"No other country in the world…"

“No other country in the world does what Israel does”, say some of my Israeli friends. “We tell the people to evacuate when we are going to bomb”.

Yes, but where do they think the evacuees are going to go?

There is really nowhere to go.

Nowhere in Gaza is prepared to handle thousands and thousands of large families.

And, one might ask, what provisions has the IDF made to help these fleeing families?

There were no preparations for this on the Hamas side, because it was hoped the ground invasion could be frightened off, with slogans like, “We have prepared a grave for you”, etc … It was actually hoped this would not happen.

Al-Jazeera aired a report of families walking almost aimlessly in downtown Gaza City. There is nowhere to go, those interviewed complained.

Some went to UNRWA schools. This morning, an UNRWA school, apparently full of displaced refugees, was hit.

Apparently not just one, but two, UNRWA schools were attacked on Tuesday, according to AP: “It was the second deadly Israeli attack to strike a UN school in the past few hours”, AP reported here .

One was in Jabaliya, the other one was in Gaza City. In one of them — it now appears to be the one in Jabaliya — the death toll is now given as 40, and rising.

The IDF later said that an “initial inquiry” into this “incident” — apparently meaning the school that was attacked in Jabaliya — “indicates that a number of mortar shells were fired at IDF forces from within the Jabalya school. In response to the incoming enemy fire, the forces returned mortar fire to the source. “This is not the first time that Hamas has fired mortars and rockets from schools, in such a way deliberately using civilians as human shields in their acts of terror against Israel”.

The IDF even offered old footage of another incident, as illustrative proof: “This was already proven several months ago by footage from an unmanned plane depicting rockets and mortars being fired from the yard of an UNRWA school. This footage has been released in the past, and is now being re-released, and is available via JCS – Jerusalem & Tel Aviv: 02-6701771 or 03-6238840”.

UPDATE: The Israeli Foreign Ministry has just called this “incident” a “heartrending tragedy”, and added that “initial investigations indicate that Hamas terrorists fired mortar bombs from the area of the school towards Israeli forces, who returned fire towards the source of the shooting. The Israeli return fire landed outside the school, yet a series of explosions followed, indicating the probable presence of munitions and explosives in the building. Intelligence indicates that among those killed were Immad Abu Iskar and Hassan Abu Iskar, two known Hamas mortar crewmen”.

In any case, you can’t find any of this out from the UNRWA website — if you land on the UNRWA website there is no information, just a Flash Appeal, as this catastrophe is yet another good occasion to ask for more donations, by credit card or wire transfer … and the death toll in one of the schools is now given as 40, and rising.

AP reported from inside the Gaza Strip that “Israeli forces edged closer to Gaza’s major population centers on Tuesday and attacked new sites, including a U.N. school, claiming more civilian lives after ignoring mounting international calls for an immediate cease-fire…where hundreds of people from a Gaza City refugee camp had sought shelter from Israel’s blistering 11-day offensive against the Hamas militant group … U.N. officials say they provided their location coordinates to Israel’s army to ensure that their buildings in Gaza are not targeted. The Israeli army had no comment on the latest strikes, but in the past has accused militants of using schools, mosques and residential neighborhoods to store weapons or launch attacks … ‘The battle is bitter but unavoidable. We set out on this operation in order to deal Hamas a heavy blow and to alter living conditions in the south of the country and to block smuggling into the Gaza Strip’, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. … In Geneva, the international Red Cross said Gaza was in a ‘full-blown’ humanitarian crisis. Its head of operations, Pierre Kraehenbuehl, said the few remaining power supplies could collapse at any moment … ” The AP report can be read in full here

There have been over 630 Palestinian deaths over the past 11 days, and at least 3,000 wounded. “There are so many amputations”, one doctor said. “Israel must be using some new kind of weapon”.

Some 525 “projectiles” have been fired from Gaza onto nearby Israeli areas, during the same period.

Many Israelis in the communities bordering Israel have been suffering from constant fear and anxiety — and many have been treated for hysteria. Four have been killed in the last 11 days.

Palestinians in Gaza have also been terrorized.

Nobody knows really what is happening, except from IDF sources, IDF footage, IDF photos — and a bit of footage also from Gaza-based Ramattan News Agency. Even Israel television buys their footage…

The Foreign Press Association (FPA), very frustrated, send this statement out: “The FPA strongly protests the Israeli government’s decision to continue the ban on international journalists entering Gaza despite the Supreme Court ruling requiring it to allow access. The unprecedented denial of access to Gaza for the world’s media amounts to a severe violation of press freedom and puts the state of Israel in the company of a handful of regimes around the world which regularly keep journalists from doing their jobs. We call on the Israeli authorities to lift this ban immediately in line with the decision of their own country’s Supreme Court and the basic principles of democratic statehood”.

But, McClatchy bureau chief here, Dion Nissenbaum, reports on his Checkpoint: Jerusalem Blog that, as more and more journalists continue to arrive every day in hopes of getting into Gaza, the IDF seems to have hardened its position: ” ‘The ruling was issued not in the time of a full-blown military operation that is taking place now’, said Maj. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for Israel’s defense ministry”.

Dion also reported that, on Monday, “the first eight reporters selected in a surreal and secretive process by the local Foreign Press Association once again packed their bags today and camped out at the border crossing in hopes of getting in. They were supposed to go in last Friday, but Israeli officials at the time said they were too busy letting about 300 foreigners who live in Gaza get out before they launched the ground offensive. Today, Israel let in convoys from the UN and the Red Cross who passed into Gaza while the journalists cooled their heels and waited. Eventually, the Israelis said there were ‘security alerts’ and warnings of an attack on Erez, so they sent the reporters home”.

Ramattan has on its website a letter sent to Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which makes complaints about other mistreatment of the press, particularly the local Palestinian press in Gaza: “The Committee to Protect Journalists urgently demands an explanation for the bombing of Al-Aqsa TV headquarter in Gaza City by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on Sunday. We are also dismayed by the army’s decision to declare Gaza’s northern boundary with Israel and other parts of the territory ‘closed military zones’. This latest move, along with previously stated restrictions, prevents journalists from effectively reporting from the Gaza Strip. On December 27, Israeli authorities officially denied a request by Gaza-based Ramattan news agency to transport cameras and other equipment from Ramallah to Gaza in an effort to cover unfolding events in Gaza, according to the news agency’s Web site. Members of the news media must be allowed to report on the situation in Gaza while retaining the protections guaranteed by Security Council Resolution 1738, as well as other universally accepted instruments of international law….” This can be viewed on the Ramattan website here.

Haaretz’ Yaakov Katz reported on Sunday on the beginning of the ground invasion on Saturday — which was not reported, apparently by censorship rules, until almost 8:30p.m — that: “The explosions started to escalate at around 4 p.m. as the IDF let loose its artillery cannons along the Gaza border, with the aim of ‘softening’ open areas in the Strip that are believed to be filled with booby traps and land mines. At the same time, thousands of troops from a wide range of infantry, armored and engineering units began taking up positions along the border before the invasion … Meanwhile, all along the border, an electrical blackout was imposed on communities to hide the IDF preparations and deployment. At several points – near Erez, Kfar Aza, Nizmit and Kerem Shalom – large contingents of journalists gathered to see the gunfights in the Gaza Strip. Bullets could be seen flying in both directions as well as into the air, likely attempts by Hamas to shoot down IAF attack helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles”. Katz’s report is posted here.

Yet other journalistic sources reported that the IDF attacks began to grow in intensity around 6p.m. on Saturday night — two and a half hours before the first reports were allowed to be published.

One journalist — who did not have a press card, and who therefore would not have been asked to sign the obligatory form accepting IDF censorship — was reportedly arrested on Monday for having violated the censorship regulations by reporting too early that the ground invasion had begun. According to a report in Haaretz: “A reporter for Iranian television [n.b., it was not official Iranian television – Press TV says the report was working for Al-Alam] was arrested by Israeli authorities on Monday for a dispatch which broadcast news of the Israel Defense Forces’ entry into the Gaza Strip. The journalist is alleged to have violated military censorship laws which forbade the news media from releasing information during the initial stages of the ground incursion. The reporter, a resident of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al Amud, was questioned by the police international investigations unit. He turned himself into authorities via his attorney”. This report can be read in full here.

Another story in Haaretz reported that “According to Danny Seaman, the director of the Israel Government Press Office, the reporter had been refused a press card for security reasons. The approach is stricter in general, Seaman explained, because ‘too many times we have spoken in too many voices. This time it’s clear that the system is unified and serious. That was also one of the Winograd Committee’s conclusions, but this time there won’t be censorship violations that won’t be dealt with’.” This Haaretz story also said that “Israel says it does not want the foreign press in Gaza due to concerns that something might happen to them that will hamper Israel’s operations. ” ‘What if one of these media stars gets hurt? Even if it isn’t Israel’s fault, it will be perceived as fundamental for the Palestinians’, an Israeli source said. That is apparently only part of the reason. Keeping the foreign journalists in Israel, sources say, is good for Israel’s image because the media is experiencing the war from the Israeli side. As soon as the IDF gets a hold in the Strip, it is expected that the IDF Spokesman will let Israeli and foreign journalists in with the army. For the time being, the only presence documenting events is the spokesman’s office”. This Haaretz report can be found here.

The Jerusalem Post reported that “GPO [n.b., the Israeli Government Press Office] head Danny Seaman said Monday that a crater caused by an Israeli shell on the Palestinian side of the road near the crossing was the reason the foreign press had not been let in Monday. ‘The eight aren’t going in today because of a technical problem on the Palestinian side – a crater caused by a shell overnight that disabled the road’, Seaman explained. He added that efforts would be made to repair the area so that reporters could go in on Tuesday. Lerner said he knew nothing about a crater in the road. Meanwhile, the FPA, which represents foreign journalists in Israel and the Palestinian territories, expressed growing exasperation Monday with the ongoing press ban, and suggested that Israel was mixing genuine security concerns and games. ‘We are waiting day by day, hour by hour’, said Glenys Sugarman, executive secretary of the FPA. ‘We just don’t know when we will get in’. Sugarman said that she had been told Monday that there was a suicide bomber on the Palestinian side of the border, which was why the border was quickly closed as a group of foreign nationals were leaving the Palestinian territory. ‘There are security issues, but there is playing around as well’, she said”. This JPost report can be found here .

The National, an English-language newspaper published in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E., reported that “The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) regards the Israeli ban as a dangerous violation of press freedom that adds to ‘ignorance, uncertainty and fear’ in the region. ‘The Israeli ban on foreign news media from Gaza since Dec 27 raises concerns that there is a systematic attempt to prevent scrutiny of actions by the Israeli military’, said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. ‘The eyes of the world are on Gaza, but Israel is trying to censor the news by keeping the media at bay’. Human Rights Watch urged the Israeli government to abide by the Israeli high court ruling and allow foreign media into Gaza. The presence of journalists and human rights monitors in conflict areas provides an essential check on human rights abuses and laws-of-war violations, Human Rights Watch said”. This report is posted here .

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department Spokesperson, Sean McCormack, has told journalists that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is going to New York today to attend a UN Security Council meeting on Gaza: “There is a UN Security Council meeting, and this is previously scheduled. It was called by the chair [President] of the Security Council for this month, and that is France. I think Foreign Minister Kouchner expects to be there. So she will participate in that discussion. She will also have a series of meetings, bilateral as well as other configurations, that are intended to try to move forward on the pathway that we talked a little bit about yesterday – these three elements. And just to review, the three elements being an end to rocket fire coming out of Gaza, a – steps to address smuggling, as well as steps to open up the crossings going into Gaza using the 2005 Movement and Access Agreement, elements thereof perhaps, as a model or basis for opening up those access points and having those be secure as well … We would like an immediate ceasefire, absolutely, an immediate ceasefire that is durable and sustainable and non-time-limited. So you know, we can sort of go round and round with these – with the semantics. But of course, we – look, nobody wants to see violence. We would like to see the violence end today. But we also want to see it end in a way that is sustainable and durable, so that we aren’t – you know, you don’t have my successor up here three months, four months, six months from now, talking about the same thing … I fully understand the situation in Gaza. It is – the humanitarian situation there is dire, and we are working to try to address that in terms of getting goods in – into Gaza, as well as once they are into Gaza, to the people who need them. And we’re working with the Israelis as well as others on those questions … I would expect today that there would be a discussion, perhaps tomorrow there would be a follow-up session.”

Asked by a journalist if this was being viewed as a way to get the Palestinian Authority back [in contzrol] in Gaza, the spokesman replied: “No, it’s a side effect, perhaps, of having an agreement that’s consistent with the 2005 agreement, but it’s not the – that’s not the main objective. The main objective is to actually encourage legitimate trade across those borders in a secure fashion, so that on one side the Israelis can feel confident in the fact that those are secure crossing areas; and for the Palestinian people, they can actually engage in legitimate commerce and thereby improve in some form or fashion the situation on the ground”.

McCormack also said that “the schedule is still coming together at the moment, but I would expect that she [Secretary Rice] would meet with some of her Arab foreign minister counterparts. She will try to meet with [Palestinian] President [Mahmoud] Abbas, who will be up in New York, as well as to have other side meetings”.

11 thoughts on “"No other country in the world…"”

  1. Evacuate as Israel thinks they can, find refuge within UN premises and then get bombed and killed by the same country who asked to evacuate. Pure Hypocrisy and more body counts. Great for an asymmetrical attack.
    Some politicians must really sleep tight at night and can look at themselves in the mirror in the morning. Some were even in laughing mood for the photo-ops whilst children are dying…………………a few kilometers away. Yep we will not forget

    http://i82.photobucket.com/albums/j269/raystanford/rice2.jpg

    “[W]e’re leaving [the Israeli/Palestinian situation] in a lot better shape than we found it . . . [I]n terms of changing the conversation in the Middle East about democracy and values, this Administration will be judged well . . . I think generations pretty soon are going to start to thank this President for what he’s done. This generation will.”

    Sorry mate, it’s been a TOTAL FAILURE thanks but no thanks

  2. unfortunately, there is one aspect about Israel that is seen only in Israel, which you forgot to mention. That in the past 8 years there have been 6,000 rockets launched. You call them “projectiles”. No other country in the world, and I say this with certainty, would sit and let 1/7 of their civilians sit under constant threat of rocket fire, and barely retaliate. Yes Israel did strike back a small amount, but this is negligible when compared to the response from, say, the U.S. if Mexican guirrellas started firing rockets into Texas. There would be no more Mexico.
    Id just like you to include a small piece from the Israeli perspective, perhaps explaining the fear you would feel if you had a siren go off while you were at work telling you you had 30 seconds to get into a bomb shelter. Every day, for almost a million people. That side of the story seems to never be fully explained.

  3. To Jake — No, I did not forget to mention the threat to Israeli communities now within a 40-km range of northern Gaza
    (now about 700,000 people). The Israeli position and experience has been reported worldwide. Now, the big media stars who cannot get into Gaza stand at locations in around Gaza and they re-explain it. How can you seriously say that it is not? You can look back through the archives here, and see it explained fully, very fully, here. I use the word “projectiles” to encompass not only the rockets (“Qassams”), but also the longer-range missiles (“Grad” or “Katuysha), as well as the mortars that have been lobbed indiscriminately at Israel from Gaza. I am not going to get into the “disproportionate” argument, though it does resonate with most people who have a sense of fairness and justice, even if they don’t love international law. No reason to worry, the Israeli perspective is exposed, fully exposed … The question for Israel should not be reduced to an issue of mere “retaliation”, or revenge — the question should be to find the most effective way to address problems such as this, and to find a long-term solution.

    UPDATE: Now, on the Israeli “projectiles” fired, in two separate “incidents”, at — or pehaps just around — the two UNRWA schools where Gazans have sought refuge from the Israeli attacks after being warned by Israeli air-dropped leaflets to flee their homes, the Associated Press is reporting on Wednesday that: “Some 15,000 Palestinians have packed the UN’s 23 Gaza schools because their homes were destroyed or to flee the violence. The UN provided the Israeli military with GPS coordinates for all of them. The three mortar shells that crashed down on the perimeter of the UN school [n.b. – I do note here that the AP says the shells hit “on the perimeter of the UN school” and not “in the courtyard”, as reported earlier and elsewhere…] struck at midafternoon, when many people in the densely populated camp were outside getting some fresh air, thinking an area around a school was safe. Images recorded by a cameraman from AP Television News showed crowds fleeing the scene, pavements smeared with blood and battered bodies being carried off by medics and bystanders. A youth who limped away was helped along by several others. Sandals lay scattered on the pavement by a pock-marked wall. ‘There’s nowhere safe in Gaza. Everyone here is terrorized and traumatized’, said John Ging, head of Gaza operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency [UNRWA]. An Israeli military statement said it received intelligence that the dead at the girls school included Hamas operatives, among them members of a rocket-launching squad. It identified two of them as Imad Abu Askar and Hassan Abu Askar. Two residents who spoke to an AP reporter by phone said the two brothers were known to be low-level Hamas militants. They said a group of militants — one of them said four — were firing mortar shells from near the school. An Israeli shell targeted the men, but missed and they fled, the witnesses said. Then another three shells landed nearby, exploding among civilians, they said, refusing to allow their names to be published because they feared for their safety”.
    See http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/ml_israel_palestinians.

    But, I should also like to note that there is no “proof” offered of the claims reported here … The reporting simply said that there had been Palestinian firing from near the school, and this appears to be corroborated by “two residents who spoke to an AP reporter by phone” … The IDF claims about intelligence that two members of a rocket-launching squad were killed in the IDF shelling are merely asserted, and not proven. Nor do such IDF claims that “two members of a rocket launching squad” were indeed at the site, and were indeed killed in the IDF retaliation, mean that these two persons in question were indeed launching rockets at their time — nor does it constitute proof that they had ever in fact launched rockets. The AP report simply said “two residents who spoke to an AP reporter by phone” said that there had been Palestinian firing from near the school … It is something, but it is not enough.

  4. Do you not realize that HAMAS uses those Palistinian People as shields. They do that just to get the Palistinian People killed. It is the HAMAS Terrorist Organizations fault for getting all of those people killed and using them as shields.
    I have been in Iraq as a US Army SGT. and I have seen the same thing over and over again. They also conduct mercy killings for no reason. If you would like to see what really goes on in the Middle East, join up with the US Army and you will see the same thing that I have.
    As I said time and time again you cannot have a known terrorist organization operate and run your country at the same time and not pay the price, especially when they have been launching rockets, grenades, and mortars into your neighboring country for the past couple of years and not expect the nieghboring country who is Israel not to do something about it. Some of you people need to wake up and smell the freekin coffee.

  5. Nobody on this site has defended the Hamas firing of “projectiles” at Israeli land surrounding Gaza. On the contrary, we have condemned it.

    But, you will have to do more to win the argument about Hamas being a known terrorist organization, and running any “country”.

    Then, you will have to do a lot more to convince me that the aim of Hamas is “just to get the Palistinian [sic] People killed..”.

    And, then, please tell me how you think the IDF’s “Operation Cast Lead” is going to solve the problem.

  6. I like to correct some information regarding the use of civilians as human sheilds:

    The Israeli Army have used Palestinians as sheilds and for long hours by having them stand infront and on top of the military vehicles.

    This has been documented and the Israeli army was told not to do that in the future!

    I hope this was helpful….

  7. Thanks — what is really appalling now is that the IDF has done nothing to help Gazan civilians during these attacks, which have been planned for at least six months, according to authoritative reports in the Israeli media — at least since the unwritten cease-fire (“tahdiya”) between Israel and Hamas went into effect in June 2008. Israeli military commentators at the time worried that Hamas would use the cease-fire to arm itself — but they added that Israel would be preparing for the next round, too. Still, they did nothing to prepare to help the Palestinian civilians they knew would be the victims, unintended or not.

    The IDF only asked Gazans, via leaflets dropped from the air, for more information about possible targets — without providing any information about how to protect themselves during the attacks.

    Here is the translation of one leaflet:
    —————————————————————–
    Dear people of the Gaza Strip,
    Bear the responsibility for your fate!

    The Projectile launchers and the terrorist elements pose a threat on you and your families.

    If you wish to provide help and assistance to your people in the sector, call the number below to provide us with the needed information.

    The future of the massacre is in your hands
    Don’t hesitate!

    We will be glad to receive any information you have and it is not necessary to give us your personal information.

    We will keep it as a secret.
    Call us at the following number:
    02-5839749
    Or e-mail us at:
    Helpgaza2008@gmail.com

    To provide us with any information on the terrorist factions.

    Note: To protect your safety we ask you to be secretive when you call us.

    Head of the Israeli defense forces.
    ——————————————————————–

    And, of course, the IDF told Gazans to leave their homes, without making any provisions for temporary shelter.

  8. Wonder where that WMD went …………..Occupiers complaining about insurgents
    Marian, the poster does not know the hassle that you have to go crossing the walls and barriers . He thinks that you are the monday morning quarter back in the comfort of the USA as some are. Some have not even set foot in israel nor the strip but ready to give a one sided opinion . Sheeesh……….

  9. Yes, I actually saw it earlier on Electronic Intifada, and there was also a link from Palestinian Pundit, and maybe Angry Arab as well …

    I love the part where the Israeli officer says: “You know they’ve [people of Gaza] started to phone us and ask for help, and ask us what they should do, and we’ve helped a lot of them. They thanked us for that and we want to help more people … Second thing, we’ve got other ways to reach you, very good ways not on this line and in the end your assistance to us will end up helping you too. Every person who doesn’t have to be hurt in Gaza helps us and helps you. We benefit and you benefit. We want to destroy this Hamas leadership who are hiding, afraid for their lives. They are hiding and others are being killed because of them. What are we fighting each other for? Over nothing!”

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