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Gaza - A Truly Disturbing Situation

Quote: ''75 Palestinians have been killed by IDF forces. This includes 31 civilians who took no part in the fighting. Among the dead are 19 children, ages 17 and under.''

GAZA - A TRULY DISTURBING SITUATION

A compilation by Sol Salbe

Let's start at the beginning. Mitchell Plitnick of Jewish Voice for Peace in San Francisco put it this way; ''On Wednesday, Palestinian Qassem rockets hit the Israeli town of Sderot near the Gaza trip. Two children, aged 4 and 2, were killed. There are no words for the depths of such a tragedy or for the magnitude of such a crime.

"But the commission of a great crime does not excuse the commission of another. Israel has already retaliated and some 30 Palestinians [It's over 70 now] have been killed and well over 100 [many hundreds] wounded since the attack on Sderot. Two Israeli soldiers and a woman in an Israeli settlement in Gaza have also been killed. Now, Israel has begun a massive, long-term attack on Gaza. The Palestinian Authority has reissued its call for international intervention, and such intervention is sorely needed, but the call is falling on deaf ears, just as it has in the past."

The incredible disproportion between the Israeli and Palestinian casualties has been extremely disturbing. It has been a key factor behind the thinking that prompted some critical comments in mainstream Israeli media editorials.

Ofer Shelach in Yediot Acharonot was scathing of the political assumptions behind the Israeli operations: "But Sharon - and many others, including most prime ministers since then - have not learned the lessons of 1982. Again and again we hear about unilateral steps which will solve the basic problems of Israel. Again and again we are being told that we can decide everything by ourselves, and that the enemy will have no choice but to accept the reality."

It was left up to the editors of Haaretz, however, to truly castigate the government for its actions. Under the heading "An operation without a purpose" they wrote: The deployment of tanks in crowded neighbourhoods is meant to protect the lives of the soldiers. But experience has shown that such tactics necessarily increase the number of casualties among civilians. The large IDF forces entering the Gaza Strip, and the large number of dead and injured among the residents of Beit Hanun and Jabalya, raise concerns that the scale of the operation was set not merely out of pure security considerations but also in order to appease the residents of Sderot. The defence minister's statement, that the aim of the operation is 'to send a clear message that Israel will not tolerate terrorist operations during the disengagement' hints at the pressure by the right of the opponents of the disengagement plan, who are taking advantage of the suffering of the Sderot residents, in order to bring about the escalation of a legitimate operation to put an end to the rocket attacks against Israeli citizens.

It is seriously doubtful if the killing of civilians, the razing of homes and the severe damage to essential infrastructure in the Gaza Strip brings calm to the residents of Sderot."

Earlier on 1 October the paper referred to the government's motivations: "'exacting a price' from terror organisations in Gaza, and preparation for an extended stay in the territory." Mitchell Plitnick commented on this: "In other words, simple revenge, and an attempt to silence the Hamas claim that the proposed Gaza withdrawal is happening 'under fire", the idea that Hamas is trying to make it seem that Israel is retreating from its attacks in Gaza.

The horror and magnitude of the Israeli invasion comes clearly in the media release by the Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem. Pointing out that 41 per cent of casualties are civilians it reported that:

"B'Tselem has completed an initial investigation into the IDF operation in the northern Gaza Strip. The investigation reveals that from the beginning of the operation until this afternoon (Monday):

* 75 Palestinians have been killed by IDF forces. This includes 31 civilians who took no part in the fighting. Among the dead are 19 children, ages 17 and under.

* The IDF has completely demolished some 55 houses in the eastern neighbourhoods of the Jabalya refugee camp.

* Some 50 additional houses have been severely damaged.

* Some 50,000 people living in seven Palestinian neighbourhoods in Beit Hanun, Beit Lahiya and the Jabalya refugee camp, are under complete siege. The water and electricity supplies have been cut off and food stocks are running out."

The last word should be given to Mitchell Plitnick again:

"A word must be said about the appalling name the Sharon government has given to its latest campaign of pointless revenge and criminal military acts. The name of this invasion is 'Operation Days of Penitence'. The Days of Penitence, also called the Days of Awe, are the 10 days between the beginning of Rosh Hashanah and the end of Yom Kippur, which has just passed. These are days when Jews everywhere are supposed to open their hearts, examine the transgressions of the past year and atone for the sins we have committed and will commit in the coming year. To name an invasion after these days, an invasion which will include the killing and wounding of innocent civilians and the destruction of the homes of may families, is an affront to the very essence of Judaism and an insult to our religion, history and culture and to all of those millions of Jews who have died for their Judaism over the centuries."

*************

[The independent Middle East News Service concentrates on providing alternative information chiefly from Israeli sources. It is generously sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the AJDS. These are expressed in its own statements]


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