Ali Abunimah – Electronic Intifada | 30 July 2014/03 Shawaal 1435
The Israeli army is reeling from two attacks behind its lines by fighters of the Qassam Brigades, the military resistance wing of Hamas.
The attacks are feeding a sense in Israel that its ground assault on Gaza is turning into a disaster and there are indications that Israeli anger and frustration are being taken out with even more deliberate killings of Palestinian civilians.
On Monday, four Israeli soldiers were killed and ten injured when Palestinian resistance fighters fired mortars across the boundary from Gaza.
But the most dramatic incident was a commando raid in which seven Qassam fighters emerged from a tunnel, raided a fortified Israeli army outpost at Nahal Oz inside Israel, killed five soldiers according to the Israeli count, and returned safely to Gaza through the tunnel.
Qassam said its fighters killed 10 Israeli combatants in the attack.
Multiplying the psychological impact is the fact that Qassam released a video of the incident on Tuesday (above), which the military correspondent of Israel’s Channel 10 television acknowledged “appears to be authentic.”
No ceasefire without end of siege
Along with the video of the raid, Qassam’s commander Muhammad Deif released an audio recording saying that his group would not accept a ceasefire which did not end the siege of Gaza. Deif said that his fighters were prepared for a long battle and were working according to a plan rather than “reacting” to events like Israel.
Deif said that the “enemy” had been “defeated” in its ground war and would continue to pay a heavy price as long as its army was in Gaza.
The latest resistance attacks across Israeli lines have rattled frontline Israeli soldiers, one of whom grumbled toYnet that “I’m not sure where is safer, inside or outside” Gaza.
“We have been to a number of rallying points, and were amazed to discover that the lessons of the Second Lebanon War and Pillar of Defense had not been implemented,” the soldier added, referring respectively to Israel’s failed 2006 invasion of Lebanon and its November 2012 bombardment of Gaza.
“Yesterday we were punched hard in the gut,because the feeling was that outside the Strip was much safer – but it’s not true,” another soldier said after Monday’s attack.
The attacks have yet to dent the support for the massacre among the Israeli Jewish public, 90 percent of whomstill back the assault, according to a recent poll.
While Palestinian civilians have been the main targets of Israeli attacks – the number of fatalities from Israel’s 23-day assault has now surpassed 1,200 persons, 80 percent civilians – Israel’s losses are overwhelmingly military.
With more than 50 soldiers dead, a price no one in Israel expected to pay for attacking Gaza, even the country’s top leaders appear weary.
Peres said he hoped the war would end with Israeli-backed Palestinian Authority de facto leader Mahmoud Abbas resuming control of Gaza with the support of Israel and Israeli-allied Arab dictatorships.
Abbas “has the support of Egypt and the Arab world more than anyone else today,” Peres said. He appeared to be reflecting broader thinking among Israel’s elites who now see Abbas as their “savior.”
The raids from Gaza have heightened the sense among establishment commentators that Israel has lost – or never had – the initiative in the ground assault that it launched on Gaza.
“From the first day of the operation, we have been dragged and we are still being dragged,” wrote Nahum Barnea, Israel’s leading columnist, in Ynet, “Hamas is dictating the extent and length of the conflict, and our forces have not found a move, an initiative or a patent to break this dictation.”
Commenting specifically on the Nahal Oz video, Ynet’s Yossi Yoshua wrote that the Israeli soldiers who were targeted appeared “unprepared and off guard, even in broad daylight.”
In a sign of the potential impact of the video in Israel, Yoshua wrote that Ynet “has chosen not to post” the video “because of its graphic nature and from the desire not to aid Hamas in its propaganda.”
But he acknowledged that the Israeli army “has some tough questions to answer regarding what went down in the pillbox next to Nahal Oz.”
“Massive attack” in Shujaiya routs Golani Brigade
It is well established that the Israeli army deliberately targets civilians, civilian homes and other civilian objects.
Unable to break the resistance on the ground, Israel is going after the civilian population to “terrorize” them into submission, dozens of international law experts and human rights experts said in a recent statement. This is a reprise of Israel’s so-called “Dahiya Doctrine” used against civilians in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza in 2008-2009.
In the latest horrifying massacre today, Israeli shells reportedly slammed into a UN school in Jabaliya refugee camp, killing 16 people.
Yet the sheer unpreparedness of the Israeli army for military resistance may be causing it to take its rage out in even more vengeful attacks on Palestinian civilians.
In a revealing account of Israel’s 20 July attack on the Shujaiya neighborhood east of Gaza, The Jerusalem Postrevealed that the army’s elite Golani Brigade suffered a thrashing at the hands of well-prepared resistance fighters who launched a “massive attack.”
“The Golani Brigade in [Shujaiya] sustained heavy casualties,” the newspaper reported citing an army source, “after Hamas intelligence units mapped out its location.”
Fearing they “would be getting 600 body bags back” containing dead Israeli soldiers, commanders withdrew the Israeli infantry and simply shelled Shujaiya, causing mass destruction and the deaths of dozens of civilians.
Shoot to kill
In a Facebook posting, Eran Efrati, a former Israeli army combat soldier turned dissident researcher and activist, claimed that Israeli soldiers serving in Gaza had leaked information to him in recent days that soldiers were “murdering … Palestinians by sniper fire in [Shujaiya] neighborhood as punishment for the deaths of soldiers in their units.”
Efrati claimed that commanding officers had given shoot-to-kill orders ostensibly meant to protect Israeli forces, but whose real purpose was to “enable soldiers to take out their frustrations and pain at losing their fellow soldiers (something that for years the IDF [Israeli army] has not faced during its operations in Gaza and the West Bank)” by killing Palestinian civilians.
Efrati cited the cold-blood sniper shooting, caught on video, of Palestinian youth Salem Shamaly in Shujaiya on 20 July, as a likely example of this phenomenon.
Efrati spent years working with Breaking the Silence, an Israeli group that collects and publishes testimonies of abuses from Israeli soldiers but also protects them from consequences by concealing their identities.
Since Efrati’s posting, a copy of which was captured by The Electronic Intifada, Efrati’s entire Facebook page is no longer available.
Looming political disaster for Netanyahu
Nahum Barnea points to the political crisis the heavy losses of Israeli soldiers is causing to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing pressure to expand a ground attack in Gaza which Barnea and other commentators say is falling far short of the stated aim of destroying the resistance’s system of tunnels.
There are signs of internal disarray as senior Israeli army officers leak to the media about disagreements with the country’s political leadership. One “senior officer” disputed Netanyahu’s claim that the army had not made him fully aware of the “threat” from Gaza tunnels.
“Our responsibility is to lead the offensive to where it needs to go, not to where the public wants. This is not reality TV and rating is not a factor,” the senior officer told Ynet.
If Netanyahu presses on, Barnea writes, “he will have to deal with the [rising Israeli] death toll. He probably remembers what happened to former Prime Minister Menachem Begin in similar circumstances; if he stops, he will have to deal with disappointment and internal criticism.”
Barnea is referring to Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon which killed tens of thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese.
It was seen as a catastrophe in Israel, which lost almost seven hundred soldiers. Begin, once the revered leader of the Irgun Zionist terrorist group in the 1940s, left office in disgrace and died soon afterwards.
Israel looking for a way out
In an astonishing sign of Israel’s eagerness to end the Gaza assault on less than humiliating terms, the foreign ministry advised Netanyahu to initiate a UN Security Council resolution that would set favorable terms for Israel. Israel normally seeks to avoid any action by the UN.
The resolution would call for Gaza to be “disarmed,” Haaretz reported, and for Abbas to return to Gaza. It would be modeled on resolution 1701, that allowed Israel to retreat from Lebanon in 2006.
But despite the face-saving 2006 resolution, no one in Israel doubts that Lebanese resistance forces are likely to be fiercer than ever should Israel ever plan a return. No matter what the Security Council says, Palestinian resistance groups are not going to unilaterally disarm, giving Israel the victory it could not achieve in battle.
The 1982 and 2006 Lebanon wars, like so many of Israel’s aggressions, showed that if “winning” is measured in slaughtering civilians, Israel, like the United States in Vietnam, remains the champion.
But politically and strategically, Israel and its leaders may be realizing that they are facing another defeat in Gaza.
Israel and Hamas begin unconditional 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire as US condemns attack on school
School had been sheltering civilians who had lost their homes
Hamas and Israel have this morning begun a tense 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire after The White House described the Israeli shelling of a UN school which killed 15 people as “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible”.
A spokesman said there appeared to be little doubt “whose artillery was involved”. The school in northern Gaza was sheltering civilians who had been told to leave their homes by the Israeli army.
The Palestinian Health ministry said that 149 Gazans had so far been killed by the Israeli army. Palestinians fired more than 60 rockets at Israel. One Israeli was killed by a mortar bomb and several were injured.
The condemnation came before Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire, starting at 8am local time this morning. Negotiations on a more durable truce in the three-week-old fighting would take place during the period it said, adding that Israeli troops would remain on the ground.
The head of the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees earlier warned the UN Security Council that if Israel continues its offensive in the Gaza Strip, it will have to reassume its responsibilities as occupying power, and provide humanitarian services to the population.
Speaking in New York, Pierre Krähenbühl said Gaza’s infrastructure and health service were on the verge of collapse. “I believe the population is facing a precipice and appeal to the international community to take the steps necessary to address this extreme situation,” he said, noting that 220,000 Palestinians are now sheltering in UN facilities and that eight of his colleagues have been killed since the fighting began over three weeks ago.
Wednesday 30 July 2014
Now diplomacy has failed, boycotting Israel might be the only way we can protect the people of Gaza
The Israeli government has already proven that it fears international isolation
Israel has lost its grip on reality. The death toll in Gaza stands at well over a thousand and continues to rise by the day. The coastal strip has been reduced to rubble. Rather than celebrating Eid this week, Palestinians in Gaza have been burying their dead.
Jon Snow’s poignant message after his return from Gaza on Channel 4 news was heart-breaking. He had been reporting from Al Shifa hospital where he saw many horrific injuries and scores of dead children.
He ended his report with this plea to the public: “If our reporting is worth anything, if your preparedness to listen and watch and read is anything to go by, then together we can make a difference.”
This latest massacre of Palestinians has been well documented, with every death recorded and every bombing filmed. Although this has yet to deter Israel, it is still important to keep documenting this assault so that its victims do not fall into the chasms of history.
But individuals in the international community need to go further than this. They need to boycott Israel. It might be the only thing that ends the impunity that is allowing them to repeatedly assault Palestinian human rights.
When airlines began cancelling their flights to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel panicked. They demanded that the international airlines resume their flights and Netanyahu personally called John Kerry to lift the Federal Aviation Administration ban.
This minuscule moment in time when Israel was threatened with being internationally isolated spoke volumes.
Denmark, Norway and Finland condemned Israel’s attack on innocent civilians and have sent substantial humanitarian aid to assist the people of Gaza. However, so far only two South American countries have actively opposed Israel’s war on Gaza. Chile has ceased trade relations with Israel, and Brazil hasrecalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv.
People are saying that Israel has been defeated morally. But it seems that they don’t care about this, so let us hit them where it hurts. Let us put our efforts into an initiative that helped to end South African apartheid.
The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement started in 2005 and has been gaining momentum ever since. It has gained support from trade unions and various political groups all over world. They have also been endorsed by many celebrities and academics. In the UK they have had some significant victories, including when John Lewis (after BDS pressure) ceased trading with the well-known Israeli company Soda Stream.
Even locally, boycotting is taking place. In Jerusalem there is a noticeable absence of Palestinians in Israeli cafés and shops. This stems from a fear of Israeli violence against Palestinians but also, according to Palestinians I have spoken to, an attempt to boycott and damage the Israeli economy. In Ramallah, people have been placing stickers on Israeli products in shops saying: 16% of the profits go to the Israeli army” in an attempt to dissuade customers from buying them.
VIDEO: DEATH TOLL CONTINUES TO RISE
So let us step up our action. Let us boycott Israeli academic institutions, Israeli exports and the companies that have ties with Israel. Because even when Israel stops bombing Gaza, it will not be their final attempt to ethnically cleanse the land of Palestinians.