Marian Houk, UN-Truth.com, 23 March 2011
What is the worth, the value, of assigning blame here? It doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t stop anything.
This weekend, Hamas went crazy, and Israel too.
There. Now, what?
It’s simply no longer possible to say who went crazy first, or who went crazy more. This discussion is sickening.
Israel attacked and killed people in Gaza on Friday. It announced on Sunday that one of the dead included a senior Hamas commander.
This is perhaps the explanation for why Hamas went crazy on Saturday morning — suddenly firing about 50 mortars into the Israeli perphery in about 15 minutes (is this possible?) — and taking responsibility for the act.
Then, it continued. There was more.
On Tuesday, the IDF announced that 7 rockets and mortars had been fired from Gaza into Israel that day — making a total of 60 projectiles fired from Gaza since the weekend, it said.
IDF attacks on Gaza — retaliation, prevention, whatever — killed some 10 Palestinians, including a number of what the IDF admitted were “uninvolved civilians”, mostly kids, and injured some 40 more. The IDF offered medical care to the wounded — a clear sign that something had gone badly wrong, and that Israel was recognizing some responsibility. And the IDF announced it was starting an investigation. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed regret, “but”…
In its statement, the IDF said its mortar fire on northern Gaza (which killed 3 kids + uncle, and wounded more) came AFTER — “a short while later” – Palestinian firing from site. The language used in the IDF statement, posted here, is very telling: “Initial reports indicate that terrorists [sic] were among the injured. Regrettably, uninvolved civilians were also present at the site and were injured. The Civil Administration offered medical assistance to those injured and the assistance is being coordinated with the Palestinian Authority in both Ramallah and Gaza”.
While the IDF usually claims that its attacks on Gaza are “prevention”, this IDF mortar attack Tuesday afternoon on northern Gaza appears to have been clear retaliation.
The Los Angeles Times has a very poignant account from Gaza posted here Tuesday on its Babylon and Beyond blog. It reported that “Relatives of those killed said they prevented a group of Palestinian militants from firing mortars into Israel from an area that is adjacent to their houses just half an hour before Israeli tanks fired the shells”.
The LATimes account, written by Ahmed Aldabba from Gaza City, continues: “But militants waited until people went for prayers at the neighborhood’s mosque and sent a round of mortar shells beyond the Israel-Gaza borderline, which is a little less than half a mile away from the bombed area. ‘I was going out of the mosque when the shells hit the kids’, said Mohammed Helo 42, the children’s uncle, at the morgue of Shifa hospital in Gaza, where the bodies were taken. ‘I did not know what was going on. All I heard was thunderous explosions then the moans of people who were just walking by. Limbless bodies were scattered all around’.”
Later, a Grad missile was fired from Gaza into Ashdod on Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning, the IDF spokesperson announced, “An Israeli Air Force (IAF) aircraft targeted a terrorist in the northern Gaza Strip, in the same location from which the Grad missile was fired towards Ashdod. A hit was confirmed”.
A short while later, a Grad missile was fired from Gaza into Beersheva.
Ashdod is north of Gaza, Beersheva is to the east — and the range is greater than ususal: it is the maximum range reached by projectiles fired from Gaza in response to Israeli attacks during the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009 (which was announced as a response to months, years, of attacks from Gaza onto Israel…
Now, Israeli Vice President Silvan Shalom has echoed on Wednesday morning the call made by former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni last Friday — for a launch of Operation Cast Lead Two…
Israel had the choice, and it chose to up the ante at this time.
This was a rational, though brutal and wholly unadmirable, decision.
It was Hamas who lost its cool. Firing from Gaza into Israel periphery as revenge is crazy, futile, and also crime of war. Fear is not policy [as Israeli former Mossad Chief Efraim Halevy recently told journalists in Jerusalem]. Nor is revenge.
Was Israel trying to block the proposed Abbas visit to Gaza? [Netanyahu told the Knesset on Tuesday what he told CNN's Piers Morgan in an interview last week: The Palestinians can't have it both ways -- they must choose between reconciliation with Hamas or peace with Israel]…
Or, was Israel making the choice to Hamas perfectly clear, making a blunt and brutal test of whether Hamas is ready to be the “address” Israel says it needs, ready to be responsible for stopping all attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip? Was it an Israeli counter-offer, in stark contrast to other uncertainties?
For, this comes in the midst of piously-announced but wary preparations for a possible proposed visit by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to Gaza for reconciliation or unity purposes.
This meeting was suggested by Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh on 15 March in response to youth protests in the West Bank and Gaza demanding an end to the Palestinian division. Abbas has since claimed credit, saying it was really his initiative.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, when Hamas claimed credit for the first time in a long time for firing nearly 50 mortars into Gaza, it also attacked youth demonstrators who had apparently been given a permit for their protests, then attacked journalists’ offices looking for photos and videos of the attacks. (Hamas later apologized for the attack on the journalists offices.)
The proposed Abu Mazen visit — which did raise Palestinian hopes and expectations — would really have been a lot of hard, difficult and embarassing work. So, it is, in a way, easier for everybody like this.
No way this proposed visit is going to happen now, of course.
Meanwhile, more people are dying, suffering, grieving, raging — and the already ready-to-blow situation is getting worse.
Tuesday night, the UN’s Robert Serry issued a statement after the IDF mortar reprisal in N Gaza: “firing into densely populated areas is extremely dangerous” + raises serious questions.
Later, UNSG BAN Ki-Moon issued a statement, though his spokesman, which “strongly condemns the killing of three Palestinian children and their uncle and the wounding of 13 other civilians by an Israeli tank shell in the Gaza Strip earlier today. He is very concerned at an escalating situation in Gaza and southern Israel. He reiterates as well his condemnation of rocket fire by Palestinian militant groups in Gaza, including from populated areas, against civilian targets in southern Israel. He calls on all to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law”. This is posted on the UN website here.
So, now what?
What is the policy, now?
Meanwhile, how does this factor into the equation? Israel has just admitted it’s holding the Deputy Director of the Gaza Power Plant, Dirar Abu Sisi, who was seized on board a train in Ukraine on 18-19 February, where he went on 18 January to join his Ukrainian wife and file for citizenship — apparently because they have concluded that life in Gaza is no longer the best choice for them or their six children. The Gazan engineer was forcibly removed from the train he was on, hooded and handcuffed and driven by car to Kiev (where he was headed by train), then taken to an apartment where he was questioned by men who introduced themselves as Mossad, and in short order flown to…Israel, where he has been in jail for over a month. A judge has just partially removed a gag order on the case, but permitted continued Israeli media restrictions on reporting for another 30 days… Abu Sisi has not been charged, he will be held in Israel for at least another day, and there is no reasonable explanation for this startling development.
Marian Houk, a writer, reporter, journalist and analyst with long experience at the United Nations — in New York and in Geneva and more — as well as with the Middle East. She has reported on, and for a time also worked for, the United Nations. She is a former President of the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) at UNHQ/NY (1986), and is currently based in Jerusalem.
Marian Houk is the Editor of UN-Truth news site.