Fatah fires rockets, Israel Blames Hamas

Illustrating its further intent to marginalise Hamas, Israel illogically blames Hamas for rocket strikes claimed by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of the Fatah faction led by Mahmoud Abbas.

Olmert, again demonstrating his war criminality, booms:

“We’ve said that if there is rocket fire against the south of the country, there will be a severe and disproportionate Israeli response to the fire on the citizens of Israel and its security forces.”

The monstrous Olmert, lusting for more innocent blood, is promising further criminal responses:

“The response will come at the time, the place and the manner that we choose.”

Palestinian witnesses reported huge explosions on Sunday and the Israeli military confirmed strikes on half a dozen locations, including an abandoned police station in northern Gaza and suspected smuggling tunnels in the south near the Egypt-Gaza border.

Disproportionate responses are forbidden by the Geneva Conventions. This has never stopped Israel before from collectively punishing citizens of Gaza, whose lives are treated as expendable by the Zionist entity.

As highlighted by Sherri Muzher in the Detroit News:

The Israeli Defense Force’s revelation in a Haaretz article that it overestimated Gaza’s rocket severity went unnoticed by our media. The bombing continued, as did the self-righteousness.

Perhaps, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe put it best in a recent article on Gaza. He wrote: “The self-righteousness is a powerful act of self-denial and justification. It explains why the Israeli Jewish society would not be moved by words of wisdom, logical persuasion or diplomatic dialogue.”

Though we live in the 21st century, it seems that maybe our Western world (specifically the United States) has been caught in a time warp. Some actually think it can atone for the crimes of World War II by giving Israel the green light to commit more crimes against humanity. But ignoring Israel’s embargo and the killing of Palestinians dishonors the memories of those who were murdered for who they were during World War II.

Just because there are no ovens or gassing in the conflict doesn’t mean that it’s less genocidal. And when Israel intentionally blocks humanitarian goods and aims to make life so miserable that Palestinians will want to leave all the while dehumanizing them in the process, Israel is committing genocide.

Article II of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide doesn’t make exceptions for motive. In other words, using Hamas as an excuse is unacceptable.

The convention discusses “Deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to destroy a group includes the deliberate deprivation of resources needed for the group’s physical survival, such as clean water, food, clothing, shelter or medical services. Deprivation of the means to sustain life can be imposed through confiscation of harvests, blockade of foodstuffs, detention in camps, forcible relocation or expulsion into deserts.”

As to Israel’s 2005 pullout from Gaza? Israel’s B’Tselem, a human rights group, notes that Israel has maintained complete control over the airspace, waterways, the movement of goods and most elements of the taxation system. Israeli Palestinian citizens continue to be denied entry into Gaza even to visit family.

Israel, a victim? Not even close.

WND follows up, finding that Hamas has demanded Fatah, America’s ‘partner for peace’ cease firing rockets.

Contacted by WND, the leadership of Islamic Jihad in both Gaza and the West Bank were not aware their group launched any rockets.

The claimed results of an immediate investigation launched by both Hamas and Islamic Jihad were shared with WND. The probe found the Islamic Jihad rockets were actually fired by Fatah.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad sources explained that when Hamas took over Gaza from its Fatah rivals in 2007, about 100 members of Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades joined Islamic Jihad, and it was those members who launched today’s attacks.

Hamas has demanded Islamic Jihad immediately clamp down on the Fatah members within its ranks, prompting some tension between the two allies.

A top member of Hamas’ so-called military wing told WND today the Fatah members who shot today’s rockets will be dealt with harshly, hinting they may even be killed.

“If we catch them, I think they will not live to see the light of day,” he said.

Earlier today, the Al-Arabiya television network quoted Hamas sources stating the group has accepted an Egyptian proposal for a year-long truce with Israel in Gaza starting on Thursday. The report said Hamas agreed to an international mechanism along the Egypt-Gaza border that includes members of Fatah, as long as those Fatah members coordinate their activities with Hamas.

One of Israel’s main goals for its offensive was to halt Hamas’ ability to smuggle weapons across the Egypt-Gaza border. Previous international monitors stationed along the Egypt-Gaza border fled their duty and repeatedly failed to stem Hamas’ weapons smuggling. The monitors were stationed at the border following Israel’s 2005 evacuation of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas in 2007 seized control of Gaza from Fatah, taking over all U.S.-backed security compounds in the territory. Top diplomatic sources in Jerusalem told WND last month Abbas and his top representatives had waged a quiet campaign for months asking the Israeli government to target Hamas in Gaza just before the PA president’s term in office expired Jan. 9.

Hamas leaders repeatedly had warned they would not recognize Abbas after Jan. 9 and that they would launch a major campaign to delegitimize the PA president and install their own figures to lead the Palestinian government. Abbas used the violence to declare an emergency government that will keep him in office at last another year.

How bizarre is it then that Israel, the US and EU are hell bent in maintaining Abbas as a peace partner by maintaining a new, even more virulent siege on the people of Gaza, a siege that prevents the reconstruction of society, that causes further hatred and contempt? Because they know Abbas doesn’t have the support of the people and thus will fit the dictatorial puppet role which has been the usual historical method these big swinging dickheads have chosen to control the middle east? Yep, without a doubt.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and other Western leaders had proposed creating a temporary international committee to oversee the funding and organisation of the reconstruction effort. However, Abbas and his supporters rejected such a mechanism on the grounds that “it presumes that the separation between Gaza and the West Bank will continue,” as acting PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad put it, adding that international donors who are eager to reconstruct Gaza “will risk deepening the Palestinian division by ignoring the role of the PA”.

The PA’s stance, if followed, would condemn Arab pledges made in Kuwait — as well as any pledges made in a possible international conference on the reconstruction of Gaza called for by Egypt, the PA and the EU president — to remain pending until such time as a “viable peace partner” secures a steady seat in Gaza.

Although the participants at the Kuwaiti summit stressed the need for the reconstruction of Gaza in principle, they failed to reach an agreement over the mechanism. Differences between leaders obstructed a proposal to create a reconstruction fund and the most participants managed to agree upon was to make reconstruction contingent upon Palestinian reconciliation, a task they designated to Arab foreign ministers without setting a date or place for a ministerial meeting for this purpose, leaving us with the question as to when and how Arab ministers are to succeed where their heads of state failed.

Of course this procrastination through delegating makes the pledge to reconstruct Gaza barely worth the paper it was written on and will probably consign it to the same oblivion fated for so many other Arab summit resolutions. One of those forgotten resolutions was that adopted by the emergency Arab summit in Cairo in October 2000 calling for the creation of an Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem Fund for the purpose of reconstructing Palestinian infrastructure, especially in the sectors of healthcare, education, agriculture and housing. Apparently Arab leaders in Kuwait did not wish to recall that that resolution did not restrict the distribution of funds through the channel of the PA but also provided for other channels such as UNWRA, the Egyptian and Qatari Red Crescents, the Jordanian Royal Philanthropic Organisation, the UN Arab Gulf Programme and other such regional and international humanitarian agencies. Perhaps, too, they did not want to remind anyone that when that earlier resolution was passed there was no “Hamas problem” behind which are hiding those who do not really want to reconstruct the occupied territories, whether in Gaza or in the West Bank.

There is nothing to debate about humanitarian relief. The Israeli offensive destroyed all the civil infrastructure of the government in Gaza on the grounds that it served as bases for Hamas whereas in fact it was PA infrastructure paid for by taxpayers in donor countries. Whole residential quarters were flattened, totally destroying 4,000 homes and severely damaging around 16,000 more. There are now some 100,000 civilians in urgent need of shelter, temporarily accommodated in some 12 refuges opened by UNWRA in schools that were also targeted by Israeli guns and therefore need to be repaired as well. In addition, agricultural land ruined by bombardment has to be reclaimed, potable water needs to be supplied to half a million Palestinians, electricity has to be restored to about the same number of people, and about 80 per cent of the inhabitants of Gaza are in urgent need of food relief (these are all UN estimates). Any political argument for postponing such urgent aid is morally outrageous.

The Israeli list of “prohibited materials” even before its offensive includes such items as iron, steel and cement, which are now absolutely vital to reconstruction. UN Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes pointed out this self-evident truth in a statement last Tuesday saying that if Israel refuses to allow in construction materials reconstruction cannot begin.

Abbas is therefore holding the people of Gaza in siege as surely as does the Israeli – both are occupiers, abusers and criminals.

Gideon Levy comments that the Israeli threats and attacks are still linked to the forthcoming elections – who can prove the bloodiest war criminal will win the vote from a hypnotised Israeli public.

“There is a domestic struggle between candidates and who will be more extreme and who will take a hardline stance towards the rocket fire coming from Gaza. The main lesson is that the Palestinians and Israelis did not learn any lessons from the war – it will bring more agony and destruction. Both parties are in a game of fools.”

Ron Kampeas, an Israeli political analyst, said the underlying motive of the strikes was that the ruling Kadima party wanted “to show it is as hawkish as the Likud”.

He told Al Jazeera that Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Likud, appeared likely to win the February 10 election and Livni was now trying to keep her job as foreign minister in a coalition government.

Kampeas added that it remained to be seen whether Netanyahu, if he won, would form a coalition with Avigdor Lieberman, who is seen as further right than Netanyahu, and “could mean an even more hardline stance towards Hamas”.

Conveniently, whilst not recognising Hamas, Israel holds it responsible for all attacks against the Zionist state.

A Hamas spokesman responded to Olmert’s bellicose threats:

“We condemn the statements by Olmert and others today threatening the Gaza Strip,” Taher al-Nunu, a Hamas spokesman, said in a statement on Sunday.

“This is an attempt to find a false excuse to escalate the aggression against the Palestinians, to destroy the Egyptian efforts to improve the calm and to use pressure against the Palestinian people to accept Israeli conditions in those talks.”

Egyptian mediators have been attempting to secure a longer-term ceasefire addressing Israel’s concerns over rocket attacks and weapons smuggling into Gaza, as well Palestinian demands for the Israeli siege of the territory to be lifted.

The non-involvement of Hamas in the latest rocket attacks is confirmed by Israeli intelligence:

Israel’s military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said that Sunday’s attacks were not waged by Hamas but other militant groups that “are challenging Hamas and carrying out attacks for a renewed escalation.”

“Hamas, for its part, has been deterred and is honoring the ceasefire, but is not deterring the others enough,” added Yadlin.

Meanwhile Hamas and Palestinian Authority officials are in Cairo for cease fire talks mediated by Egypt.

An adviser to Ismail Haniya, who heads the Hamas government in Gaza, told AFP news agency the militant group was waiting for Israel’s response to a truce offer, transmitted by Egypt, adding that things were “moving in a positive direction”.

The Egyptians have been leading efforts to broker a permanent ceasefire by holding separate talks with officials from Israel and Hamas.

Abbas is seeking to destabilise talks again:

But Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told journalists in Cairo that talks were impossible with anyone who rejected the supremacy of the Palestine Liberation Organisation – in an apparent reference to Hamas’s leadership.

He also accused Hamas of having “taken risks with the blood of Palestinians, with their fate, and dreams and aspirations for an independent Palestinian state”.

Abbas miraculously also appears to be in Paris today for talks with Sarkozy and the prime minister of Qatar. Mitchell is having talks with Sarkozy’s chief of staff and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

Israeli opinion is divided as to the success of their slaughter of Gazan people.

A poll conducted for Haaretz newspaper at the weekend predicted that Likud and its allies would win 65 seats in the elections, giving it a 12-seat advantage over the centre-left parties, which are expected to capture just 53 of the 120 parliamentary seats up for grabs.

“Forty-one per cent said that the war was a success and 41% said it wasn’t,” said Tel Aviv University professor Camil Fuchs, who conducts a poll for Haaretz newspaper and Channel 10.

The war has served to boost the importance of Netanyahu’s key campaign issue – national security – and the debate about its aftermath has strengthened his hand.

“Of those who said it wasn’t a success, 37% said it was because they didn’t finish Hamas off while 31% said it wasn’t a success because they didn’t bring home [the captured Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit,” Fuchs said. Some 11% said the government failed because of the high number of Palestinian casualties.

The Turkish public is showing solid support for Erdogan’s courageous stance at Davos against Olmert’s war criminality.

A recent public survey conducted among Turks immediately after the incident in Davos revealed that 78.3 percent of the Turks polled said they welcomed Erdo?an’s protest, while 13.7 percent said it was a negative act, 5.6 percent said they had no idea and 2.4 percent responded they knew nothing about the incident.

The survey was carried out Friday by the Metropoll Strategic and Social Studies Center by telephone with 1,002 respondents from 30 cities in order to measure how Erdo?an’s public spat and protest were perceived. According to the poll, 81.7 percent welcomed the Turkish government’s policy throughout the Gaza crisis, 10.2 percent expressed disapproval and 8.1 percent said they had no idea.

The Davos incident was the peak of a month of strong rhetoric from the prime minister against Israel since its military operation into Gaza Strip began Dec. 27. Erdo?an said the offensive was “savagery” and a “crime against humanity” and said Israel should be barred from the United Nations. There had also been huge anger among the populace toward Israel’s operation in Gaza.

Erdogan pragmatically recognises Israel’s war crimes agaisnt Gaza are aligned with the Israeli elections.

On Saturday, Erdogan said once again that Israel did not act fairly and expressing his disappointment. He warned, “We have serious relations (with Israel) and they should not be sacrificed for the elections,” referring to the general elections in Israel this month.

Yet, it appears Israel is vindictively seeking to sabotage Turkey’s chances of joining the EU.

The Foreign Ministry has learned that senior European Union diplomats were highly critical of the vociferous criticism Erdogan had leveled at Israel over the operation in Gaza and for his support of Hamas.

According to one report, senior European officials said, “Erdogan wants to be part of the European Union, but now he can forget about it.”

In other war crimes news, an Israeli IDF officer has been severely reprimanded for handing out a propaganda booklet encouraging IDF to show no mercy to enemies.

The unnamed officer distributed the booklet to troops during the Israeli offensive in Gaza. It said the soldiers were fighting “murderers”.

The military said its chief rabbi, Gen Avichai Rontzki, did not know of the booklet before it was given out.

A rights group said the booklet bordered on “incitement to racism”.

The army described the case as an isolated incident.

The booklet cites an ultra-nationalist civilian rabbi who supports the Jewish settler movement in the West Bank.

The rights group, Yesh Din, said the booklet’s contents could be “interpreted as a call to act outside the confines of international laws of war”.

The Times is running a story on the ICC looking at ways to prosecute Israelis for war crimes committed in Gaza.

The alleged crimes include the use of deadly white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas, as revealed in an investigation by The Times last month. Israel initially denied using the controversial weapon, which causes horrific burns, but was forced later, in the face of mounting evidence, to admit to having deployed it.

When Palestinian groups petitioned the ICC this month, its prosecutor said that it was unable to take the case because it had no jurisdiction over Israel, a nonsignatory to the court. Now, however, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor, has told The Times that he is examining the case for Palestinian jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed in Gaza.

Palestinian groups have submitted arguments asserting that the Palestinian Authority is the de facto state in the territory where the crimes were allegedly committed.

“It is the territorial state that has to make a reference to the court. They are making an argument that the Palestinian Authority is, in reality, that state,” Mr Moreno-Ocampo told The Times at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Part of the Palestinian argument rests on the Israeli insistence that it has no responsibility for Gaza under international law since it withdrew from the territory in 2006. “They are quoting jurisprudence,” Mr Moreno-Ocampo said. “It’s very complicated. It’s a different kind of analysis I am doing. It may take a long time but I will make a decision according to law.”

Mr Moreno-Ocampo said that his examination of the case did not necessarily reflect a belief that war crimes had been committed in Gaza. Determining jurisdiction was a first step, he said, and only after it had been decided could he launch an investigation.

The prosecutor’s office has already received several files on alleged crimes from Palestinian groups and is awaiting further reports from the Arab League and Amnesty International containing evidence gathered in Gaza.

The case has wide-reaching ramifications for the Palestinian case for statehood. If the court rejects the case, it will highlight the legal black hole that Palestinians find themselves in while they remain stateless. However, it also underlines some of Israel’s worst fears about a Palestinian state on its borders. A Palestinian state that ratified the Rome treaty would then be able to refer alleged Israeli war crimes to the court without the current legal wrangling. The case could also lead to snowballing international recognition of a Palestinian state by countries eager to see Israel prosecuted.

One avenue would be for Israel to agree to investigate its commanders and prosecute any crimes discovered. That would remove any case from the orbit of the international court. So far that appears unlikely, given Israel’s repeated denials of war crimes in Gaza.

The Israeli army has, however, launched an internal inquiry into whether white phosphorus was used in some cases in built-up areas, having eventually admitted that it did use the incendiary substance, which is not illegal as a battlefield smokescreen but is banned from being used in civilian areas. Camera footage from one such attack shows what appears to be white phosphorous raining down on a UN school in Beit Lahiya, where Red Crescent ambulances and their crews were stationed.

A coalition of Israeli human rights groups has urged the country’s attorney-general to open an independent investigation into allegations of war crimes by troops, urging that to do so could head off international court cases. The groups, including the antisettlement organisation B’Tselem, said that there had been reports of Israeli forces firing into civilian areas, denying medical aid to the wounded and preventing Palestinian ambulances from reaching them, and of firing at people carrying white flags.

Meanwhile, the UN is preparing an inquiry into the bombardment of a UN school in Jabaliya, in the northern Gaza Strip. Israeli forces fired artillery shells outside the school, which had been converted into a refugee shelter for Gazans fleeing their homes. At least 43 people were killed. Israel said that Palestinian militants had fired from the compound, which was denied by the UN.

It appears the US supplied the white phosphorus shells which Israel used on civilians in Gaza.

The United States sold phosphorus artillery shells made at the Pine Bluff Arsenal to Israel — the same kind of rounds allegedly used against civilians during the recent fighting in Gaza.

A State Department official told The Associated Press that the rounds — typically used to light up darkened battlefields or provide smoke cover for combat troops — were most recently shipped to Israel in 2007. International human rights groups accuse the Israeli military of firing the chemical rounds into civilian homes, causing severe burns to those inside and killing at least one woman.

The State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity over the sensitivity of the issue, stressed that the white phosphorus rounds should only be used to “obscure, and thereby protect, troops and their movements.” The official said the United States would take any unauthorized use of the rounds seriously and “would take appropriate, corrective action.”

Amnesty International has issued a report about a shelling in a residential area of Gaza City, concluding that Israel used white phosphorus rounds improperly. Amnesty also said Israel used white phosphorus shells in an attack on U.N. warehouses in Gaza City on Jan. 15, an incident that infuriated U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Amnesty has accused Israel of committing a war crime by firing the munitions into densely populated areas.

More from Amnesty, this time on Israel’s attacks on ambulances and paramedics.

Emergency medical rescue workers, including doctors, paramedics and ambulance drivers, repeatedly came under fire from Israeli forces while they were carrying out their duties. At least seven were killed and more than 20 were injured while they were transporting or attempting to collect the wounded and the dead.

In one case Arafa Hani Abd-al-Dayam, a paramedic, was killed by flechettes, tiny metal darts packed 5-8,000 to a shell, which should never be used in civilian areas (see yesterday’s post).

On 4 January 2009, an ambulance arrived about 15 minutes after a missile strike in Beit Lahiya that apparently targeted five unarmed young men. It was hit a few minutes later by a tank shell filled with flechettes.

Two paramedics were seriously wounded in the incident. One of them, Arafa Hani Abd-al-Dayam, later died. Examining the wall of the shop beside where the ambulance had been, we found it pierced by hundreds of these darts.

In another case, three paramedics in their mid 20s – Anas Fadhel Na’im, Yaser Kamal Shbeir, and Raf’at Abd al-‘Al – were killed in the early afternoon of 4 January in Gaza City as they walked through a small field on their way to rescue two wounded men in a nearby orchard. A 12-year-old boy, Omar Ahmad al-Barade’e, who was standing near his home indicating to the paramedic the place where the wounded were, was also killed in the same strike.

Artintifada has a chilling first hand account of life during Israel’s attack from Gazan Rehaf Alagha.

Doctors say that some of these bombs -that were used on us – are made in the U.S.A. and they have caused instant cancer. These will die within 6-7 months. More than 1,300 are already dead, more than 5500 are injured. How many more will be dead in 6-7 months…. you do the math!! Oh but then I guess Israel will not count them as “civilians” that are killed as a result of what they have done, they’re “human shields,” right?
Who would use their own children as human shields??!! The Israeli army does it all the time, but of course to our children. But who would do that to their own children, it’s just ridiculous. The Israeli army they handcuff Palestinian kids to their cars so protesters wont throw rocks at them. They have children and even adults walk in front of the army as it goes around the town going into houses. How dare they say we use human shields, how dare they say the red cross or the UN schools or the shelters or where they store the food that has come for us, or the ambulances, or where reporters are staying (all places that are clearly marked and they have the coordinates for) are carrying weapons or resistance fighters… They only try to justify what cannot be justified. As for the resistance fighters they do not go near any such area. Even the homes they justify bombing them and say there were weapons inside, come look, come have an independent organization to come look… there is nothing of the sort.

George Mitchell meets with King Abdullah in Saudia:

… any Middle East solution should ensure the establishment of an independent state for the Palestinians where they can live, the agency said. Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal attended the talks at the king’s palace in Riyadh.

King Abdullah, who is the main architect of the Arab peace initiative, held talks with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa before meeting Mitchell. During the meeting Abdullah and Moussa discussed “the Arab League’s efforts to tackle Arab issues, most importantly the Palestinian issue,” the SPA said.

Several years on, the Arab League is still waiting a formal response from Israel to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. This point was reiterated at Davos by Amr Moussa. It is likely that Bibi will continue to ignore the initiative, which guarantees recognition of Israel by Arab states in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state and and an Israeli withdrawal on the Syrian front.

Enjoy Flashpoint’s BEST OF FLASHPOINT Gaza War Crimes Special – Part One compiled by Dennis Bernstein and Nora Barrows-Friedman.

Ali Abunimah comments on the situation Mitchell faces in Israel and Palestine:

Like Irish nationalists, Palestinians will never recognize the “right” of another group to discriminate against them. Like Protestant unionists, Israeli Jews insist on their own state. Israel’s solution is to cage Palestinians into ghettos — like Gaza — and periodically bomb them into submission.

If Mitchell is allowed to apply Northern Ireland’s lessons, there may be a way out, but he’ll face obstacles he didn’t encounter in Belfast. The Obama administration remains committed to the failed partition formula of a Jewish state and a Palestinian state and maintains a misguided boycott of Hamas, which won Palestinian elections in 2006. And the Israel lobby — much more powerful than Irish-American groups — warps U.S. policy to favor the stronger side, an intransigent Israel. If these policies don’t change, the hope Mitchell brings will be wasted, and escalating violence will fill the political vacuum.