(#1 and #2) These first two pieces discuss Israel's use of white phosphorous as well as Dense Inert Metal Explosive, another highly destructive experimental weapon. The first piece below is an interview from Democracy Now with a doctor who is in Gaza as well as a military analyst for Human Rights Watch, and they describe both the visual evidence from the ground as well as the pattern of injuries seen in the hospitals as consistent with the use of these munitions. The descriptions of the injuries are graphic and very disturbing, comparing the hospitals in Gaza to a "scene from Dante's Inferno" with civilians constituting 90% of the incoming casualties. The second article in this group is a Human Rights Watch report.
There is no clear word on whether Israel is in fact using these weapons, and whether it is using them in a proscribed way. Evidence points to these conclusions, but with the international community given such limited access to Gaza (the media is still kept out), these conclusions are still speculative. One important point made in this first piece however is that we do not need international monitors or forensics experts to tell us that Israel has laid siege to Gaza for the past 18 months, causing massive harm to the civilian population and creating a context in which civilians with ordinarily non-fatal injuries are condemned to death -- and that this constitutes the greater crime, and an undeniable one.
(#3) Salon.com commentator Glenn Greenwald looks at Thomas Friedman's recent column in the NY Times. Friedman defends Israel's war on Gaza, arguing that it might achieve the same (successful, according to Friedman) outcome as Israel's 2006 attack on Lebanon. In both cases, Friedman speculates approvingly, Israel is trying to teach terrorist groups a lesson they will not forget. It is trying to "exact enough pain on the civilians" to make them turn against Hamas and Hezbollah and prevent these groups from acting against Israel in the future.
Greenwald focuses on one specific aspect of Friedman's argument, the fact that Friedman is very clearly advocating mass, state-sponsored terrorism. It is the textbook definition of terrorism, a war crime, to inflict premeditated, politically motivated violence against civilians, and this is precisely what Friedman is advocating and Israel is doing. It is shocking how blunt and unashamed both Friedman and other proponents of the war have been in (again, approvingly) citing harm to the civilian population as a military tactic. The only thing left to do is to call this what it is: terrorism, and Greenwald does this in a straightforward and lucid way, with plenty of supporting documentation. If you would like to let the NY Times know your opinion of Friedman, the address is: email@example.com. Letters should be under 150 words and couched in polite terms.
Note, the media watchdog, FAIR, has issued an alert about the Friedman piece too: see: http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3679
(#4) Call for urgent humanitarian action by 9 Israeli human rights organizations. Details the "clear and present danger to the lives and well-being of tens of thousands of civilians." The top four threats: 1) people are trapped and cannot flee; 2) the health system has collapsed; 3) those areas that were heavily attacked are isolated, cannot receive aid or even be assessed to know what their needs are; 4) many Gazan residents are without access to electricity and running water, and sewage is running in the streets.
With hope that this message will convince the powers in charge to immediately halt their attacks on civilians.
Sarah Anne Minkin
White Phosphorous and Dense Inert Metal Explosives: Is Israel Using Banned and Experimental Munitions in Gaza?
Israel is coming under increasing criticism for its possible use of banned and experimental munitions. Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of illegally firing white phosphorous, which causes horrific burns if it comes in contact with the skin, over crowded refugee camps in Gaza. Medics and human rights groups are also reporting that they are seeing injuries distinctive of another controversial weapon, Dense Inert Metal Explosive, known as DIME, that was designed by the US Air Force in 2006. Those struck by the weapon who survive suffer severe mutilations and internal injuries. We go to the Gaza border to speak with Marc Garlasco of Human Rights Watch and to Norway to speak with Dr. Mads Gilbert, who just returned from the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. He says Gaza is "truly a scene from Dante's Inferno." [includes rush transcript]
Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst for Human Rights Watch. He is on the northern border of Gaza.
Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who worked at Al Shifa hospital in Gaza during the Israeli assault.
AMY GOODMAN: As the assault on Gaza enters its nineteenth day, Israel is coming under increasing criticism for its possible use of banned and experimental munitions. Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of illegally firing white phosphorous over crowded refugee camps in Gaza. White phosphorous shells cause horrific burns if they come in contact with the skin. Under international law, phosphorus is allowed as a smokescreen to cover troop movements and protect soldiers or to be used for illumination, but it's considered illegal if used against people.
In addition to white phosphorous, medics and human rights groups are reporting they are seeing injuries distinctive of another controversial weapon. The munition, called DIME, for dense inert metal explosive, was designed to create a powerful blast over a small area. It was developed by the US Air Force in 2006. Those struck by the weapon who survive suffer severe mutilations and internal injuries. The weapon causes the tissue to be torn from the flesh. Unlike traditional munitions, there is said to be no shrapnel. Instead, particles of metals can be found in the bodies of those affected. Those residues have been found on victims in Gaza.
Israel has denied it's using either white phosphorous or DIME weapons.
Joining us now on the phone from Norway is one of the doctors who first accused Israel of using the DIME explosives: Dr. Mads Gilbert, an expert in emergency medicine. He and his colleague Erik Fosse have just returned from the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, where they were volunteering through the aid organization NORWAC. Shifa Hospital is the largest hospital in Gaza.
We're also joined by Marc Garlasco on the northern border of Gaza. He is a senior military analyst for Human Rights Watch, investigating Israel's use of white phosphorus.
Marc Garlasco, on the border in Gaza, I want to start with you. You worked for the Pentagon. You know your weapons well. What are you seeing?
MARC GARLASCO: Well, when you stand on the border of Gaza, you watch every day as white phosphorus rounds are lobbed over with 155-millimeter artillery. We watch as Cobra and Apache gunships fly in and do strafing runs, run after run after run. You can see Heron drones overhead dropping bombs, additionally F-16s, and F-16s come in occasionally to drop aerial ordnance. It's much quieter now than it was days ago. But still, it's a continuous barrage, particularly lately on the refugee camps and in closer to Gaza City, which is where we're looking at.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, you're making a very serious accusation: the use of white phosphorus as a weapon, as opposed to illumination or a smokescreen. What evidence do you have of this?
MARC GARLASCO: Well, we have not stated that Israel is using it as a weapon. We've clearly stated that we're standing on the border, observing day after day the Israeli Defense Forces firing white phosphorus into the refugee camps and Gaza City. Now, we are not there on the ground to observe any further how it's being used. I'm about like, say, a mile away. And so, from that distance, you can see very precisely that it's going in. Whether it's being used as—you know, right now, we can tell it's being used as an obscurant, but we have no further information to state whether or not they're using it as a weapon, and we have not stated that.
AMY GOODMAN: In terms of what happens when it comes in contact with the skin?
MARC GARLASCO: Well, clearly, I would say we need to talk to Dr. Gilbert about the specifics, but from our understanding, you're looking at third-degree burns that continue to burn until the fuel is exhausted. Fuel from white phosphorus burns for approximately five to ten minutes, as it's creating the smoke, and if it goes onto the skin, it has to be removed. Otherwise, it will continue to burn.
And that's clearly one of our gravest concerns. Our concern is that Israel is not taking all feasible precautions to spare the civilians from harm and that we're going to see civilian casualties from white phosphorus use. You know, it cannot determine who is a target, who is a military target, and who's a civilian, because it covers an area up to 250 meters in diameter, quite large. And these are densely populated refugee camps we're talking about.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me go to Dr. Mads Gilbert, who has just returned from Gaza, the Shifa Hospital. He's back in Norway right now. What did you see, in terms of the casualties, both when it comes to white phosphorus and also with this new weapon that you have been talking about called DIME?
DR. MADS GILBERT: I will answer that, but I think it's important to understand that the most devastating weapon they are currently using is actually the siege of Gaza, which has been on for eighteen months, which means a lot of starvation, lack of food, water, power supplies, medicines, napkins, anything that people need to live. So it's one-and-a-half million people who basically is now without their absolutely necessary means for living their lives, and that is, of course, illegal.
When it comes to the weaponry, we did not see clear evidence in patients that we received that they had been hit by white phosphorous, but we were told by the doctors and colleagues in Shifa that during the first days of the invasion, the ground invasion, they had seen this affecting as a side effect of the smokescreen use of the white phosphorus. And that was inhalation injuries, meaning that people have been breathing the phosphorus damp into their lungs, and burns. Also, by the end of our mission, when we left, there were fierce attacks in the south, and again the doctors in the European Hospital in South Gaza reported the same thing: burns and inhalation injuries. So it seems like my expert on the [inaudible] is right, that using such chemical means in so densely populated areas, as Gaza is, you will evidently have to affect also the civilians.
When it comes to the DIME weapons, we have seen a substantial number of amputations, where the amputees do not have shrapnel injuries. On the contrary, they have torn apart their legs, often one or two or even three limbs, their arm also. Some of them are beyond salvage, because the amputations are so high and so fierce that it also affects the lower part of the body. Some are survivable. But typical for these amputations is that there is no sign of metal fragments or shrapnel. It is only this very brutal amputations caused by some extreme power and small rice grain, rice, corn, pieces of some kind of substance, not metal, but—you know, the DIME weapon is a mixture of metals, nickel and cobalt, in a composite cast, not in a metal cast. And that's explaining why you don't see shrapnel.
The additional effect in animal studies on the DIME weapon is that the residuals in the muscle in mice will cause a very severe form of muscle cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma, which easily spreads to the lungs. This remains to be shown.
I underline we don't have proof, but we have strong evidence that these amputations we've been seeing in Gaza for the last eleven days must come from some type of weapon that we don't know of.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain more fully these kinds of amputations, Dr. Gilbert?
DR. MADS GILBERT: You know, often, if you have a grenade amputation or an amputation from any kind of metal fragment, it will be more like you had a hatch or an ax or a huge knife that cut through your bone and the muscle. What we see in these suspected DIME amputations is that the whole limb is crushed in a way that must suggest some sort of immense power that has hit the lower part of the body. And we know that these small bombs, which the DIME bombs are, explodes in a way so that it will mainly affect the lower limbs. The limbs are—you will have multiple very severe fractures. The muscles are sort of split from the bones, hanging loose. And you also have quite severe burns where this energy wave has hit.
If you look at pictures from sites where these patients have come, you don't see fragments in the walls in the house around, maybe fifteen, twenty meters apart from the explosions. And you see only some stripes of power in the sand on the ground, and these actually are the examples that the power dissipates very quickly, maybe within five or ten meters of the explosion, so that you will not have this kind of collateral damage, as it's called. But in Gaza, again, so densely populated, that these DIME weapons will have a devastating effect. Also, they are, by some, classified as nuclear weapons.
AMY GOODMAN: Nuclear weapons?
DR. MADS GILBERT: Well, the EU Commission on nuclear matters have stated clearly that these weapons, since they are based on a fission process, you need to investigate more the residuals, if that is radioactive. That has not been done. It was not done in Lebanon in 2006, when these weapons were first described. And it has not been done in Gaza in 2006 and now this—I saw the similar injuries in Gaza around Easter 2006—excuse me, 2008, that is, during the incursions in Jabalya, exactly the same types. And I believe there are some sixty-six cases described at Shifa Hospital before this war.
AMY GOODMAN: Marc Garlasco, you worked for the Pentagon. These DIME weapons, dense inert metal explosive, were developed by the US Air Force. Do you know about them?
MARC GARLASCO: Well, only what we've read about. I mean, I left the Pentagon long before these were developed. These weapons were developed in 2006, so they're extraordinarily new. I've been on a number of battlefields, and one of the problems is that from what we've read in literature, when the DIME explodes, you're looking at no residual pieces. And so, it becomes very problematic to go in on an investigation looking for forensic evidence, when it, in effect, eats itself up in the explosion.
And you have to remember, these weapons, interestingly, were developed to save civilians, to minimize civilian casualties, so that if the weapon explodes and kills anyone within the blast radius of, let's say, ten meters to twenty meters, it immediately drops off in power, and so no one dies outside that area, whereas the standard bomb today, when it explodes, you have many hundreds of meters of blast and fragmentation damage. So if it is, in fact, being used, which we have no proof that it is, and civilians are dying, it's most interesting, sadly, that it was originally developed to, in fact, spare civilians from harm.
AMY GOODMAN: Marc Garlasco of Human Rights Watch, if DIME isn't yet licensed, technically still under development, would the US have to give permission to Israel to use it?
MARC GARLASCO: Well, the US has very strict requirements, as far as when a weapon finally gets through its process of acceptance, where it gets both a legal and a medical review, as well as effectiveness review. It remains to be seen how Israel has acquired the technology, whether they purchased weapons from the United States under some agreement, or if they've in fact licensed or developed their own type of munition.
To be honest with you, we have to remember one thing. At this point, there are a lot of rumors, and nothing has yet been substantiated. Only until we're able to get on the ground and do the work that Israel is stopping us from doing will we really know what's going on in Gaza.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain that further. We're talking to you on the border. Why aren't you in Gaza right now, Mark Garlasco?
MARC GARLASCO: Well, Israel refuses to allow the international media and human rights monitors entry into Gaza. And I have worked in Gaza numerous times, and this is the first time that we've been denied access. We do have one individual, who is our Palestinian worker, who's in Gaza right now. His father was killed by the Israelis earlier this week, and his house was destroyed yesterday in an air strike. And his wife is giving birth today. So he's got a lot going on in his life. Our thoughts are with him and all the other Palestinian civilians there, with the Israelis who are coming under fire from the Hamas rockets. And hopefully, we will see this end very soon, and we will be able to get in on the ground and do our investigations.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Dr. Mads Gilbert, you've just come back from Gaza. You worked in the hospital. We were talking about white phosphorus. We were talking about DIME. But the condition in the hospitals right now?
DR. MADS GILBERT: Well, I have to underline what my friend on the border is saying. There's been a palpable absence of international presence. In fact, Dr. Fosse and myself were the only two Westerners in Gaza for those first ten days we stayed there. And it's absolutely incomprehensible that we, in 2009, we do not have the press on such war ground as Gaza is. And I think also it's urgent to have international agencies come in and exactly do the examination on the ground to find out what kind of weapons are used.
The condition in Shifa Hospital and in the other hospitals in Gaza is horrifying. I've been to Gaza for the last ten years, in and out, teaching and training people in the medical field. I've never seen anything like this. I mean, all windows in the Shifa Hospital are out, due to the bombing of the mosque across the street. They have very unstable electricity. They lack supplies, disposables, surgical equipment, trolleys, beds even. They have a fantastic staff, who are working heroically to save their patients, but we have been doing surgery with, almost regularly, two patients in each OR, on the wall, on the floor, in the corridors. The lifts are barely working. The ICU had to triple its capacity with makeshift ICUs.
It is really, truly a scene from Dante's Inferno. It is these loads of patients coming in. We had 120, 130 patients coming a day, children, women. And I would say approximately 90 percent—I repeat, 90 percent—of the killed and injured that we have seen are civilians. Up 'til yesterday, 971 people have been killed; of them, one of three is a child below eighteen. 4,500 injuries, as of yesterday at 4:00; among them, every second is a woman or a child. So this is really targeting civilian Palestinian population. And we had a large number of pediatric cases with head injuries, with complicated fractures—
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mads Gilbert, we're going to have to leave it there. I thank you for being with us, Norwegian doctor, just back from Gaza. Marc Garlasco, still on the Gaza border—Israel won't let him into Gaza—with Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch has called for Israel to stop using white phosphorus in military operations.
Israel: Stop Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza
Chemical 'Obscurant' Poses Serious Risk to Civilians
Human Rights Watch
(Jerusalem, January 10, 2009) – Israel should stop using white phosphorus in military operations in densely populated areas of Gaza, Human Rights Watch said today. On January 9 and 10, 2009, Human Rights Watch researchers in Israel observed multiple air-bursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over what appeared to be the Gaza City / Jabaliya area.
Israel appeared to be using white phosphorus as an "obscurant" (a chemical used to hide military operations), a permissible use in principle under international humanitarian law (the laws of war). However, white phosphorus has a significant, incidental, incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures, fields, and other civilian objects in the vicinity on fire. The potential for harm to civilians is magnified by Gaza's high population density, among the highest in the world.
"White phosphorous can burn down houses and cause horrific burns when it touches the skin," said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch. "Israel should not use it in Gaza's densely populated areas."
Human Rights Watch believes that the use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas of Gaza violates the requirement under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injury and loss of life. This concern is amplified given the technique evidenced in media photographs of air-bursting white phosphorus projectiles. Air bursting of white phosphorus artillery spreads 116 burning wafers over an area between 125 and 250 meters in diameter, depending on the altitude of the burst, thereby exposing more civilians and civilian infrastructure to potential harm than a localized ground burst.
Since the beginning of Israel's ground offensive in Gaza on January 3, 2009, there have been numerous media reports about the possible use of white phosphorous by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The IDF told both Human Rights Watch and news reporters that it is not using white phosphorus in Gaza. On January 7, an IDF spokesman told CNN, "I can tell you with certainty that white phosphorus is absolutely not being used."
For a Human Rights Watch Q & A on white phosphorus, please visit:
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on the current Israel/Gaza conflict, please visit:
For more information, please contact:
In Jerusalem, Marc Garlasco (English): +972-52-755-1614 (mobile); or +1-914-450-4251 (mobile)
In Jerusalem, Fred Abrahams (English, German): +972-52-755-1614 (mobile); or +1-917-385-7333 (mobile)
In New York, Nadim Houry (English, Arabic, French): +1-917-302-3605 (mobile)
In Washington, DC, Joe Stork (English): +1-202-299-4925 (mobile)
For more information about white phosphorus see:
Tom Friedman offers a perfect definition of "terrorism"
Jan. 14, 2009
(Click on this link for a complete set of hypertext links in the piece below.)
Tom Friedman, one of the nation's leading propagandists for the Iraq War and a vigorous supporter of all of Israel's wars, has a column today in The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/14/opinion/14friedman.html?_r=2&ref=opinion) explaining and praising the Israeli attack on Gaza. For the sake of robust and diverse debate (for which our Liberal Media is so well known), Friedman's column today appears alongside an Op-Ed from The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/14/opinion/14goldberg-1.html) one of the nation's leading (and most deceitful: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2006/06/sb-goldbergs-war-1151687978) propagandists for the Iraq War and a vigorous supporter of all of Israel's wars, who explains that Hamas is incorrigibly hateful and radical and cannot be negotiated with. One can hardly imagine a more compelling exhibit demonstrating the complete lack of accountability in the "journalism" profession -- at least for those who are loyal
establishment spokespeople who reflexively cheer on wars -- than a leading Op-Ed page presenting these two war advocates, of all people, as experts, of all things, on the joys and glories of the latest Middle East war.
In any event, Friedman's column today is uncharacteristically and refreshingly honest. He explains that the 2006 Israeli invasion and bombing of Lebanon was, contrary to conventional wisdom, a great success. To make this case, Friedman acknowledges that the deaths of innocent Lebanese civilians was not an unfortunate and undesirable by-product of that war, but rather, was a vital aspect of the Israeli strategy -- the centerpiece, actually, of teaching Lebanese civilians a lesson they would not soon forget:
"Israel's counterstrategy was to use its Air Force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large. It was not pretty, but it was logical. Israel basically said that when dealing with a nonstate actor, Hezbollah, nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians — the families and employers of the militants — to restrain Hezbollah in the future.
Israel's military was not focused on the morning after the war in Lebanon — when Hezbollah declared victory and the Israeli press declared defeat. It was focused on the morning after the morning after, when all the real business happens in the Middle East. That's when Lebanese civilians, in anguish, said to Hezbollah: 'What were you thinking? Look what destruction you have visited on your own community! For what? For whom?'"
Friedman says that he is "unsure" whether the current Israeli attack on Gaza is similiarly designed to teach Palestinians the same lesson by inflicting "heavy pain" on civilians, but he hopes it is:
"In Gaza, I still can't tell if Israel is trying to eradicate Hamas or trying to 'educate' Hamas, by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population. If it is out to destroy Hamas, casualties will be horrific and the aftermath could be Somalia-like chaos. If it is out to educate Hamas, Israel may have achieved its aims."
The war strategy which Friedman is heralding -- what he explicitly describes with euphemism-free candor as "exacting enough pain on civilians" in order to teach them a lesson -- is about as definitive of a war crime as it gets (http://www.icrc.org/IHL.nsf/WebART/470-750065?OpenDocument). It also happens to be the classic, textbook definition of "terrorism." Here is how the U.S. Department of State defined "terrorism" in its 2001 publication, Patterns of Global Terrorism: (http://www.history.navy.mil/library/guides/terrorism.htm#definition)
"No one definition of terrorism has gained universal acceptance. For the purposes of this report, however, we have chosen the definition of terrorism contained in Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d). That statute contains the following definitions:
"The term 'terrorism' means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant (1) targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience. . . .
"(1) For purposes of this definition, the term 'noncombatant' is interpreted to include, in addition to civilians, military personnel who at the time of the incident are unarmed and/or not on duty."
Other than the fact that Friedman is advocating these actions for an actual state rather than a "subnational group," can anyone identify any differences between (a) what Friedman approvingly claims was done to the Lebanese and what he advocates be done to Palestinians and (b) what the State Department formally defines as "terrorism"? I doubt anyone can. Isn't Friedman's "logic" exactly the rationale used by Al Qaeda: we're going to inflict "civilian pain" on Americans so that they stop supporting their government's domination of our land and so their government thinks twice about bombing more Muslim countries? It's also exactly the same "logic" that fuels the rockets from Hezbollah and Hamas into Israel.
It should be emphasized that the mere fact that Tom Friedman claims that this is Israel's motivation isn't proof that it is. The sociopathic lust of a single war cheerleader can't fairly be projected onto those who are actually prosecuting the war. But one can't help noticing that this "teach-them-a-lesson" justification for civilian deaths in Gaza appears with some frequency among its advocates, at least among a certain strain of super-warrior, Israel-centric Americans -- e.g.: Marty "do not fuck with the Jews" Peretz and Michael "to wipe out a man's entire family, it's hard to imagine that doesn't give his colleagues at least a moment's pause" Goldfarb -- who love to cheer on Middle East wars from a safe and sheltered distance.
Some opponents of the Israeli war actually agree with Friedman about the likely goals of the attack on Gaza. Writing last week in The New York Times, Columbia Professor Rashid Khalidi noted:
"This war on the people of Gaza isn't really about rockets. Nor is it about 'restoring Israel's deterrence,' as the Israeli press might have you believe. Far more revealing are the words of Moshe Yaalon, then the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, in 2002: 'The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.'" (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/08/opinion/08khalidi.html?scp=1&sq=rashid&st=cse)
This AP article yesterday described how "terrified residents ran for cover Tuesday in a densely populated neighborhood of Gaza City as Israeli troops backed by tanks thrust deeper into the city." It reported that "an Israeli warplane fired a missile at the former Gaza city hall, used as a court building in recent years . . . . The 1910 structure was destroyed and many stores in the market around it were badly damaged." And it quoted an Israeli military officer as follows: "Soldiers shoot at anything suspicious, use lots of firepower, and blast holes through walls to move around."
The efficacy of Friedman's desired strategy of inflicting pain on Palestinian civilians in order to change their thinking and behavior is unclear. The lack of clarity is due principally to the fact that Israel is still blocking journalists from entering Gaza. But this Sunday's New York Times article -- reporting on unconfirmed claims that Israel was using white phosphorus on the civilian population (a claim the IDF expressly refused to deny) -- contains anecdotal evidence that The Friedman Strategy is actually quite counter-productive.
Still, white phosphorus can cause injury, and a growing number of Gazans report being hurt by it, including in Beit Lahiya, Khan Yunis, and in eastern and southwestern Gaza City. When exposed to air, it ignites, experts say, and if packed into an artillery shell, it can rain down flaming chemicals that cling to anything they touch.
Luay Suboh, 10, from Beit Lahiya, lost his eyesight and some skin on his face Saturday when, his mother said, a fiery substance clung to him as he darted home from a shelter where his family was staying to pick up clothes.
The substance smelled like burned trash, said Ms. Jaawanah, the mother who fled her home in Zeitoun, who had experienced it too. She had no affection for Hamas, but her sufferings were changing that. "Do you think I'm against them firing rockets now?" she asked, referring to Hamas. "No. I was against it before. Not anymore."
It's far easier to imagine a population subjected to this treatment becoming increasingly radicalized and belligerent rather than submissive and compliant, as Friedman intends. But while the efficacy of The Friedman Strategy is unclear, the fact that it is a perfect distillation of a "war crime" and "terrorism" is not unclear at all.
One might ordinarily find it surprising that our elite opinion-makers are so openly and explicitly advocating war crimes and terrorism ("inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large" and "'educate' Hamas by inflicting heavy pain on the Gaza population"). But when one considers that most of this, in the U.S., is coming from the very people who applied the same "suck-on-this" reasoning to justify the destruction of Iraq, and even more so, when one considers that our highest political officials are now so openly -- even proudly -- acknowledging their own war crimes, while our political and media elites desperately (and almost unanimously) engage in every possible maneuver to protect them from any consequences from that, Friedman's explicit advocacy of these sorts of things is a perfectly natural thing to see.
At a press conference held Wednesday in Jerusalem, a coalition of nine mainstream Israeli human rights groups presented a dramatic call to the Government of Israel to act immediately to end further violations of the Law of War in Gaza and relieve the humanitarian crisis in the territory. Ongoing violations were detailed and clear operational demands specified.
The text of the call can be found attached and below.
Adalah -- The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel | Amnesty International Israel Section | Bimkom -- Planners for Planning Rights |B'tselem -- The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories | Gisha -- Legal Center for Freedom of Movement Hamoked -- Center for Defence of the Individual | Physicians for Human Rights -- Israel Public Committee Against Torture in Israel | Yesh Din -- Volunteers for Human Rights
A Clear and Present Danger
An Israeli Call for Urgent Humanitarian Action in Gaza
January 14, 2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Defense Minister Ehud Barak
Chief of Staff Lieut. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi
OC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant
Atty. Gen. Menachem Mazuz
RE: Warning of a clear and present danger to the lives and well-being of tens of thousands of civilians
Since the beginning of the campaign in Gaza on December 27, a heavy suspicion has arisen of grave violations of international humanitarian law by military forces. After the end of the hostilities, the time will come for the investigation of this matter, and accountability will be demanded of those responsible for the violations. At this point we call your attention to the clear and present danger to the lives and well-being of tens of thousands of civilians.
The level of harm to the civilian population is unprecedented. According to the testimony of residents of the Gaza Strip and media reports, military forces are making wanton use of lethal force which has to date caused the deaths of hundreds of uninvolved civilians and destroyed infrastructure and property on an enormous scale. In addition, Israel is also hitting civilian objects, having defined them as "legitimate military targets" solely by virtue of their being "symbols of government."
Caught in the middle are 1.5 million civilians in extreme humanitarian distress, whose needs are not being adequately met by the limited measures taken by the army. That distress is detailed in the Appendix to this letter. Its main points are as follows:
The fighting is taking place throughout the Gaza Strip, whose border crossings are closed, so that residents have nowhere to flee, neither inside the Gaza Strip nor by leaving it. Many are unable to escape from the battle zone to protect themselves. They are forced to live in fear and terror. The army's demand that they evacuate their homes so as to avoid injury has no basis. Some people who did escape are living as refugees, stripped of all resources.
The health system has collapsed. Hospitals are unable to provide adequate treatment to the injured, nor can patients be evacuated to medical centers outside of the Gaza Strip. This state of affairs is causing the death of injured persons who could have been saved. Nor are chronic patients receiving the treatment they need. Their health is deteriorating, and some have already died.
Areas that were subject to intensive attacks are completely isolated. It is impossible to know the condition of the people who are there, whether they are injured and need treatment and whether they have food, water and medicine. The army is preventing local and international rescue teams from accessing those places and is also refraining from helping them itself, even though it is required to do so by law.
Many of the residents do not have access to electricity or running water, and in many populated areas sewage water is running in the streets. That combination creates severe sanitation problems and increases the risk of an outbreak of epidemics.
This kind of fighting constitutes a blatant violation of the laws of warfare and raises the suspicion, which we ask be investigated, of the commission of war crimes.
The responsibility of the State of Israel in this matter is clear and beyond doubt. The army's complete control of the battle zones and the access roads to them does not allow Israel to transfer that responsibility to other countries. Therefore we call on you to act immediately as follows:
Stop the disproportionate harm to civilians, and stop targeting civilian objects that do not serve any military purpose, even if they meet the definition of "symbols of government."
Open a route for civilians to escape the battle zone, while guaranteeing their ability to return home at the end of the fighting.
Provide appropriate and immediate medical care to all of the injured and ill of the Gaza Strip, either by evacuating them to medical centers outside of the Gaza Strip or by reaching another solution inside the Gaza Strip.
Allow rescue and medical teams to reach battle-torn zones to evacuate the injured and bring supplies to those who remain there. Alternatively, the army must carry out those activities itself.
Secure the proper operation of the electricity, water and sewage systems so that they meet the needs of the population.
Atty. Fatmeh El-Ajou
Adalah -- The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Vered Cohen Barzilay
Amnesty International Israel Section
Dr. Haim Yaakoby
Bimkom -- Planners for Planning Rights
B'tselem -- The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
Atty. Sari Bashi
Gisha -- Legal Center for Freedom of Movement
Hamoked -- Center for Defence of the Individual
Prof. Zvi Bentwich
Physicians for Human Rights -- Israel
Dr. Ishai Menuchin
Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
Atty. Michael Sfard
Yesh Din -- Volunteers for Human Rights
Appendix: The humanitarian collapse in the Gaza Strip
Situation Report, January 14, 2009, [Day 19 of Fighting]
As of Wednesday, January 14, 2009, the 19th day of the military campaign in the Gaza Strip, the dimensions of the humanitarian collapse in the Gaza Strip are growing: many injured people are not receiving medical treatment at all, the evacuation of the injured to hospitals is not being permitted, medical teams are being attacked on their way to render aid and the health system in Gaza, especially hospitals, is collapsing. Gaza's electricity, water and sewage systems are in a state of partial collapse, preventing Gaza residents from accessing clean water and exposing them to the risk of infectious disease and lethal sewage flooding in populated areas.
Damage to the health system and prevention of evacuation of casualties
•Six cases of army shooting at medical teams have been documented by human rights organizations. 12 medical personnel have been killed, and 17 were injured.
We know so far of 15 cases of attacks on medical facilities, including a medical supply warehouse, three mobile clinics, a mental health center, the walls and windows of three government hospitals and a number of rescue vehicles. Direct attacks were recorded in the European hospital and the Dura hospital, an UNRWA facility and the Safha Al-Harazin clinic in Shuja'iya.
There are delays of an average of between 2 and 10 hours in coordination between the army and the medical teams for evacuation or transfer of casualties. In most cases, the army does not respond at all to the requests made to it. The human rights organizations know of more than 100 civilians who were trapped for more than 24 hours, including dozens of injured, without any medical care, sometimes without water or food either. In one case a family of 21 (including six injured) waited seven days until the army allowed Red Cross representatives to evacuate them. In two other cases families waited more than 36 hours for evacuation. The organizations believe there are other similar cases that have not yet been documented.
The Gaza health system is in a state of total collapse after more than a year and a half of continuous closure: a severe shortage of medical equipment and medications, a shortage of skilled personnel, the absence of knowledge and experts to treat complex injuries and more. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, only 30% of the medical equipment and medications permitted to be transferred to the Gaza Strip meet the needs and of its hospitals and are responsive to their shortages.
There are 2050 hospital beds in the Gaza Strip (1500 in government hospitals and 550 in private clinics). The intensive care unit atShifa Hospital was reinforced from 12 beds to 30. Since January 1, 2009 the unit has been at full capacity, even though since January 6, 2009, each day an average of five patients are sent from it to Egypt. The health system is maintaining a 75% capacity at Shifa while at other hospitals, the capacity is 95%. The treatment of chronic patients, including cancer patients, liver patients, dialysis patients and others, has stopped almost completely due to a shortage of hospital beds in the departments and of available doctors.
850 chronic patients and hundreds of injured from the Israeli assaults need to be referred to medical treatment outside of Gaza since December 27, 2008. Of them, just three wounded and a few dozen ill patients have been evacuated to Israel while 250 injured were evacuated to Egypt through the Rafah Crossing. Since January 6, 2009 no additional patients have been transferred to Israel for medical care.
Shifa Hospital and the other government hospitals in Gaza city operated without electricity supply using generators for a week between January 3-10. Since January 10, 2009 the hospital has been receiving electricity for 8-12 hours a day. Throughout the month of January the other hospitals in the Gaza Strip have been receiving electricity for an average of 4-8 hours a day. The rest of the time the hospitals rely on generators. In at least one case when a generator broke down at the Al-Quds hospital it remains without any electricity supply and life-saving medical equipment stopped working.
Patients who are at home are exposed to heightened risk because of the shortage of electricity, which prevents the regular use of household medical equipment operated by electricity as well as heating devices.
Attacks on electricity, water and sewage infrastructures
Electricity lines, water and sewage pumps and waste collection and treatment facilities have been damaged by the bombardments. The battles taking place in the Gaza Strip prevent most repair work in the absence of security coordination with the army. The same is true of transporting fuel and equipment inside the Gaza Strip. Without electricity, it is impossible to pump water and treat sewage.
In the 14 months before the military campaign Israel prevented the supply of vital products to the Gaza Strip and thereby emptied it of the fuel, food, medicine and spare parts needed to cope with the severe results of the fighting. There is a severe shortage of fuel needed to operate the power plant in the Gaza Strip as well as the generators that back up the electricity system. There is a shortage of spare parts and equipment needed to perform repairs and maintenance.
Water and sewage systems
More than half a million people are completely cut off from access to clean water, mostly in Gaza City and the northern area. Some of those people have been without access to water for more than 10 days. Many water pipes have been damaged. Without electricity in the homes it is impossible to pump water to the high stories and the water reservoirs on the roofs of the high houses.
Sewage is flowing in the streets because of the shortage of electricity for sewage pumps and treatment facilities, due to the damage caused by the bombardments and because of breakdowns that could not be fixed in the absence of security coordination with the army and without the necessary spare parts. In Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahiya, Jabaliya and parts of Gaza City the sewage pumps are not working at all. Since January 3, 2009 it has been impossible to access a sewage pipe in Beit Hanoun that was bombed. Since then sewage has been flowing to the area.
Israel is preventing Water Authority technicians from accessing the Gaza City waste treatment facility. Since January 3, 2009sewage has been flowing to the facility but it is not emptying because there is no one to operate the pumps. In addition on January 10, 2009 one of the sewage reservoirs there was bombed. It is believed that the sewage from the treatment facility and the sewage reservoir has begun to flood the area, but the damage cannot be assessed in the absence of security coordination.
Israel is prohibiting access to the Beit Lahiya sewage reservoirs, where the waste level rises every day in the central reservoir and the waste water threatens to flood the area. The reason is destruction of the generator on January 3, 2009 that is supposed to pump the waste into overflow lagoons. Despite requests from international organizations to avoid striking that sensitive area, the area was bombarded again on January 10, 2009 and damage was caused to buildings next to the reservoir. Floods in that area would risk the welfare and lives of some 10,000 residents living nearby.
The Gaza Strip water company needs many items that are in short supply including chlorine, pipes, valves and other items. Most of the equipment was ordered months ago but no permission was given to let it in.
At least a quarter of a million residents of Gaza have been living without electricity for 18 days. At any given moment, up to one million people are disconnected from the electricity supply, which makes it difficult to access water, use medical equipment, preserves and refrigerate food and heat homes.
Six of 12 high-voltage lines supplying electricity from Israel and from Egypt are not working because of damage caused by the bombardments. The Gaza power plant has been working since January 10, 2009 very partially (at 38% capacity) and manufacturing only 30 MW a day. As a result, the Gaza Strip is receiving a supply of only 48% of the required amount of electricity, at most. It is estimated that because of local breakdowns of lines, the amount of electricity reaching consumers is much smaller.
The amount of industrial diesel available at the power plant is 500,000 liters, the amount needed for one single day to operate the three turbines. Another 369,000 liters were transferred to the Palestinian side of the Nahal Oz terminal but cannot be shipped to the power plant because of the absence of security coordination.
On the night before Tuesday, January 13, 2009, Israel bombed the electric company's warehouse in Gaza, causing tremendous damage including damage to transformers, cables, low voltage disconnect pillars and additional equipment. Israel had allowed the entrance of this equipment and spare parts into Gaza only four days earlier, after delaying the approval of its entry for months. The stores of the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company were empty before the military campaign since Israel has for months prevented the transfer of spare parts that were ordered and paid for.
A predictable humanitarian collapse
• For the last 14 months Israel has deliberately and consistently restricted the transfer of fuel into the Gaza Strip as part of the Cabinet decision from September 19, 2007 authorizing punitive measures against the residents of Gaza. Instead of fulfilling its duty to provide the civil population with the necessary humanitarian products before launching the military campaign, the Israe ldrained the Gaza Strip of the fuel, food and equipment needed to cope with the severe results of the fighting.
• In the two months preceding the military campaign Israel tightened the closure and deliberately drained the Gaza Strip of the industrial diesel needed to manufacture electricity, by preventing its transfer through the Nahal Oz terminal. During those two months Israel allowed the transfer of only 18% of the amount of industrial diesel needed to operate the Gaza power plant, which is only 28% of the amount of industrial diesel the Supreme Court ordered it to provide.
For more than three months Israel has been preventing the transfer of the spare parts needed by the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCo) for its current operations. Even at this very moment spare parts are waiting at the Karni Crossing and theAshdod port.
Jewish Peace News editors:
Sarah Anne Minkin
Jewish Peace News archive and blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
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