Monday, 11 August 2014

UN’s Ban Ki-moon is a partner in Israel’s crimes

The following open letter signed by 129 organizations and distinguished individuals was sent to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 5 August:

For humanity and the little remaining credibility of international law:

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, stand for law and justice or resign!

Mr. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,

We, the undersigned Palestinian human rights and community-based organizations, are extremely disappointed by your performance, notably by your biased statements, your failure to act, and the inappropriate justification of Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law, which amount to war crimes.

Until today, you have taken no explicit and tangible measures to address the recent Israeli attacks in the occupied Palestinian territories since 13 June. Moreover, your statements have been either misleading, because they endorse and further Israeli false versions of facts, or contrary to the provisions established by international law and to the interests of its defenders, or because your words justify Israel’s violations and crimes.

You have undeniably assumed a biased position toward the current attack on Gaza and Israeli violations in the West Bank by failing to clearly condemn Israeli unlawful actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, while, on the other hand, not hesitating to accuse – sometimes mistakenly – Palestinian combatants in Gaza of violations of international law. This bias can be noted in the following excerpts:
The Secretary-General strongly condemns the killing today of at least 10 Palestinian civilians in shelling outside of an UNRWA school in Rafah providing shelter to thousands of civilians. The attack is yet another gross violation of international humanitarian law, which clearly requires protection by both parties of Palestinian civilians, UN staff and UN premises, among other civilian facilities.
Such statement, by failing to name the perpetrator — Israel — is not only biased, but also offensive to UNRWA, itself a UN agency, as well as to other UN agencies and international organizations the struggle to provide relief and protection to Palestinians in Gaza.

UNRWA, which has lost nine staff in Gaza since the beginning of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, hosts around 270,000 internally displaced (25 percent of Gaza’s population) in its shelters. UNRWA’s preliminary analysis on a previous attack against one of its schools has indicated that it had been hit by Israeli artillery, constituting an indiscriminate attack and likely a war crime.

Moreover, by condemning the storage of weapons in UNRWA schools without offering complete details and a proper account on international law, your statements endorse Israeli excuses to unlawfully, indiscriminately target such civilian objects.

In addition, by condemning
the reported violation by Hamas of the mutually agreed humanitarian ceasefire which commenced this morning. He is shocked and profoundly disappointed by these developments,
the Secretary-General reveals a reckless endorsement of the Israeli version of facts, blaming Hamas for violating the ceasefire, even though admitting that “[t]he Secretary-General notes that the UN has no independent means to verify exactly what happened,” and, still, demanding “the immediate and unconditional release of the [falsely allegedly] captured soldier,”

The following statement further illustrates the Secretary-General’s ignorance of facts on the ground:
The Secretary-General has learned with concern that leaflets are reportedly being dropped by the Israeli Defence Forces in the northern Gaza Strip this evening, warning tens of thousands of residents to leave their homes and evacuate to Gaza City. If true [our emphasis], this would have a further devastating humanitarian impact on the beleaguered civilians of those areas of the Gaza strip, who have already undergone immense suffering in recent days.
The drop of leaflets had been a known practice since the beginning of the Israeli operation in Gaza, contributing to a scenario of more than 480,000 internally displaced.

In the same statement,
The Secretary-General strongly urge[d] all sides to avoid any further escalation at this time[, noting] that all sides must meet all obligations under international humanitarian law, both towards civilians ahead of impending attacks, as well as maintaining proportionality in any kind of military response,
Revealing an undue equalization of the two sides of the conflict and failing to address the greater impact of violations committed by Israel, which has killed at least 1,814 the vast majority of whom are civilians, during its operation in Gaza.

Mr. Secretary-General,

When you make no distinction between oppressors and victims, in all your statements,

When you name Palestinian combatants as perpetrators of violations and war crimes while you ignore naming Israel, as you used to do in referring to specific actions,

When you avoid codifying Israeli actions that amount to war crimes, while you insist on prescribing Palestinian reactions as grave breaches of international humanitarian law,

When you always advocate unlawfully the Israel right to self-defense, while having not pointed out the Palestinians legitimate and legal right to resist occupation, colonization and institutionalized discrimination,

When you adopt and advocate Israeli false stories, while not mentioning Palestinians’ narrative,

When you disregard facts on grounds clearly resulting from Israeli attacks, while you seek the immediate and unconditional release of a falsely captured soldier who was in the battle field,

You do not maintain peace and security; nor do you ensure human rights.

By reviewing yours statements, it becomes evident you have not been fulfilling your mandate. In contrary, your statements have not only allowed the continuance of Israel’s killing our people, but also, encouraged States to continue providing Israel with impunity.

As you cannot say the truth, we advise you to either drastically change your positioning — not only in words, but also in your efforts to, through the UN, effectively end the current conflict — or to resign. For us, if you continue playing this role, you prove what our people feel, that you are a partner in, or at least an enabler of, the ongoing violations of international humanitarian law committed by Israel against our families, children, women, elders – against our people. To see the full list of signators click more

New York Times: How Hamas beat Israel in Gaza

From the New York Times - Hamas’s achievements on the battlefield are the fruit of a concerted effort to draw lessons from previous Israeli defeats.

In July 2006, Hezbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers on the Israel-Lebanon border. In response, Israel sought to destroy the group. It failed — and even the more modest aims of returning of abducted men or demilitarizing southern Lebanon, proved unattainable. Israel came out of that war battered, leading to the departure of almost the entire top military command, and a number of hard-hitting internal inquiries.

Israel overhauled its intelligence and ground fighting capabilities and applied the lessons of Lebanon in two subsequent clashes with Hamas. Operation Cast Lead in 2008 began with the destruction of 1,200 targets in an immense aerial bombardment. And Hamas was stunned when it saw that Israel didn’t recoil from putting boots on the ground in Gaza.

In November 2012, Israel fired the opening shot by assassinating the Hamas military chief, Ahmad Jabari. Then it bombed most of Hamas’s rocket launching sites and staged a ground incursion. The Hamas forces were thrown into disorder and mostly fled.

Israel agreed to an early cease-fire, for a reason that has remained a closely-guarded secret: The Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, generously financed by the United States, had run out of ammunition. Israel learned the lesson and made sure that sufficient quantities of Iron Dome missiles were available this time around.

But Hamas didn’t walk away empty handed in 2012. It learned lessons and acted on them. First, Hamas took stringent counterintelligence measures to avoid Israeli electronic surveillance. Israel consequently knew much less than it should have about the increased range and payloads of Hamas rockets, the distribution of rocket storage depots and the firing of rockets by remote control.

Second, in order to prepare for an Israeli invasion, Hamas replaced its battalion commanders with new men who had undergone training in Lebanon or Iran. It developed a systematic urban warfare doctrine to ensure maximal Israeli casualties and to protect its high command from assassination.

Finally, Hamas invested in the construction of a vast and complex network of tunnels that reached into Israeli territory and formed units of frogmen to attack Israel from the sea. These were major advances.

Israel’s leaders are determined to represent Defensive Edge as a victory, and it is therefore unlikely that public inquiry panels will be set up as they were after the Lebanon war in 2006 or that heads will roll.

However, the I.D.F. will have to reinvent the way it counters guerrilla warfare. It will once again have to try to recruit agents in Gaza, now that it has become clear that electronic spying is insufficient because Hamas has become more careful.

Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, will now have to pay more attention to Hamas operatives in Qatar and Turkey and intercept Hamas’s communications from weapons suppliers, like North Korea.

Israel may also decide to focus on striking Hamas personnel outside Gaza, without taking responsibility. When the Mossad assassinated a top Hamas official in 2010 in Dubai, the large amount of negative publicity led to a cessation of such acts, but they may now be judged more effective than massive military action. Likewise, special operations will get more attention. Hamas surprised Israel, but Israel has carried out almost no imaginative or daring targeted operations in this latest war. Ehud Barak, the most prominent commando fighter in Israel’s history, proposed some such schemes when he was defense minister in 2010, but they were not adopted.

Finally, the defense ministry will be given unlimited funding to devise an underground electronic “fence” based on oil and gas prospecting technology, that will be laid all along the border between Israel and Gaza to detect tunnels as they are built. more

Report: Israel defense minister says Hamas has soldier's body

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Sunday that the body of missing soldier Oron Shaul is "obviously" in the hands of Hamas, Israeli media reported.

"It's obvious to us that Oron's body is in the hands of Hamas, and we're making every effort to retrieve it," Yaalon said, according to the Israeli news site Ynet.

Yaalon said Israel was making diplomatic efforts in ceasefire talks with Hamas to bring Shaul's body back to Israel, the Ynet report said.

Israeli authorities also suspect the body of soldier Hadar Goldin, a soldier killed on Aug. 1. in southern Gaza as a 72-hour ceasefire fell apart, is being held by Hamas.

The secretary-general of the Palestinian delegation told Ma'an Saturday that Israel had attempted to include the issue of two captured Israeli soldiers' bodies in the negotiations.

Bassam al-Salihi said that Israel had offered to release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the bodies of the two soldiers. more

Israeli forces kill Fatah activist in Nablus raid

NABLUS (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces killed a 24-year-old Palestinian man in Nablus overnight Sunday during a raid in the village of Qabalan, local officials and witnesses said.

Qabalan mayor Hisham al-Azaar told Ma'an that Israeli forces killed Zakariyya Mousa Dawood al-Aqra, 24, after laying siege to a building in the village.

Al-Aqra's brother is reported to live in one of the apartments in the three story building, which Israeli forces attacked with grenades and heavy gunfire.

A neighboring apartment of 45-year old Kamal Farah al-Azaar was also attacked during the bombardment, injuring his wife Inshirah, 38, his daughters Nawal, 7, Manal, 15, and his 4-year old son Jalal.

Bulldozers then destroyed part of the building before Israeli soldiers entered and shot al-Aqra dead, witnesses said. more

Hamas chief: Durable truce must lead to lifting Gaza blockade

DOHA, Qatar (AFP) -- A lasting truce must lead to the lifting by Israel of its blockade of the Gaza Strip, Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal said in an interview in Doha on Sunday.

The 72-hour ceasefire Hamas reached with Israel on Sunday "is one of the ways or tactics to ensure successful negotiations or to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza," said Meshaal.

The final "goal we insist on is having the demands of Palestinians met and the Gaza Strip exist without a blockade". more