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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Egyptians Rally in Tahrir for Mubarak Retrial and More

REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
Egyptians hold the second million-man march within two days

Al Jazeera - Tahrir Square witnessed a demonstration titled the “Friday of Determination”. Following the verdict of Mubarak and some of his regime’s figureheads, masses took the squares and held spontaneous protests; they were not mobilized by any particular revolutionary or political force. The protests, in which thousands participated, viewed the verdict as a step toward reproducing the former regime. The demands varied throughout the demonstrations, and included the implementation of the disenfranchisement law on candidate Ahmed Shafiq, preventing him from participating in the presidential run-off round, and the re-trial of deposed President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, and his regime's figureheads.

 

Two Sudans disagree over border of demilitarized zone

Dubai TV - The current African-mediated talks between Sudan and South Sudan have stalled once again since they started four days ago in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Both sides have failed to establish a demilitarized zone on their shared borders. Observers believe that both sides do not wish to continue fighting in light of their current crises, and the fear of UN sanctions if they fail to resolve their problems.

Benghazi residents protest unequal distribution of Libya's National Council seats

Al Jazeera - Hundreds of people demonstrated in the Libyan city of Benghazi yesterday, demanding a fair redistribution of the Public National Conference's seats among all Libyan regions. The protestors believe the current distribution of seats is prejudice, as it is based on the population density, and may lead to the monopoly of political decisions. In addition, the protestors expressed their intention to boycott the anticipated parliamentary elections, if their demands are not met.

A look back at Naksa Day, or the Day of the Setback

Palestine TV - Tuesday was the 45th anniversary of the June War, known as the Naksa, or the day of the setback, when tens of thousands of Palestinians were displaced. On that day in 1967, Israel launched an attack that targeted a number of Arab countries and occupied the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. It changed the geographic and demographic reality in what remained of Palestine, in the years following the Nakba, or the catastrophe, when its land was occupied and its people were displaced. And despite the long years of great pain between 1948 and 1967 that hold the history of dark massacres, the refugees have never stopped waiting for their return. Refugee camps and journeys of displacement remain witnesses to the severity of the occupation that has changed and is still changing the map of this region.

Afghan President Karzai condemns NATO air strike as Panetta arrives in Kabul

Al-Alam - Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the NATO air strike conducted in the southern province of Logar that resulted in the death of 18 people, assuring that targeting civilians cannot be justified. Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Panetta arrived to Afghanistan in a surprise visit. Panetta said the purpose of his visit is to get an assessment from American General John Allen, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, of the ability to cope with the Taliban's threats and Haqqani fighters, referring to another network tied to al-Qaeda.

Image: A protester acting as Hosni Mubarak wears a mask depicting the deposed Egyptian president during a mock trial at Tahrir square in Cairo June 8, 2012. Hundreds of activists gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday to demonstrate against presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik ahead of a run-off vote, saying they did not want to be ruled by another former military man. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

 
 

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Latest Headlines from the Middle East

REUTERS/Ammar Awad

 

Israel seals off West Bank and Jerusalem to celebrate Passover

Dubai TV - Tight security measures and restrictions characterize every Friday in the occupied territories, rendering the Palestinians' attempt to enter al-Aqsa mosque a difficult mission. But, this week, these measures were doubled under the pretext of celebrating Jewish holidays, but no consideration was taken for the Palestinian Christians' observance of Good Friday. Israel imposed a full security cordon on the West Bank, and raised the state of alert in occupied Jerusalem in an arbitrary measure that will extend until Sunday night.

Thousands rally behind dying 'godfather of human rights' in Bahrain

Al-Alam - Massive demonstrations were held in the areas of A'li and Jadhafs west of the Bahraini capital, al-Manama, in solidarity with human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. The demonstrators said they would hold the regime responsible for his death. The peaceful demonstrations were led by scholars, community leaders, and political figures. The participants called on the international community, notably the US, Britain, and countries that offer political support for al-Manama's regime, to take responsible action in Bahrain.

Mali's Tuareg rebels declare independence in the north

Al Jazeera - The independence of Azawad starting on April 6th, 2012. The declaration was followed by a movement leader's affirmation in Paris that the movement will not work with al-Qaeda and is not affiliated with any Islamist movement. Dozens demonstrated in the capital Bamako in protest of Azawad leaders' declaration of independence in northern Mali and the proclamation of the Azawad State. Protesters of northern descent chanted slogans calling for the country's unity, saying they would fight against those they referred to as separatists.

Egyptian Brotherhood presidential candidate says implementing sharia is 'main goal'

Dubai TV - Competition flared among prominent presidential candidates in Egypt as the closing date for the candidate nominations approaches this coming Sunday. Omar Suleiman, Hosni Mubarak's former deputy, pulled out of the competition and announced in a statement that he did not plan to run for the nomination due to what he described as "administrative and financial obstacles". In turn, the Islamist Freedom and Justice Party candidate, Khairat Al-Shater, filed his nomination papers with the High Election Committee. Al-Shater confirmed that implementing Islamic Sharia law will remain his principal agenda.The ruling Military Council in Egypt pushed forward the process to transfer authority to a president-elect and to set a date for the handover in late June, regardless of whether the country's new constitution is ready or not.

Libya announces truce to end deadly tribal clashes

Al Jazeera - A ceasefire is now in effect in western Libya after intervention from the Supreme Council for the Revolutionaries, the National Army, and the High Reconciliation Committee. The National Transitional Council announced a state of emergency in the cities of Zuwarah, al-Jamil, and Rigdaleen, and declared these cities to be a military zone under the control of the Libyan army's chief-of-staff.

 

Image: Arab Christian worshippers hold a cross as they enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during a procession on Good Friday in Jerusalem's Old City April 6, 2012. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

 
 

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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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Deporting Gandhi from Palestine

The Israeli government's recent announcement of Army order No. 1,650 was just the latest act of provocation in a series of calculated measures to derail any possible resumption of peace negotiations. Under this new draconian measure, anyone who doesn't have a "permit" to be in the West Bank is to be considered an "infiltrator" and subject to expulsion or risk up to seven years in jail.

Expulsions and deportations are not something new for the Israeli military administrative system which was established in 1969, shortly after the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six-Day War. At the time, the Israeli military was given the legal power to expel "infiltrators" without trial for various unspecified "security reasons."

Two particular Palestinian communities will be impacted by order No. 1,650: Palestinians with Gaza residencies and Palestinians with East Jerusalem residencies, as well as foreign-born residents of the West Bank. But many Palestinian and Israeli experts believe that it's the foreigners living amongst Palestinians who are the real target of the Netanyahu government. Many believe that this is part of an ongoing Israeli effort to silence dissent and crack down on international solidarity members and activists who travel to Palestinian areas to support protests and rallies, often bringing with them the eyes of the outside world.

Now that Israel has almost completed its "Separation Wall", it wants to build a "Wall of Silence" and control the flow of information and limit the presence of foreign-born eyewitnesses on the ground. The question is, why now?

 

A "White Intifada" has begun to take hold in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Every Thursday and Friday, Palestinian peace activists, accompanied by members of the Israeli Peace Now movement, as well as international supporters, gather to demonstrate against what they term as Israel's "Apartheid Wall" and land and home confiscations in the villages of Bil'in, Naalin, and the Sheikh Jarah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Volunteers from B'Tselem( the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), document by video suspected violations of human rights by members of the security forces during those protests.

Two months ago, I witnessed a Friday demonstration in Sheikh Jarah where settlers tried to provoke peaceful demonstrators by harassing and spitting on them while Israeli Police and border patrol units watched from across the street. I was impressed by the demonstrators' calm and unfazed demeanor. Similarly, at the villages of Bil'in and Naalin, peaceful demonstrators have been brutally beaten and arrested by the Israeli army. Nevertheless, more keep coming back every week.

In February a Czech volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement was taken in the night from her house in Ramallah and deported by Israeli forces. This new order will give a blanket legal cover to the Israeli police and army to instantly deport foreign activists and aid workers spotted at demonstrations. Last December, at another demonstration I covered at Erez (Gaza-Israel Crossing), Israeli police did not engage the peaceful demonstrators who gathered calling for an end of the siege on Gaza. Instead, policemen were busy videotaping those who showed up, especially foreign nationals. Interestingly enough my Israeli Press Card was indefinitely delayed for renewal after my coverage of that story, but that's another subject on its own.

For years I've been hearing the popular question usually posed by Americans, "Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?"

During the past two trips that I've made to the Palestinian territories and Israel, I think that I discovered him/her in the eyes of the many peaceful demonstrators against the Israeli occupation. Nonviolent resistance could be the biggest threat to Israel's ability to justify it's continued military aggression and occupation of Palestinian lands. Order No. 1,650 is to neutralize the movement by deporting Gandhi.

 

Article first published on the Huffington Post
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