Monday, November 27, 2006

U.S. Groups To Host Rightist Minister With Anti-Arab Plan

By Marc Perelman

24 November 2006

In a further indication of his acceptance into the
political mainstream, controversial right-wing Israeli
politician and newly minted government minister Avigdor
Lieberman will be hosted next month in New York by the
most influential umbrella organization of American Jewish

The leader of the secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu
party, Lieberman is best known for his proposal to
transfer part of Israel's Arab population by turning over
territory within the 1967 border to the Palestinians. But
he is slated to speak about Iran on December 12, when he
addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American
Jewish Organizations in his capacity as deputy prime
minister in charge of strategic threats.

In recent years, leading liberals, as well as some
prominent centrists, have claimed that the Presidents
Conference was tilting toward the right. Yet the decision
to host Lieberman, a pariah among Israeli doves, has not
drawn any public objections from members of the
conference. Lieberman is also scheduled to appear in front
of the hawkish Middle East Forum, a think tank run by
conservative scholar Daniel Pipes.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the outspoken liberal voice who is
president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said that it
was a "good idea" for the Presidents Conference to offer
Lieberman the opportunity to explain his views and hear
the voices of the American Jewish community.

"I would never object to the conference bringing an
Israeli government minister," Yoffie told the Forward.
"This is part of their job as long as the policy is
applied to the full range of the political spectrum."

Yoffie, who met Lieberman in Israel before he became a
minister, said next month's meeting would be helpful,
since it would expose Lieberman to the same diverging
opinions he faces in Israel. According to Yoffie, the
invitation does not represent an endorsement or the
granting of legitimacy to Lieberman and his views.

"We wouldn't want to give him the impression that we deem
his extremist views as acceptable to the conference, to
American Jews and to the American government," Yoffie

Lieberman's party captured 11 seats in the last Knesset
elections, and was recently brought into the national
unity government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Last month, Olmert said that the inclusion of Lieberman
did not represent an endorsement of his controversial
platform regarding Israeli Arabs. The plan, initially
introduced in 2004 as a response to the unilateral
withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, advocated
by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon, would entail the
transfer of Israeli territories with high Arab populations
abutting the 1967 armistice line and require any remaining
Israeli Arab to take a loyalty oath to the Jewish state.

Born in the former Soviet Union, Lieberman previously
served in the 1990s as chief of staff to then-prime
minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud party. Yoffie
said that Lieberman was more complex than the "wild-eyed
lunatic" image conveyed by some of his recent statements.
Still, the leader of Reform Judaism said that he intended
to use the meeting to press the government minister on his
"very extreme" views of Israeli Arabs and on his
statements that Israel should deal with Hamas in the same
ruthless manner in which Russia has been putting down the
rebellion in its restive southern region of Chechnya.

"This is deeply offensive, because even the U.S.
government has expressed concerns over Russia's tactics in
Chechnya," Yoffie said. "This slash-and-burn approach is
at odds with the democratic standards of Israel."

Friday, November 24, 2006

How Can We Allow This to Go On?

The Massacre at Beit Hanoun


Ha'aretz correspondent Gideon Levy described the situation in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun in a searing article on Sunday. He proposed, half seriously, that the Israeli colonies removed last year as part of Israel's so-called "disengagement" from Gaza should be returned because they would serve "as the last human shield for a million and a half residents who now comprise one of the most helpless populations in the world. Incarcerated, without any assistance, they are liable to starve to death. Exposed, without any protection, they fall prey to the Israel Defense Force's operations of vengeance."

How can we Americans ignore this? How can we bear it? How can we bear to continue paying for Israel's atrocities? How can we possibly allow this inhumanity to be perpetrated in our name without crying out in horror, without bringing down our own government that sits by doling out the money and the weapons to keep this horror going, without severing altogether any ties with Israel's Nazi government?

"Burying its 350 dead since the summer," Levy goes on,

"Gaza threatens to become Chechnya. There are thousands of wounded, disabled and shell-shocked people in Gaza, unable to receive any treatment. Those on respirators are liable to die due to the frequent power outages since Israel bombed the power plant. Tens of thousands of children suffer from existential anxiety, while their parents are unable to provide help. They are witnesses to sights that even Gaza's old-timers have never seen before."

The horrors are unspeakable; I'm not making this up. Nor is Levy.

"Anyone who does not believe this can travel to Beit Hanoun, an hour from Tel Aviv. The trauma is only intensifying there, in a town that lost nearly 80 of its sons and daughters within a week [in early November]. The shadows of human beings roam the ruins. Last week, I met people there who are terrified, depressed, injured, humiliated, bereaved and bewildered. What can one say to them? That they should stop firing Qassams? But the vast majority of them are not involved in this at all. That they should return Gilad Shalit? What do they have to do with him? They only know the IDF will return and they know what this will mean for them: more imprisonment in their homes for weeks, more death and destruction in monstrous proportions, without them being guilty of a thing. In Israel's dark southern backyard, a large-scale humanitarian tragedy is unfolding. Israel and the world, including the Arab states, are covering their eyes and the last resort, as absurd as it sounds, might be to long for the settlements. The situation is that desperate."

How can we possibly allow this to go on, blithely ignoring it, blithely affirming Israel's "right to defend itself," ignoring the absence of any actual threat to Israel, blithely assuming that it is right and proper to murder, starve, imprison, deny medical treatment, deny water to an entire people simply because they are not Jews and are resisting Israel's domination?

"Brutal and dizzy ideas compete against each other," Levy continues, "the defense minister suggests liquidations and the agriculture minister proposes tougher action; one advocates 'an eye for an eye,' the second wants to 'erase Beit Hanoun' and the third 'to pulverize Beit Lahiya.' And no one pauses for a moment to think about what they are saying. What exactly does it mean to 'erase Beit Hanoun'? What does this chilling combination of words mean? A town of 30,000 people, most of them children, whose measure of grief and suffering has long reached breaking point, unemployed and hungry, without a present and without a future, with no protection against Israel's violent military responses, which have lost all human proportionality.

"Proportionality is also needed when examining the extent of suffering in the neighboring town, Sderot [the Israeli town frequently hit by Palestinian Qassam rockets]. It should be stated honestly: Sderot's suffering, as heart-rending and difficult as it is, amounts to nothing when compared to the suffering of its neighbor. Sderot is now mourning one fatality, while Beit Hanoun is mourning nearly 80 dead. . . . Did the futile killing of the people in Beit Hanoun contribute anything to the security of Sderot's residents? The events of the past days clearly demonstrate that the answer is no. . . .

"Soon Gaza will look like Darfur, but while the world is giving some sort of assistance to Darfur, it still dares to play tough with Gaza. Instead of boycotting the one who is abusing the residents of Gaza, the world is boycotting the victim, blocking assistance that it so desperately needs. Tens of thousands of workers who are not receiving their meager wages because of the boycott are the world's gift to Gaza, while Israel is not only killing them, but also stealing their money, locking them in from all sides and not allowing them any chance to extricate themselves."

How can we allow this to go on? C-SPAN is asking this week for one-minute video-taped statements, which it will begin airing on Thanksgiving, answering the question "what does being an American mean to you?" I have no video camera and no intention of submitting a tape, but the invitation got me thinking. Does being an American mean that I must sit back and quietly allow my government to starve the entire Palestinian people, in the name of some kind of dedication to a flag and a bill of rights that applies only to white people? Does it mean that I must approve, or even merely accept, the subhuman behavior of my government's closest ally, Israel?

Or does being an American mean that I must do something -- at least speak out, scream out -- to stop the bleeding inflicted on innocents by America and Israel? And does not being an American mean that I must challenge my fellow Americans to speak out as well? Here is the challenge: any Jew anywhere who allows Israel to commit these acts and pursue these policies in the name of all Jews -- for Israel does claim to act in the name of Jews everywhere -- without speaking out against Israel, without screaming protests, must be ashamed. Any American who allows the United States to support Israel -- to support it militarily with infusions of arms in the billions of dollars every year and to sustain it morally and psychologically -- without loud protest should be ashamed. The time has come to stand up and be counted as Americans truly interested in justice and human rights and humanity.

Can we not match Gideon Levy's courage in speaking the truth? Palestine is the conscience of us all.

Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Swedish human rights worker viciously attacked by Jewish extremists in Hebron

ISM Hebron
21 November 2006

UPDATE, November 21: Tove is still in hospital where she
will remain for the next few days before returning to
Sweden to receive ongoing treatment there. As well as a
broken cheekbone Tove has a fractured skull and damage to
her eye muscles. A complaint was filed with the police in
Kiryat Arba where eye-witness statements and photo
evidence was submitted. However, according to a report by
Israeli human rights group Yesh Din 90% of complaints
filed against Israelis to the "Samaria and Judea District"
police were closed without indictments being issued.

November 18 - A 19-year old Swedish human rights worker
had her cheekbone broken by a Jewish extremist in Hebron
today. Earlier the same day at least five Palestinians,
including a 3-year-old child, were injured by the
settler-supporting extremists, who rampaged through Tel
Rumeida hurling stones and bottles at local residents.
Palestinian schoolchildren on their way home were also
attacked. The Israeli army, which was intensively deployed
in the area, did not intervene to stop the attacks.

Tove Johansson from Stockholm walked through the Tel
Rumeida checkpoint with a small group of human rights
workers (HRWs) to accompany Palestinian schoolchildren to
their homes. They were confronted by about 100 Jewish
extremists in small groups. They started chanting in
Hebrew "We killed Jesus, we'll kill you too!" - a refrain
the settlers had been repeating to internationals in Tel
Rumeida all day.

After about thirty seconds of waiting, a small group of
very aggressive male Jewish extremists surrounded the
international volunteers and began spitting at them, so
much so that the internationals described it as "like
rain." Then men from the back of the crowd began jumping
up and spitting, while others from the back and side of
the crowd kicked the volunteers.

The soldiers, who were standing at the checkpoint just a
few feet behind the HRWs, looked on as they were being

One settler then hit Tove on the left side of her face
with an empty bottle, breaking it on her face and leaving
her with a broken cheekbone. She immediately fell to the
ground and the group of Jewish extremists who were
watching began to clap, cheer, and chant. The soldiers,
who had only watched until this point, then came forward
and motioned at the settlers, in a manner which the
internationals described as "ok, that's enough guys."

The extremists, however, were allowed to stay in the area
and continued watching and clapping as the HRWs tried to
stop the flow of blood from the young woman's face. Some,
who were coming down the hill even tried to take photos of
themselves next to her bleeding face, giving the camera a
"thumbs-up" sign.

At this point, a HRW was taken into a police van and asked
to identify who had attacked the group. The HRW did this,
pointing out three Jewish extremists who the police took
into their police vehicles. However, the extremists were
all driven to different areas of the neighborhood and
released nearly immediately. When one of the three was
released on Shuhada Street, the crowd that was still
celebrating the woman's injuries applauded and cheered.

A settler medic came to the scene about 15 minutes after
the attack and immediately began interrogating the
internationals who had been attacked about why they were
in Hebron. He refused to help the bleeding woman lying on
the street in any way.

Five minutes after the settler medic arrived, the army
medic arrived and began treating the injured woman. When
she was later put on a stretcher, the crowd again clapped
and cheered.

Police officers at the scene then began threatening to
arrest the remaining HRWs if they did not immediately
leave the area, even though they had just been attacked.

The injured woman was taken to Kiryat Arba settlement and
then to Hadassah Ein Keren hospital in Jerusalem.

HRWs were later told by the police that they had not even
taken the names of those who were identified as having
attacked the HRWs and that one of the main assailants had
simply told the police that he was due at the airport in
two hours to fly back to France.

The incident was the latest attack by extremist Jews in
Hebron. The small group of Khannist settlers in Tel
Rumeida regularly attack and harass Palestinians in the
area. The violence sometimes spills over to the
international human rights workers who accompany
Palestinians in an attempt to protect them from settler

The settlers in Tel Rumeida encourage Jewish tourists to
come to support them, as a way of making up for their
small numbers. Today, hundreds had come from tours in
Israel for a special event u many from overseas: France,
England and the United States.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Code Pink: An Interview with Medea Benjamin

It would be a mistake to take this petite woman for granted. Medea Benjamin has been in the forefront to stop the war in Iraq and bring the troops home. She has openly spoken out about the Israeli occupation, and has been vilified by the Zionists as a self-hating Jew. She has bee arrested numerous times for speaking out about the Bush administration’s foreign and domestic policies. During his second inauguration in 2005, Benjamin was in the crowd and called out Bush on his broken, and now clearly un-popular war policy.

Yes, taking Medea Benjamin for granted is not a wise move on one’s part. That is why I pursued the chance to speak with this globetrotting, peace waging, and Code pink co-founding troublemaker.

Believe me, I’m glad I’m not on her bad side.

Christopher Brown: Medea Benjamin, the Democrats took over both houses of Congress in this past mid-term election. Nancy Pelosi has said that impeachment of president Bush is “off the table.” Should it be?

MB: I don’t think it should be off the table. I can see why she might have wanted to, as a strategy for the elections, down play the issue of impeachment in order not to rile up the base of the conservatives. But I don’t think it’s her position to say that anything is off the table. I think that when investigations start going forward, as I hope they will even if they’re not going forward in the judiciary committee but in other committees’ things start emerging about how the Constitution has been subverted by George Bush that this will lead to a groundswell of support for impeachment.

CB: With overwhelming dissent about the current situation, and resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the people of America cast a “No” vote on the war in Iraq. Do you feel we will see a fundamental change in policy regarding this conflict?

MB: I think there is going to have to be a change in policy. I think the election was a mandate for change. There’s still going to be a lot of division within the Democratic Party as well as between the Democratic Party and the Bush administration as to what change means. The Baker/Hamilton Commission is going to be giving one set of advice that is much more “stay the course” type actions, with little changes along the fringe that might include things like; getting neighboring Syria and Iran involved; issues like different tactics for getting the militias to disarm, but its not going to be in the framework of a prompt withdrawal and a fixed date for and end to the occupation; whereas, you have others like George McGovern putting forth a plan to get the troops out by the end of June.

So, the job of the peace movement is going to be not put down its guard to really be forcing the Congress to carry out what is a mandate for radical change; and the radical change is to bring the troops home; too stop allocating money for this war; and to have no permanent bases in Iraq. And I think the issue of more money for the war will come up very soon in January when the new Congress reconvenes because they are going to be asked for over a hundred billion dollars more for this war.

And while Nancy Pelosi has said impeachment is off the table she also said she will continue to vote more money for the war. And that means she won’t put more pressure on anyone else in the party to cut off funding for the war.

Its one thing to say we want a swift end to the occupation; its another thing to say we will only give money to the redeployment of those troops out of Iraq. And at this point, I think we’re going too see a big fight on our hands for trying to get more Congress people to vote against another massive allocation for war and I think we’ll lose this battle.

CB: With this new Congress, the leaders of both houses have reiterated to Israel that policy towards them will not change when the Democrats take over. How can those who are against the occupation make their voices heard with this new Congress if it is nothing more than a photocopy of the previous one?

MB: I think the ties between Nancy Pelosi and AIPAC are very well known and very close. I think the other Democrats in positions in the Congress have been, and will continue to be very close to Israel.

I think that will put the brakes on some fundamental policy towards the Middle East. And as much as we might have some allies that really want to en d the occupation and see that as a way of lessening the violence in the Middle East and lessening the treat against us. As long as we continue to have this unilateral support for Israel and the massive support we’re giving to the Israeli military while it carries out human rights abuses on a regular basis, we’re not going to see peace in the Middle East or a lessening of the threat against us here at home.

So, I think when it comes to Israel that is the crux of the problem in terms of the new Congress and it’ll be easier in a sense to be pushing for a change in policy for Iraq than it will be to push for a change in policy towards Israel.

CB: Over the past week there have been over 20 people killed in Gaza as a result of an Israeli incursion into the town of Beit Hanoun in the north. In fact, 18 members of the same family were killed by Israeli tank fire while they slept in their beds, yet Israel says this was just a “mistake,” and the world sits by and allows this to go on. Why is the media remaining silent over this?

MB: Well we saw how the media remained, not just silent, but totally complicit with the administration in the lead-up to the war in Iraq.

It is a corporate media.

It is a media that is not just embedded with our military, but embedded with our politicians, maybe a little bit more so with the Republicans than the Democrats but not that much. There are direct links between the moguls of the media and people who are in elected office. Money flows from those people who own the corporate media to the politicians. The politicians in turn enact legislation or policies through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other means that return favors to the media and that takes away the peoples rights to own the airwaves or to have a press that educates, informs and stimulates debate which we don’t have in this country.

I think we see, probably, to a tremendous extent in the case of Israel and we see the lack of a free press when it comes to issues related to national security. So, the corporate media in this country is definitely part of the problem. Until we break the stranglehold that the media has on the airwaves, the print media we’re not going to have an informed population; we’re not going to have spirited debate.

And it will be all that much harder for those of us in human rights and international law to see our vision reflected in the media and through elected officials in this country.

CB: Fatah and Hamas are in talks to form a unity government. As a result of Hamas’ victor in a democratically election back in January; the U.S., EU, and Israel cut off all essential aid to the Palestinians since March for holding fair elections. However, no action is taken when Israel appoints Avigdor Lieberman as deputy Prime Minister, a man who openly advocates the expulsion of all Arabs from the territories and has stated that any Knesset members who have spoken with Hamas officials be executed. Is this not a double standard on the part of the U.S. and EU that they do not openly criticize the actions of the deputy Prime Minister?

MB: The Bush administration and its allies, not just the ones in the Republican Party, but the ones who think alike in the Democratic Party, have divided the World into this neat little division between good and evil, and Israel is part of the good. And so Israel does things whether its blatant racist statements about obliterating Arabs; or real on the ground policies of killing innocent people those are either ignored or treated as misfiring; or misspeaking.

When the same things is done by a government official in Iran, we see the U.S. running to the United Nations (UN) to try and impose sanctions and see he threats of military retaliation.

Just look at anytime the international community has tried to sanction Israel for its blatant violations the United States has always blocked those sanctions and just did it, most recently, in the case of Israeli actions in Gaza.

So, why dose it happen? We can point to the ties that bind. We not only have the ties of AIPAC, which has done, and extraordinary job in to turning money for political clout, but have also made alliances with the religious right in this country, which gives it more political clout.

It has been pretty appalling to see how the U.S. continues to give such massive aid to Israel, a country that does not need the aid financially because it’s a middle-income country. And yet you see starvation around the World, all over Africa where the U.S. is not giving any kind of aid.

CB: Previously we spoke about the new Congress and its business as usual approach with Israel. However, with the election of Keith Ellison (D-MN) an African American Muslim, is there a chance that folks might begin to view, at least, Islam in a different light, rather than the one that is constantly shown on television?

MB: I think it’s very positive that Keith Ellison was elected. I think it’s an historic event in this country given all the backlash against Muslims; and I think there are going to have be other changes in the way that the U.S. looks towards Muslim countries to help get us out of the quagmire in Iraq.

It’s very interesting that you have these conservatives who are now trying to get serious help to deal with the violence in Iraq. I think the U.S. is going to have to go to the Arab League, basically on its knees and ask for help with the situation in Iraq. And that will, hopefully, give some greater standing to diplomats in the Arab World when we do go to them to try and bail us out of the mess that George bush has gotten us into.

There are going to have to be changes on the international scene about the way we deal with the Arab World. I think its great that John Bolton will not be confirmed as ambassador to the UN, even though it will be the Bush administration that puts forward the next name for nomination for ambassador, because they know it will have to be confirmed by the Democrats. I think we will get someone who is much more into international diplomacy and multi-literalism than John Bolton has been.

There’s two sides of the issue; How we deal with the racism against Muslims and Arabs in this country, and Keith Ellison’s election is a positive thing in that regard, but we have to continue to fight against the crimes in this country. There was recently a killing of a mother of four in Fremont, CA who was wearing a Hijab (veil), we don’t know if it was a hate crime but we certainly know there was no reason for her to be killed.

There is also the issue of illegal detention of people who can be named enemy combatants by this government and what that means for people in the Arab and Muslim community.

We have the continuing issue of blight on our reputation internationally by having he over four hundred prisoners being held in Guantanamo without their basic human rights; and we have the Military Commissions Act, which was recently passed, which takes away the basic right of Habeas Corpus.

These are things that are so important to the Muslim and Arab community that have been targeted since 9/11. And while we hail the election of the first Muslim Congress person while we fight against hate crimes in our communities, we also going to push the new Congress to restore the right of Habeas Corpus, and basic rights that have been used, in particularly, against the Arab and Muslim community.

CB: How can people find out more about the work of Code Pink and how can they get involved in the organization?

MB: Well Code Pink has been involved before the war began and during this entire period in trying to get the troops home from Iraq. We also have a very important role to play in trying to get the U.S. to fulfill its obligation financially to help in re-building Iraq. We have close ties to people in Iraq; we’ve been there many times since before the invasion and afterwards. We know how devastated the Iraq lives have been through this occupation, and especially the lives of women in Iraq.

When we are successful in bringing the troops home, we also want to keep forcing our government to pay financially for the re-building of Iraq, and we’re going to need all the support we can get for that.

People can find us at the website at And we’ve grown spontaneously in the last couple of years without thinking about local groups. We now have about 250 of them around the country.

So people thinking about getting involved can look up the local section on the website to see if there is a Code Pink local, and join one. And if there isn’t, create one if there isn’t.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Democrats Don't Care

Screw the Palestinians, Full Steam Ahead


At a panel on the defense and foreign policy impact of the midterm election, sponsored two days after the election by Congressional Quarterly, Steven Simon, late of the Clinton administration and still a member of the Democratic, pro-Zionist mainstream at the Council on Foreign Relations, pronounced on prospects for Palestinian-Israeli peace and essentially declared it not worth anyone's effort. Using words, a tone, and a body language that clearly betrayed his own disinterest, he said that Hamas is "there" (exaggerated shrug), that the Israeli government is in turmoil after its Lebanon "contretemps" (dismissive wave of the hand), that both sides are incapable of significant movement, and that therefore there is no incentive for anyone, Democrat or Republican, to intervene (casual frown indicating an unfortunate reality about which serious people need not concern themselves). There is simply no prospect for more unilateral Israeli withdrawals and therefore for any progress toward peace, Simon said in conclusion -- signaling not only a total lack of concern but an utter ignorance of just what it is that might bring progress, as if Israeli unilateralism were truly the ticket to peace.

Thus spake the Democratic oracle. Not that anyone who knows the Palestinian-Israeli situation from other than the selective focus of the Zionist perspective had any expectations in the first place. No one ever thought the new Democratic Congress would hop to and put pressure on Israel to make peace. Just remember John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, to say nothing of Bill Clinton, when any question of the Democrats' stance arises. And don't forget Nancy Pelosi, who rushed to condemn Jimmy Carter for using the word "apartheid" in the title of his new book and for whom, according to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency profile, support for Israel is personal and "heartfelt." One Jewish activist and long-time friend described her as "incredibly loyal" (interesting term) and as feeling Jewish and Israeli issues "in her soul."

But Simon's brief disquisition on the futility of even making an effort was particularly striking for its profound dismissiveness and its profound blindness to what is and has been going on on the ground. Simon's "contretemps" in Lebanon was no mere embarrassing misstep but a murderous rampage that killed 1,300 innocent Lebanese and dropped over a million cluster bomblets in villages across the south, left to be discovered by returning residents. But the Democrats don't care, and Steven Simon considers this hardly worth a second thought. Israel gets itself in trouble, showing its true brutal nature in the process, and this gives Simon and the Democrats a handy excuse to avoid doing anything.

Eighteen Palestinian innocents in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip were murdered while sleeping in their beds a day before Simon spoke, killed by Israeli shellfire, round after round fired at a residential housing complex -- 16 members of one extended family and two others who came to help them after the first round exploded. The Democrats don't care. Steven Simon considers this not worth a mention.

In the six days preceding this incident, Israel assaulted Beit Hanoun the way it assaulted Jenin and Nablus and other West Bank cities in 2002 -- a murderous assault reminiscent of Nazi sieges or of the Russian siege of Chechnya, in which in these six days 57 Palestinians were killed, to one Israeli soldier. The dead include Palestinian fighters and a large number of civilians, including children and including two women shot down in the street while attempting to lift the Israeli siege of a mosque. The mosque was leveled. The Democrats don't care. Steven Simon considers this not worth a mention.

In the four months preceding this six-day siege, the Israelis killed 247 Palestinians in a prolonged attack on Gaza. Of the dead, two-thirds are civilians, 20 percent children. Of nearly 1,000 injured, one-third are children. The Democrats don't care. Steven Simon considers this not worth a mention.

Israel is planning a larger siege of Gaza, concentrating not just on Beit Hanoun in the north but on Rafah in the south, ostensibly to unearth arms-smuggling tunnels. This has been going on for years; Rafah has been the scene of Israel's murderous pummeling periodically since the intifada began -- in 2003 when Rachel Corrie was killed trying to protect the home of an innocent family from demolition, in 2004 when hundreds of homes were demolished in multiple sieges and a peaceful protest demonstration was strafed from the air. But the Democrats don't care. Steven Simon considers this not worth a mention.

Gaza, of course, is not the only Palestinian territory being raped and pillaged. Its 1.4 million residents are the most distraught -- living imprisoned in a territory with the highest population density in the world, walled in with no exit except as Israel sporadically allows, being deliberately starved by the official policy of Israel, which dictates to the U.S., which dictates to Europe, vulnerable to constant Israeli assault. But the West Bank's 2.5 million Palestinians are not much better off. They continue to be killed by Israelis and squeezed by Israel's separation wall, by settlement expansion, by movement restrictions, by theft of agricultural land, by diminishing economic opportunity, and by massive Israeli-fostered unemployment. Their death toll is only minimally less than Gaza's.

This obscenity of oppression and murder does not faze the Democrats or any of Israel's Zionist supporters in the U.S. Whatever Israel wants is all right with the Democrats. The 110th Congress will screw the Palestinians just the way the Republican 109th did.

Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.

Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence Officer and as Director of the CIA's Office of Regional and Political Analysis. They spent October 2006 in Palestine and on a speaking tour of Ireland sponsored by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Monday, November 13, 2006

South Africa seen as model for Palestine

By Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian-American, and the author of
"One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the
Israeli-Palestinian Impasse"

The Chicago Tribune
November 12, 2006

As I watched the images last week of destruction from the
Gaza Strip, where an Israeli shelling attack had killed an
entire family, as a Palestinian I could understand the
feelings of one survivor who said, "I cannot see a day
when we will live in peace with them." But I also know
there is no other choice.

When Israel was established, its founders said it would be
an exemplary, moral state. For many Jews, it seemed like a
miraculous redemption after so much suffering and loss in
the Nazi Holocaust.

Palestinians experienced a different reality. Israel
became a "Jewish state" in a country that had always been
multicultural and multireligious. The expulsion and
exclusion of Palestinians from their own homeland has led
Israelis and Palestinians into an endless nightmare of
mutual non-recognition and bloodshed.

For decades, the conventional wisdom has been that this
conflict can only be resolved by partitioning the country
into two states. Yet despite enormous political and
diplomatic efforts to achieve this, the two peoples remain
thoroughly if unhappily intertwined. Israel's project of
establishing settler-colonies inside the territories where
Palestinians wanted to create a state has rendered
separation impossible.

At the same time, Israel finds itself in a conundrum. For
the first time since the state was founded, Israeli Jews
no longer form an absolute majority in the territory they
control. Today there are roughly 5 million Jews and 5
million Palestinians living in the same land. The trends
are incontestable. Within a few years, Palestinians will
form the clear majority.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recognized in 2003 what
this would mean: "We are approaching the point where more
and more Palestinians will say, `There is no place for two
states,'" in this country, and "`All we want is the right
to vote.' The day they get it, we will lose everything."
Warning that Israel could not remain both a Jewish state
and a democracy if it held on to all of the occupied
Palestinian territories, Olmert added, "I shudder to think
that liberal Jewish organizations that shouldered the
burden of struggle against apartheid, will lead the
struggle against us."

Some Israeli extremists, like the new Deputy Prime
Minister Avigdor Lieberman, believe this "demographic
problem" can be solved by expelling non-Jews. Israel's
chosen solution, which it calls "unilateral separation,"
walls Palestinians into impoverished ghettos Palestinians
compare to the townships and Bantustans set up for blacks
by the apartheid government of South Africa. The result of
this approach, as we see in Gaza, is more hopelessness,
resistance and defiance, and sure disaster for both

The two-state solution remains attractive and comforting
in its apparent simplicity and finality. But in reality,
it has proved unattainable because neither Palestinians
nor Israelis are willing to give up enough of the country
that they love. Faced with this impasse, a small but
growing group of Israelis and Palestinians are tentatively
exploring an old idea long dormant: Why not have a single
state in which both peoples enjoy equal rights and
protections and religious freedom? Many people dismiss
this as utopian dreaming.

Allister Sparks, the legendary editor of the
anti-apartheid Rand Daily Mail newspaper, observed that
the conflict in South Africa most resembled those in
Northern Ireland and Palestine-Israel, because each
involved "two ethno-nationalisms" in a seemingly
irreconcilable rivalry for the "same piece of territory."
If the prospect of "one secular country shared by all"
seems "unthinkable" in Palestine-Israel today, then it is
possible to appreciate how unlikely such a solution once
seemed in South Africa. But "that is what we did," Sparks
says, "without any foreign negotiator [and] no handshakes
on the White House lawn."

To be sure, Palestinians and Israelis would not simply be
able to take the new South Africa as a blueprint. They
would have to work out their own distinct constitution,
including mechanisms for ethnic communities to have
autonomy in matters that concern them, and to guarantee
that no one group can dominate another. There would be
hard work to heal the terrible wounds of the past. Such a
solution offers the chance that Palestine-Israel could
become for the first time ever the truly safe home where
Israelis and Palestinians can accept each other. It may be
an arduous path, but in the current impasse we cannot
afford to ignore any ray of light.

Copyright (c) 2006, Chicago Tribune

Friday, November 10, 2006

A country lost in its own region

By Antony Loewenstein

The Age
10 November 2006

On October 30, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told
the Knesset's
Security and Foreign Affairs Committee that the
Israeli military had killed
300 "terrorists" in the Gaza Strip in the past three

According to the Israeli human rights organisation
B'Tselem, the Israel
Defence Force has killed 294 Palestinians in Gaza
since the abduction of
Corporal Gilad Shalit on June 27, but more than half
of those killed - 155
people, including 61 children - had no involvement in
hostilities. The group
sent a letter to Olmert, demanding to know whether
Israel considered "all
those who were killed to be terrorists who deserved to
die". The Prime
Minister's statement contained "within it a twisted
logic whereby the fact
that someone was killed by a military proves that he
or she is a terrorist".

The latest Israeli massacre in Gaza - the killing of
19 Palestinian
civilians while they slept in their beds in Beit Hanun
- occurred precisely
because the IDF regularly fires shells into heavily
populated areas. Under
international humanitarian law, a state is prohibited
from such activity if
the attack is likely to cause undue harm to civilians
and will not gain any
military advantage. Israel claims that its actions,
while regrettable, were
designed to eliminate Qassam rockets being fired into
Israel from Gaza. The
result is the exact opposite, with Hamas already
calling for revenge and an
ever-growing and justified militancy against Israel's
continuing occupation
of Gaza and the West Bank.

It didn't need to be this way. After Israel's
military, political and
bureaucratic loss during the recent Lebanon war,
calmer heads would have
welcomed a more measured path. Alas, Israel refuses to
negotiate with Syria
- despite Bashir Assad's recent conciliatory
statements - and continues to
build more illegal settlements on occupied West Bank

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz's Arab affairs
commentator, Danny Rubinstein,
commented during a speech in Tel Aviv that Israel's
"real aim (in Gaza) is
the collective punishment of the Palestinian
population. The military
operation is designed to prevent the Palestinians
rejoicing (when prisoners
are released in exchange for Gilad Shalit). This is a
media-driven operation which lacks any military
justification." US-made
weapons are killing hundreds of innocent civilians and
the world remains

But this may all be about to change. The elevation of
far-right and openly
racist Avigdor Lieberman to the position of deputy
leader and a new
portfolio, the Strategic Affairs Ministry, gives the
world a unique
opportunity to hear the ambitions of an extremist in
the heart of "the
Middle East's only democracy".

Lieberman has called for Arab MPs who had contact with
Hamas to be executed.
Last week he demanded the separation between Arabs and
Jews, and the
establishment of a purely Jewish nation. On one
occasion he even demanded
that Egypt's Aswan Dam be bombed. Despite the
elevation of this
fundamentalist Zionist, Diaspora Jewry has remained
mute, lest they be
accused of disloyalty to their beloved homeland. What
will it take for the
Jewish establishment to openly and unequivocally
condemn the utterances of
Lieberman, who, according to Haaretz, is "liable to
bring disaster down upon
the entire region"?

The international community's hypocrisy is worth
noting. When the
Palestinians democratically elected Hamas this year,
much of the world
boycotted them. Yet when the world accepts Lieberman's
appointment without
comment, the double standard is galling. So who is
really serious about

Israel is a nation in serious decline. Its President
may face indictment on
charges of rape, the "peace movement" is virtually
non-existent, corruption
is rampant (a 2005 World Bank report found that the
Jewish state's economic
corruption was one of the worst in the developed
world) and the military
establishment is addicted to military solutions that
have failed.

It is time for some uncomfortable truths to be stated.
Israel's long-term
future lies not with a superpower thousands of
kilometres away, but in the
Arab world. Washington's standing in the region has
never been worse, and
just last week Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah,
said that America's
plans in the Middle East faced "failure, frustration
and a state of
collapse". He predicted the US would be forced to
leave the region in the

As a strong supporter of both the Israelis and
Palestinians, I believe that
only international pressure on Israel can bring a
nation addicted to
violence to heel and leadership on both sides mature
enough to negotiate
with honesty.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

B'Tselem: The Killing of Civilians in Beit Hanun is a War Crime

B'Tselem: The Killing of Civilians in Beit Hanun is a War

8 November 2006

Israeli artillery shells struck a residential neighborhood
in Beit Hanun, Gaza Strip, early Wednesday morning,
killing 18 civilians, including 7 minors, and wounding
some 40 others. The Israeli military contended that the
artillery fire was aimed at the place from which Qassam
rockets were fired at Ashkelon yesterday, an area about
half a kilometer from where the shells actually landed.
The IDF said that human or technical error caused the
shells to strike the houses. The Minister of Defense has
ordered an investigation into the incident.

Even according to the military, the shelling was not
defensive; it was not aimed at Palestinian fire or Qassam
rocket-fire that was in progress. The artillery was aimed
at what the IDF refers to as a "launching space," i.e., an
area from which the army believes that Qassams had
previously been fired.

Shells fired from cannons several kilometers away are
known and expected to occasionally miss their target by a
few hundred meters. For this reason, it is especially
likely that such weapons will harm civilians when they are
fired towards or near densely-populated residential areas.
Several such cases have occurred over the past year, and
it was to be expected that they could recur.

Moreover, in April 2006, it was reported that the IDF
reduced - from 300 meters to 100 meters - the "safety
range" between populated areas in the Gaza Strip and the
areas targeted for artillery fire. Six human rights
organization, B'Tselem among them, warned about the great
risk inherent in the decision, contending it would lead to
the injury of innocent civilians. The organizations
petitioned the High Court of Justice to order the IDF to
cancel the decision. The High Court has not yet ruled in
the matter.

It is still unclear if the deaths this morning resulted
from the inherent inaccuracy of artillery or from
technical or human error. However, massive shelling
towards a densely-populated area carries a high risk of
civilian casualties. Therefore, as discussed below, such
shelling should be avoided, unless there is no alternative
in defending against attack.

The principle of discrimination, one of the pillars of
international humanitarian law, requires that all parties
to a conflict attack only legitimate military objects.
According to the principle of proportionality, it is
forbidden to launch an attack, even if aimed at a
legitimate military object, if the attack is expected to
cause injury to civilians that would be excessive in
relation to the concrete and direct military advantage
anticipated. These two principles lead to the prohibition
on using a means of warfare which, under the
circumstances, is likely to cause disproportionate injury
to civilians. Launching of such attacks is deemed a grave
breach of international humanitarian law and a war crime.

The circumstances involved in the killing of the
Palestinians in Beit Hanun, including the fact that the
attack was not a defensive action, raise a grave concern
that the shelling constitutes a war crime. The Israeli
military's contention that they did not mean to harm
civilians is meaningless, and cannot justify an action
that amounts to a war crime. An investigation conducted by
military officials subject to the same chain of command
responsible for the action cannot serve as a substitute
for a criminal investigation. B'Tselem today wrote to the
Israeli Judge Advocate General, demanding that he
immediately order a Military Police investigation into the
incident, with the objective of prosecuting those
responsible for the killings in Beit Hanun.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Gaza Watch: 19

8 November 2006

To H.E. Ms Micheline Calmy-Rey
Federal Councillor
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
Bern, Switzerland

Via email: generalsekretaer at

Dear Minister Calmy-Rey,

This morning, Israeli occupation forces shelled a civilian
area near Beit Hanoun in the north of the Gaza Strip,
killing nineteen people, of whom at least eight are
children, and four women. Eleven of the dead are from a
single family. Over forty people were wounded.

This morning's massacre brings to at least 73 the number
of Palestinians killed since November 1 including at least
16 children and six women, and to over 300 the number
injured. Two of the dead were Red Crescent medics tending
to the injured.

I am not an ambassador, a minister, or an elected
official. I have no standing to appeal to your conscience
except as a human being. I do so now with all the will I
can muster to urge your government immediately to
reconvene the Conference of the High Contracting Parties
of the Fourth Geneva Convention urgently to consider
measures to enforce this Convention and end the grave and
mounting breaches being perpetrated by Israel, the
Occupying Power, in the Gaza Strip.

Since June 26, Israeli occupation forces have killed over
360 Palestinians in Gaza, over half of whom are
non-combatant civilians. There is clear and mounting
evidence that the Israeli political and military leaders
act knowingly, wilfully and indiscriminately when they
carry out these killings. Indeed they boast that they make
no distinction between civilians and combatants.

According to B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights
organization, Israel's prime minister Ehud Olmert told the
Israeli parliament on October 30 that in the previous
three months, the Israeli military has killed 300
"terrorists" in the Gaza Strip. According to B'Tselem's
investigation, Israeli occupation forces did indeed kill
294 Palestinians in Gaza between June 26 and October 27.
However, over half of those killed -- 155 people,
including 61 children -- did not participate in the
fighting when they were killed.

On November 5 the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS)
stated, "Israeli occupying forces have deliberately
attacked and targeted unarmed civilians as well as PRCS
ambulances and medical teams. On November 3, 2006, Israeli
forces targeted and killed two members of PRCS medical
teams, while they were attempting to evacuate a victim
killed by Israeli fire in Beit Lahia area."

PRCS reported that "Beit Hanoun Hospital continues to be
under siege by Israeli tanks and armored vehicles, which
prevent medical teams and victims from reaching the
hospital," and it called "upon the states parties to the
Geneva Conventions, the UN Secretary General, the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and
international organizations of human rights" to act.

It was heartening when Switzerland previously convened the
Conference of the High Contracting Parties several years
ago, though disappointing that it was adjourned without
substantial action. I respectfully remind you that the
Conference declaration issued by the Swiss Federal
Government on 5 December 2001 stated:

"The participating High Contracting Parties call upon the
Occupying Power to immediately refrain from committing
grave breaches involving any of the acts mentioned in art.
147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, such as wilful
killing, torture, unlawful deportation, wilful depriving
of the rights of fair and regular trial, extensive
destruction and appropriation of property not justified by
military necessity and carried out unlawfully and
wantonly. The participating High Contracting Parties
recall that according to art. 148 no High Contracting
Party shall be allowed to absolve itself of any liability
incurred by itself in respect to grave breaches."

The statement adds that the participating High Contracting
Parties "welcome and encourage the initiatives by States
Parties, both individually and collectively, according to
art. 1 of the Convention and aimed at ensuring the respect
of the Convention, and they underline the need for the
Parties, to follow up on the implementation of the present

Unfortunately no follow up action has been taken by any
states parties to the Convention. If under the present
circumstances no country moves to fulfill its obligations
under this Convention, it is the clearest evidence
possible that the regime of international law, so
painstakingly built, and which I learned about with awe
when I visited the Red Cross Museum in Geneva, is impotent
and worthless to those who are most in need of its

I urge you to act forthwith, with the force of the law,
with the moral authority that you enjoy, and with the
courage it will take knowing that you would be doing so
even as all the others who have the power and
responsibility to act choose silence and complicity.

With highest regards,
Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and
author of "One Country - A Bold Proposal to End the
Israeli-Palestinian Impasse" (Metropolitan Books, 2006)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Beit Hanoun the testimony of a young Palestinian:

"They shoot at anything that moves"

by Silvia Cattori
3 November 2006

"Beit Hanoun, with 30,000 inhabitants, has been the
target of daily
aggressions and air strikes since June 25. It is now
besieged by Israeli
troops. We have seen the tanks advance and take up
their positions. We are
now encircled by about 70 tanks and at least 450
soldiers who announce that
the city is a "closed military zone". That means that
no one can leave. No
one can flee. It is an offensive based on those
carried out in the West Bank
in 2002.

We have no water, no electricity. We hide in the
remote corners of our
houses. Ambulances are not authorized to enter into
this occupied and closed
zone. The soldiers have circled the houses they want
to invade. They
occupied the houses and they shut up the families in
one room. Now they are
using them as forts. They use explosives to pierce
holes in the walls, they
blow off doors, and the people are terrified. They
shoot anyone that moves.

Yesterday they fired on people that were seeking
shelter, who were not
armed, who were not in fighting positions. They shot
them in the back, and
when one was wounded and wanted to flee, they killed
him. Those who wanted
to collect his body were targets as well. In numerous
cases, ambulances
couldn't go to the aid of the wounded. Children who
slip out from their
parent's watch or that look out the windows are killed
by Israeli soldiers
positioned on the roofs and balconies of the houses
they occupy.

They have the green light from Bush to kill us, and
those politicians that
affirm that Israel "has the right to defend itself".
They use arms that
transform the dead and wounded into something
monstrous. The wounds provoked
by the missiles launched from the drones are very
impressive. They are like
razor cuts; the legs, the feet, the hands all cleanly
cut. They are as
horrifying as wounds from an M-16. The soldiers have
orders to shoot at the
upper body. They aim at the chest, near the heart, the

The victims are mostly civilians, killed or wounded in
the throat, the neck,
the chest, the head, even though they were in their
houses. They shoot at
people running in fear, who are trying to save
themselves. We have lost any
notion of time; we have no idea how long we have been
caught in this war. We
feel lost. There are planes that bomb us, drones ready
to fire their
missiles over our heads. They control the entire zone.
With the droning of
the drones, we always have the feeling of having a bee
buzzing in our ears.
It is really disturbing.

There is no one to defend us. We don't have an army.
We have only our
parents to defend us, knowing that they are going to
their deaths and that
they cannot defend us. This new aggression is horrible
especially for the
children who are very numerous here. They are forced
to stay couped up
inside, they are terrorized, and they cry when there
are bombings. At any
moment we can learn there are people killed, there are
people wounded who
are bathed in their own blood, that people don't know
how to stop the
haemorrhaging, and that the ambulances can't give them
any aid without being

The Israelis say that are waging this offensive to
prevent the entry of arms
from Egypt. That is false. Nothing can enter. In Gaza,
there are only rifles
that can do nothing against the Apache helicopters and
the Merkawa tanks of
the Israeli army. The only arms of war in Gaza are
those delivered by Israel
and the United States to Dahlan, who is Abu Mazen's
man, the most feared man
in Gaza. He is at the head of the forces that have,
for months now, created
the troubles to topple the Hamas government.

Yesterday, through their loud speakers the soldiers
summoned all the young
men fifteen years and older leave their houses. Then,
sector by sector, they
searched the houses and brought them out, handcuffed,
and took them to a
place where they certainly forced them to strip, as
they did in Betlaya in
June. They leave the men in their underwear. For an
Oriential, it is the
worst of humiliations. They might as well kill us.

We think that after Beit Hanoun they will attack
Betlaya, and then Jabaliya
and do what they have done here: search house by
house. Beit Hanoun, like
Rafah, are very vulnerable zones because they are
geographically separated
from other inhabited areas. They are therefore easy to
isolate from the rest
of Gaza.

This morning, the women went out to come to the aid of
their sons or
husbands threatened by the armored cars that encircled
the Mosque. The women
defied the Apaches and the armored vehicles. For us,
it was a tremendous
moment. We felt like we were wrapped up in a veil of
humanity. It was very
moving to see these women ready to die to save their
sons and husbands. They
continued on without hesitation, and the soldiers, who
hadn't expected this,
were disoriented. Because of this effect of surprise,
they succeeded, saving
the lives of these fighters. They demonstrated that
people with empty hands
could defeat the largest army in the world. We took it
as a message to the
men of the Arab countries who remain silent. These
women said, by their
gesture, "There, in the face of your cowardice,
Palestinian women by
themselves are in the process of fighting for the
release of their men who
are besieged by the enemies of the Arabs, Israel."
"[End of report.]

They are making war on civilians and the world doesn't

This young Palestinian who recounted the above in a
low voice breaks our
heart. He could render no greater homage to these
heroic women. I think that
everyone who saw the images of these women was shaken.
The women threw
themselves down the long avenue, uncovered, empty
handed, defying the
helicopters and the armored vehicles, in order to
protect their men. The
soldiers fired on them, but the women continued and
arrived at their goal.
The soldiers who were firing from the armored vehicles
on these harmless
women are monsters.

"Israel has the right to defend itself" responded the
former ambassador Elie
Barnavi to a journalist from France Culture this
morning when asked about
the meaning of the Israeli offensive in the north of
Gaza. The right to
defend themselves against what? There is no
Palestinian army facing them.
There is only a people being massacred day after day
by the best equipped
army in the world. And the Palestinians don't have the
right to defend

It is to the Palestinian people, the victims of the
massacres, that we
should be asking what it means to live under the
Israeli military offensive,
and not to ambassadors of the Jewish State of Israel,
ambassadors who will
never tell you, when it comes to Arab lives, of the
suffering and anxiety of
children thrown into the dreadful chaos, of the women
who have no idea how
to protect them, of the elderly who impotently submit,
of babies wailing, of
pregnant women who fear for their unborn children, of
the wounded, the dead,
the mothers who cry for their men, who feel humiliated
that they cannot
defend their children, the doctors who can no longer
support the rivers of
blood and the wounded added to the wounded in their
poorly equipped

These "terrorists", these "activists" that Israel is
fighting, these are
Palestinians, the authentic residents of the nation
that Israel wiped off
the map. These are women of all ages who brave the
tanks to protect their
sons. These are children who die in their beds or
playing by the front door.
These are fathers, brothers, cousins, and spouses
summarily executed because
Israel has put them on their "wanted" lists. These are
desperate young
people who, to defend their dignity, have only rifles
and rudimentary
rockets, and who know full well that they are going to
their deaths when
they put their nose outside. Like the child Bara'
Riyad Fayyad, 4 years old,
killed on Thursday in front of the door of her house.
These are normal
people who voted democratically against the corrupt
authorities of Fatah.

"Where are our Arab brothers?", cries a Palestinian in
front of a camera.

Yes, where is the world? The "international community"
says nothing say
shocked people who watch all of this with horror and
don't understand the
silence. But the "international community", so often
invoked, is only an
empty word. The UN, ever since the fall of the USSR,
is nothing but an
instrument in the hands of the US superpower.

In fact, the "international community" is us, all of
us. It is the
associations that are unfortunately more attached to
protecting the Jewish
State of Israel than defending the right of existence
of the Palestinians
and their right to return to their rightful home. It
is the political
parties of every tendency, too preoccupied by their
electoral success. It is
our elected officials who don't dare criticize Israel
out of fear of being
accused of anti-Semitism. It is the journalists who
misinform public opinion
and cover up the crimes of state.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Israeli troops open fire on women outside mosque

The Guardian
3 November 2006

A Palestinian woman was killed and another 10 were
reported wounded when Israeli forces today opened fire on
a group preparing to act as a human shield for militants
in a Gaza mosque. Dozens of women were gathering outside
the mosque in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza Strip after an
appeal on a local radio station. At least a dozen gunmen
had taken refuge in the building after the Israeli army
launched its largest Gaza offensive in months in an
attempt to stop militants launching rocket attacks on
nearby Jewish settlements over the border.

Television pictures showed at least 50 women making their
way along a pavement when shots could be heard ringing
out. They started to flee in terror and at least two women
were left lying on the ground.

Witnesses said one woman, aged about 40, was killed, and
10 others were wounded. The Israeli army said troops
spotted two militants hiding in the crowd of women and
opened fire.

Israeli tanks and armoured personnel carriers surrounded
the building when militants took refuge there after two
days of fighting, the Israeli military and Palestinian
security officials said. A large group of women protesters
went on to gather outside the mosque. An unidentified
number of militants escaped while the demonstration was
going on, but some remained inside, the Israeli army and
Hamas said.

A 22-year-old Palestinian man was also killed in the
northern town, which troops seized on Wednesday. More than
20 Palestinians, most of them militants, have been killed
since the offensive began.

Overnight, the two sides exchanged fire. Troops also threw
stun and smoke grenades into the mosque to pressure the
gunmen to surrender. Witnesses said an Israeli army
bulldozer knocked down an outer wall of the mosque. It was
not clear if there were any casualties inside.

Residents said Beit Hanoun, a town of 30,000 people, was
effectively under full Israeli control, with a curfew

The army said it targeted Beit Hanoun because it was a
major staging ground for rocket attacks. But Israeli
officials have said the takeover of Beit Hanoun was
expected to last only a few days and did not signal the
start of a wider-scale military offensive in Gaza.

Militants, however, continued to fire rockets at Israeli
border communities, including two that landed on Friday.
Two Israelis were slightly wounded and a house was damaged
in the latest attacks.

In a separate operation last night, an Israeli air strike
on a car in Gaza City killed three Hamas fighters,
including a local militant commander, witnesses said. An
Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed the strike.