Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Palestinians say: "This is a war of extermination."

Israel's attack on the Palestinians is being described as something which the Palestinians have never seen before, as a different kind of warfare.

The Palestinians say: "This is a war of extermination." They describe bombs which break into 16 parts, each part splintering into 116 fragments, the white phosphorus which water cannot put out; which seems to die and then flares up again.

No one I spoke to has any doubt that the Israelis are committing war crimes. According to the medics here, to reports from doctors inside the Gaza Strip and to Palestinian eye-witnesses, more than 95% of the dead and injured are civilians.


They also speak of the extensive burns of white phosphorus. These injuries are, as they put it, 'incompatible with life'. They are also receiving large numbers of amputees. This is because the damage done to the bone by explosive bullets is so extensive that the only way the doctors in Gaza can save lives is by amputating.

One of the nurses said to me that the nurses and paramedics were horrified by what they were seeing. "We deal with cases all the time," she said. "But what we're seeing these days we've never seen before or imagined."

Upstairs a professor of economics, accompanying his brother, sees me staring at my notes and says: "Exaggerate. Whatever you write will not be as bad as the truth."

And there is growing evidence that the Israelis, despite their frequent denials, are indeed using white phosphorus against a mainly civilian population.

Instead of producing high velocity burning fragments like conventional white phosphorus weapons used to in the past, M825A1 rounds of the kind identified as being fired by Israeli forces produce what he called a "series of large slower burning wedges which fall from the sky", said Neil Gibson, technical adviser to Jane's Missiles and Rockets.

Israel's use of heavy artillery in residential areas of Gaza City violates the prohibition under the laws of war against indiscriminate attacks and should be stopped immediately, Human Rights Watch said yesterday.

"Firing 155mm shells into the center of Gaza City, whatever the target, will likely cause horrific civilian casualties," Garlasco said.

The most recent attack on a UN facility, which UN workers claimed was done using white phosphorus, should give enough proof as to whether or not the Israelis are violating international law. That is, of course, if the Israelis will ever allow access to the area so that tests can be carried out.

What is undeniable is that this latest campaign is producing an utterly unacceptable amount of civilian casualties. I have spoken before of how some of Israel's most outspoken supporters are actually applauding the deaths of civilians, but today I note that Glenn Greenwald is highlighting an Israeli report from October of last year which sets out how the IDF plan to fight "the next war":

In an interview Friday with the daily Yedioth Ahronoth, [GOC Northern Command Gadi] Eisenkot presented his "Dahiyah Doctrine," under which the IDF would expand its destructive power beyond what it demonstrated two years ago against the Beirut suburb of Dahiyah, considered a Hezbollah stronghold.

"We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases," he said. "This isn't a suggestion. This is a plan that has already been authorized" . . . .

Major General (Res.) Giora Eiland, formerly head of the National Security Council, belongs to a similar school of thought, and even goes a step further.

He believes Israel failed in the Second Lebanon War and is liable to fail in a third such war, because it is fighting the wrong enemy: Hezbollah, instead of the state of Lebanon itself. . . .

Eiland recommends preemptive action: that Israel pass a clear message to the Lebanese government, as soon as possible, stating that in the next war, the Lebanese army will be destroyed, as will the civilian infrastructure.

It is very hard to conclude that the killing of civilians is deliberate and I am reluctant to do so. However, as Greenwald states:
It's a bit hard to deny that this is Israel's strategy and intent when their own military officials (and their own President) openly proclaim that it is.
The Israelis are on record stating that their "next war" will destroy the "civilian infrastructure" of their enemy. And the attacks on Gaza are certainly carrying out that objective.

It says something that I find myself reluctant even to make the case which is blindingly obvious. Indeed, until now, I have always chosen to view Israel's most vocal supporters - and their arguments that Israel should attack civilians - as the voices of a crackpot minority, of the kind of lunatics one can always find at the fringes of any discussion.

However, it becomes ever harder to deny that we are looking at official policy here. A policy which, whilst not officially sanctioning civilian deaths, is certainly indifferent to the amount this conflict is producing. That's not only morally abhorrent, it is also beginning to look more and more like a war crime.

Click title for full article.


Anonymous said...

it is most definitely a war crime and the world needs to wake up and acknowledge it as such.

in the eyes of all decent people, these heinous crimes and the barbaric leaders and people that sanction them, finance them and the media which support them should all be held accountable.

Kel said...

I agree that they should be, but we all know that they won't. Allies of the west - and the west itself - never commit war crimes. Only people like Milosevic and Saddam are ever found to have done that. We make regrettable mistakes, having done everything in our power to avoid them. It's actually vomit inducing.