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Holocaust in Gaza


Warpigs

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The author is a resident of Rafah. Please visit his website at www.rafahtoday.org. But be forewarned: there are harrowing photos of the injuries and devastation caused by the Israeli rampages on Gaza.

"Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves…politically we are the aggressors and they defend themselves… The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country.”

Speech by Israel's founder David Ben-Gurion, 1938, quoted in Zionism and the Palestinians by Simha Flapan, 1979

We stopped the Germans. Will we stop these aggressors too?

The "Days of Penitence":

Gaza Sinks in a Sea of Blood

by Mohammed Omer: www.rafahtoday.org

It smells unbelievably bad here. To walk down any

street—if you dare to—you skirt, or sometimes unavoidably

walk through, pools of blood. There are shreds of human

flesh—some of them unrecognizable as human remains—all

over, on rooftops, plastered to broken windows, on the

street. The stench of rotting blood mixes with the more

acrid odor of flesh burnt to black char by the rockets

fired by the Israeli Army's American-made Apache

helicopters.

The sky is full of black smoke, some from the rocket

explosions, but even more, it sometimes seems, from the

endless fires of tires and other debris that people keep

stoking. The smoke confuses the heat-seeking unmanned

drone surveillance planes, so setting fires in any

relatively open area may draw fire and let a bomb explode

somewhat harmlessly.

All this smoke mixed with plaster and cement dust is a

blessing and a curse. The stench of burning flesh and

rotting blood masks to some extent the smell of raw sewage

from broken sewer pipes and the tens of thousands of bodies

unwashed for over a week now. Water to drink is a rare and

precious commodity here—baths and showers have become

impossible luxuries.

Your eyes inevitably tear up from all the smoke—but then,

that protects you a tiny bit from some of the more

harrowing sights—recognizable body parts—a piece of a leg,

an obvious part of a torso, and fingers—more scattered,

individual, recognizable fingers than anyone should ever

have to see. Volunteer crews are gathering these human

fragments and bringing them to Jabalya's two hospitals but

the ambulances cannot possibly keep up with the flood of

newly dead and injured.

Funeral processions are everywhere, and "houses of

mourning"—the tents bereaved families set up in which to

receive their families and friends. In fact, though, every

house here, those relatively intact and those partly or

wholly destroyed by the IDF tanks and bulldozers, is a

house of mourning.

And nothing protects you from the sounds—the tears and

laments of the mothers and fathers, husbands, wives and

children of the dead, the screams of the injured, the wail

of ambulance sirens, sniper fire, the thud of tank shells

and the too-frequent explosions as another Apache shell

lands.

Time is distorted here—hours feel like days, days like

weeks or months. This is Jabalya Refugee Camp in the

Northern Gaza Strip, one of the most crowded places on

earth where 106,000 men, women, and children, the

overwhelming majority of them unarmed civilians, have been

under an all-out attack for over a week now.

Israel's official position is that this carnage is a

"response" to Palestinian militants' firing a homemade

Qassam rocket into the Israeli town of Sderot last week, a

rocket which killed two children. In fact, though, the

first tanks rumbled into Jabalya some hours before the

rocket attack on Sderot, and we had all been watching with

alarm as the Israeli forces multiplied in northern Gaza

over the last few weeks—2000 fresh troops, over a hundred

more tanks and bulldozers.

It is only when I sit down to write up my notes made here

in the last few days that the cruelty of the IDF name for

this attack—"Days of Penitence"—hits me. They are not just

slaughtering unarmed civilians, but language itself.

"Penitence," as I understand it, is voluntary remorse for

wrong-doing. Is this massacre supposed to induce remorse

in its victims? Are they supposed to mourn the deaths of

four or five Israeli soldiers, and two Israeli children and

accept the death of more than 60 Palestinian civilians as

some kind of justice? To those of us trapped in Jabalya,

it seems like Days of Revenge. It is unquestionably

collective punishment, and illegal under the Geneva

Conventions.

Perhaps we should not be surprised. Israel's Prime

Minister Ariel Sharon has announced this attack will last

"as long as necessary," that is, until there is "no further

danger" from the Palestinian resistance's homemade rockets.

Sharon, of course, engineered the massacres of Sabra and

Shatila over twenty years ago. Now, he is doing much the

same, but with vastly improved weaponry.

Of course, the militant factions exist, and have been

striking here and there during this last week but they are

vastly outnumbered, not to mention out-gunned, by the

Israelis. Hamas, on its side, has distributed leaflets in

Gaza City vowing to continue the rocket attacks on the

illegal Israeli settlements in Gaza and any Israeli towns

and cities their home-made ordnance can reach as long as

the Israeli incursions continue.

International protests have been muted, and stymied by

United States support for Israel. The lone, feeble voice

from the US State Department urged Israel to keep its

"response" "proportional"—after, of course, the obligatory

mantra, "Israel has a right to defend itself." A strongly

worded resolution condemning the attack brought before the

UN at the beginning of the week was defeated by the US

veto.

It is hard to maintain accurate casualty figures—the most

recent count seems to be 80 Palestinians killed (20 of them

militants claimed by Hamas) and over 200 injured.

Unquestionably, by the time this is printed, the figures

will be higher.

There is no refuge anywhere in Jabalya. The hospitals are

chaotic, supplies are short and all medical personnel have

been working around the clock for days now.

I saw Abu Nedal, the father of Nedal Al Madhown a 14

year-old boy, struggle to maintain his composure as he

asked the exhausted doctors and ambulance drivers, "Was my

son killed? Has he been killed?" (In fact, the boy was

dead on arrival..) The majority of the dead and injured

have been teens and children, obvious non-combatants.

I interviewed Dr. Mahmoud Al Asali, the director of Kamal

Adwan Hospital, who told me he was forced to assume the

Israeli Army has been deliberately targeting civilians. He

said most of those injured by gunfire were wounded in the

upper parts of their bodies, indicating the Israeli

sharpshooters must have orders to shoot to kill.

Palestinian doctors have removed many flechettes from the

dead and injured, indicating the IDF are using illegal

fragmentation bombs. These release razor sharp flechettes

as they explode. Dr. Al Asali says these illegal

fragmentation devices greatly increase the number of deaths

and the number and severity of injuries. The IDF has

refused to comment on this.

The hospital staffs and ambulance crews are so overextended

that they are using volunteers for the gruesome task of

collecting, sorting, and attempting to match scattered

human remains to return as much as possible to bereaved

families. One of these medical workers, Ahmed Abu Saall

26, from Kamal Aswan Hospital, told me, "One enormous

difficulty we face is that these powerful bombs can scatter

the parts of a single victim over a wide area. It is quite

possible parts of a person could end up in Al Awda hospital

in the east of the camp, while other parts of the same

person end up with us here on the western side." Sometimes

shreds of clothing can help with the matching.

The Israeli Army has frequently shot at the medical teams

and journalists. So far, two ambulance drivers have been

injured, and a cameraman from Ramatan News Agency has been

hurt. Of course, the ambulance crews and press all wear

identifying gear.

Israel has closed all borders into Gaza and has severely

restricted all movement within the Gaza Strip. There are

three major "zones" split off by sealed military

checkpoints, but recent days have seen numerous new

checkpoints, and roads closed by cement block and sand

obstructions. People cannot move between cities, not even

ambulances bringing patients to hospitals. Moreover, the

main Israel-Gaza crossing is closed, even to international

NGOs, humanitarian relief groups, and foreign journalists.

Intense as the military attack has been, and continues to

be, it is certainly not the only danger to the people here.

Many families now have been without food and water for

days. In Tal Al Zattar, the eastern part of Jabalya, I

interviewed Umm Ramzi, an elderly lady who spoke to me

through the gaping hole a tank shell had left in her house.

"We have been appealing to the Red Cross, to save our lives

and the lives of our children, but nobody has responded."

Most of the NGO workers and relief organizations

have—logically enough—assumed they cannot get through the

Israeli military lines that completely surround Jabalya,

although they are well aware that the civilians need help.

I managed to reach the International Committee of the Red

Cross (ICRC), spokesman Simon Schorno by phone and he told

me: "I'm in my way to Gaza now. We have been talking to

the IDF to get permission to bring food and water, but we

were not able to get an OK for complete food distribution".

Concerning the absence of the Red Cross in the past few

days when many families were in urgent need, Mr. Schorno

said, "I feel terrible. We are trying to do our best to

get food and water inside, but the damaged streets also

delay us from reaching the people."

A number of eyewitnesses among the camp residents told me

the Israeli Army has commandeered several high buildings as

sniper posts and basically shoot anything that moves. One

of the most recent victims was Islam Dweidar, 14, who took

a chance during an apparent lull in firing to buy bread for

her mother. However, she was shot in the head by an

Israeli sniper.

In the Southern part of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Army

has increased the number of tanks and bulldozers in all

parts of Khan Younis and Rafah. There has been shelling

every night, with many injured and killed. This morning, I

spoke by phone to Dr. Ali Mussa, director of Abu Yousif Al

Najjar Hospital in Rafah who announced that 13-year-old

Eman al Hums had been killed by Israeli sniper fire. He

said, "the child arrived at the hospital after being

riddled by twenty bullets in different parts of her body,

five of them in her head."

Palestinian eyewitnesses reported that Al Hums was killed

while on her way to school with two other schoolgirls. In

early media reports, the IDF said she was planting a bomb;

they later were forced to admit the accusation was false.

These current attacks are now far worse than the so-called

"Operation Rainbow" of last May, which killed 40 in Rafah

and prompted an international outcry. Now, the silence

from America, in particular, seems to condone this turning

the Gaza Strip into a killing field. Sharon has picked his

moment well, when America is preoccupied with its

presidential campaign and its invasion of Iraq, to decimate

the children of Gaza. How many more must die before the

world speaks out?

-----------------------

RAFAH TODAY www.rafahtoday.org

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