Israel


RAFAH, Gaza Strip — It was clear from the bod­ies laid out in the park­ing lot of the ma­ter­ni­ty hos­pi­tal here that it had as­sumed new du­ties: No longer a place that wel­comed new life, it was now a make­shift morgue.

Oth­er bod­ies lay in hall­ways and on the floor of the kitchen at Hi­lal Emi­rati Ma­ter­ni­ty Hos­pi­tal. In the walk-in cool­er, they were stacked three high, wait­ing for rel­a­tives to claim them for burial.

Sat­ur­day was the sec­ond day of heavy bom­bard­ment by Is­raeli forces on this city on Gaza’s bor­der with Egypt af­ter Is­rael’s an­nounce­ment that one of its of­fi­cers had been cap­tured by Pal­es­tin­ian mil­i­tants here dur­ing a clash.

But ear­ly Sun­day morn­ing, the Is­raeli mil­i­tary an­nounced that the of­fi­cer, Sec­ond Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, was now con­sid­ered to have been killed in bat­tle.

Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
Medics at a field hospital in Rafah, Gaza Strip. More than 120 Palestinians were killed in Rafah alone on Friday and Saturday.

“It is just an ex­cuse,” said Dr. Ab­dul­lah She­hadeh,

di­rec­tor of the Abu Yousef al-Na­j­jar Hos­pi­tal, the city’s larg­est. “There is no rea­son for them to force the women and chil­dren of Gaza to pay the price for some­thing that hap­pened on the bat­tle­field.”

Af­ter two days of Is­raeli shelling and airstrikes, cen­tral Rafah ap­peared de­serted on Sat­ur­day, with shops closed and res­i­dents hid­ing in their homes. The pres­ence of Is­raeli forces east of the city had caused many to flee west, crowd­ing in with friends and rel­a­tives in neigh­bor­hoods by the Med­i­ter­ra­nean.

More than 120 Pales­tini­ans were killed in Rafah alone on Fri­day and Sat­ur­day — the dead­li­est two days in the city since the war be­gan 25 days ago. Those deaths, and hun­dreds of in­ju­ries, over­whelmed the city’s health care fa­cil­i­ties.

Mak­ing mat­ters worse, Is­raeli shells hit the cen­tral Na­j­jar hos­pi­tal on Fri­day af­ter­noon, Dr. She­hadeh said, lead­ing its em­ploy­ees and pa­tients to evac­u­ate.

To con­tinue re­ceiv­ing pa­tients, his staff mem­bers moved to the small­er Ku­waiti Spe­cial­ized Hos­pi­tal, al­though it was ill equipped to han­dle the large num­ber of peo­ple seek­ing care.

Am­bu­lances screamed in­to the hos­pi­tal’s park­ing lot, where medics un­loaded cases on­to stretch­ers some­times bear­ing the blood of pre­vi­ous pa­tients. Since the hos­pi­tal had on­ly 12 beds, the staff mem­bers had lined up gur­neys out­side to han­dle the over­flow.

The city’s cen­tral hos­pi­tal had al­so housed its on­ly morgue, so its clo­sure cre­ated a new prob­lem as the ca­su­al­ties mount­ed: where to put the bod­ies.

At the Ku­waiti Spe­cial­ized Hos­pi­tal, they were put on the floor of the den­tal ward un­der a poster pro­mot­ing den­tal hy­giene. In a back room lay the bod­ies of Sa­di­ah Abu Taha, 60, and her grand­son Rezeq Abu Taha, 1, who had been killed in an airstrike on their home near­by.

Few peo­ple ap­proached the main en­trance to the pink-and-white ma­ter­ni­ty hos­pi­tal, in­stead head­ing around back, where there was a con­stant flow of bod­ies. Near­ly 60 had been left in the morgue of the cen­tral hos­pi­tal when it closed, so am­bu­lance crews who had man­aged to reach the site brought back as many bod­ies as they could car­ry. Oth­er bod­ies came from new at­tacks or were re­cov­ered from dam­aged build­ings.

New ar­rivals were laid out in the park­ing lot or car­ried down a ramp to the kitchen, fea­tur­ing a large walk-in cool­er. Some were kept on the ground, and those not claimed right away were added to the pile in the cool­er.

Word had spread that the dead were at the ma­ter­ni­ty hos­pi­tal, so peo­ple who had lost rel­a­tives came to talk to the medics or look in the cool­er for their loved ones.

One short, sun­burned man point­ed to the body of a woman wear­ing pink sweat­pants and said she was his sis­ter Souad al-Tara­bin.

The medics pulled her out, laid her on a ta­ble and wrapped her in white cloth and plas­tic. Some teenagers helped the man car­ry her body up­stairs and lay it in the back of a yel­low taxi. A man in the front seat cra­dled a small bun­dle con­tain­ing the re­mains of the woman’s 4-year-old son, Anas.

Sit­ting near­by, As­ma Abu Ju­main wait­ed for the body of her moth­er-in-law, who she said had been killed the day be­fore and was in the morgue at the cen­tral hos­pi­tal when it was evac­u­ated.

“She is an old woman,” Ms. Abu Ju­main said. “She did noth­ing wrong.”

The move­ment of bod­ies made record-keep­ing im­pos­si­ble, al­though Arafat Ad­wan, a hos­pi­tal vol­un­teer, tried to jot down names in a small red note­book he kept in his pock­et.

He wor­ried that some bod­ies would re­main there for days, be­cause fam­ilies had been scat­tered and might not know that their rel­a­tives had been killed.

“There are peo­ple in here whose fam­ilies have no idea what hap­pened to them,” he said.

Oth­ers knew they had lost rel­a­tives but could not find them.

Mo­ham­med al-Ban­na said an airstrike the morn­ing be­fore had killed nine of his in-laws, in­clud­ing his wife’s fa­ther and four of her broth­ers.

“The ag­gres­sion here is cre­at­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of youth who want re­venge for all the crimes,” he said.

He had looked at the cen­tral hos­pi­tal the day be­fore, to no avail. Then, on Sat­ur­day, he re­ceived a mes­sage sent to lo­cal cell­phones telling those who had lost rel­a­tives to re­trieve them from the ma­ter­ni­ty hos­pi­tal. He had come right away, but had not found them.

“I’ll keep wait­ing for their bod­ies to come in so we can

take them home and bury them,” he said.

Mr. Ban­na added that he had been too wor­ried to tell his wife what had hap­pened to her fam­ily and want­ed to break the news to her grad­u­ally. Ear­lier that day, she had told him that she was start­ing to wor­ry be­cause her fa­ther’s cell­phone had been switched off all day.

“I told her maybe he has no elec­tricity and his phone is dead,” Mr. Ban­na said.

 

 

JERUSALEM — The Is­raeli mil­i­tary said ear­ly Sun­day morn­ing that an of­fi­cer thought to have been cap­tured by Pales­tin­ian mil­i­tants dur­ing a dead­ly clash Fri­day morn­ing, which shat­tered a planned 72-hour cease-fire, was now con­sid­ered to have been killed in bat­tle.

The an­nounce­ment came just hours af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu vowed to con­tin­ue Is­rael’s mil­i­tary cam­paign in the Gaza Strip as long as nec­es­sary to stop Hamas at­tacks, while sug­gest­ing a de-es­ca­la­tion of the ground war in Gaza may be near.

The case of the miss­ing sol­dier, Sec­ond Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, be­came the lat­est flash point in the con­flict, prompt­ing a fierce Is­raeli bom­bard­ment and calls from lead­ers around the world for his re­lease. His dis­ap­pear­ance came af­ter Hamas mil­i­tants am­bushed Is­raeli sol­diers near the south­ern bor­der town of Rafah, at the start of what was sup­posed to have been a pause in the fight­ing.

As the death toll mount­ed Sat­ur­day to more than 1,650 Pales­tini­ans, many of them women and chil­dren, and im­ages of homes, mosques and schools smashed in­to rub­ble filled the me­dia, Mr. Ne­tanyahu was un­der con­sid­er­able in­ter­na­tion­al pres­sure, from Wash­ing­ton and Eu­rope, to end the con­flict. The Unit­ed Na­tions warned of “an un­fold­ing health dis­as­ter” in Gaza with lit­tle elec­tric­i­ty, bad wa­ter and a lack of med­ical sup­plies.

At the same time, Mr. Ne­tanyahu was un­der po­lit­i­cal pres­sure at home to de­liv­er on his promis­es to crush.

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Hamas, par­tic­u­lar­ly with 64 Is­raeli sol­diers dead. He in­sist­ed Sat­ur­day that Hamas had been se­vere­ly hurt and he warned that it would pay “an in­tol­er­a­ble price” if it con­tin­ues to fire rock­ets at Is­rael.

His for­mer deputy de­fense min­is­ter, Dan­ny Danon,who was fired by Mr. Ne­tanyahu for pub­lic crit­i­cism of the gov­ern­ment, said in a state­ment Sat­ur­day that “the cab­i­net is grave­ly mis­tak­en in its de­ci­sion to with­draw forces from Gaza. This is a step in the wrong di­rec­tion.”

But Mr. Ne­tanyahu, in a na­tion­al­ly tele­vised speech with his de­fense min­is­ter be­side him, in­sist­ed that Is­rael was achiev­ing its goals and could al­ter its tac­tics. “We promised to re­turn the qui­et to Is­rael’s cit­i­zens, and we will con­tin­ue to act un­til that aim is achieved,” Mr. Ne­tanyahu said. “We will take as much time as nec­es­sary, and will ex­ert as much force as need­ed.”

Is­rael was not end­ing its op­er­a­tion uni­lat­er­al­ly, he said, adding: “We will de­ploy in the places most con­ve­nient to us to re­duce fric­tion on I.D.F. sol­diers, be­cause we care about them.” There were Is­raeli tele­vi­sion re­ports on Sat­ur­day that some Is­rael De­fense Forces troops were pulling out of Gaza, and Is­rael in­formed Pales­tini­ans in Beit Lahiya and al-Ata­tra, in north­ern Gaza, that it was now safe to re­turn to their homes. Is­raeli of­fi­cials have said that the army’s ef­fort to de­stroy the elab­o­rate tun­nel sys­tem from Gaza in­to Is­rael would be fin­ished in the next day or two.

Is­raeli of­fi­cials sug­gest­ed that the army would leave built-up ar­eas and some forces would re­de­ploy in­side Gaza, clos­er to the bor­der fence, to re­spond to at­tacks if nec­es­sary. Oth­er units will re­turn to south­ern Is­rael.

Hamas, for its part, vowed to con­tin­ue fight­ing. Sa­mi Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, told the news agency Maan that “a uni­lat­er­al with­draw­al or re­de­ploy­ment by Is­rael in the Strip will be an­swered by a fit­ting re­sponse by the Hamas mil­i­tary arm.” He said that “the forces of oc­cu­pa­tion must choose be­tween re­main­ing in Gaza and pay­ing the price or re­treat­ing and pay­ing the price or hold­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions and pay­ing the price.”

Mr. Ne­tanyahu thanked the Unit­ed States, which along with the Unit­ed Na­tions ap­peared to sup­port Is­rael’s po­si­tion that Hamas’s ac­tions vi­o­lat­ed the cease-fire, and he asked for in­ter­na­tion­al help to re­build Gaza on the con­di­tion of its “de­mil­i­ta­riza­tion.” Is­rael ap­pears to be hop­ing that with the sup­port of Egypt and the in­ter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty, Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas of the Pales­tin­ian Au­thor­i­ty can con­trol Gaza through a uni­ty gov­ern­ment agreed up­on with Hamas and take re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for se­cu­ri­ty there and for the Rafah cross­ing to Egypt.

Mr. Ne­tanyahu re­peat­ed that his goal was to re­store “peace and calm” to Is­rael and that he in­tend­ed to do so by what­ev­er means — diplo­mat­i­cal­ly or mil­i­tar­i­ly. “All op­tions are on the ta­ble,” he said. But he in­di­cat­ed that Is­rael would not get caught up again in talk about a ne­go­ti­at­ed cease-fire with Hamas and Is­lam­ic Ji­had and would act in its own in­ter­ests, while seek­ing sup­port from Mr. Ab­bas and the in­ter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty for what Mr. Ne­tanyahu de­scribed vague­ly as “a new re­al­i­ty” in Gaza.

Is­rael has de­cid­ed not to send a del­e­ga­tion to cease-fire talks host­ed by Egypt, at least not now, Is­raeli of­fi­cials said. In Wash­ing­ton, Jen Psa­ki, a State De­part­ment

spokes­woman, said: “In the end, this par­tic­u­lar­ly bloody chap­ter will ul­ti­mate­ly re­quire a durable so­lu­tion so that all the fun­da­men­tal is­sues, in­clud­ing Is­rael’s se­cu­ri­ty, can be ne­go­ti­at­ed, and we will keep work­ing with Is­rael and oth­er part­ners to achieve that goal.” She said that Is­rael had a right to de­fend it­self.

Hours be­fore the mil­i­tary an­nounced that Lieu­tenant Goldin had died, his par­ents called on the prime min­is­ter and the army not to leave their son be­hind.

The cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing his death re­mained cloudy. A mil­i­tary spokes­woman de­clined to say whether Lieu­tenant Goldin had been killed along with two com­rades by a sui­cide bomb one of the mil­i­tants ex­plod­ed, or lat­er by Is­rael’s as­sault on the area to hunt for him; she al­so re­fused to an­swer whether his re­mains had been re­cov­ered.

As word spread on Sat­ur­day that Is­rael’s lead­ers were con­sid­er­ing pulling all ground forces from Gaza, Lieu­tenant Goldin’s fam­i­ly spoke to jour­nal­ists out­side their home in Kfar Sa­ba, a Tel Aviv sub­urb. “I de­mand that the state of Is­rael not leave Gaza un­til they bring my son back home,” said his moth­er, Hed­va. His sis­ter, Ayelet, 35, added, “If a cap­tive sol­dier is left in Gaza, it’s a de­feat.”

The fam­i­ly said they were con­vinced that Lieu­tenant Goldin was alive.

“I hope and be­lieve in hu­man kind­ness, that the world will do any­thing to bring Hadar with a smile back home,” his broth­er Che­mi, 32, said in an in­ter­view.

When his moth­er called him on Fri­day, Che­mi said, he

knew some­thing ter­ri­ble had hap­pened, but did not know whether it in­volved Lieu­tenant Goldin or his twin, Tzur, who was al­so fight­ing in Gaza. Che­mi said the twins, who at­tend­ed kinder­garten in Cam­bridge, Eng­land, did not talk much about their mil­i­tary ser­vice. In Gaza, the armed wing of Hamas said ear­ly Sat­ur­day that it was not hold­ing the Is­raeli of­fi­cer. The Qas­sam Brigades sug­gest­ed in a state­ment that the of­fi­cer might have been killed along with his cap­tors in an Is­raeli as­sault that fol­lowed a sui­cide-bomb at­tack by Pales­tin­ian mil­i­tants, who emerged from a tun­nel that Is­raeli troops were try­ing to de­stroy near Rafah.

“Un­til now, we have no idea about the dis­ap­pear­ance of the Is­raeli sol­dier,” the state­ment said. Say­ing the lead­er­ship had lost touch with its “troops de­ployed in the am­bush,” the state­ment added, “Our ac­count is that the sol­dier could have been kid­napped and killed to­geth­er with our fight­ers.”

The Is­raeli Army con­tin­ued to pound Rafah in its search for Lieu­tenant Goldin, strik­ing more than 200 tar­gets across Gaza in the 24 hours since the Rafah con­fronta­tion, in­clud­ing what it de­scribed as a “re­search and de­vel­op­ment” lab for weapons man­u­fac­tur­ing at the Is­lam­ic Uni­ver­si­ty, run by Hamas. Five mosques that the mil­i­tary said con­cealed weapons or Hamas out­posts were al­so hit, the Is­raelis said.

Around noon, a bar­rage of rock­ets flew in­to south­ern Is­rael.

The Gaza-based health min­istry, which had re­port­ed 70 peo­ple killed in Rafah on Fri­day, said the ca­su­al­ties had con­tin­ued there overnight, in­clud­ing sev­en mem­bers of one fam­i­ly who died when their home was bombed.

 

Steven Erlanger reported from Jerusalem, and Jodi Rudoren from Kfar Saba, Israel. Fares Akram contributed reporting from Gaza City, and Michael R. Gordon from Washington.

This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world. There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them. Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them. Farewell!. (CTsT)

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Singer-songwriter Rona Kenan panned by right-wing extremists after expressing sympathy for Gazan children

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An Israeli singer-songwriter canceled her show in Haifa Thursday after she was harshly criticized and threatened by right-wing Israelis who accused her of showing solidarity with the mothers of dead terrorists.

Rona Kenan announced that her acoustic show in Haifa’s Turkish Market, which was scheduled to begin at 9 p.m., would not take place due to what she described as incitement against her.

Kenan said she had been “subjected to severe verbal attacks and threats over a false report” that during a conference with Palestinian women, she had observed a moment of silence in solidarity with Palestinian “martyrs.”

She said that while she had sung two songs at the conference, she had not observed a moment of silence. But this week, right-wing extremists raised the accusations again in comments on Kenan’s Facebook page after she expressed sympathy for the children of Gaza and called for an end to war between Israel and Hamas.

The onslaught began after Kenan posted a message on July 11, three days into the Gaza war, reproaching Israeli society and the Israeli press over their reaction to the offensive in Gaza, which she described as “one of the saddest places in the world.”

Kenan expressed sympathy for the children of both Sderot and Gaza, saying it “fills her with despair” to think that they “wet their beds at night out of fear and will grow up to see each other not as human beings, but as children of the devil.”

Kenan said she was “left speechless” by the knowledge that “any objections to the war, which Israel named Operation Protective Edge, was perceived in Israeli society as treason, as a lack of solidarity.” She ended her post with a prayer for quiet both in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

While many fans echoed Kenan’s sentiments, others criticized her for overlooking the threat posed by Hamas and Iranian-funded terror groups, as well as the suffering of residents of southern Israel and the risks IDF soldiers were taking to ensure Israel’s security. Some urged her to blame Hamas, not Israel, for the plight of the children of Gaza. Yet others said the children were themselves future terrorists, with one poster saying she had thought Kenan was “smarter than that” and another calling her “hypocritical, self-righteous filth.”

One poster wrote, “I’ve never responded to people like you, but to observe a moment of silence for martyrs with whom we are engaged in combat on a daily basis? For shame, and we even provide her livelihood. With people like you among us, we don’t need enemies.”

After the Haifa show was canceled, one Facebook user suggested, “Why don’t you volunteer to sing in Gaza? I think you will find a stage to sing on there without being subjected to criticism. You’re so stupid to voice criticism in wartime.”

The Thursday evening show will still take place, but will be headlined by singer-songwriter Shai Gabso rather than Kenan.

Kenan, the daughter of Lehi underground member, sculptor and journalist Amos Kenan and author and literary scholar Nurith Gertz, has released four albums so far, to critical acclaim.

 

July 31, 2014

This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world. There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them. Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them. Farewell!. (CTsT) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

A photo of a desperate young Palestinian boy, badly wounded and screaming for his father as he clutches at the shirt of a paramedic in a hospital, has captured the tragic and bloody tension of the Gazan conflict.

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Shirtless and with cuts to his face, torso, arms and legs, the child clings to the hospital worker who is attempting to lay him flat on a girdle.

The Electronic Intifada, a pro-Palestinian publication, reports the photo, taken at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City last Thursday, was captioned with the boy’s desperate cry: ‘I want my father, bring me my father’, according to Fairfax.

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The Palestinian paper claims the young boy was one of four siblings brought to the hospital wounded, two of them just three years old.

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It comes as grinning Israeli tank commanders were pictured flashing the victory signs as they blast their way through Gaza in the bloodiest day of the offensive so far – as one resident of the troubled region said: ‘The gate of hell has opened.’

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At least 65 people have been killed since this yesterday’s dawn strike on Gaza City’s Shijaiyah neighbourhood – including the son, daughter-in-law and two small grandchildren of a senior Hamas leader.

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Hamas says it has captured an Israeli soldier – a scenario that has proven to be fraught with difficulties for the country in the past – but Israel’s U.N. Ambassador has denied the claims.

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The neighbourhood has come under heavy tank fire as Israel widened its ground offensive against Hamas, causing hundreds of residents to flee.

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The dead and wounded – including dozens of women and children – have reportedly been left in streets, with ambulances unable to approach.

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Source: (July 21, 2014)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2699772/This-desperate-little-boy-face-tragedy-Palestinian-toddler-clutches-shirt-hospital-worker-screaming-I-want-father-bring-father.html?ito=social-facebook

Israeli ground forces waded into Gaza’s most densely populated city for the first time in nearly two weeks of fighting, destroying tunnels and drawing heavy fire from Hamas militants in the deadliest day of fighting for both sides since the conflict began.

Israel said 13 soldiers were killed and Gaza officials said 96 Palestinians were killed Sunday, including 60 in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shajaiyeh where the battle of the tunnels was fought. It was also the highest toll for Israeli soldiers in a single day since a brief war with the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah in 2006, according to military records.

Hamas’s military wing also claimed it captured an Israeli soldier. Israel said it was checking on the claim.

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Two American citizens who were soldiers for the Israel Defense Force were among the 13 killed. “We can confirm the deaths of U.S. citizens Max Steinberg and Sean Carmeli in Gaza,” Jen Psaki, State Department spokeswoman, said late Sunday.

Israel launched a ground invasion of Gaza on Thursday night with a high priority on destroying a network of cross-border tunnels that militants use to infiltrate Israel. On Saturday, Palestinians entered Israel through one of those tunnels and killed two soldiers.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been initially reluctant to send in ground forces for fear the military would suffer heavy casualties.

The Israeli attack began with predawn drone strikes and artillery shelling followed by small-arms fire and the sound of Israeli fighter jets whooshing overhead. The Israelis came under fire from antitank missiles and rocket-propelled grenades launched from densely populated neighborhoods, the military said.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, described the battles as “heavy fighting and close combat.”

Mr. Netanyahu vowed that attacks would go on.

“We will complete what they began and return quiet to Israel,” he told relatives of the dead soldiers.

The violence set off a panicked exodus of thousands of civilians from Shajaiyeh. Bodies were carted to a morgue while hundreds of onlookers uttered mourning chants.

In Israel, anthems for the dead soldiers played on the radio on a day when the toll surpassed the combined number of soldiers killed in the last two military conflicts with Hamas in 2008-9 and 2012.

The U.S. said Secretary of State John Kerry will arrive in Cairo on Monday to try to work out a cease-fire. President Barack Obama, speaking to Mr. Netanyahu on Sunday morning in their second phone call in three days, “raised serious concern about the growing number of casualties, including increasing Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza and the loss of Israeli soldiers,” the White House said.

The United Nations Security Council late Sunday called for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and expressed “serious concern at the escalation of violence,” calling for the protection of civilians under international humanitarian law. The council also said it was troubled by the growing number of casualties. It backed efforts by Egypt and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who arrived in the region on Sunday, to broker a cease-fire deal.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said more than 425 Palestinians have been killed, including 112 children, and 3,000 wounded since fighting began. The United Nations said about three-fourths of the Palestinian casualties have been civilians. The Israeli military said it had killed at least 70 militants since the ground invasion.

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“It’s like a metro, an underground” connecting weapons-manufacturing and storage sites to passageways beneath the Israeli border about 2 miles away, said Lt. Col. Lerner. “I would describe it as a lower Gaza City.” He said the army found openings in Shajaiyeh to 10 tunnel shafts leading to the underground network. The army entered the area with infantry, artillery and armored units, he said, expecting strong resistance.

“Our assessment and plan of action suggested they were planning to meet the army on the battlefield,” he said. “We are taking the battle to them. We don’t want it in our backyard.” Israel had warned civilians in Shajaiyeh to evacuate their homes days ago, Lt. Col Lerner said.

Israel has accused Hamas of shielding its fighters and weapons amid densely populated civilian areas, saying because of this, the group is largely to blame for civilian casualties.

“Unfortunately, there are civilian casualties which we regret and don’t seek,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

Umm Rajab Helles, a mother of 12, described the first hours of the clashes.

“We’ve been attacked for almost two weeks but it was never this fierce,” she said, recounting how she huddled with her family inside her ground floor apartment.

“It was so tense every time there was a blast that the children would run to the door out of fear and we’d have to pull them back.”

Nearby, Umm Atta Said was inside a storage room of a clothing and mattress store along the neighborhood’s commercial strip. For 12 days, she said, the dark and cramped space was “the safest place” in Gaza.

Suddenly that wasn’t the case.

“There were blasts every minute,” she said. “It didn’t stop for four hours.” The buzz of drones was followed by sounds of missile strikes, the dull thud of artillery and the sound of rifle fire.

“It was closer than we had ever felt it and we were in complete darkness.”

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Among the Israeli soldiers were two men from the Golani infantry brigade entering a neighborhood they didn’t know. Their orders were to establish a command center at a house they had secured as artillery fire boomed around them, said Vered Kerber, whose brother Doron had been sent. But Palestinian fighters were soon upon them, she said.

“They were told the area was clean,” she said. “But it wasn’t clean.”

The fighters buffeted the house with mortar fire for hours. They launched an antitank rocket at it.

“The entire wall collapsed on them, and [my brother] was injured by rock debris,” said Shay Vaknin whose brother Daniel suffered a concussion.

The would-be command center was abandoned after its commander was killed and several other soldiers were critically wounded. The soldiers fled as fighters launched mortars at them in a prolonged and treacherous retreat. The two men made it back to Israel.

“It’s a miracle. I feel like an angel was watching over him,” said Ms. Kerber, whose brother lay on a hospital bed in Ashkelon holding a small book of Psalms.

As day broke, following hours of nonstop fighting, residents began considering what been an impossibility at night—leaving their homes.

For Ms. Said, the decision was obvious. “The shelling reached us and we couldn’t stay.”

At approximately 6 a.m., she said, she and her husband, gathered their children and nothing else and walked about a mile to Gaza’s central hospital, her last hope to find a safe place.

Ms. Helles said she needed more of an alarm to muster the courage to leave. A relative called and said: “Run now,” she said. “We ran out with bare feet,” she said.

Thousands were pouring out into Shajaiyeh’s streets, dodging rubble as an acrid smoke hung over the neighborhood and blasts were still heard. Every few blocks residents encountered more injured or dead. Buildings that hadn’t collapsed smoldered.

In an acknowledgment of the intensity of the battle, Hamas and Israel agreed to a pause of a few hours in the neighborhood to evacuate the dead and wounded. But it broke down after less than an hour.

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“It’s a miracle. I feel like an angel was watching over him,” said Ms. Kerber, whose brother lay on a hospital bed in Ashkelon holding a small book of Psalms.

As day broke, following hours of nonstop fighting, residents began considering what been an impossibility at night—leaving their homes.

For Ms. Said, the decision was obvious. “The shelling reached us and we couldn’t stay.”

At approximately 6 a.m., she said, she and her husband, gathered their children and nothing else and walked about a mile to Gaza’s central hospital, her last hope to find a safe place.

Ms. Helles said she needed more of an alarm to muster the courage to leave. A relative called and said: “Run now,” she said. “We ran out with bare feet,” she said.

Thousands were pouring out into Shajaiyeh’s streets, dodging rubble as an acrid smoke hung over the neighborhood and blasts were still heard. Every few blocks residents encountered more injured or dead. Buildings that hadn’t collapsed smoldered.

In an acknowledgment of the intensity of the battle, Hamas and Israel agreed to a pause of a few hours in the neighborhood to evacuate the dead and wounded. But it broke down after less than an hour.

There were scenes of chaos. Ambulances, journalists and aid workers surged into the district, their cars speeding through narrow streets to assess the damage. Nerves were frayed as residents emerged from their homes sometimes screaming in disbelief over what had happened. Al Shifa Hospital was overwhelmed with patients. Its morgue was becoming the scene of a grim ritual as ambulances opened their doors and hoisted the bodies of the dead through the crowd that had gathered. In 15 minutes, gurneys carrying six dead, including two small children, snaked their way into the morgue.

They were laid next to each other inside. A man tried to cover the leg of a dead woman, twisted and covered with blood. He screamed. The body of one boy was missing its face.

On one main street, two ambulances attempted a rescue as onlookers and journalists approached. A man emerged yelling to give the paramedics space before firing an automatic rifle repeatedly in the air, sending people scrambling for cover.

As the boy’s body left the ambulance, a young man had craned his neck to see it and sobbed into a mobile phone: “No, dad, it’s not him.”

—Joshua Mitnick, Jay Solomon and Joe Lauria
contributed to this article. (July 21, 2014)

This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world. There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them. Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them.

Farewell!. (CTsT)

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has appealed for a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

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Mr Ban urged both sides to exercise restraint, saying the Middle East could not afford “another full-blown war”.

More than 80 Gazans have been killed since Israel’s operation began on Tuesday, Palestinian officials say.

Israel says it has hit more than 100 targets in Gaza since midnight, while Palestinian militants are continuing to fire rockets into Israel.

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Israel launched its operation after a surge in rocket-fire amid a crackdown on Hamas members in the West Bank last month, as Israel hunted for the abductors of three Israeli teenagers.

The teenagers were found murdered, and tensions were raised further with the killing of a Palestinian teenager in a suspected revenge attack days later.

James Reynolds reporting from the Kfar Aza kibbutz where the community has been “shaken” by rocket attacks

Israel says its targets in Operation Protective Edge have been militant fighters and facilities including rocket launchers, weapons stores, tunnels and command centres.

According to the Palestinian health ministry, many of those who have died were women and children.

 

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At the scene: BBC’s Yolande Knell in Gaza

On a normal day, the streets of Gaza City are teeming with people and cars honk their horns as they sit in traffic jams. Now they are eerily quiet. Occasionally someone strides past purposefully, or a car or ambulance races by. The shops are all shuttered.

Most people here are staying at home trying to keep safe. Some will also be catching up on sleep after a noisy night when Israeli naval ships bombarded this coastal strip, making buildings shake and babies cry.

Local television stations can hardly keep up with the pace of news from inside busy hospitals and outside demolished homes. They show shocking images of dead children being pulled from the rubble on repeat.

The increasing number of civilians killed is alarming. Some people have moved in with other family members who they deem to live in safer areas. Egypt has opened its border crossing with Gaza for casualties but otherwise there is no way to leave the Palestinian territory because of the Egyptian and Israeli blockade.

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At the scene: BBC’s James Reynolds on Israel’s Gaza border

Shortly before 0300 ( midnight GMT) in Ashkelon, a rocket siren sounded. I woke and headed to the secure room of our hotel (joined by guests in their pyjamas). There was no all-clear siren so, after a minute or two, we guessed that the threat from the rocket had passed, and headed back to our rooms.

This morning, near the border with Gaza, my colleagues and I saw a column of black smoke in a field – a fire caused by a rocket attack. Farmers drove tractors over the flames to put out the fire.

We drove on and saw Gaza itself, a few miles away, on the horizon. We saw three jet plumes of white smoke shoot up from Gaza – rockets being fired from the Palestinian territory.

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More than 20 people have been killed in the latest air raids on Gaza, Palestinian officials say – most of whom were in a house and a cafe in Khan Younis.

Elsewhere on Thursday:

  • Three people died in an Israeli air strike on a car in the west of Gaza City, Palestinian media reports said. Reuters said the victims were militants from Islamic Jihad
  • Three people were killed in an air strike targeting a Hamas activist in the northern town of Beit Lahiya, Palestinian officials said
  • The Palestinian health ministry said that in addition to the dead, some 540 people had been injured overall
  • The armed wing of Hamas said it had fired two M75 rockets at Tel Aviv – Israel said its Iron Dome missile defence system had intercepted one. The Israeli military also said communities in the southern Negev desert were targeted.
 

Ban Ki-moon: “The lives of countless innocent civilians and the peace process itself are in the balance”

Israel says militants have fired more than 365 rockets from Gaza since Tuesday – many of which have been intercepted by the Iron Dome system – and that it has attacked about 780 targets over the same time.

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Meanwhile, an Israeli military spokesman said an attack on a house in Khan Younis on Tuesday in which eight people were killed was “a tragedy – not what we intended”, adding people had returned to the building too soon following a telephone warning.

The home was said to be that of Odeh Kaware, a local Hamas commander.

Israeli sources say a second warning was given when a projectile without a warhead was fired at the building in a tactic known as a “tap on the roof”, but people went back.

“They were told to leave, they returned, and the missile was already on the way. It was too late,” the Jerusalem Post newspaper quoted an Israeli security source as saying.

The Palestinian Maan news agency said dozens of people had gathered on the roof after the family had been warned by Israel that the building would be targeted.

Palestinian woman, who medics said was wounded in an Israeli air strike, lies on a bed inside an ambulance waiting to cross into Egypt, at Rafah crossing in southern Gaza StripA Palestinian thought to have been wounded in an Israeli air strike waits to cross into Egypt
Residents of Netivot look at the damage caused by a Palestinian missile strike, 10 JulyResidents of Netivot in southern Israel look at the damage caused by a Palestinian missile strike
Israeli troops on Gaza border 10 JulyIsraeli leaders say a ground offensive might happen “quite soon”
The site of an Israeli strike in Gaza City, 10 JulyThe site of an Israeli strike in Gaza City

Egypt’s role

Separately, Egyptian state television said the government had decided to open the Rafah border crossing on Thursday to evacuate some of those wounded in the Israeli attacks.

Hospitals in North Sinai have been placed on standby and 30 ambulances sent to the crossing.

Egypt says it is in contact with both sides. But while it has played a key role in the past as a mediator, it currently appears to be biding its time, says the BBC’s Orla Guerin in Cairo.

Analysts say Egypt is in no hurry to broker a ceasefire that might benefit Hamas – as happened under ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in November 2012.

Egypt sees Hamas, an offshoot of Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, as a direct threat.

Having crushed the Brotherhood over the past year, it wants to see Hamas suffer the same fate, our correspondent says. In that sense, it is on the same page with Israel, she adds.

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Israel’s Iron Dome missile shield

Iron dome graphic
  1. Enemy fires missile or artillery shell
  2. Projectile tracked by radar. Data relayed to battle management and control unit
  3. Data analysed and target co-ordinates sent to the missile firing unit
  4. Missile is fired at enemy projectile

 

* Source: BBC, 10 July 2014

IF it hadn’t been for the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Mitt Romney probably wouldn’t be giving a speech on foreign policy in the waning weeks of this election season. But Mr. Romney sensed an opening in President Obama’s missteps in Libya, and on Monday he plans to lay out his case that he will be a better steward of America’s national security.

For an American public fixated on the economy, another Romney valedictory on the advantages of not being Barack Obama will be a waste of time. Americans feel more comfortable when they have a sense of the candidate’s vision, because it gives them a clearer road map for the future.

Mr. Romney must articulate his vision of America’s place in the world in a way that makes sense not only to the American people, but to friends and foes alike. There is a case to be made for a contrast with Mr. Obama. But, thus far, no Republican leader has made it.

Mr. Romney needs to persuade people that he’s not simply a George W. Bush retread, eager to go to war in Syria and Iran and answer all the mail with an F-16. He needs to understand that even though Mr. Obama’s so-called pivot to Asia is more rhetorical flourish than actual policy, it responds to a crying need.

Any new vision for American greatness in the world must flow from an understanding of how the country has changed since 2001. We are still one of the richest nations on earth, but Americans are poorer, war-weary and irritated with what appears to be the ingratitude of nations for which we have sacrificed a great deal in blood and treasure. There are substantial wings of both the Democratic and Republican parties that wish to wash their hands of the world’s troubles.

In that environment, Mr. Romney must give a clear explanation of how American power since the end of World War II provided the foundation for the most prosperous and successful era in human history; how our domination of the world’s most trafficked waterways has permitted the flourishing of trade; and how exporting our principles of political and economic freedom has opened and nourished markets that buy American goods, employ American workers and allow Americans to enjoy an unmatched level of security.

More important, Americans must know that it is not for mercantile benefits alone that the United States has exerted its leadership. It is because there is no other power, and no other people, that can — or, if able, would — exert the benign influence that has characterized our role in the world. Whether you like the Iraq war or hate it; like the battle in Afghanistan or not; believe in the ouster of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi or revile it — in no case has the United States intervened for malevolent purposes.

Unfortunately, Mr. Romney hasn’t made that claim. Instead, when asked for specifics, he has outlined an Iran policy that doesn’t differ markedly from Mr. Obama’s. When pressed on what he would do differently in Syria, he has trodden so carefully that he has found himself to the left of his party’s internationalist wing. And he has doubled down on the notion that Russia remains a geostrategic threat, without presenting any persuasive evidence that it is.

It’s not that Mr. Romney does not or cannot offer a more compelling vision of American leadership. Having heard him speak privately, and having met him on a few occasions, I believe he has one. Now is the moment to show it.

Mr. Romney must make clear that he has a strategic view of American power that is different from the Obama administration’s narrow and tactical approach. He must tell Americans that he won’t overlook terrorist threats, as the Obama administration did in Benghazi; that he won’t fight to oust a dictator in Libya and ignore the pleas of another revolution in Syria; that he won’t simply denounce Iran’s nuclear program while tacitly legitimizing the country’s theocratic regime and ignoring its opponents; and that he won’t hand out billions of dollars in aid and debt forgiveness to Egypt’s new leaders when the principles of religious and political freedom are being trampled in the streets of Cairo.

Clearly America cannot do everything. But we must always champion our founding beliefs and reject the moral, political and cultural relativism that has flourished under Mr. Obama.

Mr. Romney can make the case that when people fight for their freedom, they will find support — sometimes political, sometimes economic and sometimes military — from the American president. When Russians and Chinese demand accountability from their governments, we can stand with them and work with their governments to further common interests. When terrorists target us, we will not simply eliminate them with drones while ignoring the environment that breeds them. And when our allies look to us for support, we will help them fight for themselves.

Criticisms of Mr. Obama’s national security policies have degenerated into a set of clichés about apologies, Israel, Iran and military spending. To be sure, there is more than a germ of truth in many of these accusations. But these are complaints, not alternatives. Worse yet, they betray the same robotic antipathy that animated Bush-haters. “I will not apologize for America” is no more a clarion call than “let’s nation-build at home.”

Mr. Romney must put flesh on the bones of his calls for a renewed American greatness. With a vision for American power, strategically and judiciously applied, we can continue to do great things with fewer resources. The nation’s greatest strength is not its military power or fantastic productivity. It’s the American commitment to our founding principles of political and economic freedom. If Mr. Romney can outline to voters how he will use American power to advance those principles, he will go a long way in persuading them he deserves the job of commander in chief.

* Text by Danielle Pletka is the vice president for foreign and defense studies at the American Enterprise Institute. (NYT/October 7, 2012)

THE Israeli raid on the Free Gaza flotilla has generated an outpouring of clichés from the usual suspects. It is almost impossible to discuss the Middle East without resorting to tired accusations and ritual defenses: perhaps a little house cleaning is in order.


No. 1: Israel is being/should be delegitimized

Israel is a state like any other, long-established and internationally recognized. The bad behavior of its governments does not “delegitimize” it, any more than the bad behavior of the rulers of North Korea, Sudan — or, indeed, the United States — “delegitimizes” them. When Israel breaks international law, it should be pressed to desist; but it is precisely because it is a state under international law that we have that leverage.
Some critics of Israel are motivated by a wish that it did not exist — that it would just somehow go away. But this is the politics of the ostrich: Flemish nationalists feel the same way about Belgium, Basque separatists about Spain. Israel is not going away, nor should it. As for the official Israeli public relations campaign to discredit any criticism as an exercise in “de-legitimization,” it is uniquely self-defeating. Every time Jerusalem responds this way, it highlights its own isolation.


No. 2: Israel is/is not a democracy

Perhaps the most common defense of Israel outside the country is that it is “the only democracy in the Middle East.” This is largely true: the country has an independent judiciary and free elections, though it also discriminates against non-Jews in ways that distinguish it from most other democracies today. The expression of strong dissent from official policy is increasingly discouraged.
But the point is irrelevant. “Democracy” is no guarantee of good behavior: most countries today are formally democratic — remember Eastern Europe’s “popular democracies.” Israel belies the comfortable American cliché that “democracies don’t make war.” It is a democracy dominated and often governed by former professional soldiers: this alone distinguishes it from other advanced countries. And we should not forget that Gaza is another “democracy” in the Middle East: it was precisely because Hamas won free elections there in 2005 that both the Palestinian Authority and Israel reacted with such vehemence.

No. 3: Israel is/is not to blame

Israel is not responsible for the fact that many of its near neighbors long denied its right to exist. The sense of siege should not be underestimated when we try to understand the delusional quality of many Israeli pronouncements.

Unsurprisingly, the state has acquired pathological habits. Of these, the most damaging is its habitual resort to force. Because this worked for so long — the easy victories of the country’s early years are ingrained in folk memory — Israel finds it difficult to conceive of other ways to respond. And the failure of the negotiations of 2000 at Camp David reinforced the belief that “there is no one to talk to.”

But there is. As American officials privately acknowledge, sooner or later Israel (or someone) will have to talk to Hamas. From French Algeria through South Africa to the Provisional I.R.A., the story repeats itself: the dominant power denies the legitimacy of the “terrorists,” thereby strengthening their hand; then it secretly negotiates with them; finally, it concedes power, independence or a place at the table. Israel will negotiate with Hamas: the only question is why not now.


No. 4: The Palestinians are/are not to blame

Abba Eban, the former Israeli foreign minister, claimed that Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. He was not wholly wrong. The “negationist” stance of Palestinian resistance movements from 1948 through the early 1980s did them little good. And Hamas, firmly in that tradition though far more genuinely popular than its predecessors, will have to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.

But since 1967 it has been Israel that has missed most opportunities: a 40-year occupation (against the advice of its own elder statesmen); three catastrophic invasions of Lebanon; an invasion and blockade of Gaza in the teeth of world opinion; and now a botched attack on civilians in international waters. Palestinians would be hard put to match such cumulative blunders.
Terrorism is the weapon of the weak — bombing civilian targets was not invented by Arabs (nor by the Jews who engaged in it before 1948). Morally indefensible, it has characterized resistance movements of all colors for at least a century. Israelis are right to insist that any talks or settlements will depend upon Hamas’s foreswearing it.


But Palestinians face the same conundrum as every other oppressed people: all they have with which to oppose an established state with a monopoly of power is rejection and protest. If they pre-concede every Israeli demand — abjurance of violence, acceptance of Israel, acknowledgment of all their losses — what do they bring to the negotiating table? Israel has the initiative: it should exercise it.

No. 5: The Israel lobby is/is not to blame


There is an Israel lobby in Washington and it does a very good job — that’s what lobbies are for. Those who claim that the Israel lobby is unfairly painted as “too influential” (with the subtext of excessive Jewish influence behind the scenes) have a point: the gun lobby, the oil lobby and the banking lobby have all done far more damage to the health of this country.
But the Israel lobby is disproportionately influential. Why else do an overwhelming majority of congressmen roll over for every pro-Israel motion? No more than a handful show consistent interest in the subject. It is one thing to denounce the excessive leverage of a lobby, quite another to accuse Jews of “running the country.” We must not censor ourselves lest people conflate the two. In Arthur Koestler’s words, “This fear of finding oneself in bad company is not an expression of political purity; it is an expression of a lack of self-confidence.”


No. 6: Criticism of Israel is/is not linked to anti-Semitism


Anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews, and Israel is a Jewish state, so of course some criticism of it is malevolently motivated. There have been occasions in the recent past (notably in the Soviet Union and its satellites) when “anti-Zionism” was a convenient surrogate for official anti-Semitism. Understandably, many Jews and Israelis have not forgotten this.

But criticism of Israel, increasingly from non-Israeli Jews, is not predominantly motivated by anti-Semitism. The same is true of contemporary anti-Zionism: Zionism itself has moved a long way from the ideology of its “founding fathers” — today it presses territorial claims, religious exclusivity and political extremism. One can acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and still be an anti-Zionist (or “post-Zionist”). Indeed, given the emphasis in Zionism on the need for the Jews to establish a “normal state” for themselves, today’s insistence on Israel’s right to act in “abnormal” ways because it is a Jewish state suggests that Zionism has failed.

We should beware the excessive invocation of “anti-Semitism.” A younger generation in the United States, not to mention worldwide, is growing skeptical. “If criticism of the Israeli blockade of Gaza is potentially ‘anti-Semitic,’ why take seriously other instances of the prejudice?” they ask, and “What if the Holocaust has become just another excuse for Israeli bad behavior?” The risks that Jews run by encouraging this conflation should not be dismissed.

Along with the oil sheikdoms, Israel is now America’s greatest strategic liability in the Middle East and Central Asia. Thanks to Israel, we are in serious danger of “losing” Turkey: a Muslim democracy, offended at its treatment by the European Union, that is the pivotal actor in Near-Eastern and Central Asian affairs. Without Turkey, the United States will achieve few of its regional objectives — whether in Iran, Afghanistan or the Arab world. The time has come to cut through the clichés surrounding it, treat Israel like a “normal” state and sever the umbilical cord.

Tony Judt is the director of the Remarque Institute at New York University and the author, most recently, of “Ill Fares the Land.”


By Tony Judt (NYT), June 9, 2010

Israel faced intense international condemnation and growing domestic questions on Monday after a raid by naval commandos that killed nine people, many of them Turks, on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza.

Turkey, Israel’s most important friend in the Muslim world, recalled its ambassador and canceled planned military exercises with Israel as the countries’ already tense relations soured even further. The United Nations Security Council met in emergency session over the attack, which occurred in international waters north of Gaza, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was flying home after canceling a Tuesday meeting with President Obama.
With street protests erupting around the world, Mr. Netanyahu defended the Israeli military’s actions, saying the commandos, enforcing what Israel says is a legal blockade, were set upon by passengers on the Turkish ship they boarded and fired only in self-defense. The military released a video of the early moments of the raid to support that claim.

Israel said the violence was instigated by pro-Palestinian activists who presented themselves as humanitarians but had come ready for a fight. Organizers of the flotilla accused the Israeli forces of opening fire as soon as they landed on the deck, and released videos to support their case. Israel released video taken from one of its vessels to supports its own account of events.


The Israeli public seemed largely to support the navy, but policy experts questioned preparations for the military operation, whether there had been an intelligence failure and whether the Israeli insistence on stopping the flotilla had been counterproductive. Some commentators were calling for the resignation of Ehud Barak, the defense minister.


“The government failed the test of results; blaming the organizers of the flotilla for causing the deaths by ignoring Israel’s orders to turn back is inadequate,” wrote Aluf Benn, a columnist for Haaretz, on the newspaper’s Web site on Monday, calling for a national committee of inquiry. “Decisions taken by the responsible authorities must be probed.”
The flotilla of cargo ships and passenger boats was carrying 10,000 tons of aid for Gaza, where the Islamic militant group Hamas holds sway, in an attempt to challenge Israel’s military blockade of Gaza.


The raid and its deadly consequences have thrown Israel’s policy of blockading Gaza into the international limelight; at the Security Council on Monday voices were raised against the blockade, and the pressure to abandon it is bound to intensify.
Israel had vowed not to let the flotilla reach the shores of Gaza, which Hamas, an organization sworn to Israel’s destruction, took over in 2007.
Named the Freedom Flotilla, and led by the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement and a Turkish organization, Insani Yardim Vakfi, the convoy had converged at sea near Cyprus and set out on the final leg of its journey on Sunday afternoon. Israel warned the vessels to abort their mission, describing it as a provocation.


The confrontation began shortly before midnight on Sunday when Israeli warships intercepted the aid flotilla, according to a person on one boat. The Israeli military warned the vessels that they were entering a hostile area and that the Gaza shore was under blockade.
The vessels refused the military’s request to dock at the Israeli port of Ashdod, north of Gaza, and continued toward their destination.
Around 4 a.m. on Monday, naval commandos came aboard the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, having been lowered by ropes from helicopters onto the decks.
At that point, the operation seems to have gone badly wrong.

Israeli officials say that the soldiers were dropped into an ambush and were attacked with clubs, metal rods and knives.
An Israeli official said that the navy was planning to stop five of the six vessels of the flotilla with large nets that interfere with propellers, but that the sixth was too large for that. The official said there was clearly an intelligence failure in that the commandos were expecting to face passive resistance, and not an angry, violent reaction.


The Israelis had planned to commandeer the vessels and steer them to Ashdod, where their cargo would be unloaded and, the authorities said, transferred overland to Gaza after proper inspection.
The military said in a statement that two activists were later found with pistols taken from Israeli commandos. It accused the activists of opening fire, “as evident by the empty pistol magazines.”
Another soldier said the orders were to neutralize the passengers, not to kill them.
But the forces “had to open fire in order to defend themselves,” the navy commander, Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom, said at a news conference in Tel Aviv, adding, “Their lives were at risk.”


At least seven soldiers were wounded, one of them seriously. The military said that some suffered gunshot wounds; at least one had been stabbed.
Some Israeli officials said they had worried about a debacle from the start, and questioned Israel’s broader security policies.
Einat Wilf, a Labor Party member of Parliament who sits on the influential Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that she had warned Mr. Barak and others well in advance that the flotilla was a public relations issue and should not be dealt with by military means.
“This had nothing to do with security,” she said in an interview. “The armaments for Hamas were not coming from this flotilla.”
The fatalities all occurred aboard the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish passenger vessel that was carrying about 600 activists under the auspices of Insani Yardim Vakfi, an organization also known as I.H.H. Israeli officials have characterized it as a dangerous Islamic organization with terrorist links.
Yet the organization, founded in 1992 to collect aid for the Bosnians, is now active in 120 countries and has been present at recent disaster areas like Haiti and New Orleans.


“Our volunteers were not trained military personnel,” said Yavuz Dede, deputy director of the organization. “They were civilians trying to get aid to Gaza. There were artists, intellectuals and journalists among them. Such an offensive cannot be explained by any terms.”
There were no immediate accounts available from the passengers of the Turkish ship, which arrived at the naval base in Ashdod on Monday evening, where nearly three dozen were arrested, many for not giving their names. The base was off limits to the news media and declared a closed military zone.
The injured had been flown by helicopter to Israeli hospitals. At the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, near Tel Aviv, relatives of injured soldiers were gathered outside an intensive care unit when a man with a long beard, one of the wounded passengers, was wheeled by, escorted by military police.
Organizers of the flotilla, relying mainly on footage filmed by activists on board the Turkish passenger ship, because all other communications were down, blamed Israeli aggression for the deadly results.


The Israeli soldiers dropped onto the deck and “opened fire on sleeping civilians at four in the morning,” said Greta Berlin, a leader of the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement, speaking by phone from Cyprus on Monday.
Israeli officials said that international law allowed for the capture of naval vessels in international waters if they were about to violate a blockade. The blockade was imposed by Israel and Egypt after the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007. Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, said Monday that the blockade was “aimed at preventing the infiltration of terror and terrorists into Gaza.”
Despite sporadic rocket fire from the Palestinian territory against southern Israel, Israel says it allows enough basic supplies through border crossings to avoid any acute humanitarian crisis. But it insists that there will be no significant change so long as Hamas continues to hold Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured in a cross-border raid in 2006.


The Free Gaza Movement has organized several aid voyages since the summer of 2008, usually consisting of one or two vessels. The earliest ones were allowed to reach Gaza. Others have been intercepted and forced back, and one, last June, was commandeered by the Israeli Navy and towed to Ashdod. This six-boat fleet was the most ambitious attempt yet to break the blockade.
Reporting was contributed by Sebnem Arsu from Istanbul, Dina Kraft from Tel Aviv, Rina Castelnuovo from Ashdod, Fares Akram from Gaza and Neil MacFarquhar from the United Nations.


By ISABEL KERSHNER (NYT), Jerusalem, May 31, 2010

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