Thursday, January 22, 2009

As Aggressors Withdraw: Gaza Lives on Despite US-Israeli Terror War

As aggressors withdraw: Gaza lives on despite U.S.-Israeli terror war

Published Jan 21, 2009 5:07 PM

The Palestinian people, bloodied but unbowed, have won the most uneven of battles.

The brutal scenario cooked up in the war rooms of the Israeli military and the Pentagon didn’t work.

Palestinian Tahani Hijji, 26, carries her young child as she
arrives to inspect her destroyed house in the southern part
of Gaza City, Jan. 20.

The 23-day blitzkrieg against the people of Gaza and their democratically chosen leadership, Hamas, was supposed to break their spirit. Instead, it united the Palestinians more than ever against their oppressors and brought tears and roars of support from around the world.

The attackers seemed to have everything on their side:

• Highly trained troops bristling with the latest weapons.

• Total command of the air and sea around the tiny Gaza Strip, which is crowded with 1.5 million Palestinian refugees.

• An 18-month-long blockade that allowed the Israelis to turn off food, fuel, medicine and water like shutting a spigot.

• The complicity of all the imperialist powers, especially the U.S. Washington supplies Israel with weapons and money for its death machine, let it become a nuclear power, and has blocked any international action that even whispered criticism of the racist Israeli settler state.

• A Western-dominated world corporate media that, with few exceptions, sides with Israel.

Yet by Jan. 20 it was being reported that most of Israel’s troops had withdrawn from Gaza without a formal cease-fire, meaning without Tel Aviv being able to impose conditions on the Palestinians. A coalition of resistance groups—including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, al-Nidal, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and al-Saeqa—had two days earlier announced a unilateral cease-fire on the condition that the Israelis withdraw within a week.

Not a war but a massacre

As the troops withdrew, aid workers were finally able to search the rubble for bodies. The destruction imposed by the invading troops and by air strikes had been horrendous.

According to the Palestinian National Authority, by the time of the cease-fire more than 1,300 Gazans were confirmed killed, more than half of them civilians, and more than 5,400 wounded. About two-thirds of the civilians killed were children. Property damage in Gaza was estimated at $2 billion. By contrast, Israel lost 13 people, 10 of whom were soldiers. Yet the corporate media decry “violence on both sides.”

Even with a cease-fire, the death toll of Palestinians continues to rise hourly as decaying corpses are found in the shattered remains of buildings. They had lain there for days because the unadmitted policy of the Israeli military was to target rescue workers. It was reported that 13 medical workers were killed by the Israelis—most shot down while trying to recover civilian casualties.

Other atrocity stories are finally making it to the outside world.

Residents of the village of Khuza’a in southern Gaza on Jan. 18 told reporters for a London newspaper what had happened there during a sustained 12-hour assault by Israel.

“Israeli soldiers entering the village attempted to bulldoze houses with civilians inside; killed civilians trying to escape under the protection of white flags; opened fire on an ambulance attempting to reach the wounded; and used indiscriminate force in a civilian area and fired white phosphorus shells,” survivors had reported.

In one incident, Israeli troops ordered 30 residents to leave their homes and walk to a school in the village center. After they had gone about 60 feet, troops fired on the group, killing three, the survivors said.

“If the allegations are upheld, all the incidents would constitute breaches of the Geneva conventions,” continued the article. “The denunciations over what happened in Khuza’a follow repeated claims of possible human rights violations from the Red Cross, the U.N. and human rights organizations. ...

‘What I can tell you is that many, many houses were shelled and that they used white phosphorus,’ said Stevens yesterday, one of the first Western journalists to get into Gaza. ‘It appears to have been indiscriminate.’ Stevens added that homes near the village that had not been hit by shell fire had been set on fire.” (The Observer, Jan. 18)

Amnesty International said on Jan. 19 that delegates it sent to Gaza had found “indisputable evidence of widespread use of white phosphorus in densely populated residential areas in Gaza City and in the north.” The use of white phosphorus as a weapon is banned by international law.

DIME—another ghastly new U.S. weapon

Doctors in Gaza have also reported catastrophic injuries they believe were caused by another terrible new weapon: a Dense Inert Metal Explosive, or DIME device. The Pentagon began developing these weapons in 2006, but before Gaza their only suspected use had been by the Israelis during their attack on Lebanon that year.

Two European doctors working in the Gaza Strip—Jan Brommundt, a German with Medecins du Monde, working in the south Gazan city of Khan Younis, and Erik Fosse, a Norwegian surgeon at the Al-Shifa hospital in northern Gaza—told Al-Jazeera that surgeons were encountering massive organ and tissue damage yet could find no evidence of shrapnel or other hard substances having entered the body. Both said they and their colleagues suspected a DIME explosive had been used.

A DIME device, explains the news service, “expels a blade of charged tungsten dust that burns and destroys everything within a four-meter radius.

“Brommundt also described widespread but previously unseen abdominal injuries that appear minor at first but degenerate within hours, causing multiorgan failure.

“’It seems to be some sort of explosive ... that disperses tiny particles ... that penetrate all organs,’ the doctor said. ‘Initially everything seems in order ... but they will present within one to five hours with an acute abdomen which looks like appendicitis but it turns out on operation that dozens of miniature particles can be found in all of their organs,’ he said. The doctor added that these injuries can’t be addressed surgically and that many patients succumbed to septicemia and died within 24 hours.”

Dr. Fosse also told Al-Jazeera there had been a significant increase in double amputations. “We suspect they [Israel] used DIME weapons because we saw cases of huge amputations or flesh torn off the lower parts of the body,” he said. “The pressure wave [from a DIME device] moves from the ground upwards and that’s why the majority of patients have huge injuries to the lower part of the body and abdomen.” Fosse said that most of the patients he saw with these injuries were children. (Al-Jazeera, Jan. 19)

Gap between streets and suites

Israel tried to make the best of its withdrawal, saying it had been timed for the inauguration of Barack Obama as the new U.S. president. Whether true or not—the Israeli military had originally said it would stay in Gaza as long as it took to destroy the Hamas leadership—this explanation betrays Israel’s complete dependence on Washington.

While some critics of Israel claim it controls U.S. policy, the truth is that the ruling establishment in the U.S. has built Israel into a military bastion to counter the rising wave of national liberation struggles in the Middle East. Whether under secular or Islamic leadership, these mass struggles seek sovereignty and control over their national resources after more than a century of being plundered and demeaned by colonialism and imperialism.

If Washington thought that its support for this onslaught by Israel would advance its fortunes elsewhere—Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan—by spreading intimidation and fear, it now has to think again. The gap between the streets and the suites, especially in those Arab countries allied to the U.S., has never been greater.

Anger and frustration have been rising, especially against the rulers of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who are seen as traitors to the Arab cause. The Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, got much media attention when he tried to buy some credibility at a recent summit in Kuwait by pledging $1 billion to the reconstruction of Gaza.

At the same time, an international forum was being held in Beirut to build solidarity and practical support for the Palestinian cause among secular leftist and Islamic anti-imperialist forces. Forum participant Sara Flounders of the International Action Center told Workers World, “What was most significant about this major international gathering, taking place as Gaza was burning, was that it provided an international pole of resistance in sharp contrast to the U.S./Israeli pole of collaborators.

“Major countries opposing U.S. policy—including Lebanon, Venezuela, Iran and Syria—sent top delegations that gathered with leaders of the most active anti-war and Palestine solidarity groupings whose mobilizations had brought millions into the street.

“It was clear to all that at a great cost of blood and sacrifice, Palestinians in Gaza had prevailed. Israel had not succeeded in disarming or gaining the surrender of Hamas.

The struggle continues into a new period more confident and more connected.”

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