Thursday, 14 August 2014

Accounts of Israeli war crimes in Khuza’a, Gaza pile up

From Mondoweiss - Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly asked the U.S. for help in combatting charges of war crimes committed over the last month in Gaza. He will definitely need it.

In recent days, well-documented accounts of war crimes have poured out of the Gaza Strip from journalists and human rights advocates. Some of these stories will likely be followed up on by the United Nations team that has been tasked with investigating war crimes in the Gaza Strip.

Many of these accounts have focused on Khuza’a, a village near Khan Younis that was the site of intensive Israeli bombardment in late July. Khuza’a is near Gaza’s border with Israel, and Israeli forces battled Palestinian fighters there. By many accounts from Palestinians and journalists, the village suffered from indiscriminate shelling and firing, leading to the deaths of many Palestinian civilians. There are also reports that Israeli soldiers shot unarmed civilians at point-blank range. (Mondoweiss printed accounts from Palestinians on the apparent massacre in Khuza’a here, here and here.) more

Islamic Jihad leader: Long-term truce to be announced soon

CAIRO (Ma'an) -- Deputy secretary-general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Ziad al-Nakhaala said on Thursday that a long-term ceasefire that would include the lifting of the siege on Gaza would be announced soon, stressing that "great progress" had been made in negotiations.

The announcement, which comes on the first day of a five-day ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants, raises hopes that a long-term truce will materialize after more than two weeks of negotiations that have so far yielded few results.

The breakthrough comes after Israel reportedly dropped its demand that Palestinian militant groups inside Gaza disarm, while apparently acceding to demands by the Palestinian delegation that the eight-year long economic blockade of the Strip be lifted.

Al-Nakhaala said on Thursday that progress had been made in the ongoing negotiations in Cairo, and that agreements had been reached on the opening of crossings into Gaza, facilitating the entry of goods, expanding the fishing zone, and ending the Israeli imposed "security buffer zone" that encompasses nearly 20 percent of the Gaza Strip's territory.

Al-Nakhaala also added that Israel had agreed to commence talks on the re-opening of an airport and seaport in Gaza in a month, a key Palestinian demand.

Israel destroyed Gaza's only airport in 2001 and has imposed a limit of three nautical miles on all boats from the enclave, crippling the fishing industry and ensuring total Israeli blockade of Gaza's land, air, and sea entries. more

Video: Aqsa Brigades says Israel lying about number of soldier deaths (Arabic)

The Fatah-affiliated al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade on Thursday published a video accusing Israel of hiding the true death toll among its troops in Gaza, challenging Israel to "reveal the fate of an Israeli officer" it says the group killed.

In a message addressed to the Israeli people in Hebrew, an anonymous spokesman for the al-Aqsa Brigades said that the group "challenges Israel to reveal the fate of their engineering officer Sani Tomen Yaron, holder of military number 7599999."

The spokesman said that Yaron, whose name could also be "Yaron Snitman," had "fallen" in unspecified clashes after an ambush by al-Aqsa fighters in Beit Hanoun, but did not give details as to whether he had been captured or killed.

He accused Netanyahu of "lying" to the Israeli people, saying that the Israeli prime minister "hides the number of soldiers injured and killed in the battle."

The spokesman also went on to condemn the "crimes" committed by Netanyahu "against our children, women and elderly."

"Because he could not fight our men in the field, he destroyed houses over the heads of their residents," the spokesman added. more

Why it's hard to believe Israel's claim it minimized civilian deaths

From - Among the difficult reports streaming in from Gaza over the past few weeks, two especially painful events have captured my attention.

The first was the shelling of a UN school building in Jabaliya, where a number of families that had escaped or been forced to flee their homes had taken refuge. At least 15 civilians were killed, and dozens more wounded. Israel argued they were targeting an area from which fire had been directed at Israeli forces.

The second was the bombing of a bustling market in the Shuja'iya neighborhood. At a time of precious few opportunities for civilians to safely buy food and other vital supplies, 16 people were killed and around 200 were wounded. Shops, stalls and merchandise were burned or destroyed.

Harsh criticism of Israel followed each incident but -- as in the past -- Israel defended its actions, arguing that it was targeting militants and doing its best to avoid civilian casualties.

I served as a crew commander in the Israeli artillery corps at the beginning of the Second Intifada, and I feel compelled to counter this claim from Israel. The images, evidence and army reports from recent operations in Gaza -- of more than 1,900 deaths (a number which will likely increase by the time you read this) and a large amount of the population left without shelter -- show that Israel has deployed massive artillery firepower. Such firepower is impossible to target precisely.

Artillery fire is a statistical means of warfare. It is the complete opposite of sniper fire. While the power of sharpshooting lies in its accuracy, the power of artillery comes from the quantity of shells fired and the massive impact of each one.

In using artillery against Gaza, Israel therefore cannot sincerely argue that it is doing everything in its power to spare the innocent.

The truth is artillery shells cannot be aimed precisely and are not meant to hit specific targets. A standard 40 kilogram shell is nothing but a large fragmentation grenade. When it explodes, it is meant to kill anyone within a 50-meter radius and to wound anyone within a further 100 meters.

Idan Barir served in the Israeli artillery corps during the Second Intifada and is a member of Breaking the Silence more

US fears world public opinion as it refuses transfer of hellfire missiles to IDF

From Haaretz - Israel in recent days has been holding discussions with the American administration, including at the very highest levels, in attempt to resolve the crisis between the two countries and to remove limitations placed by Washington on weapon shipments to Israel as a result of the fighting in Gaza, senior officials in Jerusalem told Haaretz.

"We are speaking with them to try and return the situation to its previous [state]," said one of the senior officials. The crisis has yet to be solved, the official said, but he has expressed hope that it will be resolved soon.

The latest crisis started when the White House instructed the Pentagon and the U.S. military to put on hold a transfer of Hellfire missiles for Apache attack helicopters that Israel had requested during its recent operation in the Gaza Strip.

The Wall Street Journal on Thursday morning reported that there was serious anger in the White House against Netanyahu and the Israel Defense Forces' operations during the war in Gaza, especially concerning the high number of civilian casualties.

The talks between the parties are being conducted at the normal staff levels of the Prime Minister's Bureau, Defense Ministry and Israeli Embassy in Washington on the Israeli side, and the White House, U.S. State Department and Pentagon, on the American. Nonetheless, it seems the matter has also been raised at the higher levels of the political leadership.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama held a telephone call Wednesday afternoon, and later Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon spoke on the phone with his counterpart, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. The Israelis initiated both calls, and were attempts to solve the most recent crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations.

Ministers in the security cabinet said that Netanyahu did not update them about the crisis with the United States over the weapons transfers, and they first heard of the matter from the press when it was reported in the Wall Street Journal. more

Britain decides to keep on arming Israel

Britain remains determined to keep on arming Israel, judging by a decision taken by one of the most senior figures in the UK government this week.

Vince Cable, the business secretary, has reviewed 130 licenses granted for exporting British weapons to Israel. On Tuesday, he announced that just twelve of these licenses would be suspended “in the event of a resumption of significant hostilities.”

This means that if the current “truce” between Israel and Hamas holds, then Britain will deliver all the military equipment that Israel has ordered. Israel will be able to prepare for its next offensive against Gaza, with the aid of British weaponry.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) in London has complained that Cable’s decision was “not good enough.” Andrew Smith, a spokesperson for CAAT, called on the government to announce a “full embargo on all arms sales to Israel as well as an end to all military-industrial collaboration with Israel.”

Broken promises

Cable’s stance is a case of broken promises. His party, the Liberal Democrats, had urged that Britain cease selling arms to Israel in early 2009 (as a response to Operation Cast Lead, a three-week bombardment of Gaza).

The Lib Dems were in opposition then. Now that they are in government, Cable appears more interested in pleasing arms-dealers than honoring commitments to defend human rights. more

Palestinian dies after being hit by settler car near Salfit

SALFIT (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian man was killed on Thursday after being knocked down by a settler car near the illegal settlement of Barkan in Salfit.

Palestinian security sources told Ma'an that Muhammad Abd al-Karim Muhammad Abu Isleim, 23, was hit while trying to cross a street near the settlement.

Israeli police officers and ambulances arrived at the scene and tried to save the victim, but he was pronounced dead. more

New Gaza truce holding after shaky start

GAZA CITY (AFP) -- Israel and Gaza fighters were holding their fire Thursday morning after a new truce got off to a shaky start, with night-time rocket fire followed by Israeli air strikes.

The Israeli army said that there had been no fighting for several hours, since Israeli air raids into Gaza finished around 3 a.m.

Palestinians had fired two rockets into southern Israel two hours earlier, after a five-day ceasefire extension was to have taken effect.

An army spokeswoman said that aircraft hit rocket-launching sites, weapons caches and "centers of terrorist activity" but could not give a precise number.

An official at the Palestinian interior ministry reported four air strikes over open ground about 30 minutes after an existing 72-hour truce was extended at midnight for another five days.

More than 1,950 Palestinians and 67 people on the Israeli side have been killed since July 8, when Israel launched its offensive.

After days of shuttle diplomacy, the agreement clinched by Egypt ushered in what is potentially the longest period of calm in the five-week conflict and will allow more time for talks on the thorniest issues that separate the two sides, the Palestinians said.

An earlier truce collapsed in a firestorm of violence on August 8.

Palestinian negotiator Azzam al-Ahmad said in Cairo that more time was needed to discuss "some" remaining disputes with Israel over a long-term truce. more