Gaza truce announced; bombing continues

Israel launched new air-strikes across the Gaza Strip late Nov. 21, even as Egypt’s foreign minister Mohamed Kamel Amr announced a ceasefire to end eight days of violence. Missiles fired by an unmanned drone slammed into Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip around 7:30 PM local time, killing a youth and critically injuring another. Another air-strike killed a Palestinian in Gaza City’s Sheikh Radwan neighborhood, with six more wounded elsewhere in the city. The ceasefire, announced at a Cairo press conference with the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, was to take effect at 9 PM. The Palestinian death toll in the eight days of bombing stands at some 170, with another 1,000 wounded. Five Israelis have been killed, including one soldier. (Maa’n News Agency, Nov. 21)

Also that day, a bomb exploded on a bus in central Tel Aviv, wounding at least 10 people. Celebratory gunfire rang out across Gaza as the news spread and Hamas praised the bombing, but no one claimed immediate responsibility. The blast shattered windows on the bus as it drove along a tree-lined street next to Israel’s huge defense ministry complex. Israel’s ambulance service said three of the wounded were in a serious condition. Police said it was not a suicide attack. (Reuters, Nov. 21)

  1. Gaza: more sophomoric irony
    “There’s no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.  We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself. Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory.” — Barack Obama, as quoted by MSNBC, Nov. 18

    No country on earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders, eh? Except perhaps Paksitan. Oh yeah, and Yemen.

  2. Gaza truce: victory for Hamas?
    The Egypt-brokered ceasefire agreement commits Israel to “Opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas.” (AFP, Nov. 21) In other words, further easing the siege.

    Within hours after the ceasefire was supposed to take hold, Israeli police said 12 rockets were fired from Gaza. Hamas denied that report, saying that no rockets had been after the ceasefire went into effect. (Al Jazeera, Nov. 22)

  3. Gaza: both sides claim victory
    Leaders in Gaza and Israel on Nov. 21 both claimed victory after the eight-day war that left 170 Palestinians and five Israelis dead. Ramadan Shallah, chief of Islamic Jihad, which is also signatory to the ceasefire, called the war Israel’s “greatest defeat in history.”

    Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak meanwhile boasted that Israel dropped 1,000 times as much explosive on the Gaza Strip tha had landed in Israel. “A large part of the mid-range rockets were destroyed. Hamas managed to hit Israel’s built-up areas with around a tonne of explosives, and Gaza targets got around 1,000 tonnes,” Barak told Israel’s Army Radio. (Ma’an News Agency, Nov. 23)

     In a rare display of unity, leaders of Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian factions on Nov. 21 celebrated the end of the war on Gaza and called for parties to end the split with the West Bank. Thousands took to the streets of Gaza, calling for unity among the factions.

    Fatah leader Nabil Shaath, who came to Gaza three days earlier, during the Israeli shelling, told crowds in Gaza City: “How glad I feel when yellow, green, red and black flags fly together, united by the Palestinian flag. We must all unite and work together”—a reference to the motifs of Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and leftist factions.

    “Today our unity materialized, Hamas and Fatah are one hand, one rifle and one rocket,” senior Hamas leader Khalil Al-Hayya told several thousand in the main square of Gaza. (Ma’an News Agency, Nov. 22)

  4. Gaza truce breaking down?
    Israeli forces killed a 20-year-old Palestinian man at the Gaza Strip border fence Nov. 2. He was apparently among a group of youths that had been trying to place a Hamas flag on the fence. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused Israel of violating the Egypt-mediated truce and said the group would complain to Cairo. “We will contact the Egyptian mediator to discuss the incident,” he said. (Maan News Agency, Nov. 24)

    1. So much for not “restricting residents’ free movements…”
      So much for not “restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas”.

      I appreciated the “The Other Israel” post.  

      Very interesting site.

  5. Anatomy of the Gaza closure
    From the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, Nov. 22:

    Gisha response to ceasefire: An opportunity to end the Gaza closure
    As the ceasefire agreement takes force, Israel has an opportunity to finally end the civilian closure of Gaza and enter into regional arrangements that will allow residents of Gaza the freedom of movement to which they have a right, while protecting the security to which residents of Israel are entitled. Today, the Israeli government maintains three restrictions on Gaza’s land crossings that must be removed to protect the rights of Palestinians to reach family members and access educational and economic opportunities, subject to individual security checks:

    1. Entrance of construction materials for the private sector in Gaza is banned. Israel claims the restrictions are necessary to prevent the Hamas regime from building bunkers. Each month, an estimated average of 3,600 truckloads of construction materials for the private and governmental sector enter Gaza via underground tunnels, compared with just 1,100 truckloads via the crossings with Israel. The materials entering via Israel must be pre-approved for international organizations, causing burdensome and expensive delays.

    2. Israel prevents goods from Gaza from reaching their markets in Israel and the West Bank. Although tiny quantities of export abroad transit via Israeli ports, Israel prevents farmers and manufacturers in Gaza from selling their goods to their traditional customers in Israel and the West Bank. Prior to the ban imposed in June 2007, more than 85% of goods leaving Gaza were sold in Israel and the West Bank.  Today, Israel conducts security checks of goods transiting via Israel to markets abroad (18 truckloads per month on average, just 2% of pre-June 2007 levels) but does not allow those goods to remain in Israel or the West Bank.

    3. The Israeli government restricts travel between Gaza and the West Bank to “exceptional humanitarian cases”, mostly medical patients, their companions, and senior (male) merchants buying goods from Israel and the West Bank. Each month, Israel allows 4,000 entrances of Palestinians via Erez Crossing, compared with more than half a million in September 2000. Israeli officials say the restrictions are part of the “separation policy”, which restricts travel from Gaza to the West Bank, even where no individual security claims are raised. The ban separates children from their parents, prevents students from studying, blocks economic opportunities and exacerbates the fragmentation of Palestinian society.

    Opening Rafah Crossing [into Egypt] for goods, while important, is not responsive to the need to allow access between Gaza and the West Bank and Israel.. Rafah does not provide a solution for travel between Gaza and the West Bank, especially as Israel’s military does not allow Gaza residents to enter the West Bank via Egypt and Jordan.

    More than 47% of civilian goods entering Gaza—enter via the tunnels.. an estimated 4,100 truckloads per month (primarily construction materials but also small quantities of snack foods, spare parts, and others), compared with 4,700 truckloads per month via Kerem Shalom. In addition, most of Gaza’s fuel is piped in via the tunnels. Since 2007, Israel has closed three of Gaza’s four goods crossings, leaving just the limited capacity of Kerem Shalom. If all of Gaza’s incoming and outgoing goods are to be transferred above ground, arrangements must be made to meet demand. Most civilian goods transiting via the tunnels are goods banned by the Israeli government: more than 80% of civilian tunnel volume is construction materials. 

    According to Gisha Director Sari Bashi: “Now is the time for Israel to do what is just, mutually beneficial, and should have been done long ago: remove all restrictions not necessary for security.”

  6. Mashaal to attend Hamas anniversary
    Hamas is to celebrate its 25th anniversary in Gaza Dec. 8, with the proceedings to be presided over the by movement’s founder Khalid Mashaal, in his first visit to the Strip. Mashaal ran Hamas from exile in Syria from 2004 until January this year when he quit Damascus amid the mounting unrest there. 

    More than 200,000 supporters and guests are expected to attend the outdoor rally. Mashaal and Gaza premier Ismail Haniyeh will ascend to the stage through a gate designed like an M75 weapon, a homemade rocket that Hamas fighters used against Israel in the eight-day battle.  Hamas chose to name the battle “Sijjil,” a term taken from a chapter in the Koran depicting the attack by the Christian ruler of Yemen on the Kaaba in Mecca using a huge elephant to demolish it. According to “the Elephant” chapter, the elephant refused to enter Mecca, and his people were defeated by birds from heaven which pelted the attackers with Sijjil, a kind of shale rock.

    Mashaal will proceed to the West Bank after the Gaza celebration, in what is seen as a bid to speed reconciliation with Fatah. (Ma’an News Agency, JP, Dec. 8)

  7. HRW: Palestine rocket attacks violate international laws
     Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Dec. 24 accused Palestinian military units located in Gaza of violating laws of war by firing rockets into populated areas of Israel. These laws of war  prohibit focused attacks on civilians and civilian structures or attacks that distinguish between civilians and military targets. “There is simply no legal justification for launching rockets at populated areas” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW. Palestinian armed units have claimed that last November’s Israeli attacks in Gaza provoked the firing of rockets into Israel and should excuse the Palestinian units from their acts. The rocket attacks which first launched from the Gaza Strip left three Israelis dead and at least 38 wounded. HRW urged Hamas the source of authority in Gaza to enforce the appropriate laws and punish the offenders. Earlier this month, HRW accused Israel of war crimes after the November attacks in Gaza. 

    From Jurist, Dec. 24. Used with permission.