Saturday, January 17, 2009

UN accuses Israel over phosphorus

Fire at the UN compound in Gaza City (15 January 2009)
Mr Ging said the fire caused by the phosphorus was very difficult to extinguish

The head of the UN aid agency in Gaza has accused the Israeli military of firing what was believed to be white phosphorus shells at its compound.

John Ging told the BBC that in spite of discussions with the Israeli liaison, "three rounds that emitted phosphorus" hit a corner of the Gaza City facility.

Israel's military said all weapons it used complied with international law.

Phosphorus shells are legal to use as a battlefield obscurant, but are banned from use where civilians may be harmed.

Human Rights Watch says it has observed "dozens and dozens" of white phosphorus shells being fired by Israel at the Gaza Strip - a heavily populated civilian area where its use is prohibited.

UN accuses Israel over phosphorus

Palestinian medical officials said they had treated large numbers of casualties with unusual burns that were extremely painful to treat and could be consistent with exposure to white phosphorus (WP).

The Israeli military has declined to comment on specific munitions used during the 20-day offensive, but said any its weapons were used in compliance with international law.

There is no way independently to explain the contradiction between both sides' reports, as Israel has prevented international journalists from entering Gaza since its offensive began on 27 December.

'Relentless bombardment'

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Ging, director of operations in Gaza for the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa), said the area surrounding its compound had been under "relentless artillery and tank bombardment all night and all day".

Some rounds, Mr Ging said, had struck a part of the compound where about 700 residents of nearby blocks of flats were taking shelter. Three people were injured in the bombardment.

Evidence of white phosphorus munitions used in Gaza, HRW says

"Then an hour later, in spite of our protests and real-time discussions with the Israeli liaison, three rounds that emitted phosphorous struck the other corner of the compound," he added.

The compound is Unrwa's main distribution hub in Gaza and Mr Ging said the shells set alight part of a warehouse in which there were stored thousands of tonnes of food and medicine, and the workshop area.

The fires then threatened to engulf five fuel tankers, which had been due to be sent out that morning, but could not leave because it was too dangerous outside.

"When the fires broke out, five of our brave staff dashed down there and moved the trucks out of the area, so we avoided a massive explosion," he said.

Mr Ging told CNN the fire was very difficult to extinguish because the smoke from WP becomes toxic if water is used.

Following the incident, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon - in Israel to push for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip - expressed his "outrage" and demanded a full explanation from the Israeli government.

"The defence minister said to me it was a grave mistake and he took it very seriously. He assured me that extra attention will be paid to UN facilities and staff and this will not be repeated," Mr Ban said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the compound had been targeted after militants had opened fire from there.

"It is absolutely true that we were attacked from that place, but the consequences are very sad and we apologise for it," he said. "I don't think it should have happened and I'm very sorry."


White phosphorus sticks to human skin and will burn right through to the bone, causing death or leaving survivors with painful wounds which are slow to heal.

The international convention on the use of incendiary weapons says it should not be used where there is a possibility of hitting civilians. An Israeli military spokesman said it was investigating the reports, but reiterated earlier assurances about the legality of its weaponry.

The Israeli military may be using legal weapons, but it is using the weapons in an illegal manner
Marc Garlasco
Human Rights Watch

White phosphorus is permitted on the battlefield to make smoke screens to allow troops to move undetected, and also to impede infrared anti-tank weapons.

But its use in the densely populated areas of central Gaza City would be "unlawful", as it dispersal would be indiscriminate and could put civilians at risk, says Human Rights Watch military analyst Marc Garlasco.

"The Israeli military may be using legal weapons, but it is using the weapons in an illegal manner," Mr Garlasco told the BBC News website.

He said he had observed dozens and dozens WP shells used by the Israeli army over Gaza since 27 December, both ground-burst shells and air-burst, scattering distinctive burning lumps of phosphorus which left white smoke trails.

"We are absolutely certain this is white phosphorus, this is the singular, unique visual signature of white phosphorus on the battlefield. Not only have I seen it for myself but I have checked with US artillery," Mr Garlasco added.

Mr Garlasco also examined a press photograph which showed a burning lump of matter in the UN compound. He said it "definitely appeared" to be WP, but that the photo was not detailed enough to say with complete certainty.

Israel 'to announce ceasefire'

UN workers inspect damage inside a UN-run school hit on 17 January.
A large number of civilians have died in the three weeks of conflict

The Israeli cabinet is set to back an end to offensive military activities in the Gaza Strip, three weeks after attacks began, the BBC understands.

Israel's leaders are expected to approve a ceasefire at a meeting later on Saturday, after which PM Ehud Olmert will address the nation, sources said.

The sources said the ceasefire deal did not involve Hamas.

It is not clear how Hamas will respond; its officials say the group will ignore any truce unless its demands are met.

Ahead of the move violence continued in Gaza, with 50 Israeli air strikes overnight. Rocket fire from Hamas militants also continued.

About 1,200 Palestinians have been killed since the violence began on 27 December. Thirteen Israelis - three civilians and 10 soldiers - have been killed during the campaign.


The Israeli move comes amid intense diplomacy aimed at ending the conflict.

Israeli sources told the BBC's Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, that Mr Olmert would announce an end to offensive military operations from "H-Hour", the exact timing of which is not yet clear.

Mr Olmert was expected to link the move to Israel having achieved its goal of curtailing rocket fire from Hamas-linked militants, the sources said.

If rocket fire continued after "H-Hour", Israel would respond, the sources said. If there was a single incident, Israel would hit back surgically. If there were more attacks Israel would go back on the offensive, they said.

The sources stressed that this was a unilateral action by Israel. How Hamas responds remains to be seen.

Hamas insists that any ceasefire must involve Israeli troops withdrawing from Gaza and an immediate lifting of the Israeli blockade.

UN strike

The announcement came on the 22nd day of violence in Gaza.

United Nations officials said two children, aged five and seven, were killed when Israeli tank fire hit a UN school where hundreds had taken shelter in the northern town of Beit Lahiya.

John Ging, the Unrwa chief in Gaza, told the BBC that there was "nowhere safe in Gaza".

"I'm ashamed of this - there's international legal responsibility to protect civilians in conflict, and we're not doing it," Mr Ging said.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, told the BBC that Israel was waiting for more information on what happened.

The Israel military said Hamas fired seven rockets into Israel on Saturday; there were no casualties.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Demonstrate for an end to Israel's assault on the people of Gaza

Wednesday, January 14th at 8pm Outside the Michigan Union on State St.
Demonstrate for an end to Israel's assault on the people of Gaza

Demand an unconditional and immediate cease-fire and total withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza
The Michigan is located at 530 S. State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1308
Please do not bring the flags of any political parties

We support an immediate and unconditional cease-fire in Gaza, in addition to a complete withdrawal of all Israeli Occupying Forces from the Gaza Strip. We support an immediate and unconditional end to Israel's illegal siege of the Gaza Strip and demand that all border crossings be opened for the purposes of humanitarian aid and economic freedom. We support a comprehensive halt to all United States military aid to Israel.


Black armbands will be distributed campus-wide for people to wear in support of an unconditional and immediate cease-fire and total withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza
. They will be distributed by members of the Action Gaza committee and will be available at the informational tables set up near the posting wall in Mason Hall TODAY, Wednesday, January 14 from 10 AM to 4 PM. Armbands will also be distributed at TODAY's demonstration in front of the Michigan Union from 8 PM to 10 PM.

Wear your armbands daily until a ceasefire is issued. When people ask about your armband, talk to them about the atrocities being committed in Gaza, the devastatingly disproportionate attacks upon the Palestinian people and Israel's blatant abuse of human rights and repeated violations of international law. If you would like to get an armband, please contact Kamelya Youssef at

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Israel Puts Media Clamp on Gaza

JERUSALEM — Three times in recent days, a small group of foreign correspondents was told to appear at the border crossing to Gaza. The reporters were to be permitted in to cover firsthand the Israeli war on Hamas in keeping with a Supreme Court ruling against the two-month-old Israeli ban on foreign journalists entering Gaza.

Each time, they were turned back on security grounds, even as relief workers and other foreign citizens were permitted to cross the border. On Tuesday the reporters were told to not even bother going to the border.

And so for an 11th day of Israel’s war in Gaza, the several hundred journalists here to cover it waited in clusters away from direct contact with any fighting or Palestinian suffering, but with full access to Israeli political and military commentators eager to show them around southern Israel, where Hamas rockets have been terrorizing civilians. A slew of private groups financed mostly by Americans are helping guide the press around Israel.

Like all wars, this one is partly about public relations. But unlike any war in Israel’s history, in this one the government is seeking to entirely control the message and narrative for reasons both of politics and military strategy.

“This is the result of what happened in the 2006 Lebanon war against Hezbollah,” said Nachman Shai, a former army spokesman who is writing a doctoral dissertation on Israel’s public diplomacy. “Then, the media were everywhere. Their cameras and tapes picked up discussions between commanders. People talked on live television. It helped the enemy and confused and destabilized the home front. Today, Israel is trying to control the information much more closely.”

The government-commissioned investigation into the war with Hezbollah reported that the army had found that when reporters were allowed on the battlefield in Lebanon, they got in the way of military operations by posing risks and asking questions.

Maj. Avital Leibovich, an army spokeswoman, said, “If a journalist gets injured or killed, then it is Central Command’s responsibility.” She said the government was trying to protect Israel from rocket fire and “not deal with the media.”

Beyond such tactical considerations, there is a political one. Daniel Seaman, director of Israel’s Government Press Office, said, “Any journalist who enters Gaza becomes a fig leaf and front for the Hamas terror organization, and I see no reason why we should help that.”

Foreign reporters deny that their work in Gaza has been subject to Hamas censorship or control. Unable to send foreign reporters into Gaza, the international news media have relied on Palestinian journalists based there for coverage.

But it seems that many Israelis accept Mr. Seaman’s assessment and shed no tears over the restrictions, despite repeated protests by the Foreign Press Association of Israel, including on Tuesday.

A headline in Tuesday’s issue of Yediot Aharonot, the country’s largest selling daily newspaper, expressed well the popular view of the issue. Over a news article describing the generally negative coverage so far, especially in the European media, an intentional misspelling of a Hebrew word turned the headline “World Media” into “World Liars.”

This attitude has been helped by supportive Israeli news media whose articles have been filled with “feelings of self-righteousness and a sense of catharsis following what was felt to be undue restraint in the face of attacks by the enemy,” according to a study of the first days of media coverage of the war by a liberal but nonpartisan group called Keshev, the Center for the Protection of Democracy in Israel.

The Foreign Press Association has been fighting for weeks to get its members into Gaza, first appealing to senior government officials and ultimately taking its case to the country’s highest court. Last week the justices worked out an arrangement with the organization whereby small groups would be permitted into Gaza when it was deemed safe enough for the crossings to be opened for other reasons.

So far, every time the border has been opened, journalists have not been permitted to go in.

On Tuesday, the press association released a statement saying, “The unprecedented denial of access to Gaza for the world’s media amounts to a severe violation of press freedom and puts the state of Israel in the company of a handful of regimes around the world which regularly keep journalists from doing their jobs.”

At the same time that reporters have been given less access to Gaza, the government has created a new structure for shaping its public message, ensuring that spokesmen of the major government branches meet daily to make sure all are singing from the same sheet.

“We are trying to coordinate everything that has to do with the image and content of what we are doing and to make sure that whoever goes on the air, whether a minister or professor or ex-ambassador, knows what he is saying,” said Aviv Shir-On, deputy director general for media in the Foreign Ministry. “We have talking points and we try to disseminate our ideas and message.”

Israelis say the war is being reduced on television screens around the world to a simplistic story: an American-backed country with awesome military machine fighting a third-world guerrilla force leading to a handful of Israelis dead versus 600 Gazans dead.

Israelis and their supporters think that such quick descriptions fail to explain the vital context of what has been happening — years of terrorist rocket fire on civilians have gone largely unanswered, and a message had to be sent to Israel’s enemies that this would go on no longer, they say. The issue of proportionality, they add, is a false construct because comparing death tolls offers no help in measuring justice and legitimacy.

There are other ways to construe the context of this conflict, of course. But no matter what, Israel’s diplomats know that if journalists are given a choice between covering death and covering context, death wins. So in a war that they consider necessary but poorly understood, they have decided to keep the news media far away from the death.

John Ging, an Irishman who directs operations in Gaza for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, entered Gaza on Monday as journalists were kept out. He told Palestinian reporters in Gaza that the policy was a problem.

“For the truth to get out, journalists have to get in,” he said.

Brian Eno Decries Gaza Attacks

Brian Eno Decries Gaza Attacks

Art-rock eminence Brian Eno is not happy at all about Israel's recent attacks on Gaza, and we recommend that Israel stop all these attacks right now because you do not want to see what happens when Brian Eno gets pissed. In an editorial on the Counterpunch weekend edition (via Daily Swarm), Eno had this to say:

"The Israelis are a gifted and resourceful people who fully deserve the right to live in peace, but who seem intent on squandering every chance to allow that to happen. It's difficult to avoid the conclusion that this conflict serves the political and economic purposes of Israel so well that they have every interest in maintaining it. While there is fighting they can continue to build illegal settlements. While there is fighting they continue to receive huge quantities of military aid from the United States. And while there is fighting they can avoid looking candidly at themselves and the ruthlessness into which they are descending.

"Gaza is now an experiment in provocation. Stuff one and a half million people into a tiny space, stifle their access to water, electricity, food and medical treatment, destroy their livelihoods, and humiliate them regularly...and, surprise, surprise - they turn hostile. Now why would you want to make that experiment?"

And on Saturday, Eno showed up to the Stop Gaza Massacre protest in London to read his editorial and to make a confusing reference to "middle-class English people like me." Eno: When you're making that Coldplay money, you no longer get to call yourself middle-class.

Some of Eno's recent projects include the score for Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, an iPhone app, and a really good album with David Byrne.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Obama's Silence on Gaza is Deafening

Barack Obama must be given a lot of credit for his remarkable ascent to power, particularly in terms of the dignified way in which he did it. But there is a dark side to his rise to the Presidency, one progressives and liberals do not like to acknowledge.

Barack Obama had to do two things to persuade the powers that be that he was a viable candidate for President. The first was to assure the financial community that he would commit to a centrist economic platform, and the second was to sell out the Palestiniansimmediately and jump in bed with AIPAC.

Obama did both, and the consequences will be felt immediately. Economically, Obama has not surrounded himself with the type of people committed to real change. The enormous financial crisis has given him more room to move, but he won't do anything dramatic (like hold Wall St to account, or provide a meaningful bailout to the average American). The results during his Presidency will mean extraordinary pain for the middle classes and poor, while the burden is shifted from those who caused it. It would no doubt be worse under a Republican, but it will not be pleasant.

With the latest Israeli assault on the Gaza strip, Obama's wholesale sellout of the Palestinian people is being felt even more acutely. His unique position to speak up for a bitterly oppressed people has been wasted in the name of political convenience.

Western responses to the massacre has been pathetic to say the least. The U.S, U.K and European Union have done little to stop the Israelis pounding Gaza with it's hi tech weaponry, with the Bush Administration laying the blame squarely on Palestinians. "The United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the cease-fire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza," said Condoleezza Rice. "The cease-fire should be restored immediately." Gordon Brown merely asked the Israelis to 'Show restraint'.

And Obama's response? A half hearted critique of Hamas through former campaign managerDavid Axelrod on CBS, where Obama's allegiance to Israel was reiterated and belief that Israel has the right to respond how it likes to Palestinian attacks.

One of the writers on my site, Hugo Foster has written a brilliant analysis of the Israeli action in the Gaza strip, explaining why the incursion is basically counterproductive and unnecessarily violent:

Publicly, Israel has stated it wants to create a new security environment, to deliver the 'knockout blow' that will definitively destroy Hamas' rocket-launching capability. To be sure, Hamas' military infrastructure has been truly battered in the past couple of days. Yet toppling Hamas' rule in Gaza is just not feasible. Logistically it would require precisely the sort of costly ground fighting that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have tried to avoid since they withdrew from the territory in 2005. And given the close proximity of military and civilian infrastructure in Gaza, it would inflict a level of human damage (beyond the 56 civilian lives already lost) that would eventually weaken tacit international support for Israel's 'right to self-defence', as happened belatedly in Lebanon two years ago.

The brash move by Israel was clearly taken due to the economic turmoil in the West. While we concern ourselves with job cuts, food shortages and plummeting house prices, Israel has taken brutal measures that even the most hawkish U.S politicians would have tried to avert.

Obama has massive political capital, and could have injected himself into the crisis before it happened. He did so during the beginning of the economic meltdown, and could have lent his credibility to a situation that has spiralled dangerously out of control. Obama has stated that 'There is only one President at a time', abdicating responsibility and essentially passing the buck.

Obama has pointed out the Qassan rockets Hamas has been firing into Israeli towns over recent months, but has failed to mention the illegal sanctions Israel has placed on Gazans, turning the already squalid land into a virtual prison of starvation and targeted assassinations.

The massacre over the past few days will enrage Palestinians further, strengthen Hamas, and solidify hatred towards Israel and the United States in the Arab world. If Obama wants meaningful change in the Middle East, he must start speaking up. For now, his silence is deafening.

Dr. Gilbert Confirms dense metal explosives used on palestinians

Israeli Troops Launch Attack on Gaza

JERUSALEM — Israeli tanks and troops swept across the border into Gaza on Saturday night, opening a ground war against the militant group Hamas after a week of intense airstrikes.

Israel’s stated goal was to destroy the infrastructure of Hamas, the militant Islamic group that controls Gaza’s government, and the military warned that the campaign could take “many long days.”

The assault brings new risks and the prospect of many new casualties on both sides in a confrontation that, before this phase began, had already cost the lives of more than 430Palestinians and 4 Israelis.

While a ground war in densely populated Gaza is likely to increase the civilian toll there, the Israeli Army also faces new threats. Since seizing control of the territory a year and a half ago, Hamas has been able to smuggle in more and better weapons. Its more sophisticated arsenal has been on display in recent weeks, and even under heavy fire the group has shown its ability to keep hitting Israeli cities with long-range rockets.

Sharp explosions rang out across Gaza, and tank fire and airstrikes lit the darkened sky well into Sunday as Israel continued to pound the area by land, air and sea. The Hamas military wing said it was firing mortars at approaching Israeli troops.

Palestinian hospitals reported three civilians killed by midnight, and Al Aksa television, run by Hamas, reported that five Israeli soldiers had been killed. An Israeli military spokesman rejected that claim. Israel did say, though, that 30 of its soldiers had been wounded since the start of the ground campaign.

World leaders called on Hamas and Israel to accept an immediate cease-fire, and in several European cities tens of thousands of protesters demanded that Israel end its campaign. Meanwhile, the Bush administration said it was working toward a new cease-fire, but rather than calling for a halt to military action urged Israel to “be mindful of the potential consequences to civilians.”

In a statement, the Israeli military said a key objective was “taking control” of the rocket launching sites Hamas has used to fire at southern Israel. Rockets fired from Gaza have plagued southern Israel for years, and they have drawn the military into the coastal territory repeatedly since troops formally withdrew and the Jewish settlements there were evacuated in 2005. A 48-hour raid in March 2008, aimed at inflicting a cost on Hamas for its continuing rocket fire, killed nearly 100 Palestinians.

Israeli officials have said repeatedly that it is not their aim now to fully reoccupy Gaza. But it was clear that the military expected a grueling operation.

“This will not be easy and it will not be short,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on national television shortly after the ground invasion began. He did not elaborate on how long Israel hoped to hold the rocket-launching sites.

The ground operation began after eight days of intensive attacks by Israeli air and naval forces on Hamas security installations, weapons stores and symbols of government in the Palestinian enclave.

“This has always been a stage-by-stage process,” Shlomo Dror, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said in a telephone interview. “Hamas can stop it whenever it wants,” by stopping its rocket fire, he said.

Hamas leaders in Gaza were in hiding, but a Hamas spokesman said Saturday night by video that the “moment of decision has arrived” and that Gaza would be the Israeli Army’s “graveyard.”

Hamas has also threatened to use the invasion as an opportunity to capture Israeli soldiers. The group has been holding an Israeli corporal, Gilad Shalit, hostage for more than two years.

The exact number of troops entering Gaza was not being publicized, but the military said the operation involved “large numbers” of forces including infantry, tanks, engineering and artillery corps. On Saturday night, the Israeli prime minister’s office said that a call-up of thousands of army reserve troops, approved earlier, had begun.

Before Israel started the invasion, warplanes and ground artillery carried out heavy strikes on Saturday. Many of those attacks were on open areas around Beit Hanoun and the main route connecting the north and south of Gaza, most likely to clear those areas of mines and tunnels and to hamper movement before troops entered.

A mosque in northern Gaza was also hit, during evening prayer time, in what witnesses said was an Israeli airstrike. At least 11 worshipers were killed and about 30 wounded, according to Palestinian hospital officials. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

The air force has struck several mosques in the past week, with the military saying they served as Hamas bases and weapons stores.

The Israeli Army also dropped thousands of leaflets into some residential districts warning inhabitants to evacuate their homes. Because of “the activity of terrorist groups,” the leaflets said in Arabic, the army “is obliged to respond quickly and work from inside your residential area.” Many residents of one apartment block in Gaza City said they had nowhere else to go and would stay in their homes.

An Egyptian-brokered truce between Israel and Hamas, which took effect last June, began to break down in November, and Hamas declared it over on Dec. 19. Since then, rocket fire out of Gaza has intensified.

On Saturday, a rocket hit an apartment building in the major port city of Ashdod, about 20 miles north of Gaza, lightly wounding two Israelis. Other rockets landed in the coastal city of Ashkelon and in the Negev Desert town of Netivot.

The latest round of rocket fire has demonstrated the extent to which Hamas has been able to upgrade its arsenal with weapons parts smuggled into Gaza, according to American and Israeli officials. Compared with the crude, homemade Qassam rockets it had used in the past, the latest rockets have been more accurate and have flown farther — close to two dozen miles, enough to reach the southern Israeli cities of Ashdod and Beersheba.

President Bush, in his weekly radio address to the nation on Saturday, said Hamas had instigated the violence last week with rocket barrages “that deliberately targeted innocent Israelis.”

Expressing concern about the humanitarian situation facing the people of Gaza, he added that the United States was “leading diplomatic efforts to achieve a meaningful cease-fire that is fully respected.”

President-elect Barack Obama continued to defer publicly to the Bush administration after the ground campaign began. “The president-elect is closely monitoring global events, including the situation in Gaza,” said Brooke Anderson, his chief national security spokeswoman. “There is one president at a time, and we intend to respect that.”

The United Nations Security Council held a closed meeting, called by France, on Saturday. Earlier, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for “an immediate end” to Israel’s ground operation, and asked Israel to “ensure the protection of civilians and that humanitarian assistance is able to reach those in need.”

Before the ground war began, hospital officials in Gaza City put the first week’s Palestinian death toll at more than 430, including 26 women, 74 children and an unknown number of male civilians. Three Israeli civilians and one soldier had been killed by rocket fire.

World reaction was intense and mixed. While thousands of protesters marched in cities across Europe to demand a halt to the Israeli bombing, in Prague, a spokesman for the new Czech presidency of the European Union said Israel’s actions were “defensive, not offensive.”

Other European countries quickly distanced themselves from the Czech position. The French Foreign Ministry condemned “the Israeli ground offensive against Gaza as it condemns the continuation of rocket firing.”

In London, the British foreign secretary, David Miliband, urged both sides to accept an immediate cease-fire.

More than 20,000 demonstrators marched against the Israeli air campaign in Paris and more than 10,000 in London, where some threw shoes at the prime minister’s residence, a particularly Arab form of protest that has gained worldwide currency since an Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes at President Bush last month in Baghdad.

Both protests were held before the ground invasion began. Large protests also took place in at least seven other European countries and in Kuwait, Israel and New York.

The Israeli military said Saturday evening that the air force had struck about 40 Hamas targets during the day, including weapons storage facilities, smuggling tunnels, rocket launchers and launching sites. Palestinians said the airstrikes also hit the American International School, a private institution in northern Gaza, killing a school guard.

Israel has also been firing on the homes of Hamas’s military leaders, and on Saturday struck a vehicle in Khan Yunis carrying Mohammed Maaruf, whom the Israeli military described as an officer in the Hamas ground forces. Another strike killed Mohammad al-Jammal, 40, who was said in Gaza to be a Hamas military commander, according to the news service Agence France-Presse. Israel said he was responsible for the entire rocket-launching operation in all of Gaza City.

But in Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, most of the wounded being brought in on Saturday seemed to be civilians.

Salah Abu Rafia, 38, was accompanying wounded relatives, including his 10-year-old son, Zeid. Mr. Abu Rafia said that an F-16 warplane fired missiles around his house in the Zeitoun neighborhood, west of Gaza City, while the family was sitting outside. He said that Hamas fighters had been in the area, but that he had been afraid to tell them to go away. They disappeared as soon as they heard the planes, he said, escaping without injury.

“We are the ones paying the price,” he added.

The Facts about Israel’s War on Gaza

Adam Sheets
December 31, 2008

t is crucial that one has her/his facts straight about Israel’s war on Gaza. What events brought about this dreadful situation? What needs to be done to make it stop? These questions will be answered in the content of this article, using concrete facts from a variety of news sources.

Let’s first investigate the recent cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. The cease-fire began in June 2008. The terms were as follows:

  1. Israel would drastically reduce its military blockade of Gaza.
  2. Israel would halt all military incursions into Gaza.
  3. Hamas would halt all rocket attacks into Israel.

From the outset of the cease-fire, Israel did little to ease its military blockade. As a result, Gazans continued to suffer from a lack of food, fuel, financial aid, electricity, clean water, medical supplies, and more. This has been, inarguably, an attack on innocent Palestinian civilians.

  • Gaza faces a humanitarian "catastrophe" if Israel continues to prevent aid reaching the territory by blocking crossing points, the head of the main UN aid agency for the Palestinians said on Friday... Israel had restricted goods into Gaza despite the truce, which calls on militants to halt rocket attacks in return for Israel easing its embargo on the territory... Israel also held up deliveries of European Union-funded fuel for the power plant, which generates about a third of the electricity consumed by Gazans... Ailments associated with insufficient food were surfacing among the impoverished coastal strip's 1.5 million population, including growing malnutrition.
    --Haaretz Israel News, Nov. 21, 2008 1
  • A former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, has told the BBC she was taken aback by the "terrible" conditions in Gaza on a recent visit. Mrs Robinson said it was "almost unbelievable" that the world did not care about what she called "a shocking violation of so many human rights"... Israel tightened a blockade on Gaza after Hamas took control there in 2007... "Their whole civilisation has been destroyed, I'm not exaggerating," said Mrs Robinson...Israel says the blockade, under which it has allowed little more than basic humanitarian aid into Gaza, is needed to isolate the militant group and stop it and other militants from firing rockets into Israel. Israel came to a truce with Palestinian groups in June this year, but Mrs Robinson said this had had little effect on people's lives and "just brought a bitter taste in the mouth".
    --BBC News, Nov. 4, 2008 2
  • The UN in the Gaza Strip says it will run out of food aid in two days unless Israel's blockade – which it describes as "shameful and unacceptable" – eases. The UN refugee agency UNWRA, which distributes food to half of Gaza's 1.5m people, called the blockade "a physical as well as a mental punishment". Israel is now allowing a limited amount of fuel across the border, but it is still blocking food deliveries... In a statement, UNWRA spokesman Christopher Gunness said food distribution operations would end on Thursday unless Israeli authorities allowed deliveries of wheat, luncheon meat, powdered milk and cooking oil without delay. "This is both a physical as well as a mental punishment of the population – of mothers and parents trying to feed their children – who are being forced to live hand to mouth," he said... "It is a further illustration of the barbarity of thisinhuman blockade."... "It is also shameful and unacceptable that the largest humanitarian actor in Gaza is being forced into yet another cycle of crisis management," Mr Gunness added.
    --BBC News, Nov. 11, 2008 3
  • International aid agencies, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, have said virtually no medical supplies were reaching Gaza.
    --Haaretz Israel News, Nov. 9, 2008 14
  • The UN has no more food to distribute in the Gaza Strip, the head of relief efforts in the area has warned. John Ging said handouts for 750,000 Gazans would have to be suspended until Saturday at the earliest, and called Gaza's economic situation "a disaster". Israel earlier denied entry to a convoy carrying humanitarian supplies... The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) distributes emergency aid to about half of Gaza's 1.5m population. "We have run out [of food aid] this evening," said Mr Ging, UNRWA's senior official in Gaza. "Unless the crossing points open... we won't be able to get that food into Gaza," he told Reuters news agency... Also on Thursday,Israel refused permission for a group of senior European diplomats to visit the coastal enclave. It has also prevented journalists, including those from the BBC, from entering the territory.
    --BBC News, Nov. 13, 2008 4
  • Since June 2007, Israel has allowed little more than basic humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip. Many there hoped that policy would change, five months ago, when Hamas and Israel agreed to a truce. But while there were some increases in the amount of aid allowed in, Israel's strict restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza largely remained... Serious fuel shortages have led to widespread power cuts across Gaza City. That, in turn, has caused problems in pumping water to homes, and sewage to treatment plants. Israel is preventing many aid workers, and all journalists from entering Gaza too... "I never thought we would see days like this," says Monther Shublak, head of Gaza's water authority. "The water system was severely stretched even before this crisis, but now, things are much worse. For the last four days, around 40% of people in Gaza City have had no access to running water in their homes at all."... "But we are putting all of our resources into sewage pumping. The health consequences of that system totally failing are too worrying to think about, but it could happen unless things change."
    --BBC News, Nov. 20, 2008 5
  • Israel has refused to allow cash to enter Gaza in recent weeks to ratchet up pressure on the ruling Hamas militant group. With the supply of currency dwindling, banks have limited withdrawals over the past two weeks, and some have posted signs telling customers they cannot take out any more money... The United Nations halted cash handouts to 98,000 of Gaza's poorest residents last week, and economists and bank officials warn that tens of thousands of civil servants won't be able to cash their paychecks next month... "No society can operate without money, but that's the situation we are reaching in Gaza," said Gaza economist Omar Shaban... Israel and Egypt have restricted movement through Gaza's border crossings since the Islamic militants of Hamas violently seized control of the coastal territory in June 2007. Since then, closures have been eased or tightened, depending on the security situation. But even in quiet times, when Gaza militants refrained from firing rockets at Israeli border towns, only limited shipments of food, medicine and commercial goods were allowed in... Shlomo Dror, an Israel Defense Ministry spokesman, questioned the seriousness of the currency shortage. "We are used to the Palestinians inventing things and we are looking into their claim,” he said.
    --Washington Post, Nov. 24, 2008 6

Despite the intense blockade against Gazan civilians, the cease-fire held until November 4, 2008. On that date, the Israeli military made an incursion into Gaza and killed six Palestinians. The Israeli government sought to justify these actions, saying that they suspected these Palestinians of plotting to kidnap Israeli soldiers. Palestinian fighters responded to the attack by launching rockets into Israel. Thus began the unraveling of the cease-fire.

  • At least six Hamas militants have been killed after Israel's first incursion into the Gaza Strip since June's truce. Israel said its troops had uncovered a tunnel along central Gaza's frontier which had been dug by militants intending to abduct Israeli soldiers. Clashes ensued when troops were sent to thwart the threat, Israel said. One militant died, Palestinian reports say. A subsequent Israeli air strike on Hamas positions in southern Gaza killed at least five fighters, medics said. An Israeli army spokeswoman said the air strike targeted militants who had fired mortars at Israeli forces... Tuesday evening's fighting broke out after Israeli tanks and a bulldozer moved 250m into the central part of the coastal enclave, backed by military aircraft, says the BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Ramallah. Residents of central Gaza's el-Bureij refugee camp said a missile fired from an unmanned Israeli drone flying over the area injured another three Hamas gunmen. A truce between the two sides had held since it was declared on 19 June. Israel said the raid was not a violation of the ceasefire, but rather a legitimate step to remove an immediate threat.
    --BBC News, Nov. 5, 2008 7
  • An Israel Air Force air strike in the southern Gaza Strip killed at least five militants and wounded several others on Tuesday, Palestinians said. Earlier, Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed a Hamas gunman and wounded two others on Tuesday in the first armed clash in the Gaza Strip since a ceasefire was declared in the territory in June, Palestinian medics said... An Egypt-brokered cease-fire agreement between Israel and the Gaza Strip was signed earlier this year, and went into effect on June 19. The IDF argued that the raid did not constitute a violation of the cease fire, but instead was a legitimate step to remove an immediate threat to Israel from Gaza, which is controlled by the Islamic militant group Hamas.
    --Haaretz Israel News, Nov. 5, 2008 8
  • Two weeks ago, an already fragile humanitarian situation resulting from the mounting effects of months of shortages, saw a dramatic downturn.The fighting resumed, with an Israeli army incursion into Gaza and a retaliatory barrage of militant rocket fire.
    --BBC News, Nov. 20, 2008 5

As the cease-fire began to crumble, the violence from both sides intensified. Efforts to redeem the cease-fire ultimately failed.

  • Palestinian armed groups in Gaza remain committed to a truce with Israel if Jerusalem reciprocates, Hamas's Gaza leader said on Friday, even as militants launched more attacks from the coastal territory... "I have met with armed factions over the past two days and they stated their position clearly: they are committed to calm as long as (Israel) abides by it," said Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas's most senior representative in Gaza.
    --Haaretz Israel News, Nov. 21, 2008 9
  • Hamas announced on Sunday that militant groups in Gaza have agreed to cease cross-border attacks if Israel opens crossings into the coastal territory, Ma'an news reported.
    --Haaretz Israel News, Nov. 24, 2008 10
  • After expressing contradictory positions on Sunday, Hamas' leadership on Monday adopted a united stance: The cease-fire with Israel, which expires this Friday, will not be extended... Hamas' spokesman in the Gaza Strip, Ayman Taha, said the movement had concluded that there was no point in extending the truce "as long as Israel isn't abiding by its terms" – though he added that talks on continuing the cease-fire were still taking place. Specifically, Taha said, Israel was supposed to have expanded the truce to the West Bank – something Hamas demanded but Israel in fact never promised – and opened the Gaza border crossings, and "this hasn't happened."
    --Haaretz Israel News, Dec. 16, 2008 11

Following the end of the cease-fire, Israel moved closer to an invasion of the territory. The Israeli government claimed that this was the only remaining option to eliminate rocket attacks from Gaza. However, as cited in the sources above, this was clearly not the case. Israel had failed to abide by the terms of the cease-fire. For the overwhelming majority of the six-month truce, Israel had refused to ease its military blockade of Gaza to any significant degree. In addition, it was the initial violator of the cease-fire when it sent tanks and aircraft into Gaza and killed six Palestinians on November 4, 2008. In fact, there is evidence that Israel was planning to strike Gaza even while the cease-fire was still in effect.

  • Barak told the assembled lawmakers that the defense establishment spent months preparing for the Gaza operation.
    --Haaretz Israel News, Dec. 29, 2008 16

In the interest of peace, Hamas, and especially Fatah, have firmly established that they are willing to participate in negotiations that are based on internationally recognized borders and rights.

  • On June 6, 2006, Haniyeh met Dr. Jerome Segal of the University of Maryland in the Gaza Strip... At the end of the meeting, Haniyeh dictated a short message he asked Segal to transmit to President Bush... In the second paragraph, Haniyeh laid out the political platform he maintains to this day. "We are so concerned about stability and security in the area that we don't mind having a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders and offering a truce for many years," he wrote... Haniyeh called on Bush to launch a dialogue with the Hamas government. "We are not warmongers, we are peace makers and we call on the American government to have direct negotiations with the elected government," he wrote... In his own letter, Segal emphasized that a state within the 1967 borders and a truce for many years could be considered Hamas' de facto recognition of Israel. He noted that in a separate meeting, Youssuf suggested that the Palestinian Authority and Israel might exchange ambassadors during that truce period. This was not the only covert message from Hamas to senior Bush administration officials. However, Washington did not reply to these messages and maintained its boycott of the Hamas government.
    --Haaretz Israel News, Nov. 14, 2008 12
  • The Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said on Saturday his government was willing to accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel within the 1967 borders... Haniyeh told his guests Israel rejected his initiative... He said the Hamas government had agreed to accept a Palestinian state that followed the 1967 borders and to offer Israel a long-term hudna, or truce, if Israel recognized the Palestinians' national rights... In response to a question about the international community's impression that there are two Palestinian states, Haniyeh said: "We don't have a state, neither in Gaza nor in the West Bank. Gaza is under siege and the West Bank is occupied.What we have in the Gaza Strip is not a state, but rather a regime of an elected government. A Palestinian state will not be created at this time except in the territories of 1967."... “Our conflict is not with the Jews, our problem is with the occupation," Haniyeh said.
    --Haaretz Israel News, Nov. 9, 2008 14
  • The Palestinian Authority has placed a full-page advert in Israel's Hebrew newspapers to promote an Arab peace plan first proposed in 2002. The Saudi-backed initiative offers Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for an end to Israel's occupation of land captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. It also proposes what it calls a just solution for Palestinian refugees. The Israeli government has noted "positive aspects" in the plan but has not formally accepted it... Peace Now, and Israeli campaign group, welcomed the publication of the adverts. "On behalf of a majority of Israeli citizens who support peace with the Palestinian people on the basis of a two state solution – we embrace the Arab Peace Initiative and urge both governments to endorse it and negotiate the final status agreement in its spirit," a statement from the group said... The text reads: "Fifty-seven Arab and Muslim countries will establish diplomatic relations with Israel in exchange for a full peace accord and the end of the occupation."
    --BBC News, Nov. 20, 2008 13
  • U.S. President-elect Barack Obama proclaimed himself "very impressed" with the Arab League's peace plan when he discussed it with President Shimon Peres during a brief visit to Israel four months ago, Peres said Tuesday... The plan, originally proposed by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2002 and later adopted by the Arab League, states that Israel would receive full relations with the entire Arab world in exchange for a full withdrawal from all the territory it captured in 1967, including East Jerusalem, plus a solution to the refugee problem. The Bush Administration has said it views the plan positively, but its own road map peace plan and the understandings reached at last year's Annapolis summit have served as the basis of its diplomatic program.
    --Haaretz Israel News, Nov. 19, 2008 15

Since Israel began its strike on Gaza, 4 Israelis and 391 Palestinians have been killed 18. The White House said that Israel will cease its attack when Hamas has agreed to a truce. Hamas said they are open to any cease-fire propositions. A cease-fire has been proposed, but Israel rejected this offer.

  • "In order for the violence to stop, Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel and agree to respect a sustainable and durable ceasefire," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
    --BBC News, Dec. 29, 2008 17
  • Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has rejected international calls for a 48-hour truce in the Gaza Strip to allow in more humanitarian aid... The 48-hour ceasefire plan to allow more aid into Gaza, was proposed by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha told AFP news agency that his group was open to any ceasefire propositions as long as they meant an end to the air strikes and a lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
    --BBC News, Dec. 31, 2008 18

The international community must continue to demand that a cease-fire be implemented. In order to be successful, any agreement must call for 1) an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, 2) an end to the Israeli invasion of Gaza, and 3) an end to all rocket attacks into Israel.

Al Jazeera English - War on Gaza - Israel's fait accompli in Gaza

Israel's fait accompli in Gaza

Gaza is one of the world's most densely populated places [GALLO/GETTY]

There are two completely different versions of what is currently happening in Gaza.

In the Israeli and North American press version, Hamas - 'Islamic terrorists' backed by Iran - have in an unprovoked attack fired deadly rockets on innocent Israel with the intent of destroying the Jewish state.

North American politicians and the media say Israel "has the right to defend itself".

True enough. No Israeli government can tolerate rockets hitting its towns, even though the casualty totals have been less than the car crash fatalities registered during a single holiday weekend on Israel's roads.

The firing of the feeble, home-made al-Qassam rockets by Palestinians is both useless and counter-productive.

It damages their image as an oppressed people and gives right-wing Israeli extremists a perfect reason to launch more attacks on the Arabs and refuse to discuss peace.

Israel's supporters insist it has the absolute right to drop hundreds of tonnes of bombs on 'Hamas targets' inside the 360sq km Gaza Strip to 'take out the terrorists'.

Civilians suffer, says Israel, because the cowardly Hamas hide among them.

Actually, it is more like shooting fish in a barrel.

Omitting facts

As usual, this cartoon-like version of events omits a great deal of nuance and background.

Seventy per cent of Palestinian children suffer from psychological trauma [GALLO/GETTY]
While firing rockets at civilians is a crime so, too, is the Israeli blockade of Gaza, which is an egregious violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions.

According to the UN, most of Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinian refugees subsist near the edge of hunger. Seventy per cent of Palestinian children in Gaza suffer from severe malnutrition and psychological trauma.

Medical facilities are critically short of doctors, personnel, equipment, and drugs. Gaza has quite literally become a human garbage dump for all the Arabs that Israel does not want.

Gaza is one of the world's most-densely populated places, a vast outdoor prison camp filled with desperate people. In the past, they threw stones at their Israeli occupiers; now they launch home-made rockets.

Call it a prison riot, writ large.

Eyeing the elections

When the so-called truce between Tel Aviv and Hamas expired on December 19, Israeli politicians were in the throes of preparing for the February 10 national elections.

Israeli politics are playing a key role in this crisis.

Ehud Barak, the defence minister and leader of the Labour party, and Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister and leader of the Kadima party, are trying to prove themselves tougher than Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-line Likud party - and one another.

Israel's elections are only six weeks away, and Likud was leading until the air raids on Gaza began. Kadima and Labour are now up in the polls.

The heavy attacks on Gaza are also designed to intimidate Israel's Arab neighbours, and make up for Israel's humiliating 2006 defeat in Lebanon, which still haunts the country's politicians and generals.

A fait accompli

When the air raids on Gaza began, Barak said: "We have totally changed the rules of the game."

He was right. By blitzing Hamas-run Gaza, Barak presented the incoming US administration with a fait accompli, and neatly checkmated the newest player in the Middle East Great Game - Barack Obama, the US president-elect - before he could even take a seat at the table.


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The Israeli offensive into Gaza now looks likely to short-circuit any plans Obama might have had to press Israel into withdrawing to its pre-1967 borders and sharing Jerusalem.

This has pleased Israel's supporters in North America who have been cheering the war in Gaza and have been backing away from their earlier tentative support for a land-for-peace deal.

Israel's successes in having Western media portray the Gaza offensive as an 'anti-terrorist operation' will also diminish hopes of peace talks any time soon.

Obama inherits this mess in a few weeks. During the elections, Obama bowed to the Israel lobby, offering a new US carte blanche to Israel and even accepting Israel's permanent monopoly of all of Jerusalem.

As he concludes forming his cabinet, his Middle East team looks like it may be top-heavy with friends of Israel's Labour party.

Obama keeps saying he must remain silent on policy issues until George Bush, the outgoing US president, leaves office, but his staff appear happy to avoid having to make statements about Gaza that would antagonise Israel's American supporters.

Obama will take office facing a Middle East up in arms over Gaza and the entire Muslim world blaming the US for the carnage in Gaza.

Unless he moves swiftly to distance himself from the policies of the Bush administration, he will soon find himself facing the same problems and anger as the Bush White House.

Arab deal killed

Israel's Gaza offensive is also likely to torpedo the current Saudi-sponsored peace plan, which had been backed by all members of the Arab League.

The plan, now likely defunct, had called for Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders and share Jerusalem in exchange for full recognition and normalised relations with the Muslim world.

Arab governments will now be unable to sell the deal as they face a storm of criticism from their own people over their powerlessness to help the Palestinians of Gaza.

Egypt, in particular, is being widely accused of collaborating with Israel in further sealing off and isolating Gaza. It seems highly unlikely they will be able to advance a peace plan with Israel for now.

This is a bonus for right-wing Israelis, who have always been dead set against any withdrawal and strongly supported the attack on Gaza.

Other Israeli factions who were always lukewarm about the Saudi peace plan are now unlikely to reconsider it.

Israel's security establishment is committed to preventing the creation of a viable Palestinian state, and refuses to negotiate with Hamas. Unable to kill all of Hamas' men, Israel is slowly destroying Gaza's infrastructure around them, as it did to Yasser Arafat's PLO.

Israel's hardliners point to Gaza and claim that any Palestinian state on the West Bank would threaten their nation's security by firing rockets into Israel's heartland.

Mighty information machine

Israel is confident that its mighty information machine will allow it to weather the storm of worldwide outrage over its Biblical punishment of Gaza. Who remembers Israel's flattening of parts of the Palestinian city of Jenin, or the US destruction in Falluja, Iraq, or the Sabra and Shatilla massacres in Beirut?

The US media has focused on the rockets being fired on Israel from Gaza [GALLO/GETTY]
Though the torment of Gaza is seen across the horrified Muslim world as a modern version of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising by Jews against the Nazis during World War Two, Western governments still appear bent on taking no action.

Though Israel's use of American weapons against Gaza violates the US Arms Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts, the docile US Congress will remain mute.

Israel's assault on Gaza was clearly timed for America's interregnum between administrations and the year-end holidays, a well-used Israeli tactic.

Hamas refuses to recognise Israel as long as Israel refuses to recognise Hamas and the rights of millions of homeless Palestinian refugees.

It calls for a non-religious state to be created in Palestine, meaning an end to Zionism. Ironically, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder and late leader of Hamas, had spoken of a compromise with Tel Aviv shortly before he was assassinated by Israel in 2004.

An inherited mess

Israel's hopes that it can bomb Gazans into rejecting Hamas are as ill-conceived as its failed attempt in 2006 to blast Lebanon into rejecting Hezbollah.

The Fatah regime on the West Bank installed by the US and Israel after Yasser Arafat's suspicious death will be further discredited, leaving the militants of Hamas as the sole authentic voice of Palestinian nationalism.

Hamas, the militant but still democratically elected government of Gaza, is even less likely to compromise.

The Muslim world is in a rage. But so what? Stalin liked to say "the dogs bark, and the caravan moves on," and as long as the US gives Israel carte blanche, it can do just about anything it wants.

The tragedy of Palestine will thus continue to poison US relations with the Muslim world.

Those Americans who still do not understand why their nation was attacked on 9/11 need only look to Gaza, for which the US is now being blamed as much as Israel.

Unless Israel can make 5 to 7 million Palestinians disappear, it must find some way to co-exist with them. Israeli leaders on the centre and right continue to avoid facing this fact.

The brutal collective punishment inflicted on Gaza will likely strengthen Hamas and reverse any hopes of a Middle East peace in the coming years.

Eric S. Margolis is an author, syndicated foreign affairs columnist, broadcaster, and veteran war correspondent. His latest book is American Raj: America and the Muslim world.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Al Jazeera.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Did the IAF bomb a Gazan welding truck or a Hamas Grad transport?

By Amira Hass, Haaretz Correspondent

Just before midnight, on December 29, the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman's Office posted an urgent headline on its Web site: Truck packed with weapons attacked near Jabalya.

The subheadline went on to read: "At around 6 P.M., the Israel Air Force attacked a Hamas truck carrying dozens of Grad rockets."
According to the article, the rockets in the truck caused a secondary explosion, shooting pieces of weaponry in all directions. The rockets were being transferred, said the article, due to militants' fear that their present storehouse would be attacked by the IAF, as well as to be put to use for launching at Israel.

The article was accompanied by a video just over 2 minutes showing the IAF's perspective from the sky, until just a moment before the explosion. The video shows 15 white figures casually milling between two vehicles. Three long black objects appear between their hands and the white figures lay these objects down on what seems to be a truck. The second vehicle takes off at a certain point and suddenly an explosion sounds and flames cover the screen. An eyewitness said the explosion was caused by an overhead drone.

Human rights groups' investigations, however, present a different testimony altogether.

According to B'tselem and the Mezan center for human rights, the truck belongs to Ahmed Samur, 55, and is still standing, burnt, beside his workshop in the Jabaliya refugee camp. Next to it hang scorched oxygen balloons, a blade and cables. Nobody dares move the truck or the accompanying accoutrements for fear that the UAVs filming every detail from above will bomb whoever approaches.

"Everything is still there on the ground," said Samur on Thursday. "We only moved the dead."

Just three hours before the attack, Samur's daughter told him that she had heard on the local radio that a house next to his workship had been bombed.

He immediately got into his Mercedes truck, along with his son and a few neighbors and relatives, and went to the workshop to see the damage.

They were shocked to discover that the neighboring house had collapsed onto his workshop and decided to pack up the expensive tools and take them home before they could be looted.

On the first round, they brought home a drill, a welding torch, a scale, other tools and a gas balloon for cooking. Then they went back to the workshop to pack up the rest: three of six oxygen balloons used for welding, two jerrycans filled with benzene and two filled with diesel.

As Samir's son Imad organized the tools in the truck, his brother-in-law packed his own smaller car with 50 packages of welding electrodes, 4 kilograms each, and drove off.

Samur himself stood on the other side of the street to keep the dust particles from the burning nearby house from flying into his lungs. He looked at the youths packing the truck and was reminded of working bees in a honeycomb - this was just before 5 P.M., he estimates.

"Suddenly I saw a flash of light next to my truck and then it caught fire and I heard the sound of an explosion. I started to run toward the blast, and when I got close and the smoke cleared, I saw bodies, one of them belonging to my son Imad. I fainted. When I woke up they told me that Imad and the seven other young people who were helping him had been killed," he recounted.

Speaking to Haaretz by phone, Samur said: "These were not Hamas, they were our children, and I will tell you their names. Imad Samur, 32; Ashraf al-Dabar, 30; Mahmoud Rabayan, 15; Rami Rabayan, 23; Ahmed Hila, 19; Mohammed Mahdi, 17; Wissam Eid, 14; Mohammed Haber, 20. Four others were hurt, two of them seriously: Bilal Rabayan, 19 and his brother Baha, 16.

"You have experts and smart people in Israel," he said. "They should come and check my truck and the oxygen balloons. They should see that they were not Grad missiles and they were not anything else. You people are saying they burnt a big truck filled with Grads. Well come and see for yourself."

Haaretz asked the IDF spokesperson if the video depicts the truck in question, and was told "the truck's contents were taken from a building that was housing ammunition and rockets."

No one in Gaza has denied that Qassams are being manufactured and launched from the Strip, but there are many targets hit by the IAF whose military importance is unclear at best. For instance, a small, empty building in the middle of a playground in the Shabura refugee camp in Rafah which was blown up by the IAF two days ago, in an attack that left two dead.

Mezan said the unending IAF attacks have made it very difficult to determine how many of the targets hit were military and which were civilian.