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Massacre of Palestinians in Gaza rages with Israeli land assault

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The year 2009 began for the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza with an all out air, land and sea assault from the Israeli armed forces. With the overt support of Bush administration, meaningful silence from President-elect Barack Obama and complicity of the US client Arab regimes, the Israeli attack on Palestinians in Gaza continues for the 10th day today (January 5, 2009) with air strikes, naval bombardment and ground forces assaulting unarmed men, women and children.

After week-long massive air strikes against the unarmed Palestinians, Israel launched a ground assault on Saturday. The Israeli onslaught, in which depleted uranium is reportedly being used, has so far killed more than 500 Palestinians and injured about 2,500.

Rev. Rich Broderick of Cambridge called the first day Israeli air strike at the civilian population in Gaza the modern day Guernica, referring to April 26, 1937 when German planes attacked the Spanish town of Guernica killing hundreds of people. For over three hours, dozens of Germany's bombers, dumped one hundred thousand pounds of high-explosive and incendiary bombs on the village, slowly and systematically pounding it to rubble. The planes flew low above the centre of the town to machinegun those who had taken refuge in the fields.

In the Israeli replay of Guernica carnage began in Gaza on December 27 when US-supplied F-16 warplanes and Apache helicopters dropped over 100 bombs on dozens of locations in Gaza killing at least 195 persons and injuring hundreds more. The bombings were timed to cause the maximum number of casualties. They occurred at approximately 11:20am on a bustling Saturday morning, just as schools were changing shifts and many children were either leaving for home or coming to afternoon classes; when offices were filled with their employees; and streets were busy with  late morning crowds out getting lunch or running errands.

Popular press rarely points out that Israeli-occupied Gaza is an area with a population of 1.5 million people who work, attend school, and get on with their lives like any other people in the world. Failing to provide that information tends to support Israel’s murderous policy of presenting Gaza as being populated solely by armed men.

The back story is that Israel has the Palestinians jammed into tightly controlled ghettos known as Gaza and the West Bank.  With Egypt’s help, Israel controls the inflows of food, medicines, water, and energy into Gaza.  Palestinians in Gaza are not permitted to enter Israel or Egypt. 

Under Israeli siege for 18 months, the people of Gaza have been denied food, electricity and have suffered from a lack of medical care. To paraphrase John L Esposito, professor of religion & international affairs at Georgetown University, the siege created a humanitarian catastrophe for Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinian residents by restricting the provision of food, fuel, medicine, electricity and other necessities of life.

The US and Europe were complicit in the blockade of a democratically elected Hamas government which seized control of Gaza after clashes with Fatah.  Israel has imposed economic sanctions and an embargo on Gaza ever since. In response, Hamas fired mortars and homemade rockets toward Israel’s southern settlements.

A truce that was brokered by Egypt went into effect on June 19 2008 for six months, effectively stopping the Gaza-sourced rockets aimed at Israel, but unfortunately it failed to end the Israeli embargo. The truce was disturbed for the first time on Nov. 4, when Israeli forces entered Gaza for the first time since June to blow up a tunnel that, according to Israel, Hamas was planning to use to capture soldiers along the border. Six Hamas militants were killed on the night of the tunnel raid. Since then rockets and mortar shells have been fired from Gaza to Israel. Hamas has offered another six-month break to violence in the Gaza Strip if Israel were to lift the embargo on the coastal territory and reopen Gaza border crossings.This, too, is not widely reported in the popular press.

Hamas is blamed for the breakdown of the truce by its supposed unwillingness to renew it, and by the alleged increased incidence of rocket attacks, but the picture becomes more complex as detail trickles out from various sources. "Long-term preparation, careful gathering of information, secret discussions, operational deception and the misleading of the public -- all these stood behind the Israel Defense Forces' "Cast Lead" operation against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip," wrote the Israeli daily Ha'aretz on Dec. 28, which also revealed that the plan for attacking Gaza had been in the works for six months.

 Untold reasons for the Israeli carnage

From the media reports, official statements and circumstantial evidence, three reasons emerge for the Israel’s one sided war and massacre of unarmed Palestinian men, women and children:

1. Israeli elections

The timing of the attacks seems prompted by a series of considerations, but most of all by the interest of political contenders Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in demonstrating their toughness prior to Israeli elections scheduled for February.

According to Michael Warschawski, the founder of Jerusalem's Alternative Information Center, "All Israeli leaders are competing over who is the toughest and who is ready to kill more."  Mass slaughter makes good campaign politics, and whoever looks the meanest may become Israel's next prime minister. As Tariq Ali puts it: "dead Palestinians are little more than election fodder" and may help Kadima retain power.

According to public opinion polls conducted before the Gaza assault, Kadima was trailing its rival Likud, which is led by Benjamin Netanyahu. After the assault, the situation changed: “The Labor Party leader and minister of defense, Ehud Barak, has emerged the biggest political winner of the war against Hamas so far,” reported Yossi Verter in the Haaretz daily.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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