Thursday, July 05, 2007

No peace for the innocent in Gaza agonistes

JUST when there seemed to be a danger that peace might break out in Gaza, this news shows the Israeli military's famed restraint and sense of timing:

Report, PCHR, 5 July 2007
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have killed six activists of the Palestinian resistance and have wounded four others and six civilians, including two children and a journalist, in the context of an offensive on al-Boreij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip that has been ongoing since Thursday morning, 5 July 2007. According to investigations conducted by PCHR, IOF have prevented Palestinian medical crews from attending the wounded.
Full report:

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, whose Hamas-led forces had freed BBC journalist Alan Johnston from his captors, had not only appealed to President Abbas for talks to end the Palestinian split, and begun taking Fateh members back into the security force, but had told foreign journalists that Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit could be freed if there was a prisoner deal.

So I guess the Israel Defence(!) Force had to do something just in case the wily Palestinian meant it. It was their second attack in just over a week.

Report, PCHR, 27 June 2007 In the early morning hours of Wednesday, 27 June 2007, IOF conducted two incursions into the town of Khuza'a to the east of Khan Yunis and into Sheja'eya Quarter in the eastern part of Gaza City. Up to the publication of this report, these incursions resulted in the death of 11 Palestinians. Among those killed are six civilians, including two children and two brothers. In addition, 50 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been injured. In the afternoon, IOF withdrew from Sheja'eya, leaving behind considerable destruction.

If some reports are to be believed such attacks are just probing for a response before Israel's new defence minister - Labour's Ehud Barak - orders the big one:

Jerusalem Post June 17, 2007:
'Barak to crush Hamas in Gaza'
Incoming Defense Minister Ehud Barak is planning an attack on Gaza within weeks to crush Hamas, it was reported on Sunday morning. Britain's Sunday Times quoted senior IDF sources as saying that the planned Gaza assault would require 20,000 troops to destroy the bulk of Hamas's military capability in a few days. The raid would be triggered by Hamas rocket attacks or a resumption of suicide bombings, said the British newspaper.

Barak, who is expected to become defense minister on Monday, has already demanded detailed plans to deploy two armored divisions and an infantry division, accompanied by assault drones and F-16 jets, against Hamas, claimed the Times. The IDF would expect to be confronted by about 12,000 Hamas operatives with arms captured from Fatah in last week's fighting in Gaza. A senior Hamas official in Gaza City said Saturday that his men had captured more than 50,000 rifles and pistols during raids on the headquarters of the Fatah-controlled security forces. Hamas also seized dozens of vehicles and "important" military equipment, according to the official.

IDF officials believe troops would face even tougher resistance in Gaza than they encountered during last summer's war against Hizbullah in south Lebanon, asserted the newspaper, quoting a source close to Barak as saying, however, that Israel could not tolerate an aggressive "Hamastan" on its border and an attack seemed unavoidable. "The question is not if, but how and when," said the source. see also:

It is not only in headline-making (and not always even that) raids that people have been suffering, as this report from Italian MEP and European parliament vice president Luisa Morgantini showed:

Wrecking of humanity in Rafah - thousands of Palestinians stuck without humanitarian assistance

Rome, 28 June 2007

"While Israel carries on with its criminal air raids on the Gaza Strip, which have killed 14 people and injured about 50 people in the last two days, and Hamas is not able to stop the rocket bombardments on Sderot, fortunately without victims, another shameful tragedy is taking place at Rafah", declared Luisa Morgantini, Vice President of the European Parliament.

"4000 Palestinians: elderly and ill people, children, women and men are currently stuck at the Rafah border crossing, the southern border of the Gaza strip with Egypt. They are waiting under the burning sun, 42 C° degrees, without money and with scarce water and food ".

These 4000 people do not receive any humanitarian aid, any assistance from international organizations or from the Egyptian government.
The hygienic and logistical situation is completely improper, especially considering that in the group there are a lot of ill people, who are coming back from Egyptian Hospitals, trying to go back to their homes.

Those who can afford it spend their nights in very expensive hotels, others are completely abandoned and they have not even the means to buy medicines.

After Israel's withdrawal from the Strip in September 2005, the border was controlled by the Palestinian National Authority with the support of about 70 European observers.

Since June 2006, when the Israeli soldier, Ghilad Shalit, was kidnapped in Gaza, Israel has authorised the opening of the border for only 74 days out of 335. After the recent inter-Palestinian clashes, that have resulted in victory for Hamas in Gaza, Israel has decided to make the crisis even worse, through indiscriminate raids on the Strip and through the closure of the border crossing both for people and commercial goods.

"This situation has to stop, but Egypt declares itself ready to re-open the borders - the only way out to the rest of the world for the million and a half Palestinians living in Gaza -only when the Europeans in charge of supervision return.
Thus, completely ignoring, just like Israel or the international community, that there are thousands of people who live in desperate conditions for the last two weeks".

"I call on the European Union and the whole international community not to stay static in front of the Palestinian population which has been wounded for the hundredth time. I call on them to put pressure on the Israeli government instead, to immediately re-open all the border crossing points at the Gaza Strip, in which Palestinian civilians are arbitrarily and unilaterally imprisoned and forced to survive with no food, nor water and with a health service on the verge of collapse.

Finally, I believe that the endorsement of this appeal by the new elected Special Envoy of the Quartet, Tony Blair, would be a significant signal, a first step to give credibility to his role towards the Palestinian and Arab population, sceptical to the neutrality of one of the main promoters of the Iraqi disaster and strong supporter of an aggressive US foreign policy."

"The solution to the Palestinian tragedy, which is not just a humanitarian matter, lies in the end of the Israeli military occupation; nevertheless we must act now on daily living conditions", Luisa Morgantini concludes.

The Israeli campaigning group Gush Shalom added its voice to Luisa Morgantini's. Telling the Israeli government that the situation at Rafah was shameful and inhuman, it urged protests both to Israel and the European Union, which had assumed responsibility for the border crossing.

Gush Shalom said:

Some six thousands of residents who found themselves at the time on the Egyptian side - among them a considerable number returning from medical treatment at Egyptian hospitals - have been stranded ever since: waiting, sleeping, and living in the streets under the hot sun, unable to wash, and with no idea how long they would still have to wait. The money most of them had on them already ran out. And since last week the services of Western Union and DHL in the Gaza Strip were discontinued under Israeli and American pressure, making it impossible for families to send money to their trapped relatives.

Yesterday, July 1, Taghreed Abeaed, a 31 years old Palestinian woman, mother of five children - died while waiting in the very bad conditions at Rafah Crossing. Even her body is not allowed to be brought back into the Gaza Strip.

"These stranded Gaza Strip residents have no part in the internecine conflict between Fatah and Hamas; it is not at their expense that the complicated problems of the Gaza Strip's legal and political status should be solved. They are innocent civilians caught cruelly in an unpredictable trap, and it is your duty to provide them the elementary right of going home" wrote Gush Shalom to the Israeli PM and Defence Minister.

Also the EU representatives were approached. "We place part of the responsibility and blame on the Europeans. Since 2005, the armed forces of Israel are not in direct control of the Rafah Border Crossing. However, its opening was made conditional upon the presence of European monitors. The EU however has given the Government of Israel a complete power of veto. It is in practice the Defence Minster of Israel who decides whether or not there will be European monitors at Rafah, and thus whether the crossing will be open or closed .

Now, the absence of European monitors at Rafah serves the encirclement and siege of Gaza, shortsightedly and cruelly decreed by the Government of Israel. In this way, the EU has abdicated its own often proclaimed responsibility to promote the welfare and peaceful future of all peoples in the Middle East.
Gush Shalom calls upon the Europeans to emancipate themselves, form an independent policy and exert their influence to the reopening of the Rafah Crossing.

Gush Shalom also urged people to write to their own heads of government.
The British government is doubly involved now - with Tony Blair as Middle east "peace envoy" and as a member of the European Union. When the media has finished celebrating Alan Johnston's release perhaps it will find space to cover these thousands of others kept in inhuman conditions and waiting to be released.

When our politicians face their responsibility maybe they will stop finding it so remarkable that professionals trained to care for people in the Middle East should turn in desperation to terrorism against Western countries.
(More information is coming from Iraq of deformed babies and stillbirths attributed to factors such as depleted uranium). Far from hating "our freedom" as Bush and Blair pretend, most people in the Middle East would like a share of it.



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