Butchers Must Be Tried for War Crimes
By Selwyn Manning – Scoop Deputy Editor
Israel’s latest assault against Palestinian civilians in Gaza would be a crime against humanity if perpetrated by soldiers of any other nation.
Monday’s midnight attack killed at least 14 people at the Khan Younis camp in Gaza. The attack also wounded 110 others.
Israel justified the attack claiming it was hunting Hamas operatives inside Gaza.
Just after midnight Monday Gaza time, 40 Israeli tanks thundered into Khan Younis. Moments later United States built military helicopters thudded into range. A crowd gathered. Shots were fired. And a rocket was launched into a crowd of Palestinians. Eleven were killed. Israel claimed “most” of those dead were militants fighting back. Palestinians said they were civilians. The dead range in age from 14 to 52. Also, 25 of the injured are critical having suffered shrapnel wounds to the head, chest and abdomen.
Israel’s deputy defence minister, Weizman Shiri, regrets civilian casualties but said: "But what can we do? It's war."
He claimed IDF soldiers met resistance within Khan Younis. Palestinians he said gathered, throwing grenades. The IDF retreated and while withdrawing, a helicopter aimed at the crowd and fired a missile.
Palestinian witnesses gave a different account: as the IDF withdrew, people came out of their houses to inspect the damage. Some say there were no gunmen in the street, others say there were gunmen but they were not shooting. As the crowd gathered, they heard the thudding of the helicopters. Then, suddenly, one fired upon them and people were blown up to 10 metres from where they were standing.
According to independent sources on the ground - the United Nations Relief Agency for Palestinian Refugees [UNRWA] – the Israeli Defence Force did shoot a rocket into a crowd of Palestinians.
As the dead and wounded were taken to Nasser Hospital, IDF soldiers fired machineguns at them. They were apparently responding to mortar fire coming from a nearby position. A 27 year old civilian man was killed and three others were wounded, including a 14 year old boy who was hit in the neck.
And today in Khan Younis, due to violence, schools were empty. Children hid, and families fear further reprisals. The hospital was shot at again. And United Nations workers have been caring for Palestinian refugees in a local camp.
Israel’s Head of Military Intelligence, Major General Aharon Ze'evi Farkash said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2: "Meet the Press" programme, that the Palestinians have understood that terrorist attacks in Israeli territories will lead them to disaster.
The stance is one of defiant calculation – one Israeli killed by a suicide bomber, equals 11 dead Palestinians.
It is a crime that youngsters are sent in to Israel to blow themselves and others up for the greater cause – whatever that may be. The criminals represent extremist factions within a country ripped apart from detention, bigotry and oppression. They do not represent the Palestinian Authority nor its people.
Israel’s actions are a crime, committed by soldiers of the sovereign state of Israel under the direct orders of those elected and who sit on the Israeli executive benches. Those responsible on this side of the border are not faceless, but identifiable.
The midnight incursion into Palestinian territories by Israeli Defence Force soldiers was systematic and clearly carried the mandate of the Israeli Prime Minister and his Cabinet.
Governments around the globe have been outraged by this latest attack. The United Nations, again, has deplored Israel’s method as disproportionate force.
The Russian Federation’s foreign ministry said the Israeli attack was “clearly disproportionate”.
Javier Solana, the European Union's visiting foreign policy chief, said he was shocked by the number of casualties. "I think that it is even more dramatic because of the efforts that the Palestinian people were making in order to get out of the way of violence in recent weeks," he said.
The United States, well, it paid lip service, again, to the atrocities in a repetitive dance of decayed diplo-speak.
US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher couched the Bush Administration’s criticism of Israel’s latest attack with a restatement of American support for Israel's right to self-defence.
"We're deeply troubled by the reports of Israeli actions in Gaza over the weekend," Boucher said, adding: "We've always respected Israel's right to defend itself, including going after armed groups and armed men in some of these areas."
Contrast this to the UN line: "Such actions have no legal or moral justification," spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters in New York today, reiterating the UN Secretary General Koffi Annan's latest appeal to both sides to halt all violent and provocative acts.
But what will the UN and angered nations do about this sad situation?
The UN Security Council has repeatedly “demanded” Israel cease the assault against civilians – to no avail. UN demands have become ridiculously irrelevant, at least to the Israeli Cabinet, too weak to curb the degree of Ariel Sharon’s desire to crush and drive the Palestinian nation into the sand.
There’s a comparative that is crude, simple, but accurate. The Israeli Cabinet is like the snivelling little schoolyard wimp that gets away with beating up innocents solely because he does so from the shadow of the big playground bully who stands at his side.
There’s certainly a double standard, perhaps its origins are religious, perhaps geographically strategic. But if this crime against humanity, against the Palestinian civilian population, was committed by any other nation, other than by Israel, it would be deemed to be genocide, it would be a new-century-holocaust.
Such actions would incite full-scale retaliatory responses from western alliances, NATO, and the United Nations. And it goes without saying the United States would be in boots and all, friendly fire flying, driving its warheads into the foreign dust, especially if the spoils of war were oil.
But today, the United Nations issued another caution: "Actions like those carried out this morning do not promote Israeli security… but could lead to a further escalation while increasing the sense of vulnerability and insecurity among both the Palestinians and Israelis."
Certainly, those responsible from both sides of this crisis, ought to be brought to justice and tried. It should matter not what organization or state they represent.
And today, the dead were taken from Nasser Hospital draped in Palestinian flags, gunmen lined the coffins, shooting into the air and shouting “revenge”.
Hamas has declared retaliation.
Ariel Sharon’s solution is not final. Another round of slaughter has begun.