Israel's bloody assault on Gaza continues

Issue 

"It's absolutely impossible, unbelievable, it's a massacre."

This is how International Solidarity Movement activist
Eva Bartlett described Israel's latest, ongoing slaughter of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in a January 3 Electronic Intifada article. "They know no limits now", Bartlett reported a medic as stating. "They are going crazy."

Israel has been bombing Gaza continuously since December 27 and began its ground invasion on January 3. Close to 700 Palestinians had been killed by January 8. Around 3000 Palestinians have been injured, according to Palestinian medical reports. Almost a third of those killed are children, according to Gazan medics.

Worse still, on January 4 Press TV reported that medics in Gaza had stated they had found traces of depleted uranium in victims of Israel's bombings.

Among the civilian targets of Israeli bombs have been the Islamic University, schools, police stations, beaches, bridges and tunnels used to deliver urgently needed supplies into Gaza from Egypt.

Israel has called up 9000 military reservists to bolster its ranks for the ground offensive amid the worst military attack on Palestinians since the 1967 Six Day War when Israel seized control of Gaza from Egypt.

Israel has attempted to present its slaughter as legitimate self-defence in response to the firing into Israel of home-made rockets from Gaza. Such rockets have killed four people since the resumption of rocket fire that followed the collapse of the cease-fire negotiated in June between Israel and the Hamas-led government in Gaza.

Victim as aggressor

However, this claim turns the victim in to the aggressor and visa versa. Under the terms of the cease-fire, Israel was supposed to ease its medieval-style siege maintained on Gaza since mid-2007. Israel not only failed to do so, but also broke the cease-fire with military attacks on Gaza, such as the November 4 incursion that killed six people and kidnapped six more.

With Israel refusing to follow the cease-fire's terms, Hamas declared the cease-fire over and resumed the firing of rockets. Hamas has repeated that a new cease-fire would require a cessation of Israel's military attacks and a lifting of the siege.

The disproportion between Palestinian and Israeli casualties is dramatic and reveals the lie that Israel's actions are self defence. Paul McGeough, in the January 5 Sydney Morning Herald, wrote: "Consider the toll — 20 Israeli deaths [from Palestinian rockets] spread over eight years, which is about half the number of deaths in just a month of Israeli traffic accidents — and it all loses its oomph as a casus belli."

The real intentions of the Israeli government were revealed at the UN in New York when Israeli ambassador, Gabriella Shalev, stated on December 29 that the war on Gaza will last "as long as it takes to dismantle Hamas completely".

The Hamas government won control of the Palestinian Authority in the 2006 democratic elections.

However, Israel and other Western powers immediately refused to recognise a Hamas-led government and fighting between the US-backed Fatah faction left the latter in control of the West Bank, with the elected government holding onto to power in Gaza.

Since Fatah failed to overthrow Hamas, Israel has subjected the 1.5 million people in Gaza to collective punishment via an 18-month long siege.

According to a December 19 Palestine Chronicle article, Israel has been "limiting even the most basic of humanitarian supplies including food, fuel, clothing, cooking oil and medicine.

As a result, according to Iran's Press TV, hundreds of patients have died, 40 percent of ambulances have stopped running due to lack of fuel, and 75 percent of Gaza's children suffer from malnutrition."

The article reported that some families have resorted to eating grass.

The International Committee for the Red Cross Medical emergency team have been prevented from entering Gaza and the territory is desperately short of critical medical supplies needed to treat the constantly growing numbers injured by Israeli attacks.

Reporting from Shifa hospital in Gaza on January 3, Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros stated that many casualties are being treated on the floor due to a chronic bed shortage.

Outgoing US President George Bush placed the entire blame for the campaign of terror unleashed by Israel on the Hamas government. Bush stated: "I urge all parties to pressure Hamas to turn away from terror, and to support legitimate Palestinian leaders working for peace."

Shamefully, president-elect Barack Obama has refused to even comment on the war, beyond a spokesperson reiterating the "special relationship" between Israel and the US.

This places both Bush and Obama at odds with US public opinion, with a July WolrdPublicOpinion.org poll revealing 71% of US people supported the US backing neither side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while a January 3 Salon.com article reported that a poll of Democrat voters opposed Israel's current offensive by 24 points.

A number of Arab governments have come under fire from their populations for refusing to take a strong stand in defence of Gaza. The leader of Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, who told a January 1 Beirut rally that the decision by Arab foreign ministers to take the Gaza issue to the UN Security Council on January 5 would simply give Israel more time to smash Palestinian resistance.

The UN Security Council failed to even pass a motion after the US objected to even the mildest criticism of Israel's campaign of slaughter.

'A monstrosity'

UN General Assembly president Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, a former Nicaraguan foreign secretary, blasted Israel's war as "a monstrosity" and slammed the failure of the Security Council to condemn it, according to a January 5 Sydney Morning Herald report.

Brockman told the media on January 3: "To say that the violence now erupted because of some rockets fired by Hamas is to ignore the fact" that Israel's occupation over Palestinian territory "is a violent thing".

The Australian government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has echoed the US's defence of Israel on the grounds of "self-defence", although conditioning it with a call for a cease-fire and the opening of the border crossings.

To help prevent the truth about the situation in Gaza becoming more widely known, Israel has imposed strict restrictions on the media's access to the besieged territory. Al Jazeera is the only media outlet currently with a permanent base in Gaza.

Resistance

The aim of the current bombings and invasion are not to do with stopping the firing of home-made rockets, but breaking the back of any Palestinian resistance to Israeli domination.

However, if Israel attempts to occupy the whole of Gaza, it is likely to face strong resistance that could potentially exact a heavy toll, with fierce clashes already reported.

Inside Israel, the left-wing and anti-war Hadash party, which unites Palestinian and Jewish people, has been helping organise internal opposition to Israel's crimes.

Dov Khenin, a Hadash party Knesset (parliament) member, told US radio program Democracy Now on December 31 that any return to a cease-fire that did not include justice for Palestinians would be a dead end.

"The first thing to do right now is to decide on immediate and total cease-fire … [It] should include also a lifting on the blockade on Gaza, because it is impossible to continue the situation existing before the war when one-and-a-half million Palestinians were, you know, in impossible conditions …

"Now, if we stop the war and move forward into a total and real cease-fire and lifting the blockade on Gaza, it can create the first condition for the restart of peace process between Israelis and Palestinians."

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