Day 5 of Operation Pillar of Clouds — UPDATE: Haaretz reports confirmation that neighbors were killed in the bombing, not the Hamas rocket chief

Ten members of the Dalu [Dallo/Dalou] family [including 4 children] were killed today, along with two of their neighbors, by an Israeli airstrike this afternoon in Gaza.

Now, Haaretz has reported at 10:30 tonight that they were not the intended targets.

From the Haaretz Live Blog of the current military operation in Gaza:
10:30 P.M. Earlier reports by the IDF Spokesman to the effect that Israel assassinated the head of Hamas’ rocket-launching unit Yehiya Rabiah today in an aerial bombing in northern Gaza appear to have been inaccurate. Apparently, the IAF mistakenly bombed the home of one of his neighbors, Mohammed a-Dallo, killing 10 members of his family and two of his neighbors. Rabiah seems to have survived the attack. This is posted here.

This is a stunning revelation, delivered in an unusually low-key way.

This was portrayed, earlier, as the second “targetted killing” of the current IDF military operation.

But, the intended target is still alive, and these innocent people are dead.

The Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood wrote: “The air strike flattened the home of the Dalou family in the Sheikh Radwan district of Gaza City, causing the biggest death toll in a single incident since the offensive began last Wednesday.The strike was believed to be aimed at a Hamas official, Mohamed Dalou … A spokesman for the Israeli Defence Forces said the military could not confirm the target but said ‘senior operatives affiliated with rocket fire, were being pinpointed”. This is posted here.

But, the IDF has issued no statement of clarification or explanation or correction.

Haaretz journalist Avi Issacharoff — who was clearly aware of the magnitude of this error — posted a piece, here, just nine minutes after the Haaretz Live Blog update.
In his piece, Issacharoff wrote: “Among those killed in the house were five women, four children and three men. Al Jazeera television repeatedly broadcast the pictures of the bodies of the four children, who were 2 to 5 years old, lying next to each other in the hospital in Gaza on Sunday. The live broadcasts from the house focused on documenting the attempts to rescue survivors from the ruins, but the cameras recorded only the discovery of another body there. Those pictures were broadcast all over the Arab world, on the eve of the arrival of an Arab League foreign ministers’ delegation, which was supposed to bring with it a cease-fire agreement… Even before the al Dalou family, reports about casualties among children, women and the elderly have been increasing over the past two days, while harm caused to militants from Hamas or other organizations has been relatively limited … One possible explanation for the growing number of strikes against the civilian population is the decline in the number of quality targets available to Israeli intelligence and the Israel Air Force. In the afternoon, there was a report of the assassination of the head of the Hamas rocket program, Yahye Rabiya – of whom nobody in the Gaza Strip had ever heard and whose name for some reason was not even mentioned on the lists of those killed in Gaza. But the attacks on empty facilities belonging to Hamas — or what used to be called ‘bombing real estate’ — can also attest to a certain frustration in the Israel Defense Forces in light of the continued firing of rockets even more intensively, despite the innumerable aerial strikes and bombings in Gaza. Another problem with which Israel has to contend is the fact that it is doubtful whether the large number of casualties among Gaza’s civilian population actually leads Hamas leaders to reconsider the firing of rockets…”

Click below to see some photos, which are quite … graphic.

Continue reading Day 5 of Operation Pillar of Clouds — UPDATE: Haaretz reports confirmation that neighbors were killed in the bombing, not the Hamas rocket chief

Recommended Reading – Amira Hass: Palestinians are heroes

Amira Hass has written this, or things like this, in Haaretz before.

But, it’s like Picasso’s Blue period — she keeps trying to explain what she sees, over and over again, until she finally captures its essence. [I have sometimes explained what I’m doing in the same way…]

It isn’t that this time she finally got it right — no, there’s still so many things to write, so many more ways to try to describe this reality so that it’s understandable, and comprehended by those not physically here [or, by those who are here, but don’t see it, or who ignore it].

But, this time [as many times], the words resonate in a special way.

Amira writes: Palestinians are heroes, braving Israeli dictatorship – “To live this way and remain sane – that’s heroism. ‘And who says we’re sane?’ Palestinians answer me. Well, here’s the proof: self-irony. The thugs of the hills are only the icing on the cake. Most of the work is being done by thugs wearing kid gloves… Latest update 01:41 21.12.11, here.

Amira Hass describes experience on Dignity

Speaking from Ramallah on a radio interview with the Democracy Now radio program, Amira Hass gave one of the few accounts publicly available about what happened during the Israeli Navy’s interception and commandeering of the yacht, Dignity, that was tring to sail to Gaza.

NOTE: Amira Hass usually refuses to give interviews.
UPDATE: Her own account has been published by Haaretz, in English, on Sunday 24 July here — in which she describes “discomfort as an act of political rebellion”. And, she wrote in her article, about “the contradiction of which everyone was aware: The means (a sea voyage to protest the siege of Gaza ) had turned into the end itself. The adventure had become the goal. And this boat would sail!” Countering the accusations of “lying”, made by the IDF chief spokesman himself, partly to justify the commandeering of the yacht, Amira Hass wrote in Haaretz that “The official destination was Alexandria. The idea was to refuel there and then to continue to Gaza. That plan was abandoned out of a desire not to become involved in the sensitive political entanglements in Egypt”…

Amira Hass’ interview was aired by Democracy Now on Thursday 21 July, a day after 15 of the others on board were apparently deported [including the jounalists???].  The transcript of her remarks is posted here.

She told Democracy Now:
Some 60 miles away from Gaza, we got the signal from an Israeli warship asking where we were heading to. One of the—one on board said, “To Gaza.” Then they said, “It’s illegal. It’s not allowed.”  The person—it’s Professor Vangelis Pissias, the Greek—tried to explain that this is a mission of peace and solidarity. There are no arms, no cargo, just wishing to reach Gaza.  And they were replied again by, “No, this is not legal, or not allowed.”  Immediately then, all communication was jammed.  We could not call anymore. We could not get calls anymore. The internet did not work.

And soon after, we saw four commando boats, very quick, very fast boats, approaching us. Masked men were aiming their rifles at us. They were, of course, in uniforms, IDF uniforms.  They were aiming all sorts of guns that I don’t even know how to name them. There were two cannon—two of them had—each of them had a cannon, a water cannon.  Then, three more were added to the four.  They distanced a bit, then returned.

At around 2:00, they approached, started to use the water cannon, and shouted something. One of on board, Dror Feiler, who is an Israeli, shouted back in Hebrew. Another activist, Claude Léostic of France, said, “This is—we are on the way to Gaza. This is international water. You have no right to impound us.”  And yet, they managed to enter on board.

It was not violent as the former flotillas or the boats that were in past years, when they attacked people physically.  But the very act, of course, is violent, the very act of—imagine 10 vessels, three warships and seven gunboats, attacking this small bucket.  We looked like a bucket rocking in the sea.  This was very violent.  But physically, we were spared what—the fate that was the one of the Mavi Marmara

Continue reading Amira Hass describes experience on Dignity

Why no progress in investigation of murder in Jenin of Juliano Mer-Khamis?

Amira Hass has written a new article reporting that Jenin Camp residents — and PA care not to antagonize some of them — are partly responsible for blocking the investigation in the assassination of Juliano Mer-Khamis in Jenin Refugee Camp two months ago. Her reportage, in Haaretz, is posted here.

But, she wrote, there appear to be other forces of inertia at work as well.

Hass wrote: “Of the four law enforcement agencies investigating the case – the Palestinian police, the Israel Police, the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service – none seems to be working particularly hard to solve it, says Abeer Baker, the attorney for the family”…

Continue reading Why no progress in investigation of murder in Jenin of Juliano Mer-Khamis?

IDF to deploy fresh conscripts to deal with May15 protests at The Wall

According to a report published in Haaretz today, here, the IDF is going to deploy fresh conscripts for May 15/Nakba Day protests along The Wall after crash training + “psychological preparation”.

The IDF preparations are apparently geared not just to contain, if necessary, but also to actually prevent planned Palestinian civilian non-violent protests to mark Nakba Day, which organizers say will involve marches to IDF checkpoints and to The Wall.

The Haaretz story says that “The Israel Defense Force is preparing to substantially bolster its presence near Palestinian population centers in the coming two weeks … [and] preparations are being made in the event that thousands of Palestinian civilians attempt to march toward Jewish settlements or the separation fence in the West Bank, or toward the border fence of the Gaza Strip”.

According to Haaretz, “To prevent such developments, the IDF is planning to halt training for many of the conscript units and deploy them near possible points of friction in the West Bank. Prior to their deployment, the units will undergo training on how to disperse demonstrations and also undergo ‘psychological preparation’ for dealing with civilians. Border Police units, which specialize in dispersing demonstrations, will also be significantly bolstered”.

Continue reading IDF to deploy fresh conscripts to deal with May15 protests at The Wall

Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard tells Turkel Commission that Israel must establish extra-military mechanism to investigate observance of international law

Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard (Yesh Din) told the Turkel Commission at a hearing in Jerusalem today that “conducting an investigation is not tantamount to punishment”.

The Turkel Commission is investigating the “maritime incident” of 31 May 2010, when Israeli Naval commandos intercepted Freedom Flotilla heading to the Gaza Strip and boarded the largest ship in the flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, killing eight men (one a 19-year-old Turkish-American high school student) in the process.

Sfard, who is among other things the legal adviser for Yesh Din, advised the Turkel Commission that Israel must establish an extra-military mechanism to verify if the IDF + its advisers follow international law.

It was the second time, in months of intermittant hearings, that Israeli human rights organizations have addressed the panel.

The Turkel Commission was expected to conclude its work in November 2010, but it only issued the first part of its report on 23 January, which can be read online here.

Arguments made in Sfard’s testimony to the Turkel Commission, according to an English-language summary, state that:
“Since the Al-Aqsa Intifada, a Military Police Criminal Investigation Division (MPCID) investigation is not opened in every case in which a Palestinian civilian is injured during military operations in the occupied territories, but rather is permitted to conduct a ‘command inquiry’ after which a decision will be made regarding whether to open an investigation.

Yesh Din’s Position is that:
1. A command inquiry, as the name suggests, is intended to draw operational lessons and is not a tool designed to collect evidence or to establish personal responsibility. Those who conduct the inquiry are not investigators but rather commanders and they do not possess appropriate training; what is said in the course of the inquiry is not admissible in court; the inquiry is confidential; and
for the most part accounts by those other than soldiers and officers are not heard.

2. The inquiry presents a significant and grave obstacle to the ability to conduct effective criminal investigations of shooting incidents in which Palestinian civilians have been injured. This is a violation of the obligation to investigate”.

Continue reading Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard tells Turkel Commission that Israel must establish extra-military mechanism to investigate observance of international law

Meanwhile, Gaza's agony sharpens and deepens – UPDATED

What is the worth, the value, of assigning blame here? It doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t stop anything.

This weekend, Hamas went crazy, and Israel too.

There. Now, what?

It’s simply no longer possible to say who went crazy first, or who went crazy more. This discussion is sickening.

Israel attacked and killed people in Gaza on Friday. It announced on Sunday that one of the dead included a senior Hamas commander.

This is perhaps the explanation for why Hamas went crazy on Saturday morning — suddenly firing about 50 mortars into the Israeli perphery in about 15 minutes (is this possible?) — and taking responsibility for the act.

Then, it continued. There was more.

On Tuesday, the IDF announced that 7 rockets and mortars had been fired from Gaza into Israel that day — making a total of 60 projectiles fired from Gaza since the weekend, it said.

IDF attacks on Gaza — retaliation, prevention, whatever — killed some 10 Palestinians, including a number of what the IDF admitted were “uninvolved civilians”, mostly kids, and injured some 40 more. The IDF offered medical care to the wounded — a clear sign that something had gone badly wrong, and that Israel was recognizing some responsibility. And the IDF announced it was starting an investigation. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed regret, “but”…

Continue reading Meanwhile, Gaza's agony sharpens and deepens – UPDATED

This is what war does — who wants more?

“I don’t remember a white flag…” – Testimony from the soldier, S., a member of the IDF’s Givati Brigade, who shot at a group of Gazan civilians fleeing the war that had suddenly erupted near the home they had been sheltering it, as reported in Haaretz today.

A woman, head of a family, died on the spot.

The Haaretz report, today, does not say who she was, or where she was killed — perhaps it may be reported later on Israeli TV (see below), perhaps not.

Equality of respect for victims in this conflict is rare to the point of non-existence. The Haaretz story is like the maps of this place: just as, in order to understand the geography and history here, you need to have one map with the Israeli place names next to one with Arabic place names, you likewise need to look at this account and then open other internet pages or pull out other documents prepared by Israeli human rights groups and by the UN, in order to find out who the woman was, and to learn from survivors what was happening to her and to them at the time.

According to details of information collected by Human Rights Watch, it seems that this woman may have been Ibtisam al-Qanu’, 40, mother of seven children, killed in ‘Atatra [in northern Gaza] as an IDF bulldozer [a D-9?] was demolishing the house that also under fire as it was sheltering her and 39 other members of her family.

Haaretz reports today that “The evidence collected in the case, as well as exclusive interviews with S. and other soldiers indicted over Cast Lead, will be broadcast on television tonight on Ilana Dayan’s program ‘Uvda’ (‘Fact’ ), which airs at 9 P.M. on Channel 2. Based on evidence collected thus far, it seems the incident raises much larger questions than merely who fired and at what”.

Continue reading This is what war does — who wants more?

Sam Bahour: "economic zones" for Palestinian job creation in West Bank cannot solve any problem as long as Palestinian economy is "micromanaged by a foreign military"

American-Palestinian businessman Sam Bahour, living in Ramallah, writes in Haaretz today another version of his recent analysis criticizing “feel-good plans” to solve the Middle East morass by providing jobs (primarily factory assembly-line jobs) to Palestinians in the West Bank to invest them into salaries, pensions (and, ultimately, even mortagages — something previously unheard-of in Palestinian areas) as a way to make impossible, for financial considerations, any further resistance to the continued effects of occupation, and continued denial of human and political rights.

Sam notes that “These mega-employment projects present a serious challenge to those who are striving to build an independent and viable economic foundation for a future Palestinian state. Because the zones will be dependent on Israeli cooperation to function, and because they will exist within an Israeli-designed economic system that ensures Palestinian dependence on Israel, they cannot form the basis of a sovereign economy. Relying on them will perpetuate the status quo of dependency and risks further entrenching Israel’s occupation, albeit possibly under another name, like statehood … Although the sectorial theme of each zone, assuming it has already been decided, has not been made public, if existing zones (such as the maquiladoras in Mexico, or those in Jamaica ) are any indication, the zones in Palestine will host “dirty” businesses – those that are pollution-prone and sweatshop-oriented. Jordan’s Qualified Industrial Zones provide a regional example. Like many others around the world, they are notorious for their exploitative labor practices. According to two consultants to the Israeli government, the West Bank zones, several of which are already under construction, are planned to employ 150,000-200,000 Palestinians, nearly the same number that used to travel daily to Israel for work before the second intifada”.

His analysis in Haaretz can be read in full here.

"It's ours!" – More Israeli imprecision about status of "border" from Haaretz

Here is another example of Israeli extreme imprecision about the nature of the demarcation between its territory and Lebanese, in a Haaretz editorial whose sub-headline says: “The government and IDF must understand that not every time is right for demonstrating Israeli sovereignty right up to the last millimeter, certainly not when tension is rising on both sides of the northern border“.

It would have been better to write: “The government and IDF must understand that not every time is right for demonstrating Israeli sovereignty right up to the last millimeter … especially when those last millimeters are not yet rightfully attributed”.

Instead, this Israeli practice of insisting that “it’s ours” — never mind the small details — leads to what is at the very least an extremely tense and dangerous atmosphere.

In fact, the “it’s ours” phenomena led, exactly, to what Israel has come to call its “Second Lebanon War” in the summer of 2006, when Hizballah fighters ambushed several Israeli soldiers along the Blue Line (in an area for which Lebanese reservations had been recorded during the demarcation process) in an operation conducted in sympathy (if not in actual coordination) with the cross-border raid from Gaza that resulted in the capture of IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit in late June 2006. [Shalit is still being held captive, reportedly somewhere in Gaza.]

In any case, the Haaretz editorial itself, published yesterday (Thursday 5 August) noted that “the incident had threatening potential of widespread deterioration, and even war”. The editorial also acknowledged that “the government and the IDF have for several months been preparing the Israeli public for the possibility of a war in the north”.

Israeli friends, who get all their news from Israel Television reports — and who have total faith in every last word of those reports — have been shrieking at me for over a year that Israeli Television reports show that the entire population of southern Lebanon is being held hostage, in terror, to Hizballah, which sends troops into homes at will to fire rockets (from inside the houses) onto Israeli territory… Any question, or expressions of the slightest reserve, provoke accusations of naivete.A

The Haaretz editorial then states: “There’s no dispute, even according to the United Nations, that Israel was operating on its own territory [!!!] If Lebanon disagreed with the way the area was marked, or opposed Israel Defense Forces operations there, it could have contacted UN liaison officers”…

And, the Haaretz editorial continues: “This awareness should have led the government and the IDF to consider more carefully when to cut down a tree near the border. Operation Exposure, as the army is calling the tree cutting, may be necessary to give IDF troops a good view of what is happening in Lebanese territory, but when such an operation can trigger a war, the benefits must be weighed against the risks … The government and the IDF must understand that not every time is right for demonstrating Israeli sovereignty right up to the last millimeter, certainly not when tension is rising on both sides of the border. Employing restraint and waiting at such a time are not an expression of weakness, but of wisdom and political sensitivity”. This can be read in full here.