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General News

The Israelis Mount a Diplomatic Offensive to Stop the Gaza Flotilla

By       Message Ann Wright     Permalink
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A UN official said he was "extremely worried" that essential supplies in Gaza may run out. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which provides aid to more than two-thirds of Gaza's population of 1.5-million said 172 truckloads of oil, sugar and flour were waiting to cross into the impoverished coastal territory. Christopher Gunness, an UNRWA spokesman, said he was "extremely worried" the commercial crossing at Kerem Shalom might not reopen before the Jewish Passover holiday, which begins on Monday evening, a time when Israel often shuts its crossings with Palestinian territories, citing security concerns.

According to the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), 150 types of basic medicines are unavailable in Gaza. A cooking-gas shortage also is approaching because all gas must be brought from Israel, and the Israelis have closed the border for seven days.

Israeli authorities said there were no shortages of any basic items in Gaza. Commercial goods for Gaza are brought in only through a monitored Israeli terminal. However, Palestinians bring in goods through tunnels dug beneath the border with Egypt.

Israel shut the crossings a week ago during violence when resistance fighters fired an anti-tank rocket at a school bus, wounding an Israeli teenager. Israel responded with air raids that killed 19 Palestinians.

Israeli Military Offensive in Gaza

For the past two months, the Israeli military has attacked houses and facilities in Gaza almost daily, either by US F16s, Apache helicopters air or from tank shelling, mortars or sniper fire from fortified concrete bunkers overlooking the Gaza border. From March 16-29, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) killed 14 Palestinians, including six civilians, and injured 52 Palestinians, including at least 40 civilians (19 children), between 16-29 March. According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Report...

"All the civilian fatalities and 19 of the Palestinian injuries occurred as a result of Israeli tank shelling and mortar fire. The deaths occurred in two incidents: in the evening of 20 March, two children, both 14-year-old UNRWA students, were shot and killed by Israeli fire while walking in the vicinity of the perimeter fence (within approximately 400 meters), north east of Al Bureij Camp. Two days later, four civilians, including two children, were killed, and 11 others were injured (seven from one family), when a number of Israeli mortar shells fell in a residential area east of Gaza City, located approximately 1.5 kilometres from the fence. According to the Israeli media, an IDF spokesman said that the Israeli shelling and mortar fire was in response to mortar rounds fired by armed groups in the area.

"Numerous Israeli airstrikes conducted during this period resulted in the deaths of eight armed militants and the injury of 32 Palestinians, including at least nine children. These air strikes targeted military training bases, commercial structures, tunnels, and warehouses -- one of which contained equipment and supplies for the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU). In addition, two schools in Gaza City sustained minor damage."

The OCHA report continues...

"On at least seven occasions, Israeli forces penetrated into Palestinian areas in the Gaza Strip to conduct search and land-leveling operations. On 17 March, Israeli airplanes dropped flyers reiterating the prohibition on accessing areas closer than 300-meters from the perimeter fence. Incidents of 'warning shots' as well as leveling operations have been regularly recorded over the past two years in areas up to 1.5-kilometres from the fence. In addition, Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats on six separate occasions during the reporting period, forcing them ashore; one Palestinian fisherman was injured as a result.

"During the period, Palestinian armed groups fired six Grad rockets as well as more than one hundred rudimentary rockets and mortar shells at numerous civilian and military locations alongside the fence and in southern Israel. As a result, two Israelis civilians were injured on 19 March in communities near the Israeli-Gaza border, and another one on 23 March in the city of Be'er Sheva. In three separate incidents this period (24, 26 and 29 March), Palestinian projectiles dropped short and hit factories and homes in residential areas in the Gaza Strip, resulting in the injury of six Palestinians, including an infant, and causing damage to the buildings."


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Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand (more...)

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