Since Wednesday Israel has carried out a massive bombing campaign against two million people trapped in the Gaza Strip. At the time of writing, 33 Palestinians, including six children, are reported killed [at time of posting, the number of Palestinian dead exceeds 100, including 24 children]. In addition, at least 250 civilians have been wounded. According to the Israeli military, at least 800 air strikes have now been carried out in the attack – named Operation Pillar of Defence.
Throughout the invasion, Israeli officials have repeatedly promoted the lie that Hamas is the aggressor and that Israel is acting in “self defence”. For example, Australian born Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told Channel 10 News on the second day of the assault: “Our operation is primarily defensive; if Hamas wasn’t shooting these rockets into Israel we wouldn’t be doing anything today.” The facts, however, contradict Regev and Israel’s claim.
Since 2007, Gaza has remained under Israeli siege and blockade. And in the period between Operation Cast Lead (which cost some 1,400 Palestinian lives in December 2008-January 2009) and Operation Pillar of Defence, Israel has killed more than 270 Palestinian in Gaza, including at least 28 children. According to figures from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, during this same period no Israeli civilians were killed as a result of the Palestinian resistance in Gaza. B’Tselem notes that in addition to those Palestinians killed in Gaza, a further 43 were killed in the Occupied West Bank, where 14 Israeli settlers and 1 Israeli policeman were also killed.
The current assault on Gaza, which formally began on Wednesday, was preceded by a number of attacks by the Israeli military. On November 8, the Israelis killed a twelve year old Palestinian child who was playing soccer. In response, Palestinian resistance fighters blew up a tunnel along the Gaza–Israel frontier. The explosion resulted in one Israeli soldier being injured. On November 10, Israel fired artillery shells into the Gaza Strip, killing two Palestinian children aged sixteen and seventeen. Two more Palestinian civilians were killed and 24 others were wounded when Israel fired on a mourning tent set up for the funeral for one of the boys. On the same day, resistance fighters blew up an Israeli military jeep on the Israeli-Gaza border injuring four Israeli soldiers. Israel continued to carry out attacks against Palestinian civilians, which resulted in one death and a dozen more injured on November 11.
On 12 November, Palestinian factions agreed to a truce if Israel stopped its attack on Gaza. However, two days after the factions agreed to the truce, Israel unilaterally broke the agreement by carrying out an illegal targeted assassination against Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas’s military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades. Israel has repeatedly claimed that the assassination was a “surgical” strike. However, at least eight civilians were killed in the Israeli assassination of Jabari, including two children.
There is nothing new about Israel’s conduct. According to a study conducted by American and Israeli academics, Nancy Kanwisher, Johannes Haushofer, and Anat Biletzki, Israel has displayed a pattern of unilateral attack. Their 2009 study, which examined 25 periods of non-violence between Israel and the Palestinian resistance, revealed that Israel repeatedly initiated violence. Between 2000 and 2008, Israel “unilaterally interrupted…96 percent of the ceasefire period, and it unilaterally interrupted 100 percent of the 14 periods of non-violence lasting more than 9 days”. Writing in the Huffington Post in January 2009 at the height of Operation Cast Lead, Kanwisher noted that “it is overwhelmingly Israel, not Palestine, that kills first following a lull. Indeed, it is virtually always Israel that kills first after a lull lasting more than a week”.
In 2008, as with today, Israel broke a ceasefire period in order to justify carrying out Operation Cast Lead. Between June and November 2008, Hamas had abided by and enforced a four-month ceasefire. However, on November 4 Israel launched a military strike, saying that it was targeting tunnels along the Gaza-Israel frontier. Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the death of one Palestinian, brought an end to the ceasefire. A month later, claiming “self defence”, Israel invaded.
In an interview from Gaza, Palestinian academic Dr. Mosheer Amer told me on 15 November that “What we see here represents a pattern too familiar for those observe the situation here: the Israeli army first starts attacking resistance fighters which in turn provokes Palestinian response.” Amer, who lives in Khan Younis with his family, also noted that the current assault on Gaza was closely tied to domestic politics in Israel:
“This particular…escalation coincides with the coming Israeli elections and of course the present right wing Israeli government wants to score elections points with the Israeli electorate by showing that it is strong and tough with the Palestinians.”
When asked about the situation on the ground in Gaza, Dr Amer said: “Things are tense, people are huddled in their homes and following the news, the ground operation has not begun yet, but Israeli drones and fighter jets haven’t left Gaza’s skies, [and there is] frequent bombardments everywhere in Gaza.” He also noted that people were also stockpiling whatever food they could access, as well as petrol for use in electricity generators. Despite the current devastation being rained on Gaza by Israel, Amer remains defiant:
“The Palestinian people will never back down and raise white flags because they are fighting for their freedom and dignity…the Palestinian people look to their brothers and sisters in humanity for support to continue and stand hand in hand in the struggle for freedom, dignity and human rights which Israel deprived them”.
Kim is a member of the Revolutionary Socialist Party and is a volunteer with the International Women’s Peace Service – the only all women international peace team working on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. She writes regularly on the Palestine-Israel conflict and has a blog at livefromoccupiedpalestine.blogspot.com.
Onposted via Socialist Alternative