Monday, March 03, 2008


Israel has pulled back its troops from the Gaza Strip with an army spokesman saying that military operations in the territory were 'winding down'. The move on Monday came after an intense Israeli assault on the territory killed eight more Palestinians overnight, adding to the more than 100 people killed in past six days. Since last Wednesday according to the Palestinian Health Ministry 115 Palestinians have died. One third of the victims were children. 320 people were injured.

"This operation has run its course," Israeli Vice Premier Haim Ramon told Army Radio. "There were dozens of deaths among the Hamas terrorists -- this is certainly deterrence."

Ehod Olmert, the Israeli prime Minister, stated on Monday that Israel has the right to defend itself from rocket attacks launched from the Gaza and described the latest operation a success. Olmert added that" Nothing will stop us from attacking Gaza."

Olmert was later attacked by members of the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee for aborting the operation which they said contradicted pledges he and the defense minister made Sunday. Both had vowed that military ground action would press on until the Hamas missile-rocket offensive against Israeli civilians was stamped out.

Hamas, on the other hand, declared "victory" and vowed to continue firing rockets into Israel. And so the did. One of a number of Katyusha rockets fired from Gaza at Ashkelon hit a seven-story building, sending a dozen people into shock and sowing wide panic in the city of 120,000. Eight missiles exploded in Sderot, 2 in Shear Hanegev and 4 in the Eshkol farmland area south of Sderot.

MP Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, the prominent Hamas leader, on Monday emphasized that the Palestinian resistance would strongly retaliate to any future IOF incursion into the Gaza Strip.

A commentary in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz which denounced the latest Israeli incursion which has left so many dead points out that during the past two years almost 900 Gaza residents have been killed.
"Imagine if the Palestinians were to kill dozens of Israelis, including women and children, in one week, as the IDF did. What an international outcry we would raise, and justifiably. Only in our own eyes can we still adhere to our restrained, forbearing image. All the talk about the 'major operation' is designed to achieve only one goal: to show it is possible to be even more violent and cruel."

Israeli activists took to the streets to demand that the killing stop (see story below and picture above).

In the West Bank a majority of schools were closed, and several marches and demonstrations took place in a number of Palestinian cities and towns. Dozens of Palestinians have been injured in the southern West Bank protesting the attack on Gaza. In Bethlehem, for example, students marched to the Israeli separation wall near Rachael's Tomb. Young Palestinians pelted Israeli military vehicles with stones and empty bottles. The soldiers fired live ammunition, tear gas and sound grenades. Ten people were injured, witnesses said.

The military wing of Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, claimed responsibility on Monday for shooting two Israeli soldiers near Kissufeim.

They said in a statement that the operation came as part of a series of responses to the ongoing Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people.

Separately, Islamic Jihad's Al-Quds Brigades claimed responsibility on Monday for launching a homemade projectile at the Israeli town of Sderot in the western Negev.

The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), launched mortar shells at forces stationed on Mount Al-Kashif east of Jabalia.

Meanwhile, Israeli MK Yisrael Katz said on Monday Israel must carpet bomb the Gaza Strip as the Russians did to the Chechen capital, Grozny. "All the buildings near which projectiles have been launched should be destroyed to the ground since there is no solution for the projectiles' problem," said Katz, who is a member of the right-wing Likud party.

According to Katz, the Israeli air forces should drop leaflets from the air ordering the residents of Gaza Strip to leave their homes, and then the warplanes should destroy every building near where the projectiles are launched. "They could flee to the Sinai," he said, referring to Palestinians who would be displaced by his plan.

Not everyone was quite so bellicose.

The Alternative Information Center (AIC), an internationally oriented, progressive, joint Palestinian-Israeli activist group, denounced Israel’s killing of over 140 Palestinians in Gaza since last Wednesday and called on the international community to intervene immediately. We all know that won't happen.

The Al Mezan Center For Human Rights issued a report stating that the Israeli army killed 107 residents, including 55 civilians, 27 children and six women in the period between February 27 and March 3.

The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem expressed grave concern at the large number of children and other uninvolved civilians among those killed and wounded in the Gaza Strip in recent days.

According to B'Tselem figures, from 27 February to the afternoon of 3 March, 106 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip. B'Tselem stated, "Contrary to the Chief of Staff’s contention that ninety percent were armed, at least fifty-four of the dead (twenty-five of them minors) did not take part in the hostilities. In addition, at least forty-six minors were wounded." Their statement continued, "...initial examination of a few of the many incidents in which civilians were killed raise the grave concern that the Israeli army used excessive and disproportionate force, and failed to distinguish between uninvolved civilians and Palestinians who took part in the fighting. Such attacks may constitute a breach of the laws of war."

B'Tselem like many other groups also condemned the firing of rockets across the border by Hamas and their supporters into Israel which has resulted in fatalities. A statement from the group released on February 27 said, "The Palestinian government must do everything it can to stop the rocket fire and the Palestinian organizations must cease their attacks aimed at civilians. In refraining from taking action to stop the firing, and especially given its active participation in these attacks, the Palestinian government in the Gaza Strip gravely breaches international law and commits war crimes."

The following is from Gush Shalom (Israeli peace group).


For four days, since the beginning of the Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip, the situation has deteriorated and become intolerable. More than a hundred Palestinians have been killed, most of them children, women and other civilians, while an Israeli civilian and two soldiers also lost their lives. Hundreds of wounded are filling the few hospitals.

In all the Israeli peace movements, there arose an urgent need for a demonstration to protest against the madness - the more so as the media, as usual, accompanied the action with rabid war propaganda, and hardly any sane voice was heard in public.

Today (March 3) hundreds of protesters came together opposite the Ministry of Defense in Tel-Aviv, in order to express their protest against the continued killing, which starts to look like a massacre. The demonstrators shouted in unison angry slogans, such as "Barak, Barak. Minister of Defense - How many civilians have you killed until today?" and "How long will blood be shed - The people of Gaza are human beings!"

The police was ready in great force, but it seems that the many high-ranking officers present had given an order to show restraint. However, several fights broke out and some protesters were arrested.

Over the demonstration, the flags of the various movement were waving, including the two-nations flag of Gush Shalom, the national flag of Peace Now and the red flag of the Communists. MK Dov Hanin of Hadash and Gamal Zahalka of Balad were present, as well as Yariv Oppenheimer of Peace Now, Tamar Gozansky of Hadash and Jonathan Pollak of the Anerchists.

Answering questions of Journalists, former MK Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom said: "Government and army spokesmen admit quite openly that a cease-fire could be achieved within the hour, but that the government refuses to do this so that 'Hamas would not fix the rules of the game'. This proves that the real aim of the action is not to stop the launching of the rockets, but to break Hamas. That is a criminal play with the lives of human beings, most of them unarmed, including the children on both sides of the border. The aim, of course, will not be achieved."

In the course of the demonstration, many of the participants signed a joint Israeli-Palestinian petition for a cease-fire, which is now being prepared simultaneously both in the Gaza Strip and in Israel.

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