December 28, 2008

Bombings in Gaza

How is this being reported on CNN, Fox News, and NBC? Is it being reported at all? Its a big deal here, as well it should be. I was sitting watching Al-Jazeera with my host mother and she made the observation: "Its these actions that create recruits for al-Qaeda, that help encourage hatred of whole peoples." Well said. I have heard it said, in defense of Israel, that Hamas fired first, and that the Israelis are wiping out 'terrorists'. By and large, the first statement is true; Israel performs these bombing strikes in retaliation. But in retaliation for WHAT? Does the fact that 4 people were killed by a Hamas rocket attack justify flattening homes and villages and killing nearly 300 people?

The logic that justifies such actions is the logic of raw power, the power of the world's most powerful military (US) and all the privileges it brings. It is not the logic of justice, or even the logic of revenge (eye for an eye or tooth for a tooth) but the delusional and dangerous belief in the supremacy of pure force. And this belief is in my opinion, infinitely more threatening to the world at large than the irresponsible provocations of a ragtag militia turned government in Gaza.

From The AP
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israeli warplanes pressing one of Israel's deadliest assaults ever on Palestinian militants dropped bombs and missiles on a top security installation, a mosque, a TV station and dozens of other targets across the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Sunday.

Some 280 Palestinians have been killed and 600 people wounded since Israel's campaign to quash rocket barrages from Gaza began at midday Saturday, a Gaza health official said. Most of the dead were Hamas police. Israel launched some 250 airstrikes in the first 24 hours.

Israel's prime minister said the campaign could last longer than initially anticipated and the Israeli Cabinet approved the callup of thousands of reservists at its weekly meeting Sunday. Infantry and armored units were already headed to the Gaza border for a possible ground invasion.

Militants, unbowed, kept up the pressure on Israel, firing dozens more rockets and mortars at Israeli border communities Sunday. Two rockets struck close to the largest city in southern Israel, Ashdod, some 38 kilometers (23 miles) from Gaza, reaching deeper into Israel than ever before. The targeting of Ashdod confirmed Israel's concern that militants are capable of putting major cities within rocket range. No injuries were reported.

The Palestinians' moderate President Mahmoud Abbas, a fierce rival of Hamas, urged the Islamic militant group to renew a truce with Israel that collapsed last week.

In New York, the U.N. Security Council expressed serious concern about the escalating situation in Gaza and called on Israel and the Palestinians to immediately halt all violence and military activities. The U.N.'s most powerful body called for a new cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and for opening border crossings into Gaza to enable humanitarian supplies to reach the territory.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak allowed limited supplies of fuel and medicine to enter Gaza.

Many of Israel's Western allies urged restraint on both sides, though the U.S. blamed Hamas for the fighting.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, Israel's closest ally on the Security Council, said "the key issue here was not to point a finger at Israel. The key issue was to urge all parties to end the violence and address the humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza."

Israel's U.N. Ambassador Gabriela Shalev said that in the face of constant rocket attacks, Israel had "no choice but to go on a military operation and the only party to blame is the Hamas."

The offensive began eight days after a six-month truce between Israel and the militants expired. The Israeli army says Palestinian militants have fired more than 300 rockets and mortars at Israeli targets over the past week and 10 times that number over the past year.

Streets were empty in Gaza City on Sunday as most residents stayed home, fearing more airstrikes. A few lined up to buy bread outside two bakeries. Schools were shut for a three-day mourning period the Gaza government declared Saturday for the campaign's dead.

Hamas police kept a low profile, wearing jackets over their dark blue uniforms and walking close to walls, hoping to evade the detection by Israeli pilots.

Aircraft struck one of Hamas' main security compounds in Gaza City — a major symbol of the group's authority. Health officials said four people were killed and 25 wounded in the attack.

A column of black smoke towered from the building and some inmates of the compound's prison fled after the missiles struck. Hamas police nabbed some of them.

One prisoner trapped under the rubble waved his hand in the hope of being rescued. Two other prisoners helped a bleeding friend walk through the debris.

Minutes after the strike, Hamas police defiantly planted the movement's green flag in the rubble.

"These strikes fuel our popular support, our military power and the firmness of our positions," said Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas legislator. "We will survive, we will move forward, we will not surrender, we will not be shaken."

Senior Hamas leaders went into hiding before the offensive began, shutting off their phones. Hamas' Gaza prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, spoke on a televised address on Saturday evening but it was not immediately clear where the address was taped.

Earlier, Palestinians said Israeli bombs destroyed a mosque outside Gaza's main hospital in Gaza City; the military called it a "base for terrorist activities."

In southern Gaza, aircraft targeted a Gaza tanker truck, touching off a blaze that raged out of control and spread to about a dozen nearby houses. One of the main medicine warehouses supplying local pharmacies in southern Gaza was attacked in another sortie.

Local residents said the tanker and the warehouse contained supplies that had been smuggled in from Gaza through underground tunnels with Egypt, suggesting Israel was widening its offensive to go after businesses that are a source of income for Hamas.

Warplanes attacked the headquarters of the local Hamas television station early Sunday, but it continued to broadcast from a mobile unit.

The initial waves of attacks Saturday focused on key Hamas security installations and rocket-launching pads.

Gaza health official Dr. Moaiya Hassanain said at least 280 people were killed, including 183 members of Hamas' uniformed security forces. It was not clear how many of the others were gunmen or civilians.

The civilian casualties included a 15-year-old boy who died in southern Gaza on Sunday in an attack on a greenhouse near the border. At least 644 people were wounded, Hassanain said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said it was unclear when the operation would end. The situation in southern Israel "is liable to last longer than we are able to foresee at this time," he told his Cabinet.

Benayahu said Israel's objective was not to halt all rocket attacks but to cripple militants' intention and motivation to assault Israel. "To change the situation, we don't have to go after the last of the rocket launchers," Benayahu told Army Radio.

The rockets that struck close to Ashdod, extending the militants' reach closer to Israel's heartland, landed some 23 miles (38 kilometers) from Gaza. Gaza's Hamas rulers have been stockpiling weapons in recent months, including medium-range missiles. Until Sunday, the deepest targets inside Israel had been the city of Ashkelon and the town of Netivot, which are about 12 miles (20 kilometers) from Gaza.

Since the campaign began, around 150 rockets and mortars have bombarded southern Israel, according to the military's count.

In Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 people about 11 miles (17 kilometers) from Gaza, bustling sidewalks immediately emptied after a rocket fell downtown. "I am afraid to walk," said Tzipi Moshe, 59, nervously puffing a cigarette as she ran into a building for cover.

The Palestine Liberation Organization, dominated by Abbas' Fatah movement, called a one-day commercial strike through the West Bank and urged Palestinians to take to the streets in peaceful protests.

Israel's military was on alert for possible disturbances in the West Bank. The campaign has inflamed public opinion across the Arab world, which has responded with protests and condemnations.


Additional reporting by Aron Heller in Ashkelon. Amy Teibel reported from Jerusalem.


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