What words for this?
Palestinians are being indiscriminately killed in Gaza. Is the world deaf and blind, asks Saleh Al-Naami
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An Israeli army helicopter shoots flares into the air during a military operation in Gaza as Palestinian children take part in a demonstration against the Israeli assault
Following numerous attempts, Khaled Attallah finally convinced his wife Saturday afternoon that they should leave their apartment on the third floor of the family home on Yarmouk Street in downtown Gaza City and go to his parents and two sisters on the first floor. Khaled assumed that the higher floors would be more vulnerable to harm from Israeli shells and missiles as the Israeli army intensified its "warm winter" military campaign, the first stage of which ended at dawn last Monday. When Khaled went down to the first floor he found that his brother Ibrahim, and his wife, who lived on the second floor, had arrived before them.
As Khaled and Ibrahim were chatting with their parents at around 6pm that evening, their wives sitting near, an Israeli F-16 jet fired three missiles on their home, turning it immediately to rubble. Khaled and Ibrahim, their parents, their sister Raja Attallah -- a well-known Palestinian lawyer -- and their youngest sister Ibtisam were all killed. Khaled's wife, their child Anis, and Ibrahim's wife were all severely wounded, as was a neighbour when part of the building collapsed upon him. About 20 homes in the area were damaged.
Ehab Al-Ghasin, Interior Ministry spokesman in the dismissed Haniyeh government told Al-Ahram Weekly that 25 homes had been destroyed over the heads of their residents during the Israeli campaign that resulted in the death of 116 and the injuring of 480. The Palestinian Ministry of Health has announced that 80 of those killed and 450 of those injured were ordinary civilians.
The Israeli army, which withdrew its forces from the northern Gaza Strip at dawn Monday, has made it clear that the "warm winter" campaign has not ended. Rather, its first stage has ended, the second due to begin within days when other areas of the Gaza Strip will be invaded. Roni Daniel, military commentator for Israeli Channel Two, says that the Israeli withdrawal is a manoeuvre that aims to lull Palestinian resistance fighters into a false sense of relief so that they can be taken by surprise anew.
Ehud Barak, Israeli minister of defence, has made it clear that the "warm winter" campaign aims to pave the way for a wide-scale land campaign leading to the direct re-occupation of most of the Gaza Strip. In interview with Israeli Army Radio Sunday, Barak noted that the Israeli military campaign aims not only to topple Hamas but also to definitively prevent arms smuggling operations across the Egypt-Gaza border. The ultimate goal, Barak stressed, is the complete severance of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank.
Matan Vilnai, Barak's deputy, said that in order to meet these goals the Israeli army must undertake assassination operations against Hamas activists and political leaders. Vilnai mentioned by name Mahmoud Al-Zahar, Khalil Al-Haya and Said Siyam as potential targets. According to Vilnai, the civil and security institutions of Hamas and its government must also be destroyed, preventing the government from offering services to the Palestinian people, presumably so that they rise up against it.
Haim Ramon, Israeli vice premier, spelled out in interview with Hebrew- language Israeli radio Sunday morning that Israel was "taxing a price" from the Palestinian public and not only the Palestinian resistance, so as to drive the former to rise up against the resistance. "Palestinians must know that as long as they don't move against the terrorists, they will only have more suffering before them," he said. All indications are that the Israeli army intends to harm Palestinian civilians.
Salwa Asliya, a university student who lives with her family in the eastern section of Jabaliya Refugee Camp in the northern Gaza Strip, where the Israeli army invaded, was overcome with worry last Friday night after her sister, Samah, had gone out to the balcony to see what had happened after hearing the sound of explosions near their house. As Salwa was dragging Samah towards their shared bedroom, a shell fired by Israeli troops stationed on the border between the Strip and Israel beat them to it. Both sisters were killed and major damage was caused to the second floor of the building housing their family's apartment. Um Sabry Asliya, a relative and neighbour, told the Weekly that an even greater catastrophe had been avoided, for the rest of the family was on the first floor.
What happened to Bassam Abid, a resident of the same neighbourhood, was even more tragic. Abid was terrified when the shelling around his house intensified, and he decided to leave with his two sons, Mohamed and Khalil, and go to the western section of Jabaliya Camp. As Bassam was leaving their home, a shell killed him and Mohamed, 12, and severely injured Khalil, nine. The family's neighbours speak of Abid as a man who loved his children to the point of madness, and that this was what had driven him to take them out of the area.
The same scene was repeated with Jacqueline Abu Shibak, 17, and her brother Iyad, 14. Jacqueline succeeded in bringing back her brother who had gone to check on the situation around the house after the shelling had intensified. After they returned to the house, a missile fired by a pilot-less reconnaissance drone hit and killed them both instantly.
The family of Mohamed Badrouneh also met with an Israeli shell. The family was together in their living room when the shelling intensified, and they didn't know what to do. Before they could make a decision, a shell struck the home and injured all 13 members of the family.
During the five days of the first stage of "warm winter", the Israeli army refused to allow the bodies of those killed to be removed. Emad Qadoura, who lives in Izbat Hamoudeh, which Israeli soldiers also invaded, told the Weekly by telephone that the bodies of the dead were lying in the streets and in homes and gardens, and were beginning to decompose, and that occupation tanks were rolling over them.
Due to the large number of those killed and injured, hospitals have been unable to accept patients. The situation has reached the point of hospital hallways being turned into operating rooms after operating theatres became filled with the wounded and killed. Raid Al-Arini, public relations director in the Dar Al-Shifa Hospital, told the Weekly that the hospital administration had no option other than to turn other hospital departments, in addition to the hallways, into temporary emergency wards. Al-Arini also said that injuries requiring minor operations had been sent to health clinics with modest means outside of the hospital.
For its part, Hamas considers that the Israeli campaign failed to reach its goals and has sworn to continue the resistance. Sami Abu Zahiri, Hamas spokesperson, told the Weekly : "We continue to offer to Israel a comprehensive truce, on which basis the resistance would halt its operations in return for Israel stopping its operations in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and lifting the siege on the Palestinian people."
For Saleh Zidan, politbureau member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Israel would not have undertaken this attack "without getting a green light from America". In interview with the Weekly, Zidan said that American collusion with Israel reveals the lie of Bush administration claims that 2008 will be the year of the Palestinian state. Zidan called on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to halt negotiations entirely and to tie any resumption to a halt of Israel's aggression and settlement construction in Palestinian territories. Zidan said that Israel was exploiting Palestinian internal rifts to widen its aggression against the Palestinian people, and called on Fatah and Hamas to return immediately to dialogue and halt all propaganda campaigns.
The position of President Mahmoud Abbas and the PA has been contradictory. Riyad Al-Maliki, minister of information in Salam Fayyad's government, held Hamas responsible for the massacres. He said the firing of rockets on Israel had given it justification for its aggression against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Abbas announced the suspension of peace negotiations in protest at the Israeli aggression against Gaza, but according to Israel, this position is not contradictory but rather "official Palestinian approval" for continued aggression against the Strip. Last Sunday's edition of Haaretz newspaper reported Israeli political sources as saying that Al-Maliki's statements form "Palestinian support for what Israel is doing to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip."
The same sources hold that Arab responses to what is taking place give the impression that Arab governments are dealing with the campaign against the Gaza Strip as though it were against Hamas and not the Palestinian people. At the same time, Israel has benefited from international positions on the attack, including that of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- Moon. The general director of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Ibrahim Abramovich, expressed pleasure with the position taken by Ban as it does not direct clear criticism against Israel, but rather demands that the Palestinians stop firing rockets. Abramovich says that despite the images broadcast on television around the world, no campaign of criticism has gathered against Israel in the global media.
The massacres that the Gaza Strip has been subjected to in the first stage of "warm winter" might be followed with worse in the days to come. As long as the Palestinian rift persists, and Arab silence and international collusion prevail, Israel's appetite for aggression will only be whetted.