PALESTINE, ISRAEL, CYPRUS
Palestine Bleeds; the World Shudders
Cyprus IndyMedia Collective
30 Dec 2008 21:14 GMT
A comprehensive view of censored and under-reported realities from the battle zone, front lines and the global scene
In this report:
- Israeli navy attacks humanitarian aid ship from Cyprus to Gaza; ship rammed and fired upon.
- Overview of the global protests against the Israeli attacks on Palestine.
- Summary of the military situation, including views of the Resistance and civil society.
- Gaza has run out of medicines; How you can help with humanitarian aid.
- Legal and Diplomatic developments.
As hundreds of thousands of people all over the globe are protesting the US-armed and funded Israeli acts of war and zionist genocide against the Palestinian population of Gaza, the slaughter continues with more bombings, siege and a blockade, plus a threatened ground war.
~ Israeli Navy Attacks Civilian Mercy Ship ~
The Free Gaza Movement issued this statement on the fate of its humanitarian ship, The Dignity, that was subjected to live fire from Israeli ships and then rammed. Three hours ago this statement was issued by the organization:
"(Larnaca, Cyprus, 10:00 am) On Tuesday, December 30, at 5 a.m., several Israeli gunboats intercepted the Dignity as she was heading on a mission of mercy to Gaza. One gunboat rammed into the boat on the port bow side, heavily damaging her. The report from the passengers and journalists on board is that she is taking on water and appears to have engine problems. When attacked, the Dignity was clearly in international waters, 90 miles off the coast of Gaza.
The gunboats also fired their machine guns into the water in an attempt to stop the mercy ship from getting to Gaza.
As the boat limps toward Lebanon, passengers have been in contact with the Lebanese government who have said the captain has permission to dock and are willing lend assistance if needed. Cyprus sea rescue has also been in touch, and has offered assistance as well."
This violent act of piracy that occurred clearly in international waters, 90 miles off the coast of Gaza is a violation of International Law and the Law of the Seas. There was brief contact with the vessel as the attack were occurring:
"The Dignity, a Free Gaza boat on a mission of mercy to besieged Gaza, is being attacked by the Israeli Navy in international waters. The Dignity has been surrounded by at least half-a-dozen Israeli warships. They are firing live ammunition around the Dignity, and one of the warships has rammed the civilian craft causing an unknown amount of damage. Contrary to international maritime law, the Israelis are actively preventing the Dignity from approaching Gaza or finding safe haven in either Egypt or Lebanon. Instead, the Israeli navy is demanding that the Dignity return to Cyprus - despite the fact that the ship does not carry enough fuel to do so. Fortunately, no one aboard the ship has yet been seriously injured.
There are 15 civilian passengers representing 11 different countries. At approximately 5am (UST), well out in international waters, Israeli warships began surrounding the Dignity, threatening the ship. At 6:45am (UST) we were able to establish brief contact with the crew and were told that the ship had been rammed by the Israeli Navy in international waters, and that the Israelis were preventing the ship from finding safe harbor. We heard heavy gunfire in the background before all contact was lost with the Dignity."
Survivors of the encounter include world-famous dignitary US Congr. Cynthia McKinney who was the Presidential Candidate of the Greens for this year's elections.
Other members of the mission include Cyprus Member of Parliament Dr. Elena Theoharous, MP who is active with the Doctors Without Frontiers movement, and several other medical doctors, solidarity activists and journalists.
For the latest information and ways you can help, please see:
and our links at the end of this article.
~ Global Protests ~
Demonstrations of all types have broken out all over the world in solidarity with the people of Palestine and in protest for the Israeli atrocities against civilians. The protests are too numerous to report in detail, but some elements are characteristic of the upsurge:
Unarmed Palestinian demonstrators throwing rocks at Israeli troops were shot with live fire. At least two demonstrators have been killed; Israeli troops and special security forces are also attacking with clubs and chemicals. There are many injuries and arrests. There are labour and merchant strikes all over Palestine for the last four days, beginning with the first moment of the massacres on Saturday.
Within Israel itself, an estimated more than 40% people polled are opposed to the war. Protests against the war occurred in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. Some of the protests were attended by both Jews and Arabs together. Israel IndyMedia continues to give prominence to all efforts to oppose the war:
Writing for Gush Shalom, a branch of the Israeli peace movement, Uri Averny stated, " The war in Gaza, the bloodshed, killing, destruction and suffering on both sides of the border are the vicious folly of a bankrupt government. A government which let itself be dragged by adventurous officers and cheap nationalist demagoguery, dragged into a destructive and unnecessary war which will bring no solution to any problem – neither to the communities of southern Israel under the rain of missiles nor to the terrible poverty and suffering of besieged Gaza."
All over the rest of the world, in every major city, demonstrations and all forms of protest took place over the weekend, and continue every day. An effort to make a comprehensive listing proved the amount of reporting to be so voluminous as to be impossible to summarize easily. A "global roundup" compiled by Sue Scandale is here:
"International Response to the Israeli Massacre in Gaza"
and another by the IMC for the San Francisco Bay Area, here:
In the summaries there are descriptions of protests from Turkey to London, and from New Zealand to New York and the Canary Islands. The entire world is aroused in anger.
~ The military situation ~
Palestinian resistance organizations have multiplied and expanded their armed, diplomatic and political responses to the massacres. Street and neighbourhood based militia are preparing for the possibility of a ground assault. About 60 rockets were fired into Israel today from Gaza. Some of those reached the deepest ever into Israeli territories. The majority of those rockets were improvised.
The self-organized popular militia are estimated to be around 20.000 strong, but armed mostly with light weapons, very few mortars, anti-tank weapons, no artillery, no air force and no naval forces. There is no armour and no anti-aircraft weaponry, either. Many of the weapons of the resistance groups are home-made or improvised in backyard workshops, with questionable results. The deficiencies in weaponry and firepower are counterbalanced by an excellent morale, exceptionally high discipline, and total dedication to the cause.
US-supplied Israeli warplanes have been bombing frequently since Saturday, and by Tuesday morning have completed more than 350 bombing runs. All of the weapons being dropped and fired against the population are made in the US. An estimated 300 tons of bombs have been used so far in the densely populated areas of Gaza, with devastating results.
Israeli navy ships have joined in by lining up along the Palestinian coast and shelling Gaza with heavy artillery.
Israeli troops and tanks are amassing at the border, and there are strong indications that a ground war might be initiated. Many military observers are reporting that the army being assembled is not strong enough for the stated "objective goals" of the attacks on Gaza, but the danger of escalation remains high.
Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, north of Israel, which delivered the first ever military victory against Israel two years ago have stated that they are "by the side of our Palestinian brothers" but have not yet initiated any moves.
Many Fatwas (religious decrees) declaring Holy War against Israel have been spontaneously issued by a multitude of Islamic religious figures all over the world. Secular organizations of all colours within Palestinian society and in the wider Arab world and in many Islamic countries, have joined the mobilizations with a great militancy, uniting patriots, liberals, socialists, communists, anarchists, Feminists and Greens in actions of resistance of all types.
Civil society within Palestine is almost without infrastructure. Electricity is scarce, fuel is scarce, food is scarce, hospitals have run out of medicine (more on that below), telephone and internet services are down.
The fact that even though almost the entire civilian Police has been wiped out in the bombings and yet there is no crime among the population in Gaza manifests the high degree of morale and high principles that characterize Palestinian society, the commitment to each other among the people of Gaza. Even this simple thing, unthinkable in any other city of a million and a half in the "civilized West" shows that indeed, the clash of civilizations that George Bush and Israeli Zionists are waging, is about human values. Or the lackthereof.
~ Gaza has run out of medicines; How you can help with humanitarian aid ~
The organization of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has issued a Gaza Emergency Appeal. It states. "Gaza Hospitals Already Filled to Capacity; Medical Supplies on the Verge of Depletion". It has published a list of supplies needed to treat the casualties and to maintain some sort of emergency healthcare for the population of Gaza.
The organization is assembling medical aid to deliver to Gaza. It states:
"With a medical system already on the verge of collapse as a result of the ongoing closure, 1.4 million civilians are in desperate need of urgent medical help from outside the Gaza Strip. PHR-Israel has the means to transfer this help within days and is seeking to raise 700,000 USD during the next week for purchase and direct transfer of supplies to Gaza hospitals."
Please look at the information on how to help with this humanitarian aid effort. Every dollar counts to save a life - this is where solidarity translates into hands-on direct action ~ please give generously, the page contains information on how to send money:
Many sources are reporting that the bodies of those killed in the air raids are chopped to pieces, and relatives who go to collect the remains of their loved ones are often being given a decapitated body, a mashed or split head, a limb torn to shreds. Corridors of hospitals and morgues are over-filled.
Civilians continue to be the highest percentage of those killed in the bombings. Every single story emerging of homes being blown up and entire neighborhoods blasted to rubble confirm this every day. Today, Tuesday, Israeli bombs hit the Islamic University (it had been hit again on Sunday, twice), demolishing it. Bombs also hit the Bureij Refugee Camp in the central Gaza Strip, Gaza City’s Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque, and the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of Zeitoun, plus the Bani Suhaila Municipality building in eastern Khan Younis . The total number of casualties from these raids is unknown.
So far the known number of deaths is approaching 400 and casualties are around 1600. "Casualties" refers to people requiring treatment by wartime standards in a society with a collapsed medical and civic infrastructure. By peacetime standards the number might be as high as 4000. This excludes psychological injuries. The person standing next to his son's friend who was decapitated while standing, or the mother who lost all her children within one blast do not count as casualties in current assessments.
Deaths are expected to increase even if the ground war does not materialize, since medics are being killed in the raids which hampers life-saving operations, and hospitals are almost unable to treat people without medicines, electricity, etc.
More details about Tuesday's bombings were published by the Palestine News Network here:
Egypt has resumed a partially helpful stance today allowing some casualties to be evacuated through the border it controls. Anger is mounting against its Government for collaborating with the Israeli blockade because on Monday it had closed the border to refugees running for their lives and went to the point of ordering its guards to shoot in the air to prevent people from crossing.
Some talks and negotiations are taking place, both openly and covertly, among representatives of Fatah and Hamas in efforts to delineate some sort of basis for unity that can help Palestinian society get through this time of crisis. Lack of trust is a major obstacle, which in the recent past had led to even armed confrontations between these two major forces, with deaths on both sides.
~ Legal and Diplomatic developments ~
The President of the United Nation's General Assembly, Miguel D´Escoto, issued a Statement on the Crisis in Gaza. In it he stated that "The behavior by Israel in bombarding Gaza is simply the commission of wanton aggression by a very powerful state against a territory that illegally occupies.
Time has come to take firm action if the United Nations does not want to be rightly accused of complicity by omission."
He also said:
"The Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip represent severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions, both in regard to the obligations of an Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war.
Those violations include:
Disproportionate military response...
...I remind all member states of the United Nations that the UN continues to be bound to an independent obligation to protect any civilian population facing massive violations of international humanitarian law.."
Please read the full text here:
Another UN official, the Specially appointed Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory Professor Richard Falk said that the Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip represent “severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions, both in regard to the obligations of an Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war.” Please read that report published by the Palestine News Agency here:
Given that the Israeli war machine would not last a month without active and constant arming and funding by the US, the ramifications of any movements - and responsibilities! - of the US Government in this crisis are enormous.
The exiting US Government of Vipers, Condoleeza, Bush and Dick Cheney, have continued their highly immoral and illegal support of the genocidal actions by the Israeli Apartheid regime. President Elect Obama has been "on vacation" and avoiding to make any coherent statement on the slaughter.
U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich has officially requested that the United Nations launch an independent inquiry into Israel's war against Gaza. The US lawmaker stated that "The attacks on civilians represent collective punishment, which is a violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The perpetrators of attacks against Israel must also be brought to justice, but Israel cannot create a war against an entire people in order to attempt to bring to justice the few who are responsible."
Please read the rest of his statement and his letter to the United Nations Secretary General here:
All in all, the present crisis has not yet shown the full depth or intensity that it might take.
We pray that the forces of Peace and Justice will prevail. Our thoughts are with the martyrs; our actions fully in solidarity with the survivors.
Cyprus IndyMedia Collective
Our thanks to Belal Doufesh of the Union of Palestinians in Cyprus for supplying the photo that accompanies this article. It helps us remain aware that these terrible events have a face:
that of a child with a shattered head lying in a pile of dead bodies.
"Israeli Navy attacks and wounds Dignity in International Waters"
"Solidarity ship attacked in Mediterranean, includes US official and doctors"
"Resistance movement locally and abroad takes lead in face of government trepidation"
"Most Gaza casualties were non-combatants, civilians"
"A vicious folly of a bankrupt government"
by Uri Averny
An overview of global and local responses to the events:
Additional Independent Resources:
- Electronic Intifada
- International Middle East Media Center (en)
- The Palestine News Network (en/ar/he/fr)
- WAFA - Palestine News Agency (en/ar/he/fr)
- Ma'an News (en/ar)