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|A Bone from Rafah by "Starhawk" in Palestine on March 26th 2003. Full text. The Photo|
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Preliminary US government findings that Israel violated agreements with the United States by its use of cluster munitions in Lebanon last summer should lead to an immediate cutoff of all US cluster munitions sales to Israel, Human Rights Watch said today. " The issue is not whether Israel used the American cluster munitions lawfully, but what the US is going to do about it. "
The Bush administration is expected to report to Congress today on a State Department investigation into the use of US-made cluster munitions by Israel. Demining groups estimate that Israel used cluster munitions containing some 2.6 to 4 million submunitions in Lebanon, the majority of which were produced in the United States. Israels use of cluster munitions was the most extensive anywhere in the world since the 1991 Gulf War.
Weve investigated cluster munitions in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq, but weve never seen use of cluster munitions that was so extensive and dangerous to civilians, said Steve Goose, director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch. The issue is not whether Israel used the American cluster munitions lawfully, but what the US is going to do about it.
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ISRAEL: IDF PROBE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR REAL INVESTIGATION
Internal Army Probe into Beit Hanoun Deaths is Insufficient
(Jerusalem, November 10, 2006)
The Israel Defense Forces' internal inquiry into its artillery shelling of Beit Hanoun, which killed 19 Palestinian civilians and left dozens injured in northern Gaza, failed to address the key questions of whether the attack was a violation of international law and who should be held accountable for the lethal fire, Human Rights Watch said today. The Israeli government should immediately conduct a comprehensive independent investigation to establish these issues.
"The IDF's internal probe suggests that the Beit Hanoun tragedy can be chalked up to an errant volley of shells," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. "But a comprehensive investigation should start with questioning whether Israel had any business firing artillery shells into this civilian area to begin with."
Human Rights Watch said that the investigation should examine the policy that has led Israel to fire some 15,000 artillery shells into Gaza since September 2005, killing 49 Palestinian civilians and seriously injuring dozens more. A comprehensive investigation should identify issues of individual and command responsibility, including criminal responsibility, for any violation of international humanitarian law committed in the conduct of these artillery operations in northern Gaza...
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The unarmed women of the Gaza Strip have taken the lead in resisting Israel's latest bloody assault
Jameela al-Shanti in Beit Hanoun
Thursday November 9, 2006
Yesterday at dawn, the Israeli air force bombed and destroyed my home. I was the target, but instead the attack killed my sister-in-law, Nahla, a widow with eight children in her care. In the same raid Israel's artillery shelled a residential district in the town of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip, leaving 19 dead and 40 injured, many killed in their beds. One family, the Athamnas, lost 16 members in the massacre: the oldest who died, Fatima, was 70; the youngest, Dima, was one; seven were children. The death toll in Beit Hanoun has passed 90 in one week.
This is Israel's tenth incursion into Beit Hanoun since it announced its withdrawal from Gaza. It has turned the town into a closed military zone, collectively punishing its 28,000 residents. For days, the town has been encircled by Israeli tanks and troops and shelled. All water and electricity supplies were cut off and, as the death toll continued to mount, no ambulances were allowed in. Israeli soldiers raided houses, shut up the families and positioned their snipers on roofs, shooting at everything that moved. We still do not know what has become of our sons, husbands and brothers since all males over 15 years old were taken away last Thursday. They were ordered to strip to their underwear, handcuffed and led away.
It is not easy as a mother, sister or wife to watch those you love disappear before your eyes. Perhaps that was what helped me, and 1,500 other women, to overcome our fear and defy the Israeli curfew last Friday - and set about freeing some of our young men who were besieged in a mosque while defending us and our city against the Israeli military machine.
We faced the most powerful army in our region unarmed. The soldiers were loaded up with the latest weaponry, and we had nothing, except each other and our yearning for freedom. As we broke through the first barrier, we grew more confident, more determined to break the suffocating siege. The soldiers of Israel's so-called defence force did not hesitate to open fire on unarmed women. The sight of my close friends Ibtissam Yusuf abu Nada and Rajaa Ouda taking their last breaths, bathed in blood, will live with me for ever.
Later an Israeli plane shelled a bus taking children to a kindergarten. Two children were killed, along with their teacher. In the last week 30 children have died. As I go round the crowded hospital, it is deeply poignant to see the large number of small bodies with their scars and amputated limbs. We clutch our children tightly when we go to sleep, vainly hoping that we can shield them from Israel's tanks and warplanes.
But as though this occupation and collective punishment were not enough, we Palestinians find ourselves the targets of a systematic siege imposed by the so-called free world. We are being starved and suffocated as a punishment for daring to exercise our democratic right to choose who rules and represents us. Nothing undermines the west's claims to defend freedom and democracy more than what is happening in Palestine. Shortly after announcing his project to democratise the Middle East, President Bush did all he could to strangle our nascent democracy, arresting our ministers and MPs. I have yet to hear western condemnation that I, an elected MP, have had my home demolished and relatives killed by Israel's bombs. When the bodies of my friends and colleagues were torn apart there was not one word from those who claim to be defenders of women's rights on Capitol Hill and in 10 Downing Street.
Why should we Palestinians have to accept the theft of our land, the ethnic cleansing of our people, incarcerated in forsaken refugee camps, and the denial of our most basic human rights, without protesting and resisting?
The lesson the world should learn from Beit Hanoun last week is that Palestinians will never relinquish our land, towns and villages. We will not surrender our legitimate rights for a piece of bread or handful of rice. The women of Palestine will resist this monstrous occupation imposed on us at gunpoint, siege and starvation. Our rights and those of future generations are not open for negotiation.
Whoever wants peace in Palestine and the region must direct their words and sanctions to the occupier, not the occupied, the aggressor not the victim. The truth is that the solution lies with Israel, its army and allies - not with Palestine's women and children.
· Jameela al-Shanti is an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council for Hamas. She led a women's protest against the siege of Beit Hanoun last Friday
· Legacy of bitterness after six-day operation in Gaza
· Soldiers say they targeted rocket-launching cells
Rory McCarthy in Beit Hanoun
Tuesday November 7, 2006
Hours after the Israeli military pulled out of the town of Beit Hanoun this morning, Talal Nasr was at the cemetery to search for a spot to bury the body of his 13-year-old daughter.
It was the first time for six days that any of the towns residents had been allowed out of their homes, the duration of Israels biggest military operation in the Gaza Strip for months. The streets quickly filled and many headed out to mourn and bury their dead.
The cemetery at Beit Hanoun is small and overcrowded, and it took Mr Nasr three hours to find a space for his daughter Walaa, the victim of an Israeli snipers bullet to the forehead. In the end he found a spot almost on top of a grave dug 30 years before, and he and his family filled the new hole, setting up six folded palm fronds to shade it.
Walaa died last week in the middle of the military incursion. It was dusk and Mr Nasr, 52, was at home with his four young daughters and his sister-in-law. Through loudspeakers the Israeli military had called all men in the town between 16 and 45 to appear for questioning. Mr Nasrs son and brother, who lived in an apartment next door, went for interrogation.
Israeli troops appeared outside the familys house and began shouting. They were screaming but we couldnt understand what they were saying, Mr Nasr said. I asked my sister-in-law to open the window a little. There was no electricity so the family lit a candle. She shouted out of the window to the soldiers: What do you want? Do you need anything from us? Suddenly the firing started.
His sister-in-law was hit in the shoulder. Then a bullet came through the window, across the living room and into the corridor where Walaa was standing. A pool of dark blood still lay today on the spot where she died.
We couldnt move, we were so scared, Mr Nasr said. I started screaming: My daughter is dead. They took the candle and hurried downstairs and out on to the street. There a unit of Israeli soldiers told them they believed there were militants in the building. Once the soldiers had taken Mr Nasr with them to search the house and found nothing, ambulance workers removed Walaas body. Today the family returned to the house for the first time.
It was just an act of aggression, Mr Nasr said. They said this operation was to stop the rockets. But if I was convinced of the need for a peace process before, now I am not. And my daughters - when their sister was killed before their eyes how can you convince them of the peace process?
Later, Walaas uncle Nidal stood over her grave in the cemetery and said: You know, the more pressure they put on the militants, the more the people stand with them.
At least 50 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed in the operation. Among the dead were civilians and militants. Fierce gunbattles left large parts of the town centre in ruins, including the al-Nasr mosque, where a group of fighters were holed up last week and which had been reduced to rubble except for the minaret with its turquoise roof.
The front walls of many houses and shops had been punched through, so that living rooms and kitchens were exposed to the street. Rubble was strewn across the streets, sewage flowed thick and gardens had been ripped up by tanks.
The Israeli military said the goal of Operation Autumn Clouds had been to attack militants launching rockets into Israel. It said dozens of armed gunmen had been killed and large amounts of weaponry discovered, including rocket launchers, grenades and rifles. It said nine rocket launching cells were hit. The IDF operation targets terrorist organisations and terrorist infrastructure only, while making every effort to avoid harming civilians, it said. The IDF continues to warn civilians to stay away from combat areas.
Israeli troops were still operating in other parts of Gaza tonight and militants continued to fire rockets into Israel.
PALESTINIANS FORCED TO SCAVENGE FOR FOOD ON RUBBISH DUMPS
By Patrick Cockburn in Jerusalem
Published: 09 September 2006
The Israeli military and economic siege of Gaza has led to a collapse in Palestinian living conditions and many people only survive by looking for scraps of food in rubbish dumps, say international aid agencies.
"The pressure and tactics have not resulted in a desire for compromise," Karen Abuzayd, the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency is said to have warned. "But rather they have created mass despair, anger and a sense of hopelessness and abandonment."
Israel closed the entry and exit points into the Gaza Strip, home to 1.5 million Palestinians, on 25 June and has conducted frequent raids and bombings that have killed 262 people and wounded 1,200. The crisis in Gaza has been largely ignored by the rest of the world, which has been absorbed by the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.
. . . Not only do Palestinians in Gaza get little to eat but what food they have is eaten cold because of the lack of electricity and money to pay for fuel. The Gaza power plant was destroyed by an Israeli air strike in June. In one month alone 4 per cent of Gaza's agricultural land was destroyed by Israeli bulldozers.
The total closure imposed by Israel, supplemented by deadly raids, has led to the collapse of the Gazan economy. The 35,000 fishermen cannot fish because Israeli gunboats will fire on them if they go more than a few hundred yards from the shore. At the same time the international boycott of the Hamas government means that there is no foreign aid to pay Palestinian government employees. The government used to have a monthly budget of $180-200m, half of which went to pay 165,000 public sector workers. But it now has only $25m a month.
. . . The total closure imposed by Israel dates from the seizure of Cpl Gilad Shalit by Palestinian militants on 25 June. Between then and the end of August, Israeli security forces killed 226 Palestinians, 54 of them minors, in the Gaza Strip, according to the Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem. Of these it says that 114 were taking no part in any hostilities.
"Women in Gaza tell me they are eating only one meal a day, bread with tomatoes or cheap vegetables," said Kirstie Campbell of the UN's World Food Programme, which is feeding 235,000 people. She added that in June, since when the crisis has worsened, some 70 per cent of people in Gaza could not meet their family's food needs. "People are raiding garbage dumps," she said.
AMNESTY REPORT ACCUSES ISRAEL OF WAR CRIMES
Wednesday August 23, 2006
Israel deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure and committed war crimes during the month-long conflict in Lebanon, according to an Amnesty International report.
The report said strikes on civilian buildings and structures went beyond "collateral damage" and amounted to indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks under the Geneva conventions on the laws of war.
Kate Gilmore, the Amnesty executive deputy secretary general, said the bombardment of power and water plants and transport links was "deliberate and an integral part of a military strategy".
"Israel's assertion that the attacks on the infrastructure were lawful is manifestly wrong," she said.
"Many of the violations identified in our report are war crimes. The pattern, scope and scale of the attacks makes Israel's claim that this was collateral damage simply not credible."
Amnesty called for an official UN inquiry into human rights violations on both sides of the conflict.
The report's authors described the destruction of up to 90% of some towns and villages in southern Lebanon, releasing aerial photographs that showed Beirut's southern Dahiya district had been transformed from a bustling suburb into a grey wasteland.
"In village after village the pattern was similar - the streets, especially main streets, were scarred with artillery craters along their length," the report said.
"In some cases, cluster bomb impacts were identified. Houses were singled out for precision-guided missile attack and were destroyed, totally or partially, as a result.
"Business premises such as supermarkets or food stores and auto service stations and petrol stations were targeted, often with precision-guided munitions and artillery that started fires and destroyed their contents."
Israel launched more than 7,000 air strikes against Lebanon during the 34-day war, and naval vessels launched 2,500 shells, the report said.
Around one third of the 1,183 people killed in Lebanon were children, while 4,054 people were injured and 970,000 displaced.
Lebanese estimates suggest that 30,000 houses, along with up to 120 bridges, 94 roads, 25 fuel stations and 900 businesses, were destroyed.
Two hospitals were destroyed and three others severely damaged, while 31 "vital points" - such as airports, ports, water and sewage treatment plants, and electrical facilities - were also completely or partially destroyed.
The overall cost of the damage amounted to $3.5bn (£1.8bn), the report said.
Around 4,000 Hizbullah rockets were fired at northern Israel during the conflict, killing around 40 civilians. Up to 300,000 people in northern Israel were driven into bomb shelters by the fighting, and 117 soldiers died.
The Amnesty report said Israeli military policy seemed directed at destroying Lebanese popular support for Hizbullah, a tactic prohibited by the Geneva conventions.
"The widespread destruction ... in addition to several statements by Israeli officials, suggests a policy of punishing both the Lebanese government and the civilian population in an effort to get them to turn against Hizbullah," it said.
WASHINGTONS INTERESTS IN ISRAELS WAR.
by SEYMOUR M. HERSH
In the days after Hezbollah crossed from Lebanon into Israel, on July 12th, to kidnap two soldiers, triggering an Israeli air attack on Lebanon and a full-scale war, the Bush Administration seemed strangely passive. Its a moment of clarification, President George W. Bush said at the G-8 summit, in St. Petersburg, on July 16th. Its now become clear why we dont have peace in the Middle East. He described the relationship between Hezbollah and its supporters in Iran and Syria as one of the root causes of instability, and subsequently said that it was up to those countries to end the crisis. Two days later, despite calls from several governments for the United States to take the lead in negotiations to end the fighting, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that a ceasefire should be put off until the conditions are conducive.
The Bush Administration, however, was closely involved in the planning of Israels retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollahs heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israels security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preëmptive attack to destroy Irans nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.
... According to a Middle East expert with knowledge of the current thinking of both the Israeli and the U.S. governments, Israel had devised a plan for attacking Hezbollahand shared it with Bush Administration officialswell before the July 12th kidnappings. Its not that the Israelis had a trap that Hezbollah walked into, he said, but there was a strong feeling in the White House that sooner or later the Israelis were going to do it. The Middle East expert said that the Administration had several reasons for supporting the Israeli bombing campaign. Within the State Department, it was seen as a way to strengthen the Lebanese government so that it could assert its authority over the south of the country, much of which is controlled by Hezbollah. He went on, The White House was more focussed on stripping Hezbollah of its missiles, because, if there was to be a military option against Irans nuclear facilities, it had to get rid of the weapons that Hezbollah could use in a potential retaliation at Israel. Bush wanted both. Bush was going after Iran, as part of the Axis of Evil, and its nuclear sites, and he was interested in going after Hezbollah as part of his interest in democratization, with Lebanon as one of the crown jewels of Middle East democracy.
Human Rights Watch
(Washington, D.C., August 11, 2006) The United States should reject any request by Israel to transfer cluster munitions for use against targets in Lebanon, Human Rights Watch wrote in a letter to National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley today. Civilians in Lebanon have already died from Israels use of similar weapons, which blanket a wide area with deadly submunitions.
According to the August 11 edition of the New York Times, Israel has requested delivery of surface-launched M26 artillery rockets for use against locations in Lebanon where it believes Hezbollah fighters are launching Katyusha rockets into Israel. The wide dispersal pattern of submunitions from M26 rockets makes it very difficult to avoid civilian casualties if civilians are in the area. Moreover, because so many of the submunitions initially fail to detonate, M26 rockets leave behind large numbers of hazardous explosive duds that are akin to landmines, injuring and killing civilians long after the attack.
Harm to civilians is inevitable if Israel uses M26 rockets in Lebanon, said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. These weapons killed or wounded hundreds of civilians in Iraq in 2003. Washington has a duty not to assist in replicating that death toll in southern Lebanon.
... In the current conflict, Israel has already used artillery-fired cluster munitions against populated areas, causing civilian casualties. According to eyewitnesses and survivors of an attack interviewed by Human Rights Watch, Israel fired several artillery-based cluster munitions at the village of Blida around 3:00 p.m. on July 19. Three witnesses described how the artillery shells dropped hundreds of cluster submunitions on the village.
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WHILE THE BOMBS FALL
12 Aug 2006
While the bombs fall in Lebanon, Im teaching a two-week course in permaculture: regenerative, ecological design, with a schedule so demanding that I find it hard to check email every day, let alone watch the news. But it comes in, between lesser messages about leaks in the watering system in the garden and flight cancellations: pictures of dead children on the road. I feel horrified, angry, frustrated, powerless all the things Im used to feeling about the situation, but more so. I try to write something in the spare moments when my teaching partner Penny is covering rain catchment or graywater systems, but all I keep writing, over and over, is Killing children is wrong. That sees so self-evident and banal that I cant quite bring myself to send it out. Or rather, it doesnt seem to add much to a discussion in which the decision makers are so convinced that killing our children is very, very wrong, but killing their children is the Path of Righteousness.
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LEBANON WAR QUESTION AND ANSWER
by Stephen R. ShalomDOESN'T ISRAEL HAVE THE RIGHT TO DEFEND ITSELF?
August 07, 2006
One has the right to self-defense if one is not oneself guilty of aggression. So, for example, the Soviet Union could not invoke self-defense when its occupation troops in Afghanistan were attacked by Afghan mujahideen. Instead, it ought to have withdrawn its troops. Likewise, the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is illegal and unjust and Israel can't claim self-defense when Palestinians struggle by legitimate means to end the occupation. The proper Israeli response to such Palestinian actions is not self-defense, but full withdrawal from the occupied territories.
The situation with Lebanon is different; whereas in Palestine, Israel was engaged in an ongoing aggression, in Lebanon the Israeli violations of Lebanese rights prior to July 12, 2006, were far less substantial, and less immediate.
But even when a country's own prior acts aren't contributory causes of an attack, international law places various limitations on the right of self-defense to that attack.
One limitation is that the right of self-defense is meant to give nations the right to take measures to repel an armed attack until the UN Security Council can act to stop the aggression. If an enemy's tanks are hurtling toward your capital city, any delay in responding would mean further losses and further harm. In the case of the Hezbollah raid across the Israeli border on July 12, 2006, the act of aggression took place and was over; it was not an ongoing aggression to which any delay in responding would have meant additional harm to Israel. Once the immediate danger is over, international law requires that victims of aggression bring their cases to the Security Council for action.
Of course, the Security Council is not always able to act. But the main obstacle to Security Council action has generally been the veto wielded by Washington on behalf of Israel.
A second requirement of international law is that acts taken in self-defense must be proportionate to the offense.
This is interesting reading.
How many Israelis were killed in the last 4 years by Hezbollah rockets?
Did Israel bomb Lebanon BEFORE or AFTER Hezbollah fired rockets into Israel?
Does Israel hold Hezbollah hostages?
Which side has committed war crimes?
More questions and answers
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HOW THE WAR IN LEBANON STARTED
Everything you wanted to know. This long page will take you to the start of the war. Not when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers, but when it really started.
HEZBOLLAH, all you want to know.
31 July 2006
The media, following along with the US government and Israel, claim that Hezbollah, is just a "cat's paw of Iran/ Syria". It makes for a good story, easy to understand; the bad guys are easily identified. Pity the reality is so different.
If you act of false information, you can't expect the results you wanted. For example, you base your war on the belief that there are Weapons of Mass Destruction hidden under every rock, you are not going get a worthwhile result.
END INDISCRIMINATE STRIKES ON CIVILIANS
Israel/Lebanon: Israeli forces have systematically failed to distinguish between combatants and civilians in their military campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon, Human Rights Watch said in report released today. The pattern of attacks in more than 20 cases investigated by Human Rights Watch researchers in Lebanon indicates that the failures cannot be dismissed as mere accidents and cannot be blamed on wrongful Hezbollah practices. In some cases, these attacks constitute war crimes.
" The pattern of attacks shows the Israeli militarys disturbing disregard for the lives of Lebanese civilians. Our research shows that Israels claim that Hezbollah fighters are hiding among civilians does not explain, let alone justify, Israels indiscriminate warfare. " Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch
The 50-page report, Fatal Strikes: Israels Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon, analyzes almost two dozen cases of Israeli air and artillery attacks on civilian homes and vehicles. Of the 153 dead civilians named in the report, 63 are children. More than 500 people have been killed in Lebanon by Israeli fire since fighting began on July 12, most of them civilians.
The pattern of attacks shows the Israeli militarys disturbing disregard for the lives of Lebanese civilians, said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. Our research shows that Israels claim that Hezbollah fighters are hiding among civilians does not explain, let alone justify, Israels indiscriminate warfare.
... Human Rights Watch researchers found numerous cases in which the IDF launched artillery and air attacks with limited or dubious military objectives but excessive civilian cost. In many cases, Israeli forces struck an area with no apparent military target. In some instances, Israeli forces appear to have deliberately targeted civilians.
In one case, an Israeli air strike on July 13 destroyed the home of a cleric known to have sympathy for Hezbollah but who was not known to have taken any active part in the hostilities. Even if the IDF considered him a legitimate target (and Human Rights Watch has no evidence that he was), the strike killed him, his wife, their 10 children and the familys Sri Lankan maid.
On July 16, an Israeli aircraft fired on a civilian home in the village of Aitaroun, killing 11 members of the al-Akhrass family, among them seven Canadian-Lebanese dual nationals who were vacationing in the village when the war began. Human Rights Watch independently interviewed three villagers who vigorously denied that the family had any connection to Hezbollah. Among the victims were children aged one, three, five and seven.
... Hezbollah fighters must not hide behind civilians thats an absolute but the image that Israel has promoted of such shielding as the cause of so high a civilian death toll is wrong, Roth said. In the many cases of civilian deaths examined by Human Rights Watch, the location of Hezbollah troops and arms had nothing to do with the deaths because there was no Hezbollah around.
Statements from Israeli government officials and military leaders suggest that, at the very least, the IDF has blurred the distinction between civilians and combatants, arguing that only people associated with Hezbollah remain in southern Lebanon, so all are legitimate targets of attack. Under international law, however, only civilians directly participating in hostilities lose their immunity from attack. Many civilians have been unable to flee because they are sick, wounded, do not have the means to leave or are providing essential civil services.
Many civilians are afraid to leave the south because the roads are under Israeli attack. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have fled their homes, but Israeli forces have fired with warplanes and artillery on dozens of civilian vehicles, many flying white flags. Israel has justified its attacks on roads by citing the need to target Hezbollah fighters moving arms and block their transport routes.
However, none of the evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch or reported to date by independent media sources indicate that any of the attacks on vehicles documented in the report resulted in Hezbollah casualties or the destruction of weapons. Rather, the attacks have killed and wounded civilians who were fleeing their homes after the IDF issued instructions to evacuate.
Israeli warnings of imminent attacks do not turn civilians into military targets, said Roth. Otherwise, Palestinian militant groups might warn Israeli settlers to leave their settlements and then feel justified in attacking those who remained.
In previous reporting, Human Rights Watch has addressed the conduct of Hezbollah forces, condemning its attacks on civilian areas as serious violations of international humanitarian law amounting to war crimes. ...
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GAZA IN THE VISE
... A campaign of Israeli artillery fire, mostly at targets in the northern Gaza Strip, dramatically intensified in late spring, in response, according to the Israeli government, to the firing of homemade Palestinian Qassam rockets over the Gaza border at targets inside Israel. The campaign also came shortly after the formation at the end of March of the Hamas-led Palestinian government, eight weeks after the Islamist movement won parliamentary elections.
According to a June 21 report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israel fired 781 artillery shells into Gaza in the first three months of the year. The same period saw 417 Qassam rockets fired into Israel. From April to June 20, however, an extraordinary 7,599 Israeli artillery shells were launched at Gaza, compared to 479 Qassams shooting in the other direction.
From June 9 to June 20, 31 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip, including 10 children, six of them five years old or younger. Those numbers include seven members of the Ghalia family, who were killed on a northern Gaza beach on June 9. The killings caused outrage among Palestinians and made an icon out of Huda Ghalia, 10, the surviving daughter, who was caught on camera in the aftermath of the bombing crying out for her father next to his body.
Two weeks ago, on Election Day, at 8 A.M., drivers wishing to leave Tul Karm from the eastern exit (toward Anabta) discovered that their permits were invalid. A soldier at the checkpoint, who prevented the passage of the drivers, apologized: Today, leaving the city by car is permitted only to residents of the three neighboring villages - Shufa, Safrin and Beit Lid, he explained to Machsom Watch activists. "And in general, this is not a checkpoint (through which the permits are meant to allow passage - A.H.), but a barricade. And here there are no permits; here there are procedures."
Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation are imprisoned in a thicket of physical, corporeal barriers of all types and sizes (checkpoints, roadblocks, blockades, fences, walls, steel gates, roads prohibited to traffic, dirt embankments, concrete cubes) and by a frequently updated assortment of bans and limitations.
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PALESTINIAN HEALTH CARE CONDITIONS UNDER OCCUPATION
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 36 health care workers have been killed, 447 health providers have been wounded and 129 patients have died at Israeli checkpoints. How? There have been 375 attacks on health care centers, 383 attacks on ambulances, with 38 ambulances destroyed altogether.READ ARTICLE
Palestinian women in labor have not been left out of the equation of military occupation. Since September 28, 2000, at least 67 women have given birth at Israeli checkpoints. As a result, 39 newborns died or they were delivered stillborn.
According to a map from the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem there are over 100 established checkpoints throughout the West Bank, an area totaling 5,970 sq. km, and this figure does not include flying checkpoints and barriers, such as roadblocks, razed roads, dirt mounds, etc. When Israel completes construction of the wall, approximately 33 per cent of villages within the West Bank will be denied free and open access to their health care system, per the IHC. Moreover, 81 per cent of people living in isolated zones and enclaves cannot access primary health clinics, medical centers, and hospitals as needed.
ISRAEL: MILITARY MUST ACCOUNT FOR KILLINGS OF TWO CHILDREN
(Jerusalem, February 8, 2006)
The Israel Defense Forces' top judicial officer should demonstrate his resolve to combat impunity by immediately ordering thorough and effective criminal investigations into the latest shooting deaths of Palestinian children by Israeli forces during policing operations, Human Rights Watch said today....
"The Israeli military's failure to conduct effective investigations into civilian killings has fostered impunity in its ranks," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
On January 23, Israeli soldiers shot a 13-year-old Palestinian boy in the back as he walked along a West Bank road reserved for Jewish settlers. The boy, Munadel Abu Aalia, from the nearby village of El-Mughayer (near Ramallah), died the same day. After first telling the press that the boy and his friends were planning to throw stones at settler cars, Israeli military officials then told journalists that the boys were planting an explosive device.
The Israel Defense Forces' allegation that the boy posed a threat should not preempt a criminal investigation since media accounts suggest that the incident occurred outside the context of any exchange of fire, he was shot in the back, he reportedly was far from any conceivable target when he was shot, and the incident occurred in broad daylight. The soldiers did not fire warning shots or attempt to question or arrest the boys first.
In a second incident, soldiers patrolling Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on January 26 shot dead a 9-year-old Palestinian girl on the other side, not far from her home in Khan Younis. Gaza-based human rights organizations investigating the case found that Israeli forces had opened indiscriminate fire on Aya al-Astal without warning when they saw something moving near the border.
Afterwards, the Israeli military contacted Palestinian security officials in Gaza to announce that their "soldiers shot and hit a terrorist." The girl's mother told the press, however, that her daughter was small, unveiled and should have been easily identifiable as a child. Her father said that she was mentally disabled and had become lost after wandering from the house. According to the girl's family and paramedics, the girl was shot multiple times in the neck, leg, arm and stomach. The Israel Defense Forces have not accounted for the mistaken identity or their rules of engagement at the border, warranting an immediate criminal investigation.
ISRAEL'S SHOOTING OF YOUNG GIRL HIGHLIGHTS INTERNATIONAL HYPOCRISY, SAY PALESTINIANS
As the votes were counted in the Palestinian election and the scale of Hamas's landslide became apparent to the world, Aya al-Astal drifted away from her home and wandered towards the fence along the border between the Gaza strip and Israel.
The nine-year-old girl's parents realised she was gone as they watched the election results on television. They do not know precisely what happened, but the Israeli army later said Aya was behaving in a suspicious manner reminiscent of a terrorist - she got too close to the border fence - and so a soldier fired several bullets into the child, hitting her in the neck and blowing open her stomach.
Aya was the second child killed by the Israeli army last week. Soldiers near Ramallah shot 13-year-old Munadel Abu Aaalia in the back as he walked along a road reserved for Jewish settlers with two friends. The army said the boys planned to throw rocks at Israeli cars, which the military defines as terrorism.
The two killings went unnoticed by the outside world amid the political drama, but they made their impact among Palestinians angered by demands from western leaders for Hamas to recognise Israel and renounce its armed struggle.
Some Palestinians see the demands as a rejection of a democratic election and as siding with Israel. Others see hypocrisy. They say Israeli soldiers killed twice as many Palestinians last week alone - both of them children - as the number of Israelis killed by Hamas all last year.
"Aya was shot in the neck and stomach. Her stomach was hanging out," said the child's mother, Aisha. "We have no idea why she went there but she was a child. She was so small. She was nine years old. She didn't wear a hijab. It was clear she was just a young girl. This is hatred."
Hamas is responsible for the murder of more than 400 Israelis. But since it declared a ceasefire a year ago the group has killed one Israeli, according to the Israeli government's own figures. Sasson Nuriel was kidnapped in September and forced to record a video demanding the release of prisoners. Hamas said it shot him when the army got close to finding him.
Hamas also carried out a suicide bombing at Beer Sheva bus station in August that seriously wounded two security guards, and it was behind some of the attacks by rudimentary rockets fired from Gaza into Israel that frequently terrify but rarely kill. Hamas said it launched the rockets in response to Israeli attacks.
"Hamas has kept the calm for a year. Israel is still killing our civilians," said the Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmoud al-Zahar. "Why is it that the Israelis can continue to kill our people, innocent people walking down the street, and there is no criticism from those who tell us we must give up our historic struggle against occupation? Why are they so afraid to criticise Israel but tell us what to do?"
The Astal family is politically divided. Aya's mother voted for Hamas. The child's aunt, Samir al-Astal, backed the losing party, Fatah. But there is little difference in their belief that there is a double standard at work in the foreign demands of Israel and of Palestinians.
"The Americans always give excuses for Israel," said Samir. "Israel is like a spoilt son. They never pressure them. They kill our children and no one says anything. If there is a reaction by Palestinians to these incidents they call us terrorists."
Israel said it regretted civilian deaths but added that they were accidental, unlike those caused by suicide bombs. It said Hamas was "intensively involved in terrorist actions" despite the ceasefire.
Amnesty International today called upon Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement) to commit unequivocally to abide by international law, respect the rights of all Palestinians across the political spectrum, and repudiate its policy of targeting Israeli civilians.
"As it prepares to form the next Palestinian Authority (PA) government, Hamas must undertake to spare no effort to end the spiral of violence which has cost the lives of so many Palestinian and Israeli civilians," urged Amnesty International.
The prohibition on targeting civilians is absolute in international law. It applies to everyone at all times, including people under occupation who are striving for self-determination, as well as to the occupying power.
Saturday December 31, 2005
This month has seen a flurry of high-level activity designed to fund the Palestinians under occupation. A private sector investors' conference took place in London to discuss ways of boosting the Palestinian economy. It followed the G7 finance ministers' meeting at the beginning of December, which pledged its support, saying that "economic development of the West Bank and Gaza is an indispensable element of lasting peace in the region". And in the summer, the G8 summit at Gleneagles promised the Palestinian Authority an annual $3bn for three years. Next March, the donor countries will decide their allocations to the PA.
Sounds good. But will these donors pause to consider that Israel's occupation of Palestine is set to continue so long as they remain prepared to underwrite it? The Palestinians' dire need for help is indisputable: the PA is virtually bankrupt and has asked for an immediate injection of $200m, just for basic services, between now and next February. Humanitarian aid alone, however, will not solve the problem.
THE QUIET OCCUPATION PART 1
Written by: Ran HaCohen
Date: Wednesday, 02 November 2005
The Quiet Occupation (Part I)
by Ran HaCohen | Anti-war.com | 15 June 2005
What is the first picture the term "occupation" raises in our mind? Probably some kind of extreme violence among civilians: lethal fire in the middle of town, terrified kids in pajamas watching heavily armed soldiers searching a house, a helicopter firing a missile in the midst of Gaza. All these violent scenes do happen, but they do not give an adequate picture of what the occupation really looks like.
Very few people realize that Israel has turned life in the occupied territories (Israeli settlers excluded) into complete misery without any need to fire a single bullet. A unique, invaluable glance into the mechanisms that constitute this "quiet" occupation, usually hidden behind the literal smokescreen of violence, is given by the first annual report of the Israeli human rights group Machsom Watch, presented in a press conference in Tel Aviv last week.
West Bank Checkpoints: The Basics
Machsom "roadblock" in Hebrew stands for a whole arsenal of obstacles spread throughout the occupied territories: temporary or permanent roadblocks, manned checkpoints or roads closed off by heavy cement blocks, gates in the Wall, earth mounds, trenches, observation towers. The least known but most significant fact about these various physical obstacles is that almost all of them are NOT "border checkpoints" located between Israel and the occupied territories; almost all of them are placed WITHIN the occupied territories, hampering the movement from one Palestinian town or village to another.
Within the last four years signs were clear enough in early 2002 Israel made every movement of every Palestinian dependent on Israeli permit. Incredible, but true: a Palestinian wishing to get out of (or reenter) his or her immediate surrounding a town, a village, a neighborhood, or just an arbitrarily cut-off part of a village has to get a permit from Israel in advance and show it at every Israeli-manned checkpoint. You cannot just go to work, to do some shopping or business, to school, to visit family or friends, to a hospital you have to go through one or several Israeli checkpoints first.
The numbers are horrifying. The UN's Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA) counted in November 2004 not less than 719 (!) physical obstacles throughout the West Bank. Machsom Watch reports that less than 70 of them were removed in the recent "calm" period, some only to be replaced by the rapidly progressing Wall. An army general reported that the 25 central checkpoints under his command required 1,000 soldiers, and up to 5,000 soldiers are employed on special alerts (Ha'aretz, July 22, 2003); no wonder the checkpoints are consistently undermanned, resulting in endless queues.
None of the more than 2 million Palestinians in the West Bank thus live more than a couple of miles away from a roadblock or checkpoint. A short route through the West Bank would inevitably take you through several Israeli checkpoints, some of them five minutes' ride from each other. Lucky to have gone through one checkpoint? The next one is just a few minutes ahead, where you'll have to start all over again.
Checkpoints are closed on Israeli, Jewish, Muslim, and other holidays and public occasions, paralyzing Palestinian economic and social life. Machsom Watch reports that
"From March to May , a closure was imposed that included full encirclement in many areas of the West Bank. The closure started for the Passover holiday, continued uninterrupted until Israeli Independence Day (several weeks later) and from then to the Likud party's referendum, and it was finally lifter after the Final Four playoff games."