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Posts Tagged ‘Operation Protective Edge

‘Black Friday’: Carnage in Rafah (2014 Israel pre-emptive war on Gaza)

On 8 July 2014, Israel launched a military operation code-named Operation Protective Edge, the third major offensive in Gaza since 2008.

It announced that the operation was aimed at stopping rocket attacks from Gaza on Israeli civilians.

A ground operation followed, launched on the night of 17-18 July. According to the Israeli army, one of the primary objectives of the ground operation was to destroy the tunnel system constructed by Palestinian armed groups, particularly those with shafts discovered near residential areas located in Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip.

On 1 August 2014 Israel and Hamas agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire that would take effect at 8am that day.

Three weeks after Israel launched its military offensive on Gaza, thousands of Palestinians who had sought refuge in shelters or with relatives prepared to return to their homes during the anticipated break in hostilities.

In Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip, a group of Israeli soldiers patrolling an agricultural area west of the border encountered a group of Hamas fighters posted there. A fire fight ensued, resulting in the death of two Israeli soldiers and one Palestinian fighter.

The Hamas fighters captured an Israeli officer, Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, and took him into a tunnel. What followed became one of the deadliest episodes of the war; an intensive use of firepower by Israel, which lasted four days and killed scores of civilians (reports range from at least 135 to over 200), injured many more and destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes and other civilian structures, mostly on 1 August.

In this report, Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture, a research team based at Goldsmiths, University of London, provide a detailed reconstruction of the events in Rafah from 1 August until 4 August 2014, when a ceasefire came into effect. The report examines the Israeli army’s response to the capture of Lieutenant Hadar Goldin and its implementation of the Hannibal Directive – a controversial command designed to deal with captures of soldiers by unleashing massive firepower on persons, vehicles and buildings in the vicinity of the attack, despite the risk to civilians and the captured soldier(s).

The report recounts events by connecting various forms of information including: testimonies from victims and witnesses including medics, journalists, and human rights defenders in Rafah; reports by human rights and other organizations; news and media feeds, public statements and other information from Israeli and Palestinian official sources; and videos and photographs collected on the ground and from the media.

Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture worked with a number of field researchers and photographers who documented sites where incidents took place using protocols for forensic photography. Forensic Architecture located elements of witness testimonies in space and time and plotted the movement of witnesses through a three-dimensional model of urban spaces.

It also modelled and animated the testimony of several witnesses, combining spatial information obtained from separate testimonies and other sources in order to reconstruct incidents. Three satellite images of the area, dated 30 July, 1 August and 14 August, were obtained and analysed in detail; the image of 1 August reveals a rare overview of a moment within the conflict. 7

Forensic Architecture also retrieved a large amount of audiovisual material on social media and employed digital maps and models to locate evidence such as oral description, photography, video and satellite imagery in space and time. When audio-visual material from social media came with inadequate metadata, Forensic Architecture used time indicators in the image, such as shadow and smoke plumes analysis, to locate sources in space and time.

An Israeli infantry officer described to Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence the events that ensued after the Hannibal Directive was announced on the radio:

“The minute ‘Hannibal Directive’ is declared on the radio, there are consequences. There’s a fire procedure called the ‘Hannibal fire procedure’ – you fire at every suspicious place that merges with a central route. You don’t spare any means.”
Israeli army Infantry Officer

He reported that the initial burst of fire lasted three hours. An artillery soldier said his battery was “firing at a maximum fire rate” right into inhabited areas. According to the report of an Israeli military inquiry, more than 2,000 bombs, missiles and shells were fired in Rafah during 1 August, including 1,000 in the three hours following the capture.

According to the Israeli army, the initial strikes aimed to stop the movement of all “suspicious” persons and vehicles, to isolate the area until the arrival of ground forces and to target known and suspected tunnel shafts, which meant bombing residential buildings and agricultural installations suspected of harbouring tunnel exits or entrances.

Another officer explained the logic of the operation, including potentially killing the captured soldier: “In such an event you prefer a killed soldier rather than a soldier in enemy hands, like [Gilad] Shalit. I told myself ‘even if I bring back a corpse I have brought back the missing person’.”

As the strikes began, the roads in eastern Rafah were full of disoriented civilians moving in all directions. Believing a ceasefire had begun, they had returned – or were returning – to their homes. Many decided to turn around, attempting to flee under a barrage of bombs and gunfire.

Palestinian witnesses described jets, drones, helicopters and artillery raining fire at pedestrians and vehicles at the intersections, indiscriminately hitting cars, ambulances, motorbikes and pedestrians. “You see the hysteria of the children, destruction, and mushroom clouds, and you try to get as far away from them as you can,” said Wa’el al-Namla, a local resident and father of two.

Inam Ouda Ayed bin Hammad, a local resident, told Amnesty International that, after 9am on 1 August, she noticed the shelling intensifying and missiles landing in close vicinity to their home in the al-Tannur neighbourhood of Rafah. She and her family were on the streets seeking shelter elsewhere when a bomb hit a building nearby and killed her son Anas, her cousin Wafa and at least 14 other civilians, as well as injuring scores of other fleeing civilians.

One of the scenarios that the Israeli military considered was that the captured soldier, Lieutenant Goldin, had been wounded and taken to the Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital, the medical facility closest to the area of capture. The flood of casualties started coming into the hospital at about 10am, according to medical staff. The attacks around the hospital grew nearer and more frequent as the day went on. Studying photographs of the hospital, Forensic Architecture noted both internal and external damage.

On the satellite image taken on 14 August, Forensic Architecture detected one crater about 120m south-west of the hospital and three craters about the same distance north-east of the hospital.

Patients, staff and persons seeking refuge at the hospital proceeded to evacuate the building in a rush when the attacks intensified. An organized evacuation took place in the evening. By about 7pm the hospital was closed and reporters claimed that the entire neighbourhood around the Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital was under artillery fire.

The pounding of Rafah continued for three days after the initial strikes of 1 August, even after Lieutenant Goldin was declared dead by an Israeli rabbinical court and buried on 2 August.

There is overwhelming evidence that Israeli forces committed disproportionate, or otherwise indiscriminate, attacks which killed scores of civilians in their homes, on the streets and in vehicles and injured many more. This includes repeatedly firing artillery and other imprecise explosive weapons in densely populated civilian areas during the attacks on Rafah between 1 and 4 August. In some cases, there are indications that they directly fired at and killed civilians, including people fleeing.

Public statements by Israeli army commanders and soldiers after the conflict provide compelling reasons to conclude that some attacks that killed civilians and destroyed homes and property were intentionally carried out and motivated by a desire for revenge – to teach a lesson to, or punish, the population of Rafah for the capture of Lieutenant Goldin.

There is consequently strong evidence that many such attacks in Rafah between 1 and 4 August were serious violations of international humanitarian law and constituted grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention or other war crimes.

The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict examined the Israeli army attack on Rafah on 1 August and also raised serious concerns about the conformity of the Israeli army actions on that day with international law. The Commission investigated attacks it considered disproportionate or otherwise indiscriminate and found that some might amount to war crimes.

The Commission also concluded that the Israeli army did not appear to have taken precautions to verify that targets of attacks were lawful military objectives and to choose the weapons which could avoid or minimize civilian casualties and destruction to civilian structures.

Israeli army commanders and officers can operate in confidence that they are unlikely to be held accountable for violations of international law due to the pervasive climate of impunity that has existed for decades. This is due, in large part, to the lack of independent, impartial and effective investigations.

Despite the massive toll that Operation Protective Edge had on civilians in Gaza, almost one year after the conflict, military prosecutors have indicted only three soldiers for one incident of looting. A significant number of cases have been closed on the basis that no crimes were committed (the main reason given in such decisions) or that there was insufficient evidence to indict.

With regard to Israeli army operations in Rafah between 1 and 4 August, the Israeli authorities have failed to conduct genuine, effective, and prompt investigations into any of the allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law documented in this report, let alone to prosecute individuals, including commanders and civilian superiors, suspected of committing or ordering related crimes under international law.

The authorities have failed to ensure that victims have effective access to justice, or to provide them with full and prompt reparation, including restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.

The events need to be independently and impartially investigated. Amnesty International’s view is that no official body capable of conducting such investigations currently exists in Israel. It is therefore calling on the Israeli authorities to: co-operate fully with the ongoing preliminary examination by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court into the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and any future investigations or prosecutions; reform their domestic mechanisms for investigating allegations of violations of international humanitarian law to ensure that it is independent, effective, prompt and transparent; allow human rights organizations access to Gaza to investigate suspected violations of international law by all parties to the conflict; and immediately and fully lift the blockade imposed on Gaza since 2007.

Amnesty International is also asking the international community in general to support the role of the International Criminal Court in examining allegations of crimes under international law including those documented in this report, and to pressure the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to co-operate fully with the Office of the Prosecutor.

All states should oppose punitive measures against Palestine for joining the International Criminal Court or for submitting information on Israeli violations to the Court or taking other steps to activate international justice mechanisms.

On the same day three ambulances from the hospital went to collect wounded people near a mosque in Rafah; one ambulance was hit and completely destroyed by what appeared to be three drone-launched missiles. The three medics and all the wounded within the ambulance were burnt to death.

A second ambulance left, while the other, which remained to collect the wounded and dead, was hit by another apparent drone strike.

Andrew Bossone shared this link

“There is overwhelming evidence that Israeli forces committed disproportionate, or otherwise indiscriminate, attacks which killed scores of civilians in their homes, on the streets and in vehicles and injured many more.

This includes repeatedly firing artillery and other imprecise explosive weapons in densely populated civilian areas during the attacks on Rafah between 1 and 4 August.

In some cases, there are indications that they directly fired at and killed civilians, including people fleeing.

‘Black Friday’: Carnage in Rafah (2014 Israel pre-emptive war on Gaza)
A joint report by Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture reveals strong evidence of Israeli war crimes during attacks on Rafah between 1 and 4 August…
blackfriday.amnesty.org|By Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture

 

‘Unprecedented’ violence stalks anti-war demos across Israel

The recent demonstrations in Tel Aviv and Haifa against the Gaza war have largely failed to reach the global media.

And while the end of the bloodshed still seems far from sight, there is a different, violent confrontation being held inside Israel – one that targets Arab citizens and left-wing activists on the internet, and uses physical violence against anti-war demonstrators.

Omer Raz Published July 29, 2014

Tel Aviv, July 13

The second weekend of Operation Protective Edge saw the first bout of physical violence at Habima Square – the cultural heart of Tel Aviv.

At around 8 p.m. a crowd of several hundred people gathered to protest against Operation Protective Edge, and called for a ceasefire.

A second small group, comprised largely of teens and young adults draped in Israeli flags, began harassing the anti-war demonstrators, shouting slogans against their protest and accusing them of treason. The protest got tense as the right-wingers became physically violent.

A few minutes after 9 p.m., air raid sirens began blaring after Hamas shot multiple long-range rockets at Tel Aviv.

The leftist protest scattered to find shelter, while the rightists chased them into dark alleys and cafes, where several leftists were beaten.

Shortly after, +972’s Haggai Matar wrote the following:

When the sirens sounded into the night, only one thing was obvious to all of us: the fascists in front of us are more dangerous than the rockets on the way.”

Right-wing nationalists attacking left wing activists during a protest in center Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. The protest ended with the nationalists attacking a small group of left-wing activists with little police interference. Three activists injured and one right-wing person arrested. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The scene was later described by the new, self-ordained nationalist leader – a long forgotten ex-rapper who goes by the name of “The Shadow” (HaTzel). He wrote the following on his Facebook profile shortly after the protest:

We started with 3 people against their 800, and finished with 350 of ours and zero of them. It was crazy to do it all with sirens in the background and explosions in the sky.

Haifa, July 16-17

A city with a mixed population of Jews and Arabs, Haifa is known as a bastion of Jewish-Arab coexistence. (In the past it was referred to as “Red Haifa” for its blue-collar port and industry working class politics.)

Haifa has held regular Saturday night demonstrations since the beginning of the assault.

The July 16 protest was organized by the Balad party and Abna’a Al-Balad – a secular Palestinian movement in Israel – and included prominent Arab political figures such as Knesset members Hanin Zoabi and Jamal Zehalka, both of whom are hated by the general non-Arabic public.

The demonstrators marched and chanted slogans through the streets of the Wadi Nisnas and the German colony neighborhoods, before violence erupted between the protesters and police forces, resulting in 40 arrests.

The following day, Hadash, the Arab-Jewish socialist party, held a joint demonstration against the Gaza war as well as against the arrests.

In response, leading figures of the far-right, including Kahanist activist Baruch Marzel, called on supporters to attend and “take a stand” against the anti-war demonstration.

Palestinian protesters demonstrate in front of Haifa's Baha'i Gardens against Operation Protective Edge. (photo: Activestills)

The police did not take any chances this time; helicopters hovered above Mount Carmel, police officers on horseback guarded the main entrances to the protest, and a large vehicle equipped with a water cannon was station across the road.

The anti-war demonstrators numbered no more than 300, while at least 1,000 counter-protesters stood on the other side of Moriya Avenue.

Police presence was heavy and kept the two sides at bay. The rightists yelled slogans such as “Go to Gaza,” “Death to Arabs,” and “Death to leftists.”

Water bottles and stones were thrown at the Arabs and Jews who stood together and yelled “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.”

Young men in their 20s roamed the main road leading to the protest. They were hooligans; we had never seen them in Haifa before.

This wasn’t only hostile ground for Arabs, it was hostile to anyone who is not committed to the war effort. When the left-wing protest dispersed and buses began to load people back to their homes, the mob got out of control.

They started again chasing and beating leftists, including women and elderly people. The police then used water cannons and stun grenades to disperse the rioters; at least 30 people were injured.

Tel Aviv, July 26

It took three weeks before the anti-war camp slowly materialized.

After the events in Haifa, organizers put together an event to be held in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square – where 400,000 people once demonstrated against the Lebanon war in the 1982. Thousands were expected.

Three hours before the event, just as people from all across the country were making their way to Tel Aviv in the heavy Saturday evening traffic, the police announced that it was canceling the protest for security reasons, because was slated to coincide with the end of the humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

However, the police reversed its decision one hour later.

Between 4,000 and 5,000 protesters came to Rabin Square, with hundreds on the nationalist side. The latter were supported by many passersby on the street, who shouted and harassed the leftists.

Israelis protesting the Gaza war in Tel Aviv light candles to commemorate the victims. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The demonstration was once again heavily guarded by police, and the two sides were separated by steel fences.

Speeches were made by politicians, as well as by members of Combatants for Peace (former soldiers and militant Palestinians who have since come together to renounce violence).

Police dispersed the protest at 10 p.m., a full hour before it was scheduled to end. But the nationalists did not stop there.

As demonstrators were leaving the square, several were accosted and attacked by right wingers, some of them wielding metal batons. At least eight people were beaten and needed medical attention, while eight nationalist protesters were detained by police.

WATCH: Anti-war demonstrators square off with right-wingers in Tel Aviv:

Omer Raz is an environmental engineering student and former editor of the student magazine editor at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa.

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Only one thing will make Israel stop brutalizing Palestinians

On August 26, Israel and the Palestinian Authority both accepted a cease-fire agreement after a 50-day Israeli assault on Gaza that left 2,100 Palestinians dead, 11,000 injured and vast landscapes of destruction behind.

The agreement calls for an end to military action by Israel and Hamas as well as an easing of the Israeli siege that has strangled Gaza for many years.

As long as the United States provides the necessary military, economic, diplomatic and ideological support for Israel’s illegal occupation and siege nothing will change.

 Noam Chomsky Posted in News  this October 5, 2014
Gaza in rubble after Israeli onslaught

Israel’s ‘mowing the lawn’ in its Operation Protective Edge.  50-day onslaught in Gaza, July/August 2014

The most recent of a series of cease-fire agreements reached after each of Israel’s periodic escalations of its unremitting assault on Gaza has not changed since the 2005 agreement, that Israel refused to apply.

Since November 2005 the terms of these agreements have remained essentially the same.

The regular pattern is for Israel to disregard whatever agreement is in place, while Hamas observes it—as Israel has conceded—until a sharp increase in Israeli violence elicits a Hamas response, followed by even fiercer brutality.

These escalations are called “mowing the lawn” in Israeli parlance.

The most recent was more accurately described as “removing the topsoil” by a senior US military officer, quoted in Al Jazeera America.

The first of this series was the Agreement on Movement and Access between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in November 2005.

It called for:

1. a crossing between Gaza and Egypt at Rafah for the export of goods and the transit of people;

2.  crossings between Israel and Gaza for goods and people;

3. the reduction of obstacles to movement within the West Bank;

4.  bus and truck convoys between the West Bank and Gaza;

5. the building of a seaport in Gaza; and

6. the reopening of the airport in Gaza that Israeli bombing had demolished.

That agreement was reached shortly after Israel withdrew its settlers and military forces from Gaza. The motive for the disengagement was explained by Dov Weisglass, a confidant of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was in charge of negotiating and implementing it.

“The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process,” Weisglass told Haaretz.

“And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a [US] presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.”

“The disengagement is actually formaldehyde,” Weisglass added. “It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.”

This pattern has continued to the present: through Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 to Pillar of Defense in 2012 to this summer’s Protective Edge, the most extreme exercise in mowing the lawn—so far.

For more than 20 years, Israel has been committed to separating Gaza from the West Bank in violation of the Oslo Accords it signed in 1993, which declare Gaza and the West Bank to be an inseparable territorial unity.

A look at a map explains the rationale.

Separated from Gaza, any West Bank enclaves left to Palestinians have no access to the outside world. They are contained by two hostile powers, Israel and Jordan, both close US allies—and contrary to illusions, the US is very far from a neutral “honest broker.”

Furthermore, Israel has been systematically taking over the Jordan Valley, driving out Palestinians, establishing settlements, sinking wells and otherwise ensuring that the region—about one-third of the West Bank, with much of its arable land—will ultimately be integrated into Israel along with the other regions being taken over.

The remaining Palestinian cantons will be completely imprisoned.

Unification with Gaza would interfere with these plans, which trace back to the early days of the occupation and have had steady support from the major Israeli political blocs.

Israel might feel that its takeover of Palestinian territory in the West Bank has proceeded so far that there is little to fear from some limited form of autonomy for the enclaves that remain to Palestinians.

There is also some truth to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s observation: “Many elements in the region understand today that, in the struggle in which they are threatened, Israel is not an enemy but a partner.” Presumably he was alluding to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates.

Israel’s leading diplomatic correspondent Akiva Eldar adds, however, that “all those ‘many elements in the region’ also understand that there is no brave and comprehensive diplomatic move on the horizon without an agreement on the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders and a just, agreed-upon solution to the refugee problem.”

That is not on Israel’s agenda, he points out, and is in fact in direct conflict with the 1999 electoral program of the governing Likud coalition, never rescinded, which “flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan River.”

Some knowledgeable Israeli commentators, notably columnist Danny Rubinstein, believe that Israel is poised to reverse course and relax its stranglehold on Gaza.

We’ll see.

The record of these past years suggests otherwise and the first signs are not auspicious.

As Operation Protective Edge ended, Israel announced its largest appropriation of West Bank land in 30 years, almost 1,000 acres.

It is commonly claimed on all sides that, if the two-state settlement is dead as a result of Israel’s takeover of Palestinian lands, then the outcome will be one state west of the Jordan.

Some Palestinians welcome this outcome, anticipating that they can then engage in a fight for equal rights modeled on the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.

Many Israeli commentators warn that the resulting “demographic problem” of more Arab than Jewish births and diminishing Jewish immigration will undermine their hope for a “democratic Jewish state.”

But these widespread beliefs are dubious.

The realistic alternative to a two-state settlement is that Israel will continue to carry forward the plans it has been implementing for years: taking over whatever is of value to it in the West Bank, while avoiding Palestinian population concentrations and removing Palestinians from the areas that it is absorbing.

That should avoid the dreaded “demographic problem.”

The areas being taken over include a vastly expanded Greater Jerusalem, the area within the illegal separation wall, corridors cutting through the regions to the east and probably the Jordan Valley.

Gaza will likely remain under its usual harsh siege, separated from the West Bank.

And the Syrian Golan Heights—like Jerusalem, annexed in violation of Security Council orders—will quietly become part of Greater Israel.

In the meantime, West Bank Palestinians will be contained in unviable cantons, with special accommodation for elites in standard neocolonial style.

For a century, the Zionist colonization of Palestine has proceeded primarily on the pragmatic principle of the quiet establishment of facts on the ground, which the world was to ultimately come to accept.

This principle has been a highly successful policy.

There is every reason to expect it to persist as long as the United States provides the necessary military, economic, diplomatic and ideological support.

For those concerned with the rights of the brutalized Palestinians, there can be no higher priority than working to change US policies, not an idle dream by any means.

Source: In These Times

 

 

Foreign press: Hamas didn’t censor us in Gaza.

Hamas fighters and leaders were nowhere to be found

Reporters who covered Operation Protective Edge in Gaza dismiss Israeli accusations of giving Hamas an easy ride.

Anshel Pfeffer Published this 08.08.14

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Aug. 6, 2014, news conference in Jerusalem regarding Hamas firing rockets into Israel. / Photo by AP Photo/Jim Hollander Po…
 
On Wednesday night Benjamin Netanyahu briefed the foreign press, summing up four weeks of warfare in Gaza. “Now that the members of the press are leaving Gaza and are no longer subjected to Hamas restrictions and intimidation,” he said,” I expect we will see even more documentation of Hamas terrorists hiding behind the civilian population, exploiting civilian targets. I think it’s very important for the truth to come out.”The prime minister’s voice betrayed no rancor but his words masked a deep frustration in his office over what one adviser called “a conspiracy of silence” by the foreign correspondents reporting from Gaza for the past month.

They have remained silent over how no one digs too deep into the Hamas side or into how they use civilians as human shields,” the adviser said. “That’s how they get an opportunity to cover Gaza, and it creates an imbalanced picture, which is bad for Israel. We should be trying to expose that.”

Netanyahu’s expectations have yet to be fulfilled.

Of the 710 foreign journalists who crossed into Gaza during Operation Protective Edge, only a handful have claimed they were intimidated by Hamas or produced hitherto unpublished footage of rockets being fired from civilian areas, such as the pictures filmed by Indian channel NDTV, which were shown at the Netanyahu briefing.

Maybe such footage will still emerge — all the foreign correspondents interviewed for this piece insisted that it doesn’t exist, and not because they wouldn’t have liked to obtain such pictures.

“It’s a phony controversy,” said one reporter who spent three weeks in Gaza and, like most who were interviewed, asked to remain anonymous. “This is a post-facto attempt to claim the media’s biased and Netanyahu [is] therefore infallibly right.”

Elusive Rockets

But how could Hamas and other Palestinian organizations launch 2,657 rockets and mortar shells from Gaza, Israeli officials ask, and only NDTV reporter Sreenivasan Jain captured a launcher on film?

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor says he can’t believe “how veteran war photographers couldn’t capture even one launch team, a single Hamas fighter on a barricade, the kind of exclusive photo they routinely risk their neck for.”

“What nonsense,” says one senior correspondent based in Israel. “The fact that NDTV succeeded proves nothing; it was an almost unbelievable opportunity. There are places which are just too dangerous and a photographer has to first protect himself.”

“I didn’t see a rocket at point of launch,” says one European photographer who left Gaza a few days ago, “but I did see a lot in the air, and those pictures were published. If I had a chance I would have photographed launchers, but they were well hidden. Israel, with all its sensors and drones, didn’t find them all.”

“You couldn’t tell exactly where a rocket was being launched from,” says an American reporter. ”Often they were hundreds of yards away, although you could hear the launch and see the contrails. We didn’t hesitate to mention the general area in our reports, but that didn’t necessarily add much.”

“There are always some gung-ho photojournalists who would go to any front line, no matter how dangerous,” says Anne Barnard, the New York Times Beirut bureau chief, who spent two weeks reporting from Gaza.

But that requires essentially an informal embed with the militants, to even be able to locate them without getting caught in crossfire on the way. Our team in Gaza noted frequently in stories that Hamas operates in urban areas and from farm fields. We mentioned witnessing specific rocket launches in numerous stories, witnessing the rocket going up from some distance away, that is. But in two weeks I never saw a rocket crew; for obvious reasons, to avoid getting a hit by Israeli strikes, they try not to be seen.”

Missing in Action

The elusive rocket launchers are only one detail in the Israeli criticism. Where were the Hamas attackers throughout the operation? Why are pictures of uniformed and armed fighters totally absent from the coverage?

“I described the few Hamas fighters I saw in my pieces,” says one veteran war reporter, “but there were so few of them. It reminded me a lot of Lebanon in 2006, where you didn’t really see Hezbollah fighters even right at the border. Except for one chance encounter with a mortar team who looked embarrassed to be spotted. It was the same in Iraq, too, in the 2003 insurgency. Most of the time the fighters were invisible and dangerous.”

Reporter after reporter returning from Gaza has spoken of how, with the notable exception of spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas fighters melted away during the warfare, even abandoning their regular checkpoint at the entrance to the Strip from Erez, so no one was checking the journalists’ passports.

“Members of the political wing could only very occasionally be found or talked to,“ says Barnard. “This was frustrating because, of course, there are many questions they should be asked, not just to respond to Israeli allegations but to evaluate their performance on their own terms and those of Palestinians in Gaza: Are their strategy and tactics effective? Do they believe they have popular support for their conduct of the conflict and the decisions they made? How do they respond to people who complain that they went into hiding and left ordinary people who had no choice about the fact that their neighbor was in Hamas to be targets?”

The New York Times came in for specific criticism from pro-Israel advocates who focused on the seeming failure of its star photographer, Tyler Hicks, to capture any militants in his camera lens.

“Tyler saw some guys come out of a hole in the side of a building in Shujaiyeh during the brief cease-fire on July 20,” recalls Barnard. “They were without guns but making gestures to say no photos. I put that in the story. Tyler also took pictures of at least one Hamas member being buried, but again funerals were harder to access than usual because they were held quickly and without much fanfare and [with] few mourners because of the danger. You could understand why they stayed out of sight: Israel appeared to be defining Hamas targets very broadly, to include any member of the Hamas administered police, government, etc. They may have felt that they would be targets, and so would the reporters they were talking to. We certainly were concerned about that ourselves.”

“There’s been a lot of talk about Hamas preventing us from seeing them,” says another correspondent with extensive experience in covering Middle East wars. “But the fact is that the areas they were fighting in were just too dangerous. If I had tried to report from Shujaiyeh during the fighting, I would probably have got killed. Hamas isn’t a regular army: When they leave the fighting areas, they don’t wear uniforms or carry guns.”

None of this impresses the Foreign Ministry’s Palmor. “The fact remains [that] we didn’t see anywhere pictures of fighters carrying weapons or launching rockets. There were humanitarian cease-fires when they were free to walk around without being attacked. Why didn’t they try to photo them then? I don’t think anyone was in Hamas’s pay.

That’s why the question mark is so large. We know Hamas were trying very hard to hide, not just for their security but for propaganda purposes. We have heard of reporters who said they weren’t allowed near fighters and were threatened. But this is the A-Team of the war-reporting profession. How did Hamas succeed so completely?”

Press Freedom

This is perhaps the biggest bone of contention that Israeli spokesmen have with the foreign media corps: Why won’t they acknowledge they were being pressured and monitored by Hamas? All but a few journalists deny there was any such pressure.

“I wasn’t intimidated at any point,” says one seasoned war reporter. “I didn’t feel Hamas were a threat to my welfare any more than Israeli bombings. I’m aware some people had problems, but nothing beyond what you would expect covering a conflict. Hamas’s levels of intimidation weren’t any worse than what you occasionally experience at the hands of the IDF, which didn’t allow access to fighting for most of the conflict either. As a rule no armed forces permit you to broadcast militarily sensitive information.”

If anything, most reporters are complaining that Hamas seemed to make little effort to engage with the media. “How could there be Hamas censorship if there was no Hamas to be seen?” says one exasperated reporter.

“The American military, and many others including Israel, imposes limits on embedded reporters under which you cannot reveal troop movements, weapons locations and other info that could compromise ‘operational security,’” says another experienced correspondent. “There was no such official restriction from Hamas because there was no embed and almost no contact. Hamas did not complain about anything to anyone on our team.”

In a few cases, journalists who tweeted on their personal Twitter accounts about seeing rockets launched from specific areas deleted the tweets after other Twitter users complained. Most of these complaints seem to have come, though, from local residents who were worried that they would lead to Israeli strikes. “I heard that Hamas officials made inquiries about a reporter who tweeted about rocket launches,” says one journalist, “but it seemed they were asking to see if she was really a reporter and not a spy.”

In another case, a number of reporters have said off the record that Hamas officials summoned one photographer and warned him that they would confiscate his camera if he didn’t delete a certain picture. There are also reports of fighters brandishing rifles to prevent photographers from taking their picture, but all the reporters insist these were isolated cases.

“Look, no one is claiming for one moment that Hamas is an enlightened organization that believes in freedom of the press,” says one reporter who has been visiting Gaza for years. “I don’t think I have to mention that fact in every report I make. At least over the last month, they (resistance fighters) were simply too busy fighting to bother themselves very much with the media.”

Government officials are convinced that the great majority of foreign journalists are simply too embarrassed to admit that they worked under Hamas monitoring. “It’s clear that they were being intimidated and had to face abnormal pressure,” says one spokesman. “We know of specific cases in which they were harassed and menaced.”

“I can’t really judge them,” says another senior press official. “It is extremely difficult with Hamas in your hotel lobby and in the corridor.”

Asymmetric Journalism

“Israel wants reporters to write about the conflict as it conceived it, as a security problem framed by the IDF,” says one reporter with 30 years experience in hot spots worldwide. “Most journalists chose to report it from the point of view of [the] humanitarian impact of conflict, which is what war reporters actually usually do. They’re not writing like defense correspondents. I personally chose not to speak to Hamas mouthpieces because I hold Hamas propaganda in as much contempt as that of Netanyahu.”

“In all conflicts, reporters are loathe to ‘serve’ either side by revealing information that could lead to a specific strike in real time,” says the New York Times’s Barnard. “Even information that could be seen as having led to a specific strike.

“First of all, that could endanger all reporters by making them be seen as spies. But beyond that, we are observers, not participants. We don’t want to be the reason that, say, a bomb was dropped. What if it killed a bystander? So let’s say I had seen a rocket launch from a specific building in Gaza, which I did not, I would not have reported it in real time, by my own choice. For one thing I wouldn’t want the return strike to come while I was standing there. That said, I also assume the Israeli military has better ways than reporters’ tweets to know where rockets are launched from. But I would, and did, report launches that we saw, in stories a few hours later.”

“Much of the criticism from the government, and groups monitoring the [coverage,] is from people who don’t understand the real role of the media. They just want to see which side ‘wins’ in each report,” says a another journalist in Gaza. “Our job isn’t to give out points, and this isn’t a game. The great majority of our readers simply rely on us to explain what is happening here.”

But Israeli spokesmen find it hard to accept such a view of the reporters’ role in Gaza. “Their entire objective seems to be to supply pictures of dead babies and blood,” says one. “Not context.” Another spokesman echoes him, saying that “when it gets down to pictures of dead children, then Israel can’t win because we don’t have any. That’s the fact of life.”

Many reporters, especially those belonging to large news organizations that had reporters and teams on both sides of the conflict, dispute these claims.

“There’s an asymmetry here, not just in the warfare but also in the coverage,” says one bureau chief. “You can’t cover an organized army and a guerrilla group in the same way, and it’s pointless to try. You have to find the correct proportions in each report and news package, and I believe we did a good job of that.”

Not all the Israeli officials share the criticism. Nitzan Chen, director-general of the Government Press Office, says that “you can’t judge the correspondents without having been in their place. At the end of the day they also have families and want to get home in one piece. Their job isn’t to do [PR] for Israel; they don’t work for us. All in all, I think the coverage was relatively balanced.”

On the other side are some correspondents who accept at least a bit of the Israeli criticism.

“Looking back, I should have at least tried to report a bit more about the Hamas fighters and still plan to,” says one reporter still in Gaza.

“There was just so much work around the civilian casualties and the destruction that it swamped us. Going to home after destroyed home, where multiple family members were killed, was just too shocking, even for those who had covered Syria.

The civilian angle took up nearly all the attention, but the Hamas angle should have got more coverage, especially the fact [that] they were fighting with so much greater tenacity and discipline than in 2009 and, to judge by the Israeli strikes, had hidden weapons in private homes and mosques. That should have been covered better, but there was just so much death all around.”

 

Are “Terror Tunnels” mere Israeli propaganda?

Apparently, this is the first war that the real engagements are done underground.  The Israeli air force is totally helpless attacking fighters dug underground and counterattacking from behind the “enemy lines” through tunnels…  Or that’s how the stories are being disseminated.

After Palestinian fighters attacked a military staging area on Monday night of July 28, killing several Israeli soldiers, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said, “We will not complete [Operation Protective Edge] without neutralizing the tunnels, the sole purpose of which is the destruction of our civilians and the killing of our children.”

In a New York Times report from the same day, Lt. Col. Oshik Azulai of the Israeli army’s Southern Gaza Division told journalist Jodi Rudoren that Hamas militants “want to use these tunnels to attack women and children.” (Very funny Azulai)

Joel Gillin posted this July 31st, 2014

The existence of these so-called “terror tunnels” have become the alleged impetus behind Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza, which began on July 8. Israeli officials are unwilling to say how many of these tunnels they believe Hamas has built, but a vague estimate of “several dozen” has been given.

(Israel didn’t start this preemptive war against any the tunnels. The military usage of Gaza fighters of these tunnels, primarily used for trade, to hit Israeli troops behind their lines got Israel to change their objectives)

The tunnels did not, however, trigger Israeli’s latest operation in Gaza. Instead, Netanyahu’s pretext for the invasion was the alleged Hamas-sanctioned kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. Despite initial claims by the Israeli government, the incident was almost certainly not a Hamas operation. But any excuse was a good excuse, it would seem.

(It turned out that an Israeli adolescent was behind the kidnapping and killing and the Shin Beth knew the story from the start)

Since the bombing first began, the objectives of Operation Protective Edge have notably shifted, as journalist Gregg Carlstrom has pointed out.

First, Israel sought to achieve a “quieting” of Hamas rockets, then the destruction of the alleged tunnel threat (the tunnels themselves have been known about for years), and now the complete disarmament of Hamas. As Carlstrom argues, Israel’s operation in Gaza has become “an open-ended military campaign yoked to the ever-more-difficult political objective of sustaining an unsustainable status quo.”

Use of the “terror” label is but one of many tactics the Israeli government has yet again employed to drum up support among its citizens and the international community for its war in Gaza. The U.S. media has openly embraced Israel’s problematic “terror tunnel” narrative; CNN’s Wolf Blitzer even paid a visit to these subterranean structures to show just how much effort went into building them.

In compiling his report, Blitzer allowed Lt. Col. Azouli to go unchallenged in his claims that the tunnels facilitate attacks on “regular people, children, women, men” in Israel.

Thus far, the U.S. media has willfully failed to mention or even notice the obvious lack of evidence showing the tunnels have ever been used for terrorism. Virtually all international organizations that deal with the conflict in Israel/Palestine recognize that rocket fire from Gaza is illegitimate because of its inherently indiscriminate nature.

Failing to distinguish between civilian and military targets means rocket attacks violate the laws of war. To date, however, no civilians have been killed via incursions launched from the tunnels, which run from Gaza into Israel. Nor does Hamas appear to be using the tunnels to target Israeli civilians in any way.

Hamas’ first known use of the tunnels came in 2006, when it exploited the passageways to capture Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, during a flare-up of hostilities before Israel’s military campaign against Lebanon.

Since the start of the latest conflict, all those killed as a result of Hamas’s tunnel attacks have been combatants (i.e. Israeli soldiers), who are permissible targets under the laws of war. Despite the rhetoric and many distorted media reports on the topic, there is no evidence Hamas has used the tunnels to attempt an attack on civilians or civilian objects.

The website of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs currently lists four incidents of alleged Hamas violence attempted from these tunnels, none of which were successful. In all its descriptions of these incidents, the website includes the distance between the opening of the tunnels and the nearest kibbutz. This information is ostensibly given to make it appear the tunnels are being used to target particular civilian villages. Gaza’s border with Israel is, however, lined with small Israeli kibbutzim, making it difficult for Hamas fighters to emerge anywhere but near one of these areas.

As the government website claims, on July 17th, militants emerged “only 1.5 km (less than a mile) away from Sufa, a kibbutz,” where the tunnel opening was just 250 meters from the border.

While Israeli President Shimon Peres claimed Hamas had planned a “wholesale slaughter” of the kibbutz, the video of the incident released by Israel fails to show the gunmen more than a few meters away from the tunnel’s opening. Israeli military sources claimed – without evidence – that “the gunmen evidently planned to attack the kibbutz, killing and possibly kidnapping civilians.”

In its report, “Trouble Underfoot on Israeli Kibbutz Near Border,” The New York Times seemed to take the Israeli military at its word, although the article acknowledged the attacks were only “presumably” planned against Sufa. Even the normally careful writer Greg Mitchell appeared to believe that a “planned attack by a handful of men on the kibbutz had been thwarted.”

Contrary to the Israeli government’s claims, all evidence indicates combatants have been the only targets of Hamas’ tunnel operations. In an incident on July 21st, just days after the alleged Sufa attack, several militants struck an Israeli army vehicle before being killed themselves. Footage of the incident showed Hamas members laying an ambush for the IDF, and not heading toward a kibbutz. The most recent attack on July 28th was more successful for Hamas fighters, who killed several soldiers before returning to Gaza through one of the tunnels.

In an about face, a senior Israeli intelligence officer is now claiming that “Hamas operatives aim primarily to abduct soldiers and not to penetrate into civilian communities along the border with Gaza,” according to the Times of Israel.

In a revealing admission, the officer pointed out that none of the tunnels actually reaches civilian communities, even though they could easily do so. Indeed, Hamas is likely seeking to attack and/or capture Israeli soldiers through these tunnels.

Captured soldiers are an incredibly powerful bargaining chip for the group, as demonstrated by the release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit in 2011.

But this Hamas strategy cannot justify the pummeling of Gaza’s civilian population and infrastructure. Combatants are lawful targets during war. In an attempt to minimize or end these attacks, the Israeli government has no grounds for pursuing civilians, private homes, schools, hospitals, power plants and other civilian and humanitarian installations, which cannot be lawfully targeted under humanitarian law and which Israel has indiscriminately bombed.

In its framing of the “terror tunnels,” the Israeli government has essentially claimed that all military action by Hamas, including attacks against Israeli soldiers, are inherently illegitimate and illegal. This is precisely why Israel is demanding the demilitarization of Gaza, even though this would be a non-starter in any negotiations for a sustainable ceasefire.

Without a shred of evidence, much of the U.S. media has repeated Israeli government claims about the nature and purpose of these tunnels.

In part, it is because of the media’s failure to challenge this propaganda that a majority of Americans blame Hamas for this round of violence and continue to support Israel even as its bombs kill Palestinians by the hundreds and render them homeless by the hundreds of thousands.

 

More Latin American States recall Israel envoys

In addition to Brazil, Bolivia, Argentine, Venezuela, Uruguay Ecuador and

Chile and Peru recall Israel envoys over Gaza operation

Announced last week they were recalling envoys to Israel in protest at the Gaza war.

Chile's President Michelle Bachelet.
Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet waves as she leaves the Itamaraty Palce after the 6th BRICS summit and the Union of South Am… / Photo by Reuters
Barak Ravid Published this July 29, 20142
The war in Gaza has led to a serious crisis in Israel’s relations with Latin America.
The foreign ministries of Chile and Peru have announced they are calling their ambassadors in Tel Aviv in consultation to protest Israel’s operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.The moves comes on the heels of Brazil and Ecuador, who announced last week that they were recalling their envoys.”Given the escalation of Israeli military operations in Gaza, the Government of Chile, in coordination with others in our region, has decided to call in consultation Santiago Ambassador of Chile in Tel Aviv, Jorge Montero,” the Chilean foreign ministry in Santiago said in a statement.”Chile notes with great concern and dismay that such military operations, which at this stage of development are subject to a collective punishment against the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza do not respect fundamental rules of international humanitarian law.”

The Chilean foreign ministry emphasized the more than 1,400 Palestinians killed, including women and children during Operation Protective Edge, which continued for a 22nd day on Tuesday. The statement also noted Israel’s attacks “on schools and hospitals.”

The statement condemned rocket fire by Hamas against civilians in Israel, but said that “the scale and intensity of Israeli operations in Gaza violate the principle of proportionality in the use of force, an essential requirement to justify self-defense.” The statement also called “for an immediate end of hostilities” in Gaza.

In Lima, the Peruvian foreign ministry published a similar statement condemning Israel’s operation in Gaza.

BOLIVIA DECLARES ISRAEL A TERRORIST STATE,

42 YEARS OF VISA FREE TRAVEL CALLED OFF

  • Updated : 30.07.2014 21:54:49

Bolivia declares Israel a terrorist state, 42 years of visa free travel called off

LA PAZ – Bolivia on Wednesday renounced a visa exemption agreement with Israel in protest over its offensive in Gaza, and declared it a terrorist state.

President Evo Morales announced the move during a talk with a group of educators in the city of Cochabamba.
It “means, in other words, we are declaring (Israel) a terrorist state,” he said.

The treaty has allowed Israelis to travel freely to Bolivia without a visa since 1972.

Morales said the Gaza offensive shows “that Israel is not a guarantor of the principles of respect for life and the elementary precepts of rights that govern the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of our international community.”

More than two weeks of fighting in Gaza have left 1,300 dead and 7,000 wounded amid an intense Israeli air and ground campaign in response to missile attacks by the Islamist militant group Hamas.

In the latest development, 16 people were killed after two Israeli shells slammed into a United Nations school, drawing international protests. Bolivia broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009 over a previous military operation in Gaza.

In mid-July, Morales filed a request with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to prosecute Israel for “crimes against humanity.”

Bardem, Cruz Denounce Israeli ‘Genocide’

© Olivia Harris / Reuters

Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Pedro Almodovar, and other members of the Spanish film industry sent a public letter to the European Union on Tuesday denouncing Israel for “genocide.”Dozens of Spanish actors, writers, musicians, directors, and other entertainment representatives asked the EU to “condemn the bombing by land, sea, and air against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip.”The letter blamed the latest outbreak of violence squarely on Israel because it “continues to advance into and invade the Palestinian territories instead of returning to the 1967 borders.”

A genocide preemptive war on Gaza children?

Since the start of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, and the ground assault on the Gaza Strip since last Thursday, at least 1,100 Palestinians have been killed.

The Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, a Gaza-based human rights organisation which works with the UN, has verified the deaths of 132 children between July 7 and July 21 via its field workers.

The above graphic gives the name, age, sex and location – as well as the date on which they were killed – of all of these.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Gaza: is this a war on children?

Jon Snow reports from Gaza, where thousands of children have been caught up in the conflict on one of the heaviest days of shelling so far.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay tells Channel 4 News both sides could stand accused of war crimes in this conflict.

 2939 1647 16 0

 

Public editor receives more than 1,000 emails during week of Israel Operation Protective Edge.

Operation Protective Edge has caused a sharp rise in readers’ complaints of poor news coverage at the New York Times, with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict easily the most whinged-about topic among the readership since the fighting between Israel and Hamas began a week ago.
Jul. 14, 2014 
In an article titled, “A Deluge of Readers’ Complaints on Israel-Palestine Coverage,” Public Editor Margaret Sullivan wrote on Monday that over 1,000 emails reached her from readers on the subject during this time – “with protests on both sides, and, in some cases, charges of bias coming from both sides.”

She noted that many presumably pro-Israel readers complained about the Times’ erroneous report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not respond promptly to the burning alive of Mohammed Abu Khdeir of Shoafat, which led the paper to publish a correction.

Meanwhile, many presumably pro-Palestinian readers objected to a headline that made it seem that Hamas’ attacks, not Israel’s, were killing Palestinians in Gaza. The headline was changed “to make its meaning clearer,” Sullivan wrote.

On Sunday the readers’ editor of Britain’s The Guardian, Chris Elliot, took up the same issue.

Introducing it, Chris Elliot wrote, “The latest [eruption] of violence above the day-to-day has seen Hamas firing rockets into Israel. Israel, in a counter-offensive, bombing and shelling Gaza, with the loss of many lives.”

He followed that with the sentence: “Though I have tried to write the above as carefully as possible, there will already be readers reaching for their keypads to complain about the way I have framed the conflict, readers who believe passionately that the Guardian is either pro-Israel or pro-Palestine.”

(Actually, Gaza fighters were responding to Israel airplane strikes)

He noted that presumably pro-Palestinian readers complained that a story about the confessions by three Israelis to Abu Khdeir’s murder was illustrated with a photo of Palestinian youths with scarves around their faces. The photo was changed, Elliot wrote.

NRP underrepresents Palestinians

The ombudsman at America’s National Public Radio did not discuss readers’ reactions to recent events in the conflict, but on Monday Edward Schumacher-Matos wrote that a just-completed study of 11 years of NPR stories on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict showed that the Palestinian side of the story had been underrepresented.

The head of the survey, former foreign editor John Felton, found that Israeli voices were heard or quoted in stories more than Palestinian ones by a 664-448 margin. Among leaders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was heard or quoted 772 times, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas 323 times, and Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh not once.

Schumacher-Matos wrote: “As [Felton] explains, some of the imbalance is to be expected. Israel generates more news in part because its officials are more open and the country is more democratic than in the Palestinian territories.

Israel stages more newsworthy ‘official’ events, such as elections, and its economy is far more dynamic. Israel also is an ally of the U.S., and its officials frequently visit. The Gaza Strip in particular is miniscule. NPR’s sole correspondent is based in Jerusalem.

“The criticism that Felton draws from the numbers is not bias but something else: that the coverage could be more complete. He calls for more stories that give an understanding of the Palestinian territories and of their leaders, including the radical Hamas ones.

(And why the radical, extremist and terrorist Israeli parties are not covered as they are acting?)

Legal opinion: Israel can cut off water, power to Gaza during conflict

adonis49

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adonis49

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