Thursday, 22 November 2012

Israel's last day killing spree

As an uneasy truce holds over Gaza today, evidence unfolds of the particularly wilful carnage inflicted yesterday by Israel.

The object, we may assume: kill as many Palestinian civilians as possble before the ceasefire comes into effect.

As detailed by Chris McGreal from Gaza City:
The doctors, the ambulance drivers, the human rights monitors all said it was one of the worst days. But no one could be sure just how bad until the reports from the morgues, or of funerals held without fanfare, or of the recovery of another body from under the rubble, dribbled in.

By Wednesday afternoon, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) was reporting 31 Palestinians killed in the Israeli assault over the previous 24 hours – 21 of them civilians – in perhaps the worst bloodletting yet of the military campaign against Gaza.

And even as a ceasefire was announced on Wednesday evening, the bombs and missiles were still falling and the death toll rising with a strike in the south of the enclave that killed two men on motorcycles, and bodies were still being pulled from a bombed Gaza City government complex.

The latest victims included Ibrahim Mahmoud Nasser Abu Nasser, 80, and his 14-year-old grandson, Ameera, who were cropping olive trees in Abassan village to the east of Khan Yunis refugee camp when a missile shot from the sky killed them both.

There were the two 16-year-olds – Mahmoud Khalil al-Arja and Ibrahim Ahmed Hamad – who died in an air strike near the southern Gaza border. Ambulance men could not reach their bodies for hours because of the continuing air assault.

Adding to the tally was 14-year-old Ahmed Awadh Abu Olayan, who died of wounds sustained on the first day of the Israeli attack on Gaza.

The Palestinian health ministry puts the total death toll at more than 150, although officials concede they may not know about all of those killed. The PCHR says at least 90 of those are civilians, including about 30 children.
Why the need, any reasonable person will ask, for so much concentrated killing, knowing that a truce was ready to come into force?

As McGreal goes on, even the 'humanitarian warnings' had been cynically calculated:
But as the reports of the killings emerged, there was something more.

The places people died told that the assault by land, sea and air – delivered from tanks, huge naval guns, attack helicopters and fighter jets – had shifted more firmly towards the tightly packed neighbourhoods of Gaza City and small towns and refugee camps.

Those were the very places thousands of Palestinians had fled to after the Israeli military dropped leaflets warning people to get out of border areas to the north and east. In Khan Yunis refugee camp in the south, residents received phone calls with a similar warning to leave or risk harm from the missiles.

The UN Palestinian refugee agency said it was sheltering thousands of people in 13 schools it runs. They arrived by donkey carts and pick-up trucks piled with mattresses.

Dozens of strikes on Gaza City killed nine civilians, including two children. A plane hit two cars with a missile each. Five people died. The PCHR said they were all civilians.

Another missile struck a garden, killing a man and wounding his eight-year-old grandchild. About 15 minutes later, a plane fired a missile into a busy road, Baghdad Street. Four died, including an 18-year-old woman. Again, all were believed to be civilians.

Then there were the targets. The Israeli army said: "The sites that were targeted were positively identified by precise intelligence over the course of several months." But many seemed to have little military value. A football stadium blown to bits. The house of a bank director flattened. Media offices wrecked.
Such is the true psychopathic nature of 'the world's most moral army'. How cynically they snuff-out innocent lives simply to terrify and demonstrate Israel's 'superiority'.

As with the above article, much of the murder, destruction and trauma have been compassionately covered by on-the-ground correspondents, such as Channel 4's Alex Thomson. In one touching report, he revisits a little boy, Awadh, after filming him and other kids taking refuge from the bombing of a UN school:
 Now he’s home. He smiles, his flitting unfocused gaze transformed since yesterday when he sat, alone, banging his head on a school desk. He suffers a serious mental disability, but now on the doorstep of home his brother Mahmoud has an arm round him. Cousin Ihab is gently shelling peanuts and offering them. He is at home again, and at peace.
There was also some humanitarian words from BBC reporters Jon Donnison and Wyre Davies. Indeed, Davies may have strayed a little too uncomfortably from 'objective' text in saying:
What has shocked me most over the last eight days - during which I have reported exclusively from Gaza, with BBC colleagues complementing in Israel - is the appallingly high number of children killed and injured. I saw four children under the age of 10 buried amid the rubble of a house when it was hit by a huge Israeli missile. Israel initially acknowledged making a mistake, but later clarified its position, saying it meant to hit the house, but that its intended target - a senior Hamas commander - was not there. The four children and several other civilians were there and were killed.
Yet, even though the over 150 dead of Gaza have been charted, some Israeli claims questioned and heart-rending accounts of human suffering dispatched, BBC and other media 'interest' will now end, another 'upsurge' duly 'covered'. Gaza, overnight, the 'truce now holding', is no longer 'newsworthy'.

Despite examples of caring journalism, the BBC, in particular, leave behind their own 'collateral damage' of imbalanced headlines and other flagrant bias by language, omission and general deference to power.

As the excellent News Unspun site note:
Last night a ceasefire came into effect after a week of attacks on Gaza which left over 150 Palestinians dead (at least 40 of them children) and rocket fire into Israel which left 5 Israelis dead. Before the news of the ceasefire became the front-page headline on the BBC News website, the headline story for the entire day concerned the bus bombing in Tel Aviv, which injured 21 civilians. Luckily this attack did not result in civilian deaths, however it was still deemed more newsworthy than the 13 Palestinians in Gaza who were killed by air strikes that same day. The news coverage was another glaring example of the different value assigned to life by our media, depending on which side of the Gaza border it resides
Likewise, Davies's call for 'breaking the cycle of violence' steers well clear of identifying the West, and America in particular, as central players in facilitating Israel and perpetuating that cycle. That's where the real questioning of big power counts.

And while the murder of Gaza has been going on, let's not forget the brutal repression continuing across the West Bank through the shooting of protestors and mass arrests. As with its usual negation of daily brutality there, little of this has been reported by the BBC.

As the guns fall silent, one can claim a political and moral 'victory', of sorts, for the Palestinians in managing to resist Israel's massive firepower and realise strategic gains.  But, of course, there can be no real resolution of the overall situation for Gaza and the West Bank until the fundamental issue of the occupation is addressed. And that includes being critically addressed by the media.

Meanwhile, as Gazans bury their dead and try to repair their shattered buildings, they know that the current truce is only a likely interlude to further Israeli massacres.

As Alex Thomson concludes, it's still not a real peace, only a ceasefire:
"everything that was in place to begin the fighting remains there. And Gaza, its government and people remain in the open mass prison of the blockade."

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