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Israel's prime minister has assembled a team to defend the country against charges of war crimes in its recent offensive against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
Ehud Olmert asked Israeli Justice Minister Daniel Friedman Thursday to lead an inter-ministerial team to prepare legal defenses for Israeli officials and military personnel.
Israeli Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz warned earlier this week that Israel may face a wave of international lawsuits over its 22-day offensive, which ended Sunday.
U.N. human rights expert Richard Falk said Thursday there is evidence that Israel violated humanitarian law by conducting the offensive, "against an essentially defenseless population." He called for an independent investigation to see if Israel committed war crimes.
Israel, Palestinian Authority Welcome Obama Plans for Peace
By Robert Berger | Voice of America
Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank have welcomed President Obama's announcement that he will "aggressively" pursue peace in the Middle East.
"It must instill in us a sense of urgency, as history shows us that strong and sustained American engagement can bridge divides and build the capacity that supports progress," he said.
Mr. Obama appointed former senator George Mitchell as Mideast envoy and said he would visit the region soon.
A new start with the Muslim world, as pledged by President Obama in his inaugural speech, has a sine qua non: a Palestinian settlement, a quest that has eluded the last five U.S. presidents. Following Israel's invasion of Gaza and its 22-day campaign of airstrikes, tank and artillery bombardment that left 1,300 Palestinians killed for the loss of only 13 Israeli soldiers, a Palestinian state remains a diplomatic chimera.
Yes, we now know the ever grimmer statistics: more than 1,400 dead Gazans (and rising as bodies are dug out of the rubble); 5,500 wounded; hundreds of children killed; 4,000 to 5,000 homes destroyed and 20,000 damaged -- 14% of all buildings in Gaza; 50,000 or more homeless; 400,000 without water; 50 U.N. facilities, 21 medical facilities, 1,500 factories and workshops, and 20 mosques reportedly damaged or destroyed; the smashed schools and university structures; the obliterated government buildings; the estimated almost two billion dollars in damage; all taking place on a blockaded strip of land 25 miles long and 4 to 7.5 miles wide that is home to a staggering 1.4 million people.
Rafah--Traffic on Sea Street, a major thoroughfare alongside Gaza's coastline, includes horses, donkeys pulling carts, cyclists, pedestrians, trucks and cars, mostly older models. Overhead, in stark contrast to the street below, Israel's ultra modern unmanned surveillance planes criss-cross the skies. F16s and helicopters can also be heard. Remnants of their deliveries, the casings of missiles, bombs and shells used during the past three weeks of Israeli attacks, are scattered on the ground.
Workers have cleared most of the roads. Now, they are removing massive piles of wreckage and debris, much as people do following an earthquake.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says it will open an investigation into Israel's alleged use of depleted uranium during the 22-day offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Wednesday's announcement came after Arab nations sent a letter to Mohammed ElBaradei, the IAEA director-general, asking the UN agency to investigate whether the controversial munitions were used in the war, which left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead.
Dr. Atallah, a physician in Gaza, invited us to meet him in his home in Gaza City, just a few blocks away from the Shifaa Hospital.
Early this morning, he and his family returned to their home after having fled five days earlier when the bombing attacks on Gaza City had become so fierce that they feared for their lives. "Believe me, when I would drive from the hospital to the place where my family was staying, I prayed all the way," said Dr. Atallah, "because the Israelis would shoot anyone on the roads at night."
Al Nakba Redux
by Stephen Lendman
For Palestinians, the Nakba "Catastrophe" is their "Holocaust" six-month slaughter and displacement before and after the May 1948 establishment of Israel. In December 1947, Jews in Palestine numbered 600,000 compared to 1.3 million Palestinians. David Ben-Gurion ordered them removed and for "Every attack....to end with occupation, destruction and expulsion."
He meant depopulation, destruction, mass slaughter, displacement, and erasing a proud people's history. Palestine was to become Israel. Most of the job was completed, more in 1967, and thereafter incrementally until total dispossession is achieved. Gaza is the latest battleground. More ahead is planned. The struggle for liberation continues.
In all respects, Gaza's situation is dysfunctional and calamitous. Consider the dire medical state alone.
On Monday, a group called Jews Against the Occupation staged a protest against Israel’s invasion of Gaza blocks away outside the Israeli consulate in New York. Among those protesting was renowned playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner. Kushner won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for his play Angels in America, which was later made into an award-winning television mini-series. “The policy, on the part of the Israeli government, of reoccupation of Gaza seems to me catastrophically misguided,” Kushner says. “I can’t imagine this is not going to continue to be bloody and a violation of human rights.”
The World Has Lost Its Conscience
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT 5:10 mins.
I do not like Hamas. I detest religious fundamentalism and the use of suicide bombers. I find the group's anti-Semitism and ruthless silencing of internal Palestinian opponents repugnant. The rocket attacks on Israeli civilians are a war crime. But this does not negate the legitimacy of Palestinian resistance to the long Israeli siege and occupation of Gaza.
The moral scum of any society rises to the surface in war. Those who have a penchant for violence and an access to weapons dominate the landscape. It was the criminal class and gangsters who first organized the defense of Sarajevo. It was the thugs of Gaza who took control to confront the Israeli army. This is nothing new in wartime. Violence is a disease, a disease that corrupts all who use it regardless of the cause. But there are moments when a people face the terrible tragedy of resistance or obliteration. This was true in Sarajevo. It is true for the Palestinians. It does not make it pretty or good. It is what happens.
Today in Solidarity We're All Palestinians
by Stephen Lendman
World outrage continues over Israeli war crimes and Washington's complicity. Gazans are now immortalized. Hamas is more popular than ever and remains resolute despite everything the IDF threw against it.
Democrats and Republicans share equal guilt. They fund Israeli state terror, are partnered in its aggression, and have collaboratively planned, supported, and/or agreed to it for the past 41 years. Continuity under Obama is assured. The current Gaza carnage is the worst since 1967. In spite of its "unilateral" ceasefire, sporadic Israeli attacks continue. The IDF merely redeployed. Gaza remains under siege, and human suffering is overwhelming and unrelieved.
ISRAEL THE MIGHTY
by Rick Burnley
Hey there, Israel the Mighty,
It seems you've lost your way,
And by the time you've finished with your blitzkrieg,
You're going to have Hell to pay
The Palestinians Say: 'This Is a War of Extermination'
by Ahdaf Soueif | Guardian UK
Everyone says something new is going on here; something different. The residents of Egyptian Rafah are used to the sounds of rockets and shells exploding on the other side of their border, but they've never heard the sounds they've been hearing over the last 20 days. Twenty-five miles further into Egypt the general hospital at el-Arish is used to receiving the Palestinian wounded. The staff have never seen injuries like these before. The hospital forecourt is swarming with ambulances, paramedics, press. The wounded are raced into casualty.
The Palestinians are mostly silent; each man working out where he finds himself and what he's going to do. Fearing for their wounded and fearing for those they've left behind, they are silent but unfailingly courteous.
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT INSIDE
UK Jewish MP: Israel Acting Like Nazis in Gaza
A cease fire in Palestine is the best news imaginable, except ...
When the people you're bombing have been demanding a cease fire for a long time, how can your cease fire be unilateral unless you consider your victims subhumans incapable of discourse?
The previous cease fire was supposed to also end the blockade.
The timing of the U.S. inauguration festivities kicking off is worrisome.
Those who began and continued the firing should go to prison, not be applauded for finally pausing.
By Lisa Schirch
WASHINGTON, DC - From an Israeli perspective, the cost in international outrage and Palestinian civilian lives of the current attacks on Gaza is worth the price of crushing Hamas’s firepower. The goal is seductive, and Israel will likely succeed in slowing the development of rockets by Hamas in the short term. But just like Israel’s siege of Lebanon in 2006, the Israeli “shock and awe” military strategy in Gaza will not undermine Hamas’s leadership or bring long term security.
Both Israel and Gaza have a right to defend themselves. But there is a difference between a right to defence and an effective strategy for ending the attacks and ongoing violence.
The key ingredients of Hamas’s rockets are not metal casings and bags of explosives brought through tunnels from Egypt, and then built and launched from Gazan garages.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 15, 2009) -- Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to allow humanitarian organizations to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
The resolution is currently cosponsored by Representatives Conyers, Ellison, Hinchey, Kaptur, McDermott, Rahall, Watson, and Woolsey.
The full text of the resolution is available HERE.
See a video message from Congressman Kucinich explaining the resolution HERE.
The transcript of the message follows:
Several thousand protesters descended on the White House Saturday in support of Palestinians in war-ravaged Gaza, as other protests took place across Canada and in the Mexican capital.
As many as 10,000 people, according to organizers, gathered from about 1:00 pm (1800 GMT) in Washington's Lafayette Park, across from the White House, chanting "free Palestine" as protest leaders and activists spoke from a podium.
The United States Promotes Israeli Genocide Against the Palestinians
By Professor Francis A. Boyle
(from "Tackling America's Toughest Questions," now at Amazon.com)
As long ago as October 19, 2000, the then United
Nations Human Rights Commission (now Council) condemned Israel
for inflicting "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity"
upon the Palestinian people, most of whom are Muslims. The reader
has a general idea of what a war crime is, so I am not going
to elaborate upon that term here. But there are different degrees
of heinousness for war crimes. In particular are the more serious
war crimes denominated "grave breaches" of the Fourth Geneva
Convention. Since the outbreak of the first Intifada in 1987,
the world has seen those heinous war crimes inflicted every day
by Israel against the Palestinian people living in occupied Palestine:
e.g., willful killing of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli
army and by Israel's illegal paramilitary settlers. These
Washington D.C. (January 15, 2009) – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today made the following statement about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza on the House Floor:
“The attack on the United Nations headquarters in Gaza is further proof that a post-legal era in world affairs has taken shape; where law and moral principles are irrelevant, where might makes right, where retribution and vengeance, even against innocent children, fails to shake us from moral lethargy or political paralysis.
“Collective punishment, disproportionate use of force, using U.S. planes, helicopters and munitions to attack a wounded, starved and thirsty civilian population of mostly children trapped in a box called Gaza has become acceptable, perhaps because we have already accepted the deaths of over one million innocent civilians in Iraq in a war based on lies.
A Plea From a Teen in Gaza
By NOUR KHARMA, CounterPunch
Today, it is the two weeks of this horrible war. Last Saturday was the worst day of all. When I woke up in the morning one of my friends called. His voice sounded strange when I asked, “How are you?”
He answered “Fine, but have you heard any news about any of your friends?”
I was really scared, and asked him, “What’s wrong?”
He told me Christine died. I went into a state of shock. I still don’t believe it. I threw the phone and started crying. I called some of my other friends to make sure, and all of them were grieving. Christine has been my friend for almost four years. We used to go to school and to the YMCA together. I’m sad, afraid, and worried all at once, because she could have been my sister. I feel very sorry for her and her family.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he had told the US president not to vote in favor of the recent United Nations resolution on Gaza.
"I told him (George W. Bush) the United States could not vote in favor. It cannot vote in favor of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favor," said Olmert on Monday.
Last Thursday, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1860, calling for an immediate ceasefire between Hamas and Israeli forces and an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. The US was the only country to abstain; fourteen of the 15 council members voted in favor of the resolution.
According to Olmert, Bush had ordered Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to abstain. Rice is among officials who had helped arrange the resolution.
The war in Gaza continues, largely because the Bush Administration has continued to oppose, in practice, an immediate ceasefire. With each day that passes without a ceasefire, more innocents are killed.
Representative Dennis Kucinich plans to introduce a resolution in the House soon calling for an immediate ceasefire. There are a number of whereases in the draft, recounting the human toll of the war and the blockade, but the punchline is very simple:
Resolved, That the House of Representatives calls on the Government of Israel and representatives of Hamas to implement an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and to allow unrestricted humanitarian access in Gaza.
Israeli forces yesterday pounded dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip and dropped leaflets warning of an escalation in attacks, as southern Israel came under renewed Palestinian rocket fire. Last night, as flames and smoke rose over Gaza City, speculation grew that Israel was about to launch the so-called third stage of its offensive: the forcible entry into Gaza City by thousands of troops.
In response, Hamas said that the Gaza offensive had "killed the last chance for settlement and negotiation with Israel". Earlier yesterday, Israeli aircraft attacked more than 40 targets throughout Gaza, striking 10 rocket-launching sites, weapons-storage facilities, smuggling tunnels, an anti-aircraft missile launcher and gunmen. And civilians. In the day's bloodiest incident, an Israeli tank shell landed outside a home in the northern Gaza town of Jabaliya, killing nine people as they sat in their garden. They were all from the same clan, and, said health administrator Adham Hakim, their bodies were so mangled they were brought to hospital in the boot of a civilian car. Two were women and two were children.