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:
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’.”