the final conflict intensifies

21 dead in Gaza, attack rages for second day
Bel Trew, Independent, Nov 13 2019

Baha Abu Al-Ata’s funeral in Gaza City (Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP)

At least 21 people have been killed in Gaza as Israel’s ferocious cross-border attack stretched into a second day. Gaza’s health ministry said three children were among the dead, and 70 people had been wounded. Sources within the 25 mile-long besieged strip told The Independent that at least three fighters were among the dead. The attack began with IOF’s targeting of Bahaa Abu al-Ata, a north Gaza commander in Islamic Jihad (IJ), killed along with his wife in an airstrike at dawn on Tuesday. Another strike targeted a senior IJ commander at his home in Damascus. IJ’s senior leader Ziad al-Nakhala said that the killing of al-Ata “crossed all red lines” and vowed that his fighters “are going to war.” Hamas has so far supported IJ’s response, verbally but kept out of the fighting. Netanyahu said the operation was initiated by the military and was approved by the Cabinet 10 days in advance. On Wednesday he vowed that Israel would continue to target IJ members in Gaza as long as rocket fire continued, saying at the start of a Cabinet meeting:

Either stop these attacks or absorb more and more blows.

Israel’s new defence minister Naftali Bennett echoed the threat, saying:

Whoever plans to harm us during the day, will never be safe to make it through the night.

Ten killed in Gaza as Israel instigates new war
Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada, Nov 12 2019

Baha Abu al-Ata in a file photo taken in Oct 2018. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA)

Israeli missile strikes on Gaza and rocket fire from the territory continued late Tuesday evening after the assassination of an Islamic Jihad leader earlier in the day set off the most serious military confrontation in months. Ten Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes during the day, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Meanwhile, Israel closed the besieged territory’s crossing points and reduced the fishing zone to six nautical miles off of Gaza’s coast. The spox for Islamic Jihad’s military wing vowed late Tuesday:

Coming hours will mark a victory for the Palestinian people. Israel began this campaign, but it will be notified when it ends.

Baha Abu al-Ata, 42, described by Israeli media as the northern military commander of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, was killed in an airstrike on his home in the Shujaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City. His wife, Asma Abu al-Ata, 38, was also killed in the Israeli attack. Seven other people, including four children, were injured and nearby houses and a school were damaged. Meanwhile, in the Syrian capital, the home of Akram al-Ajouri, the head of Islamic Jihad’s military wing, was targeted in an airstrike. Syria blamed Israel for the attack. Two people were reported killed in the strike, including one of al-Ajouri’s sons. Palestinian fighters in Gaza responded to the attacks with rocket fire that reached as far as Tel Aviv. Ziad al-Nakhala, Islamic Jihad’s secretary-general, stated that “we are going to war” and that Israel’s prime minister “crossed all the red lines” by assassinating Abu al-Ata. A toy factory in Sderot, a town in southern Israel, was among the sites hit by rockets fired from Gaza, and security camera footage showed a rocket striking a highway, nearly hitting motorists:

No serious Israeli casualties were reported. On Tuesday morning, a missile hit the offices Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights in Gaza City, lightly injuring one of its staff members.

Amnesty International condemned the attack, stating: “strikes targeting civilian buildings a violation of international law.” Haaretz later reported that the office building in Gaza City was struck by a rocket fired from Gaza that fell short, rather than an Israeli missile. Israel claimed it fired missiles at groups launching rockets into Israel and Islamic Jihad reportedly confirmed the death of one of its fighters. The IOF also said that it targeted underground weapons manufacturing and storage facilities as well as training camps belonging to Islamic Jihad. Netanyahu stated in a televised address that the assassination of Abu al-Ata had been approved 10 days ago. Netanyahu said:

This terrorist fired hundreds of rockets and planned more attacks. He was a ticking time bomb. We are not interested in escalation but will respond when necessary.

Aviv Kohavi, the IOF chief of staff, claimed:

Abu al-Ata acted in every way to sabotage attempts for calm with Hamas. We are preparing for escalation from the ground, air and sea.

Commentators in Israel have cast suspicion on the timing and motives for the assassination of Abu al-Ata. Chemi Shalev suggested in Haaretz that Netanyahu aimed to sabotage the chances that the Joint List, a parliamentary faction made up predominantly of Palestinian citizens of Israel, would strike a deal to support a government headed by Benny Gantz, who is currently attempting to form a government after Netanyahu failed to do so in the wake of Israel’s inconclusive September election. While coalition talks continue, Netanyahu remains the head of Israel’s caretaker government.

Gantz denied that the developments would affect coalition negotiations, and said that the IOF made the “right decision” in killing Abu al-Ata. Multiple Hebrew-language outlets reported on Tuesday that Netanyahu sought Abu al-Ata’s assassination after rockets fired from Gaza forced him to leave the stage during a rally a week before elections were held in September. According to the Times of Israel:

Netanyahu was furious and immediately pressured senior security officials to approve Abu al-Ata’s assassination, but the operation was postponed.

Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political wing, accused Israel of attempting to undermine “the path to restoring our national unity” by assassinating Abu al-Ata. Last month, Hamas indicated that it was ready to hold elections, which have not been held since the resistance group’s surprise legislative victory in 2006. Meanwhile, Naftali Bennett, an anti-Arab firebrand, formally assumed the role of Israeli defense minister on Tuesday. Netanyahu had held the ministry portfolio as negotiations to form the next Israeli government are ongoing. Bennett has previously bragged about his blood-soaked past. Bennett told a cabinet meeting in 2013:

I have killed lots of Arabs in my life, and there is no problem with that.

The home of Baha Abu al-Ata after it was hit by the Israeli airstrike. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour/APA)

The EU, Germany, Pindostan and Britain all condemned the firing of rockets from Gaza but not the extrajudicial execution that precipitated it, tacitly endorsing the Israeli attack. The Palestinian BDS National Committee tweeted:

Amnesty International described the developments across the Gaza-Israel boundary as “deeply worrying,” adding:

The ensuing escalation in violence between Israel and Palestinian armed groups raises fears of a rise in civilian bloodshed. Israel has a history of carrying out serious violations of international humanitarian law in Gaza, including war crimes, with impunity and displaying a shocking disregard for Palestinian lives.

Israel’s killing of Abu al-Ata on Tuesday echoes the assassination of Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jabari in Gaza seven years ago this month, which broke a ceasefire and precipitated several days of fierce fighting and a ground invasion that left 170 Palestinians dead, more than 100 of them civilians. Ten members of the al-Dalu family and two of their neighbors were killed in a single Israeli strike on a residential building in Gaza City during that offensive. Egypt and the UN are reportedly attempting to calm the current situation and avoid a full-scale confrontation.

EU’s top court upholds right to boycott Israeli settlement goods
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Nov 12 2019

The European Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday that goods from Israeli colonies on occupied Palestinian land must be labeled as originating from settlements. The judgment is a severe blow to Israel’s efforts to legitimize its colonies in the occupied West Bank and Syria’s Golan Heights, the construction of which is a war crime. The court, the highest judicial authority for interpreting EU law, stated that labeling settlement goods is mandatory “in order to prevent consumers from being misled as to the fact that the State of Israel is present in the territories concerned as an occupying power and not as a sovereign entity.” The ruling also acknowledges that Israel’s settlements are part of a “policy of population transfer” by Israel “in violation of the rules of general international humanitarian law.” According to the EU court, accurate labeling is necessary so that consumers can make “informed choices, with regard not only to health, economic, environmental and social considerations, but also to ethical considerations and considerations relating to the observance of international law.” In other words, the EU’s top court is affirming that citizens have the right to engage in economic boycotts of goods in order to promote respect for human rights and international law. This part of the ruling will be particularly welcome to advocates of BDS who emphasize the role of civil society action in bringing accountability for Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights. Earlier this year, an advisory opinion from a senior official of the EU court likened Israeli settlement wines to goods from apartheid South Africa. Gerard Hogan, advocate general of the European Court of Justice, wrote:

Just as many European consumers objected to the purchase of South African goods in the pre-1994 apartheid era, present-day consumers may object on similar grounds to the purchase of goods from a particular country with policies which that consumer happens to find objectionable or even repugnant.

His reasoning appears to have persuaded the judges. A 2011 EU directive requires accurate labeling of goods in order to protect a consumer’s right to information, including the origin of a product. In 2015, the EU issued an “interpretive notice” requiring goods made in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights to be labeled as originating from such settlements. The French government then issued a regulation in 2016 requiring such labeling on settlement goods. The case before the EU court stemmed from an effort to overturn that French rule. It was brought by the Psagot winery, a settlement company that operates on occupied, stolen Palestinian land, and by the Organisation Juive Européenne, an Israel lobby group. Israeli officials appear to have anticipated that the court ruling would go against them. In recent days anonymous officials criticized Psagot for proceeding with what they expected would be a losing case. The Times of Israel reported:

In what could be described as a preemptive blame game, these officials are warning that the European Court of Justice is likely to rule in favor of the controversial labeling policy, and that the suit brought about by Psagot, while just, will ultimately backfire.

The judgment by the EU court follows a similar decision by the Federal Court of Canada in July. The Canadian court ruled that wines produced in settlements on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law cannot be labeled “Made in Israel.” The court in Ottawa found that people who wish to express their political views through their purchasing decisions “have to be provided with accurate information as to the source of the products in question.” In 2017, EU officials privately admitted that it is “impossible” to reliably distinguish which Israeli-produced goods come from settlements. This raises questions about how effectively the court ruling will be enforced by an EU bureaucracy and member states that spare no effort to aid Israel and shield it from accountability. Moreover, the current dispute deals only with how to label settlement goods and not whether such goods should be sold in Europe or other countries in the first place. Both Amnesty International and HRW have documented the devastating impact of Israel’s settlements on Palestinian lives and rights, and called on all businesses to stop working in or with settlements altogether. Amnesty and others have called on governments to ban all trade in settlement goods, but after decades of inaction, EU countries have yet even to ensure proper labeling. Nonetheless, Tuesday’s ruling will be a powerful tool for EU citizens to continue pressuring their governments to end European profiteering from and complicity with Israel’s system of occupation, apartheid and settler-colonialism.

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