Al-Ahram Weekly Online   13 - 19 July 2006
Issue No. 803
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Killing and more killing

If moral debasement were a sought after currency, the state of Israel would be the richest country on earth, writes Khaled Amayreh in Palestine

On Wednesday, shortly before dawn, Israeli warplanes fired several missiles at a three-storey building in the densely populated Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in central Gaza, killing nine members of a single family. Israel said the bombing targeted Mohamed Dheif, one of Hamas's prominent resistance leaders. Dheif was reportedly injured moderately in the bombing. Fatalities include a professor at the Islamic University of Gaza, his wife and their seven children.

The new carnage is reminiscent of the 8 June obliteration of the Ghalia family, seven of whose members were killed by Israeli shelling while picnicking on a Gaza beach. The bombing also recalls Israel's murder of Salah Shehadeh, a Hamas military commander, in 2002 by dropping a one-tonne bomb on the apartment building in which he was living, killing 14 other people, including 11 children.

Medical rescuers Wednesday spoke of a woman cut into two parts, decapitated children and bodies mutilated beyond recognition.

"I don't know if there is any longer any difference between the Nazis and the Jews. The Nazis used gas chambers, the Zio-Nazis are using F-16s to carry out the same job; to slaughter children in order to appease their people's thirst for Palestinian blood," said Mohamed Salmieh, a relative of Nabil Salmieh whose home was bombed and destroyed.

"I think the Jews and the Americans are the Nazis of our time. These despicable child killers are no better than the Gestapo and the SS," said the obviously enraged and devastated young man.

The Israeli occupation army, now completely nonchalant about killing Palestinian civilians, admitted that the home was hit deliberately, claiming that a group of Hamas leaders were holding a meeting there. Hamas denied the Israeli account, calling it "cheap lies concocted by murderers and child killers". Hamas officials accused Israel of the deliberate extermination of entire families in order to make Palestinians suffer.

The fresh bloody violence came as dozens of Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles rumbled into central Gaza, effectively cutting Gaza in two. Israeli leaders have indicated on several occasions that they would go to any extent in order to deter Palestinians from capturing other Israeli soldiers for the purpose of using them as political bargaining chips. The captors of Corporal Gilad Shalit have said they would release him only if Israel agrees to free hundreds of Palestinian children and women interned in Israeli prisons.

Wednesday's gruesome murder of another Gaza family was reportedly ordered by Dan Halutz, the Israeli chief of staff, following coordination with Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz, who Israeli sources say is eager to prove to the Israeli public that he is no less liberal in spilling Palestinian blood than his infamous predecessors, including Moshe Yaalon and Shaul Mofaz. Under their command, thousands of Palestinian civilians were murdered, including more than 965 Palestinian children and minors.

For his part, Halutz is already a war criminal. It was he, in 2002 as an air force chief, who ordered the destruction of the apartment building in downtown Gaza with a one-tonne bomb, massacring sleeping children. Halutz never apologised or even expressed regret over the mass murder. Far from it, he insisted in interviews that his conscience was clear, was sleeping well at night, and that he would do it again and again.

Not a day has passed since 27 June, when the Israeli rampage of murder and terror against the Palestinian community in Gaza began, without a fresh toll of children and women murdered in wanton Israeli bombings of their homes, streets and neighbourhoods. On Tuesday, missiles and heavy machine gun fire from Apache and Copra helicopters hovering over Palestinian homes killed another three children and four other civilians. The previous day, two other children were killed, among others.

In all, the death toll of the Israeli military onslaught currently tops 60 people, the vast bulk of them innocent civilians. In addition, over 200 people, nearly all of them civilians, have so far been injured or maimed, many left in critical condition.

Further, Palestinian Health Minister Bassem Naim accused Israel of using outlawed weapons in its latest onslaught on Gaza. The weapons used, he said, were causing severe wounds which physicians were unable to treat, while dead bodies reaching hospitals in Gaza were charred and badly mutilated.

"Even bodies of the injured have been almost completely burnt. They have been deformed in a very ugly way that we have never seen before. When we try to X-ray dead bodies, we find no trace of shrapnel. The bodies seem to have been chemically burnt. We are sure Israel is using new chemical or radioactive weaponry in this operation. More than 25 per cent of the injured are children below the age of 16," Naim said.

The unmitigated killings, as well as deliberate targeting and destruction of civilian infrastructure such as power stations, bridges, homes, water facilities, schools and colleges, have prompted Amnesty International and some Israeli human rights and civic organisations to describe Israeli actions as "war crimes".

"Deliberate attacks by Israeli forces against civilian property infrastructure in the Gaza Strip violate international humanitarian law and constitute war crimes," read a statement by Amnesty International issued recently. "Israel must now take urgent measures to remedy the long-term damage it has caused and immediately restore the supply of electricity and water to the Palestinian population in the affected areas."

Israel remains able to scoff at such statements so long as the United States, its guardian ally, continues to acquiesce to Israeli atrocities. The US itself, after all, is in no moral position to lecture Israel on civilian killings. Indeed, the open-ended series of war crimes and atrocities, including rape and murder, committed by American occupation troops in Iraq creates a sense of concordance, rather than a discord, between the US and Israel. "We are talking about Tweedledee and Tweedledum," said one Palestinian commentator.

The daily killing of Palestinians by the Israeli military machine is only the most conspicuous aspect of Israel's open war on this helpless population. During the past few weeks, Israel and its occupation forces have tormented Palestinians, narrowing their horizons, in ways unseen since the start of the occupation in 1967.

In Rafah, Israel has been refusing to allow thousands of stranded and exhausted Palestinians -- many of them returning from medical treatment in Cairo -- on the Egyptian side of the border to cross over into Gaza, resulting in a growing humanitarian crisis.

At least four, including an infant, a teenager and a pregnant woman, have died while awaiting the opening of the border crossing which Israel has come to control indirectly by controlling European observers' access to it. Israel is clearly the occupying power in Gaza if only because it controls the territory's main border crossing to the outside world.

Moreover, Israel is preventing the import of food and fuel to the Gaza Strip, plunging its estimated 1.4 million inhabitants into dire conditions, a growing number of Gazan families literally starving at the time of writing.

Similarly, Israel continues to arrest dozens of Palestinians per day, further swelling the Palestinian population of Israeli jails and detention camps where over 10,000 political detainees, including many children and women, are languishing under appalling conditions.

Finally, the Israeli government has issued a decree barring Palestinians carrying foreign -- including American -- passports from entering the West Bank. The draconian measure, to which the Bush administration has shown no opposition, is ostensibly aimed at further isolating the Palestinians by depriving them of supporters and eyewitnesses able to communicate to others what many Palestinians view as a slow-motion genocide conducted by the state of Israel.

One Israeli official boasted this week that the international community, including their Arab and Muslim brothers, was abandoning the Palestinians. The gung-ho official remarked that this was the "right time" for Israel to "gang up on them and deal them a blow from which they won't wake up for many, many years to come."

Where else in the world would such statements be tolerated? This is the Israel with which America stands shoulder-to-shoulder in alliance.

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