As allegations of war crimes mount and anti-Israeli protests sweep across the globe, Israel appears to be losing its PR offensive against Hamas. Meanwhile, a new generation of Palestinians scarred by the war will increasingly turn to militancy, resulting in perpetual conflict in the region.
According to eyewitness and survivor accounts, on January 4th, a day after the Israeli ground offensive began, Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) occupied Zeitoun, a Palestinian town on the outskirts of Gaza City. After seizing three male teenagers for interrogation, the IDF ordered about 100 members of the Samouni clan, half of them children, into a single-storey house where they remained confined throughout the night without food, water, or electricity. They were warned not to attempt escape.
As dawn broke, the IDF repeatedly fired shells directly into the house in which it had confined the 100 Samouni clan members, killing roughly 30.
The Israeli army had already confiscated all cell-phones from the clan members, preventing any communication with the outside world. Because Gaza is also without power, due both to the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian territory and attacks on Gaza’s power station and grid, landlines were also inoperable. Finally, Israel’s ban on foreign journalists meant no media verification of the mass-killings.
However, the near identical account of both survivors and witnesses lend credence to the events, in addition to charges that Israeli soldiers refused to assist the wounded civilians, who began to die from lack of food, water, and medical assistance.
In fact, for four days, Israeli forces prevented medical personnel from entering the area to tend to and evacuate the wounded. When the first medical personnel arrived, they were attacked by Israeli troops and forced back.
Then the bulldozers moved in to destroy the site of the mass-killings.
Although Israel continues to deny the incident, Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has called for a probe into this and numerous other incidents that, if true, amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Nor, is the UN alone in demanding accountability.
The International Red Cross has begun accusing Israel of actively blocking aid to wounded civilians.
Nor is this the first alleged war crime Israel has denied.
Reports are emerging that Israel is using depleted uranium shells against Palestinian targets in Gaza.
In another breaking report, Palestinian witnesses claim Israeli forces fired phosphorus shells at Khouza, a village near the border, killing one woman and injuring more than 100, most suffering from gas inhalation and burns.
Yet, the most reported alleged Israeli crime against humanity is the most revealing:
The UN had provided Israel with GPS coordinates of all of its buildings, including its schools in Gaza, used by thousands of Palestinian civilians as shelter. Nonetheless, Israel attacked a UN school, killing 40 innocent Palestinians inside. After first denying the attack, Israel later recanted, but claimed that its forces were returning militant fire from inside. However, after UN witnesses confirmed that no militants were inside, nor did anyone fire from within the compound, Israel now claims that the attack was a result of an “errant” missile, and that the casualty figures, despite being confirmed by the UN, are inflated by Hamas.
Israel has yet to explain how a “response to militant fire” could have come from an “errant missile”.
The UN has had to halt aid and food distribution to innocent Gaza civilians after the IDF attacked UN workers. As 800,000 of Gaza’s 1.4 million residents go without food, water, and electricity, and foreign doctors remain stranded on the Egyptian side of the border, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is deteriorating at an alarming rate. Cardinal Renato Martino, former Vatican envoy to the UN and now President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, went so far as to liken conditions in Gaza to that of a concentration camp.
With the Palestinian death toll passing 800 (of which a third are children) and 1,500 injured, compared to 13 Israeli deaths (including three civilians), anti-Israeli sentiment is sweeping across the Palestinian areas. A whole new generation, scarred by the war, is likely to grow up more convinced than ever that Israel cannot be accommodated. Thus, the next generation of Palestinians is more likely than not to reject the call of moderates, and turn instead to more militant groups. The end result will be perpetual conflict in the region.
Meanwhile, the alleged war crimes against humanity are likely to lose Israel the PR offensive against Hamas. Anti-Israeli protests have erupted across the globe, and this time, they are not limited to Islamic countries. As a result, Fatah, already accused of collaborating with Israel, may lose all legitimate representational authority in Palestine while Hamas gains strength and perhaps even a level of legitimacy vis-à-vis world opinion.
No wonder, then, that despite the crushing casualty figures, Hamas has refused to accept a ceasefire with Israel.
The future may indeed belong to Hamas.
SUMMARY OF EVENTS: January 5 – 12, 2009
Six veterans who say they were exposed to dangerous chemicals, germs and mind-altering drugs during Cold War-era experiments filed a federal lawsuit against the CIA, Department of Defense and other agencies Wednesday.
The U.S. is seeking to hire a merchant ship to deliver hundreds of tonnes of arms to Israel from Greece later this month, tender documents seen by Reuters show.
Rules forcing internet companies to keep details of every e-mail sent in the UK are a waste of money and an attack on civil liberties, say critics.
The Defense Ministry of South Ossetia said Friday Georgia was moving troops towards its border, the republic’s information and press committee said.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered gas giant Gazprom to start cutting supplies to Ukraine bound for European consumers in response to Kiev’s alleged siphoning from pipelines.
Russia and Ukraine on Tuesday accused each other of blocking gas exports to European neighbors as their clash over pricing intensified.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday laid down terms for a resumption of Russian gas shipments via Ukraine to Europe as tens of thousands of Europeans suffered heating cuts amid freezing weather.
EU-sponsored talks collapsed Thursday between Russia and Ukraine on resolving a gas dispute that has cut supplies to Europe in the midst of a bitterly cold winter, with Moscow blamed for the failure.
Israel launched a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, sending tanks and infantry into battle with Hamas fighters who have defied eight days of deadly air strikes with salvoes of rocket fire into Israeli towns.
Israeli troops backed by air strikes fought to seize ground from Hamas militants deep inside the Gaza Strip on Monday despite international calls for a ceasefire in a conflict that has killed more than 540 Palestinians in 10 days.
Israeli tanks and troops blazed into towns across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday striking Hamas targets, but hits on three UN-run schools killed at least 48 people and sparked urgent new ceasefire calls.
Israel on Wednesday approved an even tougher war on Hamas, warning residents to flee southern Gaza ahead of planned bombardments of cross-border tunnels, as the Palestinian death toll passed 700.
Tanks and warplanes pounded Gaza on Friday after Israel defied a truce order from the UN Security Council as the death toll from the two-week-old conflict against Hamas passed 800.
Hezbollah has stepped up security measures on the Lebanese border in response to the full-scale Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip.
Rockets fired into northern Israel from Lebanon on Thursday jolted efforts to end the war in Gaza where Israeli jets carried out mass strikes on smuggling tunnels.
Turkish police detained about 40 people including three retired generals on Wednesday, the state news agency said, widening a probe into an alleged plot to topple EU aspirant Turkey’s Islamist-rooted AK Party government.
The U.N. has dismissed Israeli claims that its bloody attacks on schools were directed at killing Palestinians fighters.
The U.N. suspended food deliveries to Gaza and the Red Cross accused Israel of blocking medical assistance after forces fired on aid workers, killing two, as the threat of a wider conflict emerged with Lebanon.
The top U.N. human rights official called on Friday for independent investigations into possible war crimes committed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip.
India handed over evidence on Monday to Pakistan that it said linked Pakistani militants to the Mumbai attacks and demanded a prompt investigation, piling diplomatic pressure on its nuclear-armed rival.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accused Pakistan on Tuesday of acting irresponsibly, saying November’s Mumbai attacks must have had support from some of its nuclear-armed neighbor’s official agencies.
Pakistan’s decision to fire its national security adviser has exposed cracks within the shaky, civilian government as it faces growing U.S. and Indian pressure to punish the alleged plotters of the Mumbai terrorist attacks.
Sri Lankan troops fighting Tamil rebels took full control Friday of the highly strategic Elephant Pass, a causeway linking the Jaffna peninsula with the northern mainland, a government official said.
U.S. troops are helping Egypt prevent “arms smuggling” from tunnels in the Rafah border-crossing, as Israel continues its attacks on Gaza.
Manjit Singh is a contributor to Geopoliticalmonitor.com