Day 6 of Operation Pillar of Clouds

Day 6 was a re-run of Day 5, with a few differences …

On Day 6 of this latest escalation,  Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs put out a set of “Legal Points”.
The time had come. They realized — even if most of the media covering this story didn’t — that the situation had come to that. The bombing of a whole house with 12 people inside to get one man [who, as it turns out, wasn’t even there] should have caused a critical reaction. It was a crisis.

As Haaretz wrote on its Live Blog at 10:30 pm yesterday evening, “Apparently, the IAF mistakenly bombed the home of one of his neighbors…killing 10”.

Nevertheless, the IDF Spokespeople sent out a Tweet saying: @IDFSpokesperson = “Since the start of Operation #PillarofDefense, the IDF has targeted 1350 terror sites throughout the Gaza Strip”

They are all “terror sites”?  Really?

Erin Cunninham, Global Post correspondent covering the story from Gaza, reported here that it was “the deadliest day of the conflict according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry”. She added that “Gazans, who are essentially trapped by a blockade, say they feel nowhere is safe, not even their own homes”.

Israelis living in Ashkelon, Beersheva and around the Gaza perimeter also don’t feel safe in their homes…but with some important differences, as others have pointed out, they have shelters, they can leave for safer ground, and they have a whole range of support services to help them.

Palestinian projectile firing from Gaza has not ceased, either [though it does seem to let up during the night, in the dark].

Operation Pillar of Clouds began last Wednesday 14 November with Israel’s targeted killing of Hamas military chief Ahmad Jaabari — who had been instrumental in negotiations on the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit who was seized at Kerem Shalom in 2006 and held captive somewhere in Gaza during the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead [27 December 2009 to 18 January 2009].

Jaabari had been working with Israeli peacenik Gershon Baskin who’s been intent on producing agreement on a long-term truce [originally a Hamas idea].

Daniel Levy wrote a post, titled “Living by the Sword”, which is published on The Daily Beast website saying that the current Israeli military operation had not yet become Operation Cast Lead II, but threatened to do so. And, Levy added, “a cessation of hostilities will likely be made more difficult by the absence of al-Jabari himself (previously a key player in bringing other Gazan factions into line) and by the competing agendas of those Gazan factions (Iran for instance may encourage its Islamic Jihad ally to keep this going). And again there is the luck factor and the longer this goes on the more likely another missile is to hit rather than miss”. This is posted here.

The publication of the Israeli MFA “Legal Points” comes the day after another targetted assassination somehow went wrong — the intended target is apparently still alive, while 3 generations of a family died together in an Israeli air strike to kill someone else.

Reuters reported that “Around the time of the [Day 5] attack, the military said it had hit the commander of Hamas’s rocket-launching operations. They named him as Yihia Abayah. Soon after, reports began coming in that a family was killed in the strike. Several hours later, the Israeli army’s chief spokesman, Yoav Mordechai, said on television the military tried to attack Abayah. ‘Although I don’t know the outcome, there were civilians harmed by this’.” This was published on the Maan News Agency here.

The BBC’s Paul Danahar [@pdanahar] Tweeted initially yesterday:

@pdanahar – Jamal Dalou was Hamas man targeted. Now reports he may have been killed in strike. 9 of his family r dead say #Hamas

Then, a correction:
@pdanahar – “#Hamas man who was killed in the air strike was called Mohamed Dalou. On TV in #Gaza images of 5 dead children from his family in morgue

Those two Tweets were based on information from the IDF.

Today, Paul Dahanar sent this series of three Tweets of correction:
@pdanahar – The IDF have told me they intended to hit the Dalou house in #Gaza because they believed Hamas’s Yahia Rabiya was hiding there however..1/2

@pdanahar – IDF doesn’t know whether he was actually in the house when they bombed it in #Gaza. 10 civilians including 4 children were though 2/2

@pdanahar – Reasons for bombing of Dalou home in #Gaza has changed few times last 12 hours. Only thing we do know is 10 people died, 4 of them children

Those who were killed — 10 members of 3 generations of the al-Dalou family, including four small children, plus two of their neighbors — were buried today in Gaza City. Two more bodies still hadn’t being dug out.

The New York Times correspondent Judy Rudoren Tweeted:  @rudoren – The Dalu funeral was intense. …

Erin Cunningham’s Global Post article, “Trapped in Gaza”, reported that “not even a funeral was safe in this cramped, pummeled enclave, where shops are shuttered and roads are deserted for fear of attacks.   As hundreds of men carried on their shoulders the bodies of two Al-Dalu children, their limp, bruised frames jerking with each step, an Israeli airstrike nearby clapped like a roll of thunder against the hilltop cemetery, sending a gray pillar of smoke high into the sky. [Not much] Later, two rockets launched from Gaza toward Israel left arcs of white smoke and cries of ‘Allahu akhbar’ [‘God is great’]” in their wake.

@Marianhouk – Haaretz posted a Tweet advertising an update on its Live Blog.  The army, which originally said the Hamas rocket chief was hit in the air strike, is investigating” …

@Marianhouk – In another story in Haaretz: IDF “technical error while targeting a senior Hamas militant in charge of rocket firing teams” – 

@Marianhouk – NYTimes @rudoren 3 generations of Dalu family killed; BrigGen Mordechai: “I don’t know what happened” to wanted target. …

@Marianhouk – IDF chief spox Brig-Gen Mordechai to NYTimes on mistaken bombing: “I do know that we are committed to the safety of the citizens of Israel”

The IDF investigation is still continuing…and only selected journalists [of major importance, of course] get any inkling of what’s happening.

The Israeli MFA Legal Points state Israel’s justification for the Operation: “Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip have been waging an ongoing armed conflict against Israel, which has included incessant barrages of rockets and mortars towards the Israeli civilian population and other terror activities. Israel has the right under international law, and a moral obligation, to act in self-defense, to defend its population and to protect its territory when under attack, as well as to take military action against the terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip”.

The Legal Points also say that “IDF attacks in the Gaza Strip are solely targeted against military targets and terrorist operatives. Civilian objects such as residential buildings may constitute legitimate targets if used by terrorist operatives for military purposes”.

And, the Legal Points say: “Israel and the IDF are fully committed to international law in general, and to the Laws of Armed Conflict in particular. Israeli commanders and soldiers are guided by international law in their actions. The IDF strives to imbue the principles of international law in IDF training, the IDF Code of Ethics and rules of engagement”.

Then, not long after the funeral of the al-Dalu family members, the IDF again targetted an office tower that it struck yesterday, housing media organizations [many of whom had apparently evacuated after vague IDF warnings that they should].  Between 1 – 4 people were killed in the strike.

@JonDonnison – LISTEN: sound of Israeli missile whistling past where I was standing when Sharouk building hit in #Gaza. One killed. …

@RaynerSkyNews – Al Aqsa TV in Gaza reporting that 3rd floor targeted housed Al Ahly computer centre – no further info on the nature of the business

Tim Marshall ?@Skytwitius – Gaza. Al-Shourouk media centre hit again. This was where Sky News WAS operating from. 3rd floor took explosion.

@RAGreeneCNN – Israel strike on Gaza building housing media organizations kills at least 1, wounds 3 – CNN camerawoman there sees badly burned body

Then, the  IDF Spokespeople went into action to explain and try to justify the attack, no doubt benefitting from the Legal Points of the Israeli MFA [and their own legal department as well]:

IDF ?@IDFSpokesperson – A short while ago, the IDF targeted a cadre of senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives who were hiding in a media building in #Gaza.

@IDFSpokesperson – A direct hit was identified on the target. Four senior members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad were known to have been in the media building.

@IDFSpokesperson – 1. Baha Abu al-Ata, commndr. of PIJ #Gaza City Brigade, involved in planning attacks against #Israel, arms manufacturing, long-range rockets

@IDFSpokesperson – 2. Tissir Mahmoud Mahmed Jabari, senior PIJ operative, responsible for training within org & approving terrorist attacks against #Israel

?@IDFSpokesperson – 3. Halil Batini, PIJ senior operative, a key figure in org’s long-range rocket launching operations, responsible for internal security

@IDFSpokesperson – 4. Ramaz Harab, responsible for propaganda in PIJ #Gaza City Brigade, aide to Tissir Jabari, former head of Sheikh Rajuan Division

@IDFSpokesperson – The senior PIJ cadre was operating in a media building. They were’t there to be interviewed. They were using reporters as human shields.

@IDFSpokesperson – We targeted only the 2nd floor, which is where the senior terrorists were. The rest of the building was unharmed. Direct hit confirmed.


Meanwhile, in New York, the UN Security Council has been discussing the situation in Gaza. Russia has circulated a draft resolution that “demands an immediate, durable and fully respected cessation of violence, leading to the restoration of calm”.

But, as Daniel Levy wrote on The Daily Beast blog today, “it takes two to de-escalate and if Netanyahu, as senior Israeli officials have suggested, insists on bringing Hamas to its knees to beg for a ceasefire, then all bets are off. This means that any ceasefire also requires pressure on Israel — a commodity which tends to be in preciously short supply”.


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