Shalom two-flag round signs also made their appearance. A merry-go-round became a highly improvised podium for the recently elected Hadash Knesset Member Dov Hanin, veteran human rights lawyer and environmental activist:

"We are all dazed and shocked about something which was in fact highly predictable. The writing was on the wall all the time! When you constantly shoot artillery shells into the most densely populated area in the world, sooner or later you are going to hit somebody. And this is not the first time, either! What happened yesterday is not just a military matter. It is a political matter. It has everything to do with what Olmert is saying and doing: Not caring about the Palestinian referendum, dismissing out of hand the Palestinian Prisoners' Document which is to be voted on in that referendum, not wanting to hold any negotiations with the Palestinians, ignoring any chance to have such negotations, actively torpedoing any such chance when it shows its face... What we must demand is very simple: make an all out effort to reach cease-fire with the Palestinians. No artillery shells, no Qassam rockets, no killing on either side, no hostile act of any kind. An immediate cease-fire on the way to full-scale negotations! (Applause).

Following the speech the demonstrators backed out of the playground. Daring young activists led a procession through the streets. At the corner of the IDF Street and the Strategists' Street - a confrontation with police blocking the way and shouting demonstrators spilling over into side. For unclear reasons the police picked on Uri Weltmann, and dragged him away with far more than the "reasonable force" which the law prescribes.

But they did not have enough manpower to break up the entire procession. After some more turning back and forth and some playing of cat and mouth in the neat side streets, the police was outwitted and the demonstrators streamed at last into Halutz's street. We got as close as two houses away from his home, and though many people were weary, the calls "War criminal! "War criminal!" were audible to a much greater distance.

It was about this time that a journalist present discovered the identity of a young black-haired woman, who had made no effort to draw attention to herself: Dana Olmert, the Prime Minister's daughter and a long-time refuser and peace activist. She would have preferred to demonstrate as herself rather than her father's daughter.

The media had other preferences, Yediot Aharonot placing her photo on its front page with the caption "Demonstrating against Papa". But… the sign she was carrying got into the front page, too: "Stop Murdering Civilians!"

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