This morning I visited homes in Khan Yunis damaged by Israeli missiles in the last few days. These houses weren’t actually targeted by Israeli missiles. They were merely collateral damage. The targets themselves were obliterated . . . kaput . . . nonexistent. Very large holes in the ground.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) targeted those particular houses because they belong to Hamas officials. Of course, the residents had left early on and the IDF knew the buildings were vacant, but they had orders to destroy them in any case, maybe to strike fear into the hearts of the neighbors. (“You live near a terrorist and so you must pay the price!”)
Khan Yunis is a city of about 170,000 people in the south Gaza Strip. The new Mayor showed me around. He just took office in October and is taking a crash course in crisis management.
Khan Yunis is the second largest urban area in the Gaza Strip after Gaza City. It serves as the principal market center of the southern territory’s southern half and hosts a weekly Bedouin souk (“open-air market”) mostly involving local commodities.As of 2012 Khan Yunis had the highest unemployment rate in the Palestinian territories.
It’s nearly midnight on the 7th day of this war. Actually, it’s not a war. These are not equal sides, with equal military strength or equal choice of weapons.
Israel has, by one report, 172,000 armed forces personnel, 32,000 air forces personnel, and 9,000 navy personnel. There are thousands of reservists too. The Palestinians have no Navy, no Air Force, and the forces fighting on the ground are far, far fewer than the Israelis.
Israel has the highest tech weapons ever built, thanks in large part to the $3 Billion the US provides annually. Iron Dome is funded by the US to the tune of nearly $900 million, and is designed to intercept short-range rockets and artillery shells. The IDF has tanks and those Caterpillars that are so good at demolishing houses, and many, many drones. The IDF’s arsenal also includes white phosphorous which the Twitter world tonight says is being used in Gaza again. (Israel fired white phosphorous over Gaza City during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009).
Heck, if Israel wanted to wipe Gaza off the map, it could use one of those nuclear weapons we aren’t suppose to know about. There was a good piece in the Washington Post in August about Israel’s nuclear weapons.
Palestinians have Qassam rockets and Grad rockets, but no air defense system. Sitting in Khan Yunis right now, I think they could sure use an air defense system. The explosions I heard (and felt) a few minutes ago were targeting the police station in Khan Yunis. (Thanks to Twitter for keeping me informed.)
So Israel’s assault on Gaza is by no means an even match.
Maybe to try to balance the scales in some perverse way, the IDF warns the neighbors about the impending missile strike minutes before it is launched. I visited a home this morning where 13 people live. Three nights ago, shortly after midnight, the IDF “warning” arrived in the form of a small rocket that went through the ceiling in the child’s bedroom.
The family knew (don’t ask me how they knew) that they had only minutes to evacuate. The oldest member of the family was the last to leave because he was checking each floor to make sure everyone got out safely. He didn’t make it out in time. Fortunately, he survived, but with a leg injury and hearing loss.
The children are traumatized. Their eyes are blank and confused. Their father tells me they can’t sleep.
In another house, the same kind of “warning” to evacuate before a missile was sent in to destroy the neighbor’s house.
What should we make of these “warning” shots to evacuate the house? Does Israel have the politest military on the planet? Is this the humane way to conduct a military operation? Does this warning absolve Israel of war crimes or is it just another means of terrorizing civilians? And what if that warning shot falls through the ceiling to the child’s bed below? Is he just “collateral damage”?
—- to be continued —-