Gaza civilians: exposed to arbitrary IDF warning fire [though IDF says it is not arbitrary]

The Jerusalem Post’s Larry Derfner reported in the weekend Magazine that he was told by a senior Israeli defense official that, so far in 2010, Israeli troops at Gaza border have killed 30 armed Palestinians + five civilians.

According to Derfner’s article, this Israeli official knows of no “mistaken” killing during the past 1.5 years in Gaza. Another Israeli Defense official said, however, that “none … were purely innocent bystanders”.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), however, has reported that “In most cases ‘warning shots’ are fired to force people out of the area, which results in no casualties… [but a] minority of cases have resulted in the death and injury of civilians”.

Derfner mentions the coverage of the killings of two of those five Gazan civilians: on September 12 [the third day of the post-Ramadan Muslim three-day Eid holiday], “an incident near the northern part of the Gaza Strip received more than the usual, meager level of attention: An unarmed 91-year-old Palestinian farm employee, Ibrahim Abu Said, his teenage grandson and another young man were killed by an IDF tank shell a few hundred meters from the border … The army acknowledged up front that the dead suspects had been unarmed, but the investigation exonerated the soldiers who fired the shell. ‘One of the young men had picked up an RPG [shoulder-fired missile launcher] from the ground. He might have been just playing with it, but the tank unit felt threatened. They thought it was being aimed at them, so they fired. Right before that, there had been mortars fired at our positions’, a senior defense official in the northern Gaza Strip told The Jerusalem Post this week”.

The Derfner article also says that another one among the five civilian — but no, still not mistaken, according to the IDF official — Palestinian deaths in Gaza this year was “a man who was carrying a slingshot at the head of group of protesters headed for the border fence. ‘We fired warning shots and he didn’t leave. Then the soldiers fired with the intent to injure, not kill. They hit him around the knee, and he didn’t get proper treatment over there, and he bled to death’, said the official, noting that the reason demonstrators are not allowed near the fence is that some, often youngsters, use the opportunity to plant explosives”.

No Palestinians were questioned in the IDF investigation, said the official” “the army has no direct contact with Gaza’s population except during brief military incursions, so the Palestinian side, as a rule, is not heard in army inquiries”.

Continue reading Gaza civilians: exposed to arbitrary IDF warning fire [though IDF says it is not arbitrary]

INVESTIGATION: Yezid Sayegh on the Hamas economy in Gaza

Later today, the Israeli Foreign Ministry is expected to publish a new list — of items forbidden to enter Gaza. This is the revamp of Israel’s sanctions policy that was announced in the wake of the 31 May Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla attempting to “break the siege on Gaza” by sea, which resulted in the deaths of 8 Turkish men and one American student.

But why is this list being announced by the Israeli Foreign Ministry?

Probably to emphasize, first of all, that Israel and Gaza are two different entities. Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, Israel has insisted since its unilateral withdrawal, in September 2005, of 8,000 Israeli settlers and the troops protecting them, that it is no longer occupying Gaza.

Since September 2007, following an Israeli Government decision to declare Gaza an “enemy entity” or “hostile territory”, the Israeli siege on Gaza has been administered by the Israeli Ministry of Defense — and in particular, its COGAT [Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories] department — without any other government supervision or oversight, than a warning by the Israeli Supreme Court, in response to a lawsuit brought by a group of Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups [with GISHA in the lead] not to allow a “humanitarian crisis” to develop.

Some international organizations believe that a this threshold has already been passed, several years ago.

And, there are continuous reports that this Israeli policy toward Gaza is not completely unappreciated by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, who also want to subdue if not topple Hamas and restore their control in the Gaza Strip. This commonality of interests supports the Israeli “siege”.

But, to the extent that a humanitarian crisis has not — yet — become a humanitarian disaster, resulting in a huge number of deaths among the 1.5 million people trapped by the siege in the Gaza Strip, is due, some argue, to the organization and coping strategies developed by Hamas.

It is worth noting that since the Israeli naval assault on the Freedom Flotilla, COGAT as reportedly been too busy to accept many scheduled deliveries of goods into Gaza, according to some reports in Ramallah — COGAT has been preoccupied with searching and inspecting the cargo of the Freedom Flotilla. Israel promised to deliver what was not forbidden to Gaza — and the entry of this material is only taking place now. This concerns a reported 70 truckloads worth of items, including electric wheelchairs.

COGAT in the past week has managed a steady increase in the number of truckloads it is allowing to pass through to Gaza per day — it is now hovering around, or even surpassing 150 truckloads per day [this should be compared, however, to the pre-2007 levels of between 400 and 600 truckloads a day, for 1.4 million people].

Yezid Sayegh, Professor of Middle East Studies in the Department of Wars Studies at King’s College London who is currently on leave to Brandeis University [his bio also says he is a former adviser and negotiator in the Palestinian delegation to the peace talks with Israel – but doesn’t say which ones] wrote an analysis of “Hamas Rule in Gaza -Three Years On”, published in March 2010, that says:

“Gaza has developed a unique economy based on a combination of three main inputs: smuggling (through the tunnels dug under the border with Egypt at Rafah); monthly subventions worth $65 million from the Fayyad government to pay its employees and operate Gaza’s power plant; and the services and salaries provided by international NGOs and, especially, UNRWA.

“These inputs relieve the Hanieh government of a considerable burden, much as a considerably greater scale of foreign aid relieves the Fayyad government. At $540 million, the Hanieh government’s declared budget for 2010 is a fraction of the $2.78 billion budget of its West Bank counterpart; but with only 32,000 employees to the latter’s 145,000, its costs are far lower. Even so, the Hanieh government is believed to collect no more than $5 million a month in local revenue, or even less, if its own informal figures are to be believed. It has avoided taxing the tunnel trade in civilian goods entering from Egypt, with the result that commodity prices have dropped since the start of 2010. The bulk of government income derives instead from foreign sources: contributions from the Muslim Brotherhood International (Hamas’s mother organization), collections from zakat committees, and a portion of the assistance believed to reach the Hamas leadership in Damascus from Iran”…

Continue reading INVESTIGATION: Yezid Sayegh on the Hamas economy in Gaza

Gaza – continued, still

The Israeli human rights organization GISHA sent around an email Tuesday stating that “In response to the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s statement that those seeking to send humanitarian assistance to Gaza by ship should transfer the goods via Israel ‘in accordance with procedure’: Gisha notes that despite a Freedom of Information Act petition pending in the Tel Aviv District Court, Israel refuses to reveal even the simplest procedures regarding how to transfer goods into Gaza, including which goods are permitted or banned. Since 2007, Israel has restricted the entrance of civilian goods into Gaza, as part of a policy of collective punishment … For more information about Israel ‘s policy restricting goods into Gaza and Gisha’s Freedom of Information Act petition, see: here.

The GISHA statement was responding to an article published in Haaretz on Monday, written by Jack Khoury + Barak Ravid, reported on Monday that “The director of European affairs for the Foreign Ministry, Naor Gilon, met separately with envoys from Turkey, Greece, Ireland and Sweden to convey the message that any of their citizens intending to set sail for Gaza would be stopped before they could reach the coastal territory. Describing such mission as provocative and in violation of Israeli law, Gilon told the diplomats: ‘Israel has not intention of allowing these sailboats in Gaza’. The Foreign Ministry message essentially entails that anybody who tries to sail to Gaza with aid, or who tries to transfer goods into the Hamas-ruled territory, must do so in accordance with procedure. The diplomats promised to pass the message along to the appropriate sources, said the Foreign Ministry, with some even offering to help prevent their citizens from attempting the mission”. This is published here.

UPDATE: The Irish Times has published a bit more information on this meeting in an article authored by Israeli journalist Mark Weiss, who says that “IRELAND’S AMBASSADOR to Israel has urged the Israeli authorities to take every precaution to ensure the safety of Irish citizens travelling aboard aid boats heading for Gaza. The plea from ambassador Briefne O’Reilly came during a meeting at the foreign ministry in Jerusalem on Monday where he was informed by the ministry’s director of European affairs, Naor Gilon, that Irish peace activists, together with other European participants in the ‘freedom flotilla’, will be turned back by Israeli naval patrols before they reach the shores of Gaza. ‘We are closely monitoring the situation and urge restraint on all sides’, Mr O’Reilly said. ‘We need to avoid escalation or confrontation to ensure a peaceful outcome which will enable the safe delivery of these humanitarian supplies’ … …Mr Gilon condemned the latest attempt to bypass Israel’s blockade on Gaza as ‘a provocation and a breach of Israeli law’. Activists aboard the [Irish-registered] 1,200-ton cargo ship Rachel Corrie, named after an American who was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, have vowed to defy the Israeli blockade.” This can be read in full here.

Some eight other ships are about to set sail from Greece and Turkey, and all plan to rendez-vous somewhere in the Mediterranean before proceeding towards Gaza.

Continue reading Gaza – continued, still

Israel refuses Noam Chomsky's entry via Allenby Bridge to West Bank

Israel’s Ministry of Interior has today denied entry to the West Bank via the Allenby Bridge from Jordan of renowned American academic Noam Chomsky, a professor emeritus of linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who has often criticized Israeli and American policies.

Chomsky, who 81 years old, was held at the Allenby Bridge crossing and interrogated for over four hours before being turned back.

Continue reading Israel refuses Noam Chomsky's entry via Allenby Bridge to West Bank

UNRWA official dines with IDF's Amos Gilad while blockaded Gazans get … whatever Gilad allows: "Let them eat cake!"

A brilliant and sensational article in Thursday’s Haaretz reveals all — from the Israeli side, at least — about how the Israeli blockade against Gaza operates, and although there is still a lot more to be revealed. The title of the article is: The Gaza Bonanza.


This Haaretz article, co-bylined by Yotam Feldman and Uri Blau, is not perfect, but we are all after all only human, and each of us does what he/she can. It was published on Thursday, and can be read in full here.

This article has appeared just now, as part of the media build-up to the second anniversary of the Hamas rout of Fatah security forces in Gaza in June 2007 — a “military coup”, fumed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), before making his own political coup by dismissing the “National Unity Government” that had been installed just a couple of months earlier, after Saudi intervention to mediate between the Palestinian “factions” in Mecca.

This “military coup” changed everything — and it is still playing out. Among other things, it made it possible for Israel and the Quartet and the major international donor community to divide the Palestinians into the “Good Guys” in Ramallah, against whom all sanctions were suddenly removed and with whom everybody began to do big business, and the “Bad Guys” in Gaza, where Hamas retained some kind of control. Then, the screws were turned, and Israeli sanctions that had been in place against Gaza before were gradually intensified — to the point that Gazans literally survive because of smuggling.

[And, by the way, it is interesting to note that Hamas argued that they carried out their “military coup” in effect as a measure of self-defense. They believed they were preventing an equally if not more bloody attack on them by the Fatah Preventive Security Forces. This view is not so far-fetched — it was sustained by an important article (The Gaza Bombshell, by David Rose) published here in April 2008 issue of the American magazine Vanity Fair, which we have previously written about here and elsewhere.]

“It is obvious that two years into the blockade, the restrictions on civilian goods entering Gaza are only hurting 1.5 million civilians, but providing no solution to regional problems”, the Executive Director of the Israeli human rights organization GISHA, Sari Bashi, commented in a phone interview on Friday. “Almost nothing is allowed into Gaza … and there is no security rationale for that … This is not serving Israel’s security interests. Two years since the closure, none of the declared security or political goals have been achieved”.

Continue reading UNRWA official dines with IDF's Amos Gilad while blockaded Gazans get … whatever Gilad allows: "Let them eat cake!"

Obama says there IS a HUMANITARIAN CRISIS in Gaza

Excerpts from remarks made by U.S. President Barack Obama with Chancellor Angela Merkel at Dresden Castle in Germany on Friday:

“I’ve assigned George Mitchell, my special envoy, who has met repeatedly with all the players in the region and who is going to be going back next week in the wake of my appearance in Cairo to follow up with each of the individual parties on a whole host of negotiation points and potential confidence-building measures that can be taken … You know, a lot of attention has been given to my statement that the Israelis need to stop settlement construction, and I recognize that it’s received a lot of attention in Israel, as well. Keep in mind that all I’ve done there is reaffirm commitments that the Israelis themselves had already made in the road map. And I recognize the very difficult politics within Israel of getting that done, and I’m very sympathetic to how hard it will be. But as Israel’s friend, the United States I think has an obligation to just be honest with that friend about how important it is to achieve a two-state solution — for Israel’s national security interests, as well as ours, as well as the Palestinians. And that’s an area where steps can be taken. They’re not the only steps, by the way, that Israel can take and will need to take in order to advance movement towards peace. And I mentioned some of the other issues that I’ve discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office, for example, increasing freedom of movement within the West Bank, dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and allowing reconstruction to proceed more aggressively”. The full transcript is available here.

The Israeli military — which administers without any serious government oversight the sanctions regime against the 1.5 million people in Gaza — has promised the Israeli Supreme Court that it would NOT let a humanitarian crisis develop …

So, what is President Obama going to do now? How will he follow up on his words?

International Women's Day, Part Two

For Valentine’s Day, and at the special request of the Dutch government, you may recall, and as we wrote here earlier, the Israeli Military’s Coordinator of [Israeli, of course] Government Activities in the Territories (known as COGAT — and yes, this is part of the Ministry of Defense) allowed 25,000 carnations to leave the Gaza Strip and even went so far as to allow them to arrive in Europe in time for the romantic holiday.

Later reports indicated that even double that amount — some 55,000 carnations, actually — reportedly made it to the European markets just in time for Valentine’s Day.

That was the first export allowed out of Gaza in over a year.

Gaza’s economy was previously based on export of produce (and, when allowed, of human day-labor).

Now, COGAT has reported, “135,000 carnations were exported this week from Gaza to the European market at the request of the Dutch government”. This must have been for International Women’s Day, of course! (This has not gotten the same little surge of coverage that the Valentine’s Day carnations received — is this boring already?)

GISHA, the Israeli human rights organization that has passionately persisted in challenging in Israel’s Supreme Court as collective punishment, illegal collective punishment — and as immoral folly — the Israeli Military closure and the Military-administered sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip to punish Hamas, has now produced a short animated spot trying to illustrate aspects of the closure and sanctions.

Closed Zone - animation for GISHA
Continue reading International Women's Day, Part Two