After cease-fire in Gaza, IDF says it arrests senior Hamas + Islamic Jihad people in the West Bank

After last night’s cease-fire in Gaza, the IDF says it has now arrested — “in cooperation with the ISA [Israel Security Agency], Israel Police and the Israel Border Police” — some 55 people said to be affiliated Hamas + Islamic Jihad, from the north to the south of the West Bank.

According to the IDF announcement, they include “a number of senior level operatives” — but the IDF published no names.

The official IDF explanation is: it will “to restore calm”.  In the past eight days, there has been unrest and protest demonstrations around the West Bank against the IDF Operation Pillar of Clouds against Gaza, and at least 62 protesters against Operation Pillar of Clouds were detained by the IDF during the operation in Gaza.

However, almost none of these protests are organized by Hamas or Islamic Jihad, who take a quite low-key profile in the West Bank. Nor is it Hamas or Islamic Jihad who send young men out to throw stones whenever they see jeeps of Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.

Hamas officials have regularly been arrested ever since their electoral victory in 2006 Legislative Council elections. Islamic Jihad activities were “prohibited” in the occupied Palestinian territory by a decree of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on 6 October 2010.

Until last night, most of the West Bank unrest has been due to protests led by a combination of the popular committees and the younger anti-Oslo Accords, anti-PA, anti-Abbas protesters who came together last year in support of Egypt’s Tahrir Square revolution. One of their main platforms is the call for a revival of, and world-wide Palestinian elections to, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Palestine National Council [PNC]. .

Hamas is not yet a member of the PLO, despite an agreement in Cairo in 2005 that this would happen.

What prevented Hamas’ joining the PLO was a tough position by Fateh “unity” negotiators against Hamas getting an allocated percentage of seats in the PNC proportional to the more-than-60% seats it won in the local Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006 elections. The Fateh negotiators were firm that Hamas did not deserve more than 20-25% of the seats in the PNC, which the Fateh negotiators insisted was the true strength of Hamas.

Those who were arrested this week, until last night, were the younger more secular crowd.

Addameer, a prisoners support group based in Ramallah, Tweeted this: @Addameer_ps – There has been a spike in arrests across the West Bank since the Occupation attacked #Gaza last week.

Continue reading “After cease-fire in Gaza, IDF says it arrests senior Hamas + Islamic Jihad people in the West Bank”

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 pic.twitter.com/TqXLifqq

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.http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/20/world/middleeast/gazans-mourn-dalu-family-killed-by-israeli-bomb.html?hp …

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” http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/live-blog-day-6-of-israel-s-gaza-offensive-1.478922 …

@Marianhouk – In another story in Haaretz: IDF “technical error while targeting a senior Hamas militant in charge of rocket firing teams” – http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/idf-gaza-civilians-killed-due-to-faulty-air-strike.premium-1.478887 

@Marianhouk – NYTimes @rudoren 3 generations of Dalu family killed; BrigGen Mordechai: “I don’t know what happened” to wanted target. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/20/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-conflict.html?smid=tw-nytimesglobal&seid=auto&_r=0 …

@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. http://soundcloud.com/jondonnison/sharouk-building-hit …

@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”.

 

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:
LIVE BLOG
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”

Day 2 of IDF Operation Pillar of Clouds – Today is Palestinian Independence Day

Today, 15 November, is Palestinian Independence Day. The employees of the Palestinian Authority [PA] in the ministries in Ramallah and elsewhere in the West Bank are off work for what will be a 3-day holiday. In a rare sign of solidarity, the otherwise disgruntled Palestinian East Jerusalem merchants will also close their shops to mark the date that Yasser Arafat declared the independent Palestinian state, at a meeting of the PLO’s Palestine National Council in Algiers.

In Gaza, people are reeling under [another] full-scale Israeli attack — this one, like the previous ones, designed to “bring about an improvement in the security reality and allow a normal life for the residents of the State of Israel” [Israeli Security Cabinet communique Wednesday evening 14 November].

The Security Cabinet also stated that “Alongside the military effort, Israel will, to the best of its ability, work to avoid harming civilians while honoring the humanitarian needs of the population, in keeping with the rules of international law”.

Israel’s new-found appreciation of international law dates to the fallout from its interception of the Freedom Flotilla on the high seas in the eastern Mediterranean at the end of May 2010. A handful of Israeli special forces boarding the 600-passenger Mavi Marmara in the dark were outnumbered and surrounded, and killed 9 Turkish men, including one Turkish-American high school student.

Without dwelling on the academic distinction between “international law” and “international humanitarian law [which pertains in situations of occupation, for example] it has to be said that there is wide room for various argued-understandings of the construct.

By the time the Security Cabinet convened, there were already casualties — some of those specifically targetted, like the Hamas military chief Ahmad Jaabari, and then the absolutely and completely innocent victims, like this 11-month-old baby boy, Omar Jihad al-Mashhrawi, his body held by his grief-stricken father, Jihad:

Jihad Al-Mashhrawi holding his baby son Omar, killed in Israeli strike on Gaza - 14 November 2012

Photo by Anne Paq of Activestills, posted on the Flickr photostream here.

One of the accusations against Jaabari was that he was responsible for the operation that captured IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit just outside the Gaza perimter near the Israeli crossing of Kerem Shalom in June 2006. Shalit was held somewhere in Gaza until his release in October 2011 — after Egyptian-brokered negotiations carried out with Jaabari.

Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father, said on Wednesday evening after the “precision” strike that hit Jaabari’s car in Central Gaza, that Gilad was “still absorbing” the news.

The New York Times reported here that:

    “Military officials in Israel, which took credit for killing Mr. Jabari, said their forces had carried out additional
    airstrikes in Gaza targeting what they described as ‘a significant number of long-range rocket sites’ owned by Hamas that
    had stored rockets capable of reaching 25 miles into Israel. The statement said the airstrikes had dealt a ‘significant
    blow to the terror organization’s underground rocket-launching capabilities’. The Israel Defense Forces said Mr. Jabari had been targeted because he ‘served in the upper echelon of the Hamas command and was directly responsible for executing terror attacks against the state of Israel in the past number of years’. A video released by the Israel Defense Forces and posted on YouTube showed an aerial view of the attack on what it identified as Mr. Jabari’s car on a Gaza street as it was targeted and instantly blown up in a pinpoint bombing. The Israel Defense Forces later posted a Twitter message showing a mug shot of Mr. Jabari overwritten by the word ‘eliminated’.”

Continue reading “Day 2 of IDF Operation Pillar of Clouds – Today is Palestinian Independence Day”

Unmistakably, Qalandia Checkpoint

On Fridays in Ramadan, the month of fasting and spiritual activities, the Israeli military makes special arrangements for Palestinians living on the “other” side of The Wall, who seek and who long to go for prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the major holy sites for Muslims worldwide, which has special significance during the month of Ramadan.

In recent years, because of the pushing and shoving that the arrangements always entail, there have been special entrances created separating women from men before even getting into the checkpoint zone.

Every year the arrangements are slightly different. There are no longer Israeli soldiers on horseback riding into the crowds of Palestinians desperate to get through to Jerusalem. The last use of tear gas fired into the fasting worshippers was two years ago. But they arrangements haven’t come near the point of removing altogether the difficulties, stress, uncertainties and humiliation of having to go through the ordeal of struggling to deal with the crowd and conditions to pass through this military checkpoint into an unknown [the Jerusalem area, cut off by The Wall and Israeli military checkpoints for more than a decade] — all while fasting [including not drinking even water] in the high sun and heat of summer.

Here are some photos published here by the privately-owned Maan News Agency in Bethlehem.  The photos are in a group of shots taken  by Mohamad Torokman /Ammar Awad of Reuters:
Qalandia Checkpoint - special entrance for women on 2nd Friday in Ramadan - Maan images photos by Reuters

Anxiety on women's faces as they reach the point where they must pass through the first row of soldiers at Qalandia Checkpoint on the second Friday in Ramadan 2012 - Maan images photos by Reuters

This second Friday of Ramadan, the Israeli women [veteran observers of the checkpoint scene, and Jewish] from Machsom Watch were there, as were observers from the World Council of Churches’ Eccumenical Accompaniement Program in Palestine + Israel, EAPPI.

But, for the first time, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was absent from the scene — following the Israeli Government’s recent decision to question their activities, and their staff, as we have previously reported here.

The Israeli campaign is working.

    UPDATE: Meanwhile, Phil Weiss, founder of the Mondoweiss blog, wrote yesterday: “I flew into Ben Guiron from Newark and my flight was mostly Jewish… The shuttle I rode into Jerusalem had ten passengers, mostly American Jews, two binational Israeli American girls, a Christian tourist and an international aid type. This last passenger was dropped at Qalandiya checkpoint to go on to Ramallah. ‘Is this a hospital?’ the orthodox girl in the front row asked. A reminder that the Palestinian reality is sealed off from Israelis, and also that Qalandiya is a vast bureaucratic complex in benign disguise, a border crossing that keeps the subject population Over There. ‘A lot of the Arabs throw rocks, that is why they put this up’, an older Jew who fought in the 48 war explained to his wife as we passed along the wall … I have been through Qalandiya twice in the last day and cannot convey what a dreary oppressive experience this is. Long lines of people made to walk in a wide muddy circle past the neverending re-arranged concrete walls, one of which has Fuck You as an eloquent graffiti. The soldiers stand at huge concrete cubes that the bulldozers have placed just so, a couple-hips’-width apart, and stop us at three points on our way in. Women and men are separated, in a fashion that has ghoulish echoes of the worst moments of Jewish history … While in the Old City, in the Ramadan crowds that inch packed and dangerous toward the mosque, there are always men at the side spraying water on as you walk by. Tossing it from bottles, spraying it with sprayers, to cool you down. A lovely gesture of community, in which I am included…” Phil posted this here

.

Hamas figure dies in Nablus, condolences cause traffic jam

It was so hot. It was the second hot day, after a long and dreary winter, one of the worst in recent years, most people here agree.

And then, unexpectedly, there was such heavy traffic. It came to a standstill in the village of Huwwara, just south of Nablus. It was so hot, and the traffic was so bad…

The reason, I was told, was the large number of people coming to Nablus to give their condolences and pay respect for the death of a religious scholar and Hamas figure who was also an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council:

    * Bumper-to-bumper traffic going thru Huwwara village to Nablus after news of death of Sheikh Hamed al-Betawi – background story here.

    * Unprecedented traffic between Ramallah + Nablus afternoon said to be officials going to pay condolences on death of Hamas scholar

    * Can demonstration of respect upon news of death of Nablus’ Hamas MP+scholar be extrapolated to predict results of next elections [if held]?

    * Religious leaders and scholars are due to drive to Nablus on Friday to express their condolences upon death of Hamas MP + religious scholar

    * Completing the picture, Ma’an reports that Fadel Beitawi, 33 [son of Hamas Sheikh] was detained Monday [just three days before his father’s death] by IDF after a pre-dawn raid on home in Nablus

    * Though Sheikh al-Betawi himself was arrested by the IDF several times, the arrest of his son coming so soon after the Sheikh’s recent heart surgery could not have helped his medical condition.

    * Despite who he is, the Sheikh did get a permit to go for treatment to a Palestinian hospital in East Jerusalem, on part of the Mount of Olives, where he is reported to have died.

    * IDF presence discretely reduced along the way to Nablus [+ back], as what must have been thousands went for condolences on death of the Hamas learned scholar and MP, Sheikh Hamed al-Betawi.

29 years later, horror of Sabra + Shatila massacres in Beirut lingers, grief endures

As we wrote in our post last year, here, which we published on 18 September 1982, the day the world found out what had been going on for at least the previous 48 hours:

The horror simply does not disappear.
That there are other horrors in the world does not in any way diminish what happened 28 years ago in Sabra + Shatila, where massacres took place in two undefended Palestinian refugee camps in west Beirut. It was, indeed, “one of the most horrific crimes of the 20th century” …

A good part of last year’s post relied on the accounts, including eye-witness reports gathered by Leila Shahid with Linda Butler, published here in the Journal of Palestine Studies.

It is a matter of public and historical record that Phalangist forces carried out the massacre in revenge for the assassination of their leader, Bachir Gemayel, on 14 September. Israeli officers consulted with Phalangist forces hours prior to their entry into the camp. The massacres were carried out while Israeli soldiers were stationed on the roof of an adjacent building which had a clear view of what went on in at least part of the area. Israeli forces fired flares to provide illumination through the first night that Phalangist forces were in the camp. An Israeli journalist went personally from Beirut back to Israel to speak directly to Israel’s then-Defense Minister to tell him what was going on in the camps. And, an Israeli commission of inquiry later found that Israel’s then-Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon, bore personal responsibility. Sharon was obliged to resign. [[I was one of three journalists who covered the subsequent trial of his lawsuit in NYC against TIME Magazine and CBS Television’s 60 Minutes for a report, which Sharon won, based on a dossier filed by David Halevy to Time Magazine that was judged faulty because of a leap of logic or assumption.]] Sharon later became Prime Minister.

The massacres were carried out after Sharon led IDF troops up to and encircled PLO leader Yasser Arafat in Beirut in June 1982. Weeks of heavy bombardment with all kinds of terrible weaponry designed to kill Arafat were used. The UN Security Council was in near-continuous consultations or meetings.

Finally, it was arranged for Arafat and PLO fighters to evacuate Beirut aboard Greek ferryboats under the UN flag. The evacuation began on 23 August.

Because the PLO fighters feared they were leaving their compatriots, friends and families undefended, American guarantees of protection were given, and American and French naval ships were stationed off the Lebanese coast.

Still, the massacre took place, over more than 48 hours, without intervention.

Anti-mine campaign denounces new IDF minefields planted in Golan to stop civilians

Australian media analyst/publisher/journalist Mike Hitchen has just written a post on his blog, here, reporting that the Campaign to Ban Landmines has strongly condemned the IDF move — leaked and widely reported authoritatively in the Israeli media, though only coyly hinted at by the IDF spokespersons — to plant new mines in the Golan to deter protesters coming across from Syria in September.

Israeli soldiers were reportedly stunned to see Palestinian protesters coming from Syria and crossing old minefields in the Golan in protests on May 15 [Nakba Day, marking the dispossesion of some 700,000 Palestinians in the fighting that surrounded the creation of the State of Israel in 1948] and June 5 [Naksa Day, commemorating the 1967 war].

Reports about what happened are contradictory. A recent news story suggested that old landmines failed to go off during both protests, which is a justification for planting new landmines. Earlier reports said that new mines had been planted between May 15 and June 5. A number of protesters were reportedly killed by landmine explosions set off, according to the IDF Northern Command, when brush fires set off by their Molotov cocktails exploded some mines [not clear whether these were new, or old, and the explanation is curious]…

The IDF spokespersons have not responded to multiple requests from this journalist for clarification, and correct information.

In September, the Palestinian leadership has announced, it intends to move to upgrade Palestine’s status at the UN. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has recently called for non-violent popular demonstrations in support of the move, at the same time. The IDF has publicly announced it is making various types of massive preparations in anticipation of possible protests in the coming weeks.

In Mike Hitchen’s post, he reports that Kasia Derlicka, Director of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), said that “There can be absolutely no justification for the use of these indiscriminate weapons, and to hear that these mines are aimed at civilians is particularly shocking … Earlier this year the Israeli government began clearing some of its deadly minefields, in recognition of their lethal humanitarian impact. Now, at the same time, to use this inhumane weapon against civilians is absolutely disgraceful”.

On Twitter, on 15 August, the @IDFSpokesperson called our attention to a video dated 28 July, on which the Golan Brigade Commander is speaking, apparently to journalists [well, they are holding microphones], in a public information exercise to show off [as deterrence, as well as reassurance to the Israeli public] the new fence that the IDF has built in the Golan since May and June, to ward off more protests. This video [subtitled in English] is posted on the IDF Spokesperson website here, and it is also on Youtube here.

In the video, the IDF Golan Brigade Commander, Colonel Eshkol Shukron, says that the IDF will not tolerate “border provocations” by “terrorists or civilians from Syria“:

The new fence, he said very suggestively, is only “one of a number of components” that Israel is deploying on the Golan to stop further protests [the IDF calls them “provocations”, “infiltrations”, and “riots”] … but made no mention of landmines.

The IDF language here does raise a problem — it is linguistically, and conceptually, turning unarmed civilian demonstrators into military [security] threats, and effectively describing them as legitimate targets.

IDF use of the language of propaganda, as here, is both unnecessary and dangerous — and gives rise to serious alarm about how events will be handled in the coming period.

Continue reading “Anti-mine campaign denounces new IDF minefields planted in Golan to stop civilians”

Report that Israel placed more anti-personnel mines in Golan in advance of September protests

This is a story that gets little reaction, despite more news coming in from time to time.

This time, it’s from a report, presumably in Hebrew, published in an Israeli military magazine.

The right-wing Israeli website, Arutz Sheva, is reporting here, that the latest edition of the Bemachaneh (On the Base) military magazine says that “Anti-personnel mines have been placed beyond the Golan border fence but on Israel’s side of the border … The mining in the area of the Golan territorial brigade is the first phase of activity that will extend to all of the border covered by the Israel Defense Forces’ 36th Division”.

The report also says that mines “already in place did not go off” during the May 15 protests in which Palestinian and Syrian protesters crossed the Golan and briefly entered the Israeli-controlled town of Majdel Shams, before being returned to Syria.  And, it says, this new planting of anti-personnel mines “is in addition to the erection of fences, the digging of trenches and other measures to prevent incursions by demonstrators or other hostile forces in September, when violence is expected to accompany the Palestinian Authority’s announced intent to unilaterally declare a state. Anti-tank mines are also being upgraded or replaced, in the first mining of the area in 10 years“.

UPDATE: The AP is now reporting, on Saturday 13 August, that “An Israeli army magazine says the military is planting new land mines along the border with Syria to dissuade protesters from rushing into the Golan Heights. The army decided to go ahead with the move after older mines failed to detonate when Syrian demonstrators rushed into the border area in June during a protest against Israel’s occupation. Israeli forces opened fire, killing some 20 protesters in efforts to push the crowd back. The mines are also part of beefed-up measures Israel is taking ahead of rallies that Palestinians are planning to hold in September”. This AP report is posted here.

NOTE: Our earlier reports on this story are posted:
17 June – here, and
16 June – here,
And our even earlier posts on this are:
9 June – here;
8 June – here;
and 7 June – here.

Continue reading “Report that Israel placed more anti-personnel mines in Golan in advance of September protests”

Israel now says it is enforcing a "maritime SECURITY blockade" of Gaza

The Israeli Naval interception of the French-flagged Yacht took place around 1:00 in the afternoon on Tuesday — reportedly, 40 miles off Gaza, whose agreed maritime space, as defined by the Oslo Accords, extends 20 nautical miles out into the Mediterranean off Gaza’s coastline.

The Dignity, with 16 or so passengers and 3 crew members — but no cargo — was nonetheless taken to Israel’s Ashdod Port, where all on board were due to be interrogated — then apparently deported (all, that is, but Israeli journalist for Haaretz, Amira Haaretz).

The IDF spokesperson later said [see below] that the take-over and commandeering of this yacht took place once it became clear those on board were creating a “provocation”, and after they had “lied” …

Haaretz reported in the evening that “The most complicated tasks were actually performed by the electronic warfare team and by the IDF Spokesperson’s unit”.

The Haaretz report noted that “When they set sail on Saturday and declared the Alexandria port as their destination, no one seemed to care anymore. The end of the saga was predictable. After all, Israeli intelligence knew exactly who was on board the yacht, and that none of the passengers would react violently. The Israel Navy was in action, but by then was regarding it a near routine operation … For once, the IDF was not only controlling the battlefield but the media as well”.

This congratulatory piece, published here, also said that “Simultaneously, the IDF Spokesperson supplied media outlets with real-time updates on every stage of the negotiations between the navy and the French yacht, released the IDF chief’s orders to intercept the vessel, and, after 10 minutes, put out a statement on the IDF interception, which had been carried out quickly and smoothly. Pictures and videos taken by IDF ships were also immediately circulated …”

What we really learned from last year’s “mistakes” is that a fuller version of the story will emerge only after those on board are free to speak about their experiences.

Continue reading “Israel now says it is enforcing a "maritime SECURITY blockade" of Gaza”