Mosaic Blog

This Week in Gaza: 'Operation Pillar of Defense' Revives Israel-Hamas Conflict

REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

 

The latest violence in the Israel-Hamas conflict began on Wednesday with the Israel Defense Force's "Operation Pillar of Defense," a series of air strikes on the Gaza Strip. The first day of strikes saw the death of Ahmed al-Jaabari, the leader of the Hamas movement's military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Factions in Gaza have responded with rocket fire into southern Israel, with fears on both sides that the situation is about to escalate into another ground war.

 

Below is a summary of this week's reports from Mosaic on the conflict, as well as the various international responses to the violence.

Wednesday, November 14

Al Jazeera reported that in an air strike on Gaza City, Israel assassinated Ahmed al-Jaabari, the head of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas movement, in an air strike on the Gaza Strip.  An Al Jazeera report looks at the most prominent chapters in the life of al-Jaabari, from his beginnings as a guerilla in the Fatah movement to his rise to power in al-Qassam, and the previous attempts on his life that killed his son and brother. It also looks at his role in the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

IBA reported that the IDF stressed that the attacks are an ongoing operation, the IDF chief of staff is overseeing the operation, and al-Jaabari is not the only target. The purpose is to stop the constant barrage of rockets on the south of Israel. Meanwhile, the Iron Dome system was bolstered in southern Israel, in the Negev town of Netivot, to guard against missile attacks from the Gaza Strip.

Press TV reported that the United States defended Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip, while Egypt called on Tel Aviv to immediately stop the attacks. The Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's health minister are calling on President Mohamed Morsi to reconsider all treaties and ties with Israel. The acting chief of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, also condemned the attacks, and called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League to discuss the Israeli aggressions.

Thursday, November 15

Saudi TV reported that Western reactions to the recent Israel-Hamas attacks varied from supporting Israel to considering the Israeli strikes a "disproportionate response" to the firing of rockets by Palestinian factions. Meanwhile, Arab nations unanimously denounced Israel, and held it completely responsible for the escalation. Khaled Meshaal, the head of the Hamas political bureau, said that the Israeli aggression on Gaza is as a test for the leaders of the Arab world, and called on Islamic and Arab leaders to change the rules of the game with Israel.

Press TV reported that the Palestinian prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, paid tribute to the late military commander Ahmed al-Jaabari, and said that his assassination will be avenged. He also hailed Egypt for its support in the decision to withdraw its ambassador from Tel Aviv. In Lebanon, the leader of the Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, said the fresh Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip has once again shown the "true face" of the US and its allies.

Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza said a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip caused an explosion in Tel Aviv. Earlier, the Israeli army said a rocket fell on Rishon Lezion, a southern suburb of Tel Aviv. This is the first time rockets launched from Gaza hit a Tel Aviv suburb. Three Israeli soldiers were injured after a shell fell in the western Negev. Israeli police also confirmed that three people were killed in the southern town of Kiryat Malakhi due to rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.

IBA reported that in Kiryat Malakhi, a direct hit by a Grad rocket on an apartment building killed Israeli civilians, including two women and a man who were trying to make their way into a fortified stairwell when the missile hit. IDF Spokeswoman Avital Leibovitch says that "all the options are on the table, including the possibility of a ground operation," and some reserve units have been alerted.

Friday, November 16

BBC Arabic reported that the Palestinian death toll has risen past 20, in addition to the over 250 people wounded in the more than 120 Israeli raids on the Gaza Strip. Israeli police confirmed that a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip fell south of Jerusalem, and two rockets fell in an open area near Tel Aviv. This comes as al-Qassam Brigades said it downed an Israeli warplane with a surface-to-air missile.

Al Jazeera reported that Israeli air raids continued despite the Netanyahu government's commitment to stop them during the visit of Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil to Gaza. Meanwhile, during protests in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Hamas flags were raised, and chants echoed in support of the movement, in a scene that has been rare since the Hamas-Fatah split in 2007. Clashes erupted across the West Bank and Jerusalem during demonstrations that took place after Friday prayers against the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.

Press TV reported that there is worldwide condemnation of the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. Demonstrators in several countries, including Turkey, Yemen, South Africa, Lebanon, Libya, and Greece, have taken to the streets in solidarity with the people of Gaza.

Image: Jihad al-Masharawi, a Palestinian employee of BBC Arabic in Gaza, carries the body of his 11-month-old son Omar, who according to hospital officials was killed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City November 15, 2012. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

 
 

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The Second Coming, Cartoon Bombs, and Angry New York Mobs: Mosaic's UNGA Roundup

 Press TV / United Nations

 

The UN General Assembly's yearly get-together is a time for high-flying international diplomacy between world leaders. The General Debate, in particular, allows all world leaders who participate in the United Nations to deliver a public address to the General Assembly. As such, it has been used as a highly-visible platform by many countries' representatives to push their views.

This year's debate theme was "Adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations by peaceful means," which seems a little tongue-in-cheek given the current situation in parts of the Middle East and Africa.

As BBC Arabic reported that Somali and African forces were closing in on the final al-Shabab stronghold of Kismayo, Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Ali gave his remarks at the Assembly, saying that there was no place in Somalia for the "few ideological extremists" in the Islamist group's ranks.

Barack Obama's appearance at the UN was brief, which some say was to avoid tough discussions with other world leaders on Iran and Syria. He honored Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in an attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi, and condemned the American-made film that criticized Islam's Prophet Muhammad and sparked anti-US riots across the Muslim world. Meanwhile, Libya's new president, Mohamed Yousek al-Magariaf, apologized for the attacks, and apologized to the world on behalf of Libya for Muammar Gaddafi's decades-long rule.

With regard to Syria, world leaders condemned the violence across the board, but their approaches to end the conflict varied greatly. According to IBA News, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Jordan's King Abdullah II both called for Bashar al-Assad to step down, saying that the Syrian president's ouster is vital to the success of peace efforts.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad supported the Syrian regime, and criticized the efforts by the Western world to interfere in what he sees as an internal conflict. Ahmadinejad, in his last speech to the Assembly as a world leader, also spoke of his belief in the imminent arrival of Jesus Christ and the twelfth imam, Imam al-Mahdi, whom Shiites believe will come at the end times with the prophet Jesus to help humanity. The United States and Israel were both absent from the General Assembly Hall when he gave his remarks.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also addressed the United Nations with a long-anticipated bid to join the UN General Assembly as an observer. The Palestinian Authority previously asked the UN for full member status last year, but had been rejected by the Security Council, which has the Israel ally, the United States, as a permanent member with veto power. Press TV reports that Abbas also lambasted Israel for its "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians, as well as the ongoing occupation of Palestinian land. A UN report that came at the beginning of the week and before the General Assembly meeting echoed similar statements-- that Israel must do more to halt the abuse of Palestinian rights.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stole the show by using a prop, which has not been done in the General Assembly since the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi pulled out a copy of the UN Charter and threw it in the air in 2009. Netanyahu used a picture of a cartoon bomb and drew a red line through it to illustrate how far Iran has come in enriching uranium, and how the United Nations must draw a red line for the country before it acquires enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb. Press TV analysts expressed concern over Netanyahu's mental health following this incident.

Outside of the Assembly Hall, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Rahmin Mehmanparast captured the attention of the American channel Fox News after he was attacked by a group of "about 100" Iranian dissident protestors on a New York City sidewalk. He managed to flag down an NYPD police car, but according to Dubai TV, the cops appeared "uninterested."

 

Image: Benjamin Netanyahu draws a red line on a bomb illustration at the UN General Assembly, September 27, 2012. Press TV / United Nations

 
 

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Palestinian Detainees: The Incomplete Road to Freedom

Palestinians rejoiced today in Gaza and the West Bank as 477 prisoners were released in the first phase of the exchange deal for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. But in an op-ed titled "Thousands Are Left Behind by the Shalit Prisoner Exchange," the general director of al-Haq, Shawan Jabarin, warned that the release of 1,000 should not mean forgetting the 6,000 political prisoners still languishing behind bars.

 

A freed Palestinian prisoner is hugged by his wife and daughter upon arrival at the Rafah crossing with Egypt in the Gaza Strip.

The release of a total 1,027 Palestinian prisoners will be completed within two months. However, 163 detainees will be exiled to Gaza and another 40 will be deported from their homeland to Turkey, Syria, Qatar and Jordan.

For detainees staying behind, worsening conditions in Israeli prisons had pushed over 2,000 Palestinian prisoners to take part in a three-week hunger strike to protest the poor conditions and lack of basic rights. According to Amnesty International, "consistent allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, including of children, were frequently reported. Among the most commonly cited methods were beatings, threats to the detainee or their family, sleep deprivation, and being subjected to painful stress positions for long periods. Confessions allegedly obtained under duress were accepted as evidence in Israeli military and civilian courts."

 

In an article titled "How Israel takes its revenge on boys who throw stones," Catrina Stewart offers a glimpse into the brutal treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli jails. She reports that children as young as 12 are taken from their homes at night, deprived of food and sleep, physically and psychologically abused, and forced to sign a confession they often can't even read. The article states that "Israel's policy has been successful in one sense, sowing fear among children and deterring them from future demonstrations. But the children are left traumatised, prone to nightmares and bed-wetting." And yet Palestinian minors were excluded from the first round of the prisoners' release, leading UNICEF to appeal for the release of Palestinian child detainees.

 

Amidst joyous celebrations in Gaza City, one Palestinian wrote that she "didn't know whether to be happy or sad…We will never stop singing for the freedom of Palestinian detainees until the Israeli prisons are emptied."

 
 

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Does the Road to Jerusalem Run Through New York City?

In a May 16, 2011, op-ed published by the New York Times, de facto Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made the case for the "long overdue Palestinian state," explaining his intention to present a formal request for full UN membership for a state of Palestine based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

A chair with the word 'Palestine' embroidered on it stands next to the grave of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah September 5, 2011, during a launch by Palestinian campaigners of a tour of the chair. The chair will be sent to the United States after making stops in other countries as part of a world-wide effort to gain support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' attempt to upgrade the Palestinians' status at the United Nations to statehood.

 

On September 4, a blue chair, dubbed the flying chair, started touring UN Security Council member states, before landed at the UN headquarters in New York ahead of the opening of the UN’s 66th general assembly. Citing failed peace negotiations with Israel and a right to self-determination, the Palestinian delegation's diplomatic efforts to rally votes for statehood were launched and continued unabated despite the US' threat to veto the bid and Israel's warnings of "dire consequences."

 

The US and Israel maintain the Palestinian Authority's unilateral move undermines negotiations towards a two-state solution, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pressing for the resumptions of talks with no preconditions. On September 16, the PM's office tweeted: "When the PA will abandon its futile steps, such as going to the UN, it will find Israel as a partner for direct negotiations for peace."

 

The Palestinian Authority managed to unify Arab governments in support of its initiative, gathered the conditional support of a divided European Union, and the endorsement of Russia and China, but the reality is that nothing will change on the ground for Palestinians who will remain under the occupation and control of Israel as the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem continues.

 

Furthermore, Abbas admitted that even more "difficult times" await the Palestinians with possible financial retaliation and punitive action expected from both the US and Israel, with the latter threatening to annex parts of the West Bank.

 

However, state-run media across the Middle East has shied away from discussing opposition to the PA's gamble with the Palestinian people's rights but the online community has vehemently expressed its dismay at what it views as the irresponsible action of an illegitimate authority. 

 

The Palestinian Youth Movement issued a harsh statement against the proposal, accusing it to be "a mechanism for rescuing the faulty peace framework and depoliticizing the struggle for Palestine by removing the struggle from its historical colonial context."

 

 

A Palestinian scout marching band plays at Manger Square in front of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

On Facebook, a page titled "Palestinians against the so-called September Statehood" garnered almost 3,500 supporters while the "Palestine poster" page featured pleas to stop the "State of September," since Abbas was "going to the UN to demand [his] right and relinquish what remains of yours."

 

On Twitter, critics of the UN initiative lashed out using hashtag #fakestatehood. Palestinian-American journalist Ali Abunimah expressed pride for having "been one of the first to expose the Abbas PA #fakestatehood bid for the anti-Palestinian deception and fraud that it is." 

 

A Palestinian law student equated the occupation and its collaborators. She tweeted: "We will never end the Israeli occupation if we cannot revolt against the local authorities that enforce it. While the Alan Dershowitz parody account promised his "100,000th follower will get a relatively new blue swivel chair signifying nothing and representing no one."

 

Across different online platforms, the recurring theme was objection to an initiative whose content has not been disclosed to the people it impacts, likening it to the Oslo Accords that were reached without public knowledge of the agreement's terms. 

 

Another essential issue was raised by many, including a blogger in the UK, who used hashtag #IOpposeSeptemberBid to send the message that "Palestine is not just Gaza & the West Bank - but all those living in the 'Diaspora' & refugee camps."  This raises the question of who is entitled to represent the Palestinian people. 

 

A legal opinion by Oxford University professor, Guy Goodwin-Gill, challenged the legitimacy of the PA and warned that the interests of the Palestinian people are at "risk of prejudice and fragmentation."

 

A report from the International Crisis Group titled "Curb your enthusiam: Israel and Palestine after the UN", describes the path to the UN as "a tale of collective mismanagement," indicating that if the Palestinians "choose to rise up, it will be because of the entrenched and seemingly unmoveable realities of occupation, not because of what happens or not as a result of a UN vote," pointing to the irrelevant if not "counterproductive" bid. 

 

So without a unified national strategy and with pending questions about the future of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the refugees' right of return, will the PA's symbolic action jeopardize the Palestinian people's struggle and rights? And in the aftermath of the Palestine Papers that unveiled how quickly the PA is willing to simply give away its people's rights, are Abbas' political theatrics an attempt to hold on to his own chair in light of the popular intifada rocking the region?

 
 

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Tonight on Mosaic: Arab world reacts to bin Laden's killing

Tonight, al-Jazeera reports on the death of Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda. Reuters quoted a US Department of Homeland Security official saying that the instructions issued to the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) team were to kill bin Laden, not capture him. President Barack Obama announced bin Laden’s death in a speech late last night, describing it as “the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al-Qaeda.” Americans gathered by the thousands in a number of cities to celebrate the news.  

 

 

The BBC reports on the mixed reactions to the death of bin Laden in the Arab world. Many expressed happiness and relief over his killing, while others doubted that bin Laden was actually dead. Hamas has condemned the killing, describing bin Laden as a “holy warrior.” The Saudi Arabian government has expressed hope that his death will be a step forward in the international efforts against terrorism.

 

In other news, Future TV reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has requested that the US end monetary support of the Palestinian Authority if a united national government is formed that includes Hamas. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh responded by demanding that the Palestinian Liberation Organization withdraw its recognition of Israel. Some political analysts believe that a third intifada is inevitable, whether or not the UN recognizes the Palestinian state.  


Al-Alam reports that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has refused to sign the deal put forth by the Gulf Cooperation Council. The opposition’s Joint Meeting Parties are holding Saleh responsible for the failure of the agreement. Meanwhile, the Yemeni people remain determined to attain what they consider to be their most important demands, including Saleh’s resignation and prosecution.

 

New TV reports on the disastrous consequences that violence in Libya is having on children. Forced to live amidst war and death everyday, children have been drawing pictures of weapons, bombs, and other violent scenes. Teachers have reported that children have also been drawing people crying and frequently using the color black.

 
 

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