GAZA – They boarded buses in the pre-dawn murk on Friday, lucky foreign passport holders allowed by Israel to escape from seven days of Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip.
“The situation is very bad. We are afraid for our children,” said Ilona Hamdiya, a woman from Moldova married to a Palestinian. “We are very grateful to our embassy,” she said in lightly accented Arabic.
Between 350 and 450 foreigners were authorised by Israel to leave Gaza if they wish, via the forbidding concrete corridor that ushers them into Israel’s fortified crossing point and its panoply of security scanners to detect hidden suicide bombs.
Five busloads headed out on the short trip to the border, one of American passport holders and four of mainly East Europeans.
They left behind 1.5 million Palestinians unable to escape the conflict which has killed 414 people since it began last Saturday. Four Israelis have been killed by Gaza rockets.
Gaza city was waking up to another day of Israeli air strikes, flickering electricity and long queues for bread. Aside from the bakeries, the almost deserted streets were cold and dirty, littered with a week’s bombing debris.
Morning air strikes hit six houses. A Palestinian girl of about 14 died apparently of a heart attack, terrified by an explosion which rocked her house, neighbours said.
In the south an Israeli missile killed three children aged 8 to 12, as they played in the street in southern town of Khan Yunis. One was decapitated. At Shifa hospital in Gaza City, doctors could not disguise their anger.
“These injuries are not survivable injuries,” said Madth Gilbert, a Norwegian surgeon unable to save one boy who had both feet blown off. “This is a murder. This is a child,” he said.
At the UN Beach Distribution Centre, teenagers with rickety trolleys and men with horses and carts collected sacks of flour and other food aid from a warehouse replenished the day before by 70 aid trucks allowed in via Israel.
“Only God can get us out of this mess,” said one old man waiting to buy his ration of unleavened loaves.
DIE BEFORE GOD
At Jabalya refugee camp to the north, boys inspected the twisted concrete left by one of the Israeli air force’s latest targets, the so-called Mosque of Martyrs which Israel says was a a hidden arsenal and command post for fighters of the Islamist Hamas group which rules the Gaza Strip.
The air force supplied black and white cockpit video of the strike to underscore the large number of secondary explosions which it said proved its case.
Several mosques that would normally be busy before Friday prayers were still closed in the morning because they had been warned by Israel’s army that they would be bombed.
Nine have been hit since the attack began on Saturday.
“I will pray at home. You never know, they may bomb the mosque and destroy it on our heads,” said one man buying humus from a street stand. Another was defiant: “What better than to die while kneeling before God?” he said.
Gaza markets, normally bustling on a Friday, were deserted.
“It is an adventure to get out of your house to fetch a kilo of tomatoes or something,” said Abu Yasser, a father of four.
“But I must take my chances because my children are not to blame for this and they do not understand why all this is happening,” he told Reuters.
Hundreds of families say they have had telephone calls warning their houses would be bombed, and they have left to stay with relatives or friends. Some of their neighbours have packed up and gone as well, wary of becoming “collateral damage”.
Duct tape has been in heavy demand by Palestinians who tape up their windows hoping to protect against flying glass from the heavy explosions.
Hamas police moved about mostly in plain clothes, with no guns on display. Merchants were warned against war profiteering.
The True Story Behind this War Is Not The One Israel Is Telling
By Johann Hari
December 29 2008
The world isn’t just watching the Israeli government commit a crime in Gaza; we are watching it self-harm. This morning, and tomorrow morning, and every morning until this punishment beating ends, the young people of the Gaza Strip are going to be more filled with hate, and more determined to fight back, with stones or suicide vests or rockets. Israeli leaders have convinced themselves that the harder you beat the Palestinians, the softer they will become. But when this is over, the rage against Israelis will have hardened, and the same old compromises will still be waiting by the roadside of history, untended and unmade.
To understand how frightening it is to be a Gazan this morning, you need to have stood in that small slab of concrete by the Mediterranean and smelled the claustrophobia. The Gaza Strip is smaller than the Isle of Wight but it is crammed with 1.5 million people who can never leave. They live out their lives on top of each other, jobless and hungry, in vast, sagging tower blocks. From the top floor, you can often see the borders of their world: the Mediterranean, and Israeli barbed wire. When bombs begin to fall – as they are doing now with more deadly force than at any time since 1967 – there is nowhere to hide.
There will now be a war over the story of this war. The Israeli government says, “We withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and in return we got Hamas and Qassam rockets being rained on our cities. Sixteen civilians have been murdered. How many more are we supposed to sacrifice?” It is a plausible narrative, and there are shards of truth in it, but it is also filled with holes. If we want to understand the reality and really stop the rockets, we need to rewind a few years and view the run-up to this war dispassionately.
The Israeli government did indeed withdraw from the Gaza Strip in 2005 – in order to be able to intensify control of the West Bank. Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser, Dov Weisglass, was unequivocal about this, explaining: “The disengagement [from Gaza] is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians… this whole package that is called the Palestinian state has been removed from our agenda indefinitely.”
Ordinary Palestinians were horrified by this, and by the fetid corruption of their own Fatah leaders, so they voted for Hamas. It certainly wouldn’t have been my choice – an Islamist party is antithetical to all my convictions – but we have to be honest. It was a free and democratic election, and it was not a rejection of a two-state solution. The most detailed polling of Palestinians, by the University of Maryland, found that 72 per cent want a two-state solution on the 1967 borders, while fewer than 20 per cent want to reclaim the whole of historic Palestine. So, partly in response to this pressure, Hamas offered Israel a long, long ceasefire and a de facto acceptance of two states, if only Israel would return to its legal borders.
Rather than seize this opportunity and test Hamas’s sincerity, the Israeli government reacted by punishing the entire civilian population. It announced that it was blockading the Gaza Strip in order to “pressure” its people to reverse the democratic process. The Israelis surrounded the Strip and refused to let anyone or anything out. They let in a small trickle of food, fuel and medicine – but not enough for survival. Weisglass quipped that the Gazans were being “put on a diet”. According to Oxfam, only 137 trucks of food were allowed into Gaza last month to feed 1.5 million people. The United Nations says poverty has reached an “unprecedented level.” When I was last in besieged Gaza, I saw hospitals turning away the sick because their machinery and medicine was running out. I met hungry children stumbling around the streets, scavenging for food.
It was in this context – under a collective punishment designed to topple a democracy – that some forces within Gaza did something immoral: they fired Qassam rockets indiscriminately at Israeli cities. These rockets have killed 16 Israeli citizens. This is abhorrent: targeting civilians is always murder. But it is hypocritical for the Israeli government to claim now to speak out for the safety of civilians when it has been terrorising civilians as a matter of state policy.
The American and European governments are responding with a lop-sidedness that ignores these realities. They say that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate while under rocket fire, but they demand that the Palestinians do so under siege in Gaza and violent military occupation in the West Bank.
Before it falls down the memory hole, we should remember that last week, Hamas offered a ceasefire in return for basic and achievable compromises. Don’t take my word for it. According to the Israeli press, Yuval Diskin, the current head of the Israeli security service Shin Bet, “told the Israeli cabinet [on 23 December] that Hamas is interested in continuing the truce, but wants to improve its terms.” Diskin explained that Hamas was requesting two things: an end to the blockade, and an Israeli ceasefire on the West Bank. The cabinet – high with election fever and eager to appear tough – rejected these terms.
The core of the situation has been starkly laid out by Ephraim Halevy, the former head of Mossad. He says that while Hamas militants – like much of the Israeli right-wing – dream of driving their opponents away, “they have recognised this ideological goal is not attainable and will not be in the foreseeable future.” Instead, “they are ready and willing to see the establishment of a Palestinian state in the temporary borders of 1967.” They are aware that this means they “will have to adopt a path that could lead them far from their original goals” – and towards a long-term peace based on compromise.
The rejectionists on both sides – from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to Bibi Netanyahu of Israel – would then be marginalised. It is the only path that could yet end in peace but it is the Israeli government that refuses to choose it. Halevy explains: “Israel, for reasons of its own, did not want to turn the ceasefire into the start of a diplomatic process with Hamas.”
Why would Israel act this way? The Israeli government wants peace, but only one imposed on its own terms, based on the acceptance of defeat by the Palestinians. It means the Israelis can keep the slabs of the West Bank on “their” side of the wall. It means they keep the largest settlements and control the water supply. And it means a divided Palestine, with responsibility for Gaza hived off to Egypt, and the broken-up West Bank standing alone. Negotiations threaten this vision: they would require Israel to give up more than it wants to. But an imposed peace will be no peace at all: it will not stop the rockets or the rage. For real safety, Israel will have to talk to the people it is blockading and bombing today, and compromise with them.
The sound of Gaza burning should be drowned out by the words of the Israeli writer Larry Derfner. He says: “Israel’s war with Gaza has to be the most one-sided on earth… If the point is to end it, or at least begin to end it, the ball is not in Hamas’s court – it is in ours.”
The video also states that Israel planned the attacks over six months ago.
January 3 2008
US President George W. Bush, in remarks to be broadcast Saturday, urged all able parties to press Hamas to stop firing rockets at Israel and secure a lasting ceasefire, after a week of heavy Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.
His administration meanwhile gave Israel free rein over whether to send ground troops into Gaza, despite growing criticism over its handling of a conflict that has killed at least 436 Palestinians and left 2,290 others wounded.
At least 75 of those killed have been children, according to emergency services inside Gaza.
“The United States is leading diplomatic efforts to achieve a meaningful ceasefire that is fully respected,” Bush said in his weekly radio address, the text of which was released by the White House in advance.
These were his first remarks since the conflict erupted a week ago.
He said “I urge all parties to pressure Hamas to turn away from terror, and to support legitimate Palestinian leaders working for peace,” including Mahmud Abbas, president of the US-backed Palestinian Authority.
He said he has been in contact with Abbas as well as King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah II of Jordan, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel.
Bush, who hands the White House to his successor Barack Obama in just 18 days, blamed Hamas for the latest violence and rejected a unilateral ceasefire that would allow Hamas to continue to attack Israel from the Gaza Strip.
Hamas shared power with the Palestinian Authority for a period after winning parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006 but the arrangement collapsed and Hamas seized power outright in Gaza in June 2007.
“This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas — a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria that calls for Israel’s destruction,” Bush said.
Bush said the Israeli strikes were in self-defense after Hamas let a six-month ceasefire lapse on December 19 and fired rockets at Israel.
He also accused Hamas of putting Palestinian lives at risk by hiding among them.
White House deputy press secretary Gordon Johndroe earlier said the United States has urged Israel to avoid civilian casualties in their military operations, whether they involve continued air assaults or a ground incursion.
“Those will be decisions made by the Israelis,” he said when asked if Israel would be justified in launching a ground assault.
Israel has thousands of troops massed for a ground offensive on Gaza that would aim to deal a hammer blow to Hamas and re-establish Israel’s military credentials with its other foes, experts said.
After briefing Bush earlier, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington sought a “ceasefire that would not allow a re-establishment of the status quo ante where Hamas can continue to launch rockets out of Gaza.”
She added: “It is obvious that ceasefire should take place as soon as possible, but we need a ceasefire that is durable and sustainable.”
Rice has had a flurry of consultations with her counterparts from Israel, Arab countries as well as Russia, Britain and the European Union, officials said. Johndroe added that Rice has also spoken to Obama in the last week.
Asked if she planned to travel to the Middle East to broker an end to the crisis, Rice replied: “I have no plans at this point.”
The Israeli offensive has prompted condemnation from around the world, but particularly from Arab and Muslim countries.
In New York, Amnesty International sent a letter to Rice berating the administration for its “lopsided” support for the Israeli assault and urged it to suspend weapons deliveries to Israel.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser for US president Jimmy Carter, told CNN television that Rice’s remarks “clearly show that the US policy right now is completely bankrupt” and the Israeli offensive “will further radicalize the Palestinians.”
He said Obama, whom he supports, will have to make a “fresh start” when he succeeds Bush on January 20.
But the US president-elect has kept silent on the latest phase of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with his aides saying their boss was “monitoring” the situation.
The bottom line is Israel wants all of “What use to be Palestine”.
That has been the plan from the beginning. The US has been helping them do this.
Don’t be fooled by Israel or the US pretending to negotiate anything. They lie. Both have been lieing for years.
This will also lead to the destabilization of the Middle East in general. The on going war is for power and profiteering.
Just a pitty Israel leaders are so blind to the fact, they are being used by the US for their own self serving agenda.
When a county like the US give billions of dollars to a country for weapons, be suspicious very suspicious. Israel is just doing the dirty work for the US as did Saddam way back when the US helped Iraq, only to attack Iran of course. Somethings are so obvious if you know a bit about history.
U.S. Government Uses Al-Qaeda To Attack Iran
Bush authorizes group formerly headed by alleged 9/11 mastermind to be bankrolled & armed by CIA for covert regime change
May 28, 2007
Paul Joseph Watson & Steve Watson
Recent revelations illustrating the fact that the U.S. government is using a Sunni Al-Qaeda terrorist group formerly headed by the alleged mastermind of 9/11 to carry out bombings in Iran undermines the entire war on terror as a monumental hoax that is being exploited purely to realize a geopolitical agenda.
“President George W Bush has given the CIA approval to launch covert “black” operations to achieve regime change in Iran, intelligence sources have revealed. Mr Bush has signed an official document endorsing CIA plans for a propaganda and disinformation campaign intended to destabilise, and eventually topple, the theocratic rule of the mullahs.””The CIA is giving arms-length support, supplying money and weapons, to an Iranian militant group, Jundullah, which has conducted raids into Iran from bases in Pakistan,” the London Telegraph reported yesterday.
Jundullah is a Sunni Al-Qaeda offshoot organization that was formerly headed by alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Even if you believe the official story of 9/11 to the letter, the fact that Bush has personally authorized U.S. support for this group completely dismantles the facade of the war on terror.
The group has been blamed for a number of bombings inside Iran aimed at destabilizing Ahmadinejad’s government and is also active in Pakistan , having been fingered for its involvement in attacks on police stations and car bombings at the Pakistan-US Cultural Center in 2004.
The U.S. government is arming and directing a Sunni Al-Qaeda group to carry out bombings in Iran and yet Bush has the temerity to grandstand during his Rose Garden speech last week and wave the Al-Qaeda bogeyman to strike the fear of God into American citizens.
“As to al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda is going to fight us wherever we are. That’s their strategy. Their strategy is to drive us out of the Middle East. They have made it abundantly clear what they want. They want to establish a caliphate. They want to spread their ideology. They want safe haven from which to launch attacks. They’re willing to kill the innocent to achieve their objectives, and they will fight us. And the fundamental question is, will we fight them? I have made the decision to do so. I believe that the best way to protect us in this war on terror is to fight them,” Bush said on Thursday.
Arms cache belonging to Jundullah – the Sunni Al-Qaeda terrorist group being funded by the CIA with President Bush’s approval.Bush’s definition of fighting Al-Qaeda is apparently to lend them all the funds, weapons and tactical know how they need to carry out attacks against innocent civilians in Iran, and let us not forget that America’s allies the British have also been caught training insurgents in Iraq to carry out hi-tech bombings that are later blamed on Iran – just as the SAS worked with U.S. special forces to train the KLA in Kosovo , which was also an Al-Qaeda chapter having been financed directly by Bin Laden himself.
But in the world of newspeak and the lowest common denominator propaganda that cloaks the real agenda of the “war on terror”, anyone who rises up against occupation, be it a kid who throws a rock in Baghdad or a car bombing on behalf of an increasingly Shiite-led insurgency, the natural enemies of the Sunni “Al-Qaeda,” are terrorists and are Al-Qaeda members.
A cruel irony exists whereby anyone and everyone who opposes military occupation is smeared as an Al-Qaeda terrorist and yet the only real Al-Qaeda terrorists are being bankrolled, armed and directed by the CIA itself, with Bush’s explicit approval.
Since President Bush didn’t know the difference between Sunni & Shiite Muslims until two months before the invasion of Iraq and the incoming chairman of a congressional intelligence committee said Al Qaeda prominently came from the Shia branch of Islam, we can’t hold out much hope for Joe Public and this is why the simplest propaganda is always the most effective.
They’re the bad guys, we’re the good guys – black and white with no shades of gray.
In reality, Al-Qaeda only exists within intelligence circles coordinated by the highest echelons of the U.S. government, and is being used yet again as a tool for destabilization in nations targeted for regime change by the Neo-Cons.
Jundullah is not the only anti-Iranian terror group that US government has been accused of funding in an attempt to pressure the Iranian government.
Multiple credible individuals including US intelligence whistleblowers and former military personnel have asserted that the government is conducting covert military operations inside Iran using guerilla groups to carry out attacks on Iranian Revolution Guard units.
It is widely suspected that the well known right-wing terrorist organization known as Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), once run by Saddam Hussein’s dreaded intelligence services, is now working exclusively for the CIA’s Directorate of Operations and carrying out remote bombings in Iran of the sort that the Bush administration condemns on a daily basis inside Iraq.
After a bombing inside Iran in March, the London Telegraph also reported on how a high ranking CIA official has blown the whistle on the fact that America is secretly funding terrorist groups in Iran in an attempt to pile pressure on the Islamic regime to give up its nuclear program.
Could it be that the US is using Israel to get a war going with Iran yet again as they did with Saddam in 1980. Are they really telling Israel they can secure all of what was known as Palestine? Yes to both I would guess.
Never underestimate the nasty deeds of the US. Gaza is being used to anger everyone and it is to date working very well.
The US wants Iran to help those in Gaza just so Israel will be able to attack them as well. How much you want to bet I am right?
When Israel rammed the boat going into Gaza with medical supplies, I am guessing they thought it was the one from Iran. Israel has been itching for a war with Iran as much as the US is and has been for some time.
Gaza is part of a bigger picture I think.
Would I trust either the US or the Israeli Government at this point.
NO absolutely not.
The US has vetoed every resolution brought forth by the UN to resolve the the Israel- Gaza situation. They have vetoed over 40 anti-Israeli resolutions sought by the council since 1972. Anything the US says at this point is pure propaganda, lies and BS.