Aljazeera English reports on the Israeli air strikes on Gaza, which have killed 230 persons, a third of them civilians and wounded 388. The Other 2/3s were largely Palestinian policeman, as targeted 32 police stations, maintaining that they are essentially Hamas foot soldiers. The 100 air sorties killed the Gaza chief of police and other officials, including individuals Israeli intelligence had fingered as masterminds of the rocket attacks on Israel.
The outbreak of hostilities affects Americans, since al-Qaeda hit New York and the Pentagon in some important part over the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians. The airstrikes and large death toll also present a challenge to the incoming Obama administration, which may find peace-making more difficult now.
The UN Security Council held a special evening session on Saturday and issued a call for an immediate ceasefire. The attacks drew a furious response from the Arab world. Egypt, which has collaborated with Israel in blockading the Gazans, branded its partner’s air strikes “murder.” The US, which for some odd reason holds an irrational hatred of the Palestinians, branded the dead Gaza policemen “thugs” and blamed the massive aerial strikes solely on Hamas, the fundamentalist Muslim party that controls Gaza.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, outgoing president of the European Union, issued among the more measured responses: “The President of the Republic expresses his lively concern at the escalation of violence in the south of Israel and in the Gaza Strip. He firmly condemns the irresponsible provocations that have led to this situation as well as the use of disproportionate force. The president of the republic deplores the significant loss of civilian life and expresses his condolences to the innocent victims and their families.”
Sarkozy “requests an immediate cessation of rocket fire directed at Israel as well as of Israeli bombardment of Gaza, and he calls on the parties to exercise self-restraint. He reminds everyone that there is no military solution to Gaza, and demands the implementation of a durable truce.
This statement, which I seem to be the only news source to present in full in English, seems to me to be the best issued by any head of state on this particular incident, and shames the insensitive and one-sided statement issued on behalf of the US by Gordon Johndroe.
Israel blames Hamas for primitive homemade rocket attacks on the nearby Israeli city of Sederot. In 2001-2008, these rockets killed about 15 Israelis and injured 433, and they have damaged property. In the same period, Gazan mortar attacks on Israel have killed 8 Israelis.
Since the Second Intifada broke out in 2000, Israelis have killed nearly 5000 Palestinians, nearly a thousand of them minors. Since fall of 2007, Israel has kept the 1.5 million Gazans under a blockade, interdicting food, fuel and medical supplies to one degree or another. Wreaking collective punishment on civilian populations such as hospital patients denied needed electricity is a crime of war.
The Israelis on Saturday killed 5% of all the Palestinians they have killed since the beginning of 2001! 230 people were slaughtered in a day, over 70 of them innocent civilians. In contrast, from the ceasefire Hamas announced in June, 2008 until Saturday, no Israelis had been killed by Hamas. The infliction of this sort of death toll is known in the law of war as a disproportionate response, and it is a war crime.