electronic intifada

Israel’s killing campaign continues in Gaza
Tamara Nassar, Electronic Intifada, Aug 6 2022

After an Israeli air strike on Gaza City, Aug 6 2022. Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA

Israel’s bombardment of the occupied Gaza Strip entered its second day on Saturday with no sign of de-escalation as the US, EU and other Western countries gave Tel Aviv a green light to continue its campaign of killing and destruction. By late evening on Saturday, Israeli airstrikes in Gaza had killed at least five more people. The health ministry in Gaza said that 24 had been killed in the territory, including six children, since Israel launched the surprise attack on Friday afternoon by assassinating a senior PIJ leader. More than 200 Palestinians have been injured. Israel claimed an air strike in Rafah on Saturday evening killed Khalid Mansour, the PIJ commander in southern Gaza. But the group did not immediately confirm that. There were reports of at least five people killed in an explosion near a mosque in Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza on Saturday night, among them several children. But Israel denied bombing the area and claimed the deaths were caused by a misfired Palestinian rocket.

Throughout the day, Israeli warplanes continued to strike densely populated residential areas, targeting civilians and their property. And an Israeli milspox warned the assault could last a week. PIJ fired 350 rockets into Gaza by Saturday afternoon, including towards Tel Aviv and its international airport. While Hamas has backed PIJ’s response, it has yet to launch a single rocket at Israel since Israel launched its assault on Friday. Hamas said on Friday that resistance factions were coordinating their responses. Its restraint so far may be an indication that the resistance groups are trying to contain the flare-up before it erupts into a full-blown confrontation with Israel. This may change on Sunday, as Israelis plan to ascend to the al-Aqsa mosque compound for the first day of the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av, which in Jewish belief commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. Many of these Jewish extremists want to see the al-Aqsa mosque replaced with a new Jewish temple. The Israeli police are permitting them to do so, with the expected participation of extreme-right MK Itamar Ben-Gvir. Similar provocations led to Israel’s May 2021 assault, when Hamas responded to Israeli attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem with barrages of rockets into Israel.

A missile fired by Israeli warplanes struck a group of people east of Khan Younis early Saturday, killing 24-year-old Tamim Ghassan Abdullah Hijazi and 27-year-old Osama Abd’ul-Rahman Hussein al-Suri, according to the Gaza-based human rights group Al-Mezan. Hours later, Israeli warplanes fired three missiles at the three-story home of a family of 40 southwest of Gaza City, where mostly women and children lived, destroying the building completely and damaging other houses nearby. On Saturday afternoon, Israeli warplanes destroyed another home occupied by four families and caused severe damage to nearby residences. In the northern Jabaliya area, Israeli warplanes struck a group of Palestinians, killing 28-year-old Hasan Muhammad Yousef Mansour and severely injuring another. Israeli warplanes also hit a group of Palestinians, mainly women and children, who were getting in a car to go to a family wedding. Al-Mezan said the attack killed the groom’s mother, Naamah Talbat Muhammad Abu Qaidah. Five children were injured. Greatly exacerbating the situation for Gaza’s 2.1 million inhabitants, the territory’s only power plant said that it would shut down on Saturday due to Israel’s continued closure of external crossings, blocking fuel imports. Gaza has just a quarter of the power it needs during the summer, according to Gisha, an Israeli human rights group. This means residents may now receive only four hours of electricity per day, followed by an outage of 12 hours.

This is a particularly dire threat to Gaza’s health-care system, which has already been battered by successive Israeli assaults and 15 years of an ongoing siege. Pharmaceutical supplies in Gaza are at their “worst in years,” the Palestinian health ministry stated. There are also severe shortages of supplies for labs and blood banks and other medical consumables. Power outages pose a “serious threat” to vital hospital departments, including emergency rooms, intensive care units and dialysis clinics, the ministry said. Desalination plants, sewage pumps and water supplies to homes will also be disrupted, “which may cause a severe health and humanitarian disaster,” the health ministry warned. Israeli authorities continue to block the entry of two dozen x-ray machines and spare parts to repair medical devices in essential emergency departments. All scheduled surgeries are being postponed to help hospitals cope with those injured in the ongoing Israeli attacks. Meanwhile, Israel’s continued closure of the Erez checkpoint is preventing hundreds of Palestinian patients from leaving Gaza for medical treatment, putting their lives at risk, according to Al-Mezan. The health ministry announced that a shutdown of the power plant would start a 72-hour countdown to health services coming to a standstill. Lynn Hastings, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, called for “an immediate deescalation and halt to the violence” on Saturday.

US, Europe greenlight Israel’s latest Gaza massacre
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Aug 6 2022

An Israeli air strike in Gaza City, Aug 6. Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA

As the toll of death, injury and destruction rose in Gaza on Saturday, the second day of Israel’s surprise attack on the territory, the Biden administration reiterated its full support for Tel Aviv. NSC spox Afm (Retd) John Kirby said the administration urges “all sides to avoid further escalation.” But turning reality on its head, Kirby added that the US “absolutely fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel.” By late Saturday, 24 people had been killed in Gaza and more than 200 injured, according to the territory’s health ministry. There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries in Israel from hundreds of retaliatory rockets fired by the Palestinian resistance in response to the Israeli attack. The US provides Israel with billions of dollars in weapons annually which are frequently used by Israel to attack Palestinian civilians.

As Washington leads the way, its various client states follow at its heels. British foreign secretary Liz Truss, the frontrunner to replace Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and prime minister, also inverted reality. Truss said:

The UK stands by Israel and its right to defend itself. We condemn terrorist groups firing at civilians and violence which has resulted in casualties on both sides.

In recent years, British arms sales to Israel have surged. The EU not only failed to criticize Israel’s latest attacks on civilians blockaded in an occupied territory, but affirmed that “Israel has the right to protect its civilian population.” Brussels made no mention of the right of Palestinians to defend themselves and resist Israel’s onslaught. The EU acknowledged that “the ongoing escalation has already led to a number of casualties, with a number of people killed,” but did not specify who caused those deaths. In France, Macron’s government said it “deplores” Palestinian civilian casualties, without criticizing Israel’s attack on Gaza. By contrast, the Macron government said it “condemns” the Palestinian resistance for firing rockets in response, while reiterating its “unconditional commitment to the security of Israel.”

In a slight departure from the pack, Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said he was “deeply concerned” about the “impact of Israeli strikes on civilians.” But the Dublin government explicitly condemned the Palestinian resistance for the “indiscriminate firing of rockets.” Western governments and human rights groups regularly condemn Palestinian resistance groups for “indiscriminate” rocket fire. But Palestinians use such rockets because they do not possess precision guidance systems, unlike Israel which receives such technologies from the West and uses them specifically to target civilian objects. Israel also regularly attacks Palestinians with inherently indiscriminate weapons such as artillery, as it has done again in Gaza in recent days. Yet the same governments that condemn “indiscriminate” rocket fire remain silent about this. None of these Western countries, which are collectively shipping billions of dollars of arms to Ukraine to help it resist the Russian invasion, are offering Palestinians weapons that would allow them to precisely target Israeli military facilities, personnel and leaders involved in perpetrating military occupation and attacks on them. In this context, Western condemnation serves only to legitimize Israel’s high-tech killing of Palestinians, while in effect demanding that Palestinians simply sit quietly and allow Israel to kill them.

This complicity also extends to UN officials who are ostensibly charged with impartially upholding international law. UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland said he was “deeply concerned by the ongoing escalation” and, expressing sympathy for Palestinian casualties, added that “there can be no justification for any attacks against civilians.” But the UN envoy failed to note that Israel started the latest spasm of bloodshed. Wennesland moreover specifically demanded that “the launching of rockets must cease immediately,” but pointedly did not demand that Israel immediately cease its attacks on Gaza.

This is all in keeping with a long-standing pattern of racist double standards. Western officials, including Wennesland, a Norwegian diplomat, often feign sympathy and concern for Palestinians, but habitually reserve condemnation only for violence against Israelis, including settlers illegally occupying Palestinian land. The net effect is to endorse Israel’s violence while vilifying and criminalizing the victims when they try to fight back. Wennesland’s cravenness is in marked contrast with comments from Francesca Albanese, the UN special rapporteur for the occupied Palestinian territories. The independent expert noted that as international law “only permits the use of force in self-defense,” Israel’s attack on Gaza is “a flagrant act of aggression.” Not a single Western government has spoken with such clarity.

To be sure, there is strong criticism of Israel’s aggression from countries around the world. On Saturday, South Africa denounced the Israeli assault. the foreign ministry said:

Attacks that kill innocent civilians have no justification, and they are more abhorrent as they are committed by an occupying power which has besieged the Gaza Strip for over a decade in contravention of international law. The international community has an obligation to urgently stop the Israeli occupation forces’ repeated attacks against civilians, especially women and children, as well as the illegal blockade in Gaza.

Turkey, despite its recent cozying up to Tel Aviv, also strongly condemned the slaughter. Ankara said:

It is unacceptable that civilians, including children, have lost their lives during the attacks.

Malaysia described this “latest atrocity by Israel” as a “blatant disregard of international law and the many principles of humanity.” Similarly, Pakistan stated that the “latest spate of aggression is typical of the Israeli atrocities, illegal actions and indiscriminate use of force against innocent Palestinians over the decades in complete defiance of international human rights and humanitarian laws.” Iran, the only country known to provide direct support for Palestinian armed resistance, denounced “the brutal attack by the apartheid Zionist regime against the besieged Gaza Strip” as well as the “killing of the commanders of the Palestinian resistance and a group of defenseless Palestinian people.” Even Israel’s close ally and neighbor Jordan condemned the “Israeli aggression,” but this was tempered by a pro forma call from Amman for all sides to return to the long-dead peace process in pursuit of the chimerical “two-state solution.”

It has always been the case that the people of Palestine enjoy strong worldwide support for their liberation struggle, but that has yet to decisively change the balance. The reality is that it is Western weapons, money and political support that sustain and prolong Israel’s settler-colonial persecution of the Palestinian people and ensure that the blood keeps flowing. But no matter what atrocities Israel perpetrates with American and European assistance, the Palestinian people have demonstrated decade after decade that they will not surrender to Israeli terror.

Without consequences, Israel will continue to murder Palestinians
Refaat Alareer, Electronic Intifada, Aug 7 2022

Children’s ages can now be counted in wars. Photo: Osama Baba/APA

Amal is now two wars old. No one ever gets used to being bombarded every year or so. The kids in particular live in constant fear. But it does become part of life. As the Israeli missiles rained down on Gaza City on Friday, my daughter Amal, 6, asked her mom, memories of last year’s horror still fresh: “Will there be another war?” During the assault, my children, especially Linah, 9, and Amal, have been mostly quiet. Amal has tried to sleep and Linah lay down in the living room. At night, like most kids in Gaza, they shriek in fear each time they hear an explosion. A report published by EuroMed found that about 91% of Palestinian children live in constant trauma and terror due to recurrent Israeli attacks. Nothing can prepare you for this. Israel has been bombarding Gaza ever since the second intifada. We never get used to the bombs. And we never know how to deal with the sheer terror and absolute Israeli savagery. No lies or hugs or sweets can calm the kids down. When the bombs fall, the kids will always shriek in utter fear. The lies that things will be alright and that these are fireworks no longer work. By Sunday morning, Israel had killed at least 30 Palestinians, including two Islamic Jihad leaders, and a little girl, Alaa Qaddum, 5. Well over 250 Palestinians have been injured and several homes and buildings have been destroyed or damaged.

As I was writing this on Saturday morning, Israel had just struck a wedding in the northern Gaza Strip, reportedly killing the groom’s mother. Israel’s pretext this time is as flimsy as can be. After detaining a senior Islamic Jihad leader in the occupied West Bank, Israel said it was engaged in a “preemptive operation” to stop alleged missile attacks before they start. This is like Israel’s war on Gaza in May 2021 and its massive 2014 attack and the many escalations between them. And it brings back memories of Israel’s bombing campaigns in 2012, 2008-09, 2006 and many others, several of which coincided with Israeli elections. Palestinian resistance fighters, as expected, reacted eventually by firing volleys of homemade missiles at Israeli military targets. By doing so, they are affirming the Palestinian right to self-defense and liberation. Many Palestinians have seen countless of their loved ones murdered in their sleep, or when they were resting and generally minding their own business. If Israel will kill us regardless of who we are or what we are doing, then, many Palestinians believe, why not die fighting and defending our very existence? There is no-one more determined or dangerous than a person who has nothing to lose. During the May 2021 aggression, according to Airwars, in more than 70 percent of Israeli attacks that killed Palestinian civilians, there were no reports of any casualties from the resistance. In other words, civilians were the only victims. According to B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group, nearly two-thirds of the more than 2,200 Palestinians Israel killed in Gaza in 2014 were civilians. Notice that such statistics usually count Palestinian civilian police or resistance fighters killed in their homes as they slept as militants. Given these realities, I am certain that civilians, mainly children, women and the elderly, are not collateral damage. Rather, they are Israel’s main targets.

But despite all that, I want to make things seem okay to my children. I can’t prevent their eyes from seeing what they see, or their ears from hearing the bombs. I cannot protect their hearts from the Israeli mayhem. So, I go out to buy sweets. But to venture out is to put yourself in grave peril. One might get killed simply being in the street, not that remaining at home is much safer. I don’t take the elevator if the power is on. Not that the stairs are safer. I make sure not to walk near buildings or under trees lest I should appear suspicious to Israeli drones. Not that walking in the middle of the street is any safer. And then there is the guilt. The guilt of being able to go out while hundreds of thousands can’t. The guilt of being able to buy bread and other essentials while hundreds of thousands cannot afford such necessities. Taking my time to double-check I am not buying Israeli products, I get several things: cookies, chips, chocolate pudding and sweets. When I come back home, Amal does not rush to greet me as she usually does. She does not rush to ransack the bags to snatch and devour her favorite sweets. She remains motionless, almost lifeless. Israel has the “right to defend itself,”says the American administration. So, too, say British and European statements. Several officials, including from the UN and the Red Crescent, waited for hours for the Palestinian resistance to react to issue tame condemnations calling on “all sides to avoid further escalation.” The UN’s Tor Wennesland announced he was “Deeply concerned by the ongoing escalation between #Palestinian militants & #Israel.” Of course, only after the Palestinian resistance struck back with what little they have.

These vicious lies of Israel defending itself attempt to create a false moral equivalence that both sides are to blame. This obscures rather than reveals. It is really not hard to understand why this keeps happening, why my youngest daughter is two wars old already. Israeli immunity from criticism and consequences along with the political and financial support it unconditionally receives from the West (and even from Arab countries) are the reasons it feels safe to continue to murder Palestinians.

Indeed, we understand that when Israel escalates against us, its political leaders not only receive more votes in elections, they receive more support from western countries. With Israeli polls projecting Benjamin Netanyahu to win a majority of 60+ seats in upcoming elections, the current interim coalition government, considered to be “moderate” by many liberals in the West, must have thought a quick war on Gaza might appeal to Israel’s electorate. Palestinians have become accustomed to Israel’s carnage when elections approach. Israeli leaders know the best way to win votes is to flex their muscles. Our problem, in other words, is not with Netanyahu or the Likud but with the Israeli occupation itself. Yet it is wrong to assume Israel kills Palestinians only when there are elections on the horizon. Israeli and Zionist militias have been massacring Palestinians for approximately 100 years now. Israel is not satisfied with anything but total victory for its colonial rule. Palestinians are not Ukrainians for the world to care about. It’s not Russia bombing us for the world to send us sophisticated weapons to defend ourselves. We are not mostly blond with blue eyes. We are not Jews. And for being the wrong sort of people, it seems, we have to starve, to live in fear and terror, and die without anyone lifting a finger.

The sweets and the kids’ favorite pudding remain untouched. Linah and Amal cower against the walls of the living room. They refuse to eat or be entertained. Nusayba, my wife, tells them yet another set of little lies: the bombings are far away, the missiles are “ours,” and this too shall pass. There will be more Israeli wars and more Israeli massacres. Will Israeli war criminals ever pay for their crimes? Will Arab countries rushing to normalize ties with Israel see it for what it is: an entity built on the violent dispossession and dislocation of Palestinians? Can grassroots organizations and free people wherever they may be put more pressure on their governments to boycott and hold Israel accountable? If not, the lies, little and big, will continue. Israel will continue to shed Palestinian blood, for fun or for political gain, or to consolidate its occupation. Or simply because it can.

Refaat Alareer is the editor of Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine. He teaches world literature and creative writing at the Islamic University of Gaza. Twitter: @itranslate123

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