Tag Archives: Cast Lead

The best documented occupation … Palestine

As I’ve read through the 50 stories of Palestinians who have lived under military occupation for 50 years (each carefully compiled by OCHA), I’ve come to the conclusion that this must be the best documented Occupation in the history of international law. The evidence is meticulously preserved.

Why haven’t the politicians and world leaders been able to force an end to this occupation? (Books have been written in response to that question.) The short answer, the status quo benefits the State of Israel, and the U.S. helps Israel maintain the status quo.

All 50 stories can be found on OCHA’s website here along with the reports and additional documentation.  I’ve divided the 50 stories into groups of 5 to share them over time, hoping that Americans will spend the time to read each story if they’re presented in smaller bits.



Mahmoud Ka’abneh from EIN AL HILWA | JORDAN VALLEY

When the Israeli authorities appeared at the Um al Jamal area of Ein al Hilwa (Jordan Valley) on 30 January 2014, they told residents to evacuate their homes as they were slated for demolition, said 43-year-old resident, Mahmoud Ka’abneh.

However, he added, little time was given to them to collect their belongings from inside the structures.

Mahmoud, a father of 10 children, said he pleaded with the authorities to leave at least one animal pen for the newborn sheep standing, to no avail.

That day, 36 structures belonging to a dozen Palestinian families were demolished, displacing 66 people.

When the community rebuilt one structure, Israeli forces returned and destroyed it.

Mahmoud told us that the authorities kept monitoring the area to ensure that no one rebuilds.




YUSEF ALI KADOS from Burin with his grandson

In July 2011, an EAPPI team met Yusef, to hear from him about multiple incidents where his trees had been set on fire, reportedly by settlers.

Yusef’s family has lived in Burin for generations. For thirty years he worked as a primary school teacher, and raised ten children.

Between 2000 and 2010, his olive trees were set on fire on three occasions, following which he was left with only the 45-50 trees that are planted in front of his house.

❝For ten years now,❞ he said, ❝we have been suffering from settlers burning the trees. We have also been attacked when we try to harvest the olives.

❝When the trouble started ten years ago, we went to harvest the olives and we were told by the settlement security not to come there anymore.

❝When the olive trees were burned this last time [a few days before the meeting took place], I sent my son to see because I am too old. He told me afterwards that everything was gone, destroyed…


Burin (Photo by Patrick Zoll, 2010)

❝The army supports and provides cover for the settlers. We want them to arrest the settlers. They see the settlers and know what they are doing. If one of us hits a settler then we will be arrested, if a settler hits one of us nothing is done. To defend yourself you must stay silent.

❝I have not made any official complaints. The village council has taken the names of all of those who lost trees and report this to the agricultural ministry in Nablus in the hope of compensation.

❝These trees provided extra income for the family. We could produce 40-50 jerry cans (18L each) of oil, which we could then sell.

❝Every year, there is less oil produced as more and more trees are burnt. These trees took 60 years to grow, if we plant new ones it would take 10 to 15 years to have them mature enough for harvesting. But we cannot plant again because the land is so near the private settlement road.

Trees for me are life. I am 77 years old. I planted these trees myself in 1952. After school, I would go straight to the olive trees before I would go home.

❝It pains us in our hearts to see the trees destroyed. The earth is the life of the farmer. My blood is boiling with anger because I see my land burning and I can do nothing.❞


Manal 2


We met Manal in a tent camp, in 2009, a few months after the “Cast Lead” offensive. She was 35 years old back then.

A year before, she still lived in a large house with many rooms and modern conveniences.

During the hostilities, she left her home after leaflets were dropped by the Israeli military warning people to leave the area.

The family took no possessions from their home except white flags that they waved as they walked to an UNWRA school to seek refuge. At the time, the family expected to return home shortly.

Once at the school, she had to use flip chart paper that she found in a classroom as makeshift blankets to cover her children: ❝I had nothing for my daughter, who was five months at the time,❞ she told us, ❝and I could not keep her warm.❞ The following day, food and blankets were distributed.

She heard stories of widespread damage to houses in her community, and she gradually gave up hope of returning to a house that was still standing: ❝We are grateful to UNWRA for providing us with food and water, but the conditions were very cramped and it was not home. We just yearned for home.❞

As soon as military forces had left the area, the family returned to their home to find that it had been flattened to the ground by rubble from a neighbouring apartment building that had been directly hit by an Israeli military strike. The blacksmith business of Manal’s husband was completely destroyed.

She then took her children to stay at her sister’s house. She registered with the local authorities and, two weeks after the ceasefire agreement, was told that she had been allocated a tent in the new tent camp in Al Attatra, several kilometres from her home.

Restrictions on the import of goods, including basic construction materials, imposed by Israel as part of its blockade, have complicated, delayed and, in some cases prevented reconstruction and repair of destroyed or severely damaged homes.

In other cases, where goods are available, families lack the financial resources to purchase them due to the poor economic situation in Gaza caused largely by the years-long blockade.


School in Beit Lahia destroyed during the “Cast Lead” offensive (Photo by JCTordai, April 2009)

The family received financial assistance from UNWRA and the local authorities, and continued to reside in the tent camp, in very difficult conditions:

❝The first tent leaked and it was very cold, it was later replaced with a better tent, but it gets very hot and is full of flies.❞

The camp had temporary, pre-fabricated bathrooms, one for women and one for men, and water supply was sporadic.

For a while, her nine-year-old son continued attending the same school, but the distance proved a challenge. Manal told us that he also suffered from bedwetting and exhibited other psychological problems. His school work suffered, his grades were lower and he was disconnected from his friends.

When we talked to Manal, she no longer saw her friends and neighbours. Her social network and support system had broken down and she believed that she no longer had an existence.

❝My day starts with me hoping it will finish. I am worried and I don’t know what the future will bring.❞

She and her family were on the UNRWA shelter caseload list to have their house rebuilt. However, due to the ongoing blockade of construction materials, there had been no reconstruction by the time we met.



Sa’eed is the owner of a plant nursery near Bethlehem, in Area C.

On 8 September 2015, Israeli authorities demolished his business and confiscated most of the saplings and flowers.

The nursery lacked Israeli-issued building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain.

About a year before the incident the Israeli autorities handed to him a ‘stop work’ order for the nursery.

As a consequence of the incident, 17 people, including nine children, from Sa’eed’s family and his sons’ families, suffered great financial losses.

This was their main source of income.



Zakia abu Alya from AL MUGHAYYIR | RAMALLAH

❝This land was our only source of income. We worked hard on it, my husband, our sons, and I. We planted olive trees, almonds, figs. After 20 years of hard work, when it was time for our investment to pay off, the outpost was established and we began to suffer from recurrent losses.❞

These were the words of Zakia, when we met her in 2013.

Her village, Al Mughayyir, has faced humanitarian impacts as a result of the establishment of a nearby settelement outpost in 1998.

Palestinian families whose agricultural land is in the vicinity of the outpost have been subject to violent attacks by Israeli settlers when accessing their plots.

Attacks have included physical assault and the damage to trees and property.

The Israeli army has also imposed restrictions on the access of Palestinians to some of the agricultural and grazing lands in the vicinity of the outpost.




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White phosphorus rains on Gaza

A representative of Amnesty International was on the ground in Gaza and recorded what she saw on the last days of Operation Cast Lead.  

Since the mainstream media was kept out of Gaza, these two short videos offer shocking evidence of Israel’s disproportionate and deadly use of white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas, illegal under international law. Israel vehemently denied it used white phosphorus in Gaza.

The London Times reported on January 5, 2009 that despite Israel’s denials, “the tell-tale shells could be seen spreading tentacles of thick white smoke to cover the troops’ advance.” On January 8, The Times reported again that photographic proof of Israel’s use of white phosphorus munitions had emerged, “despite official denials” by the IDF. The Times had identified munitions bearing the designation M825A1, made in the USA. Confronted with the evidence, an IDF spokeswoman lied, “This is what we call a quiet shell—it is empty, it has no explosives and no white phosphorus. There is nothing inside it”.


By January 10, Human Rights Watch called upon Israel to “stop using white phosphorus in military operations in densely populated areas of Gaza”, including Gaza City. “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. Noting that when white phosphorus munitions burst in the air, they spread “116 burning wafers over an area between 125 and 250 meters in diameter”, HRW added 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.” The IDF continued to deny that it was using white phosphorus, HRW also pointed out, despite the fact that the distinctive air-bursting munitions had been photographed being used over populated areas of Gaza.

The proof is in the pictures and the interviews.

In the second video, the United Nations relief agency is targeted with white phosphorus. In April 2013, Israel announced it would stop using white phosphorus. (Tell me: How can Israel stop using something it denies it uses? I guess the same way it doesn’t have a nuclear arsenal. R-r-i-i-g-g-h-h-t-t!)

Amnesty International called for the end of the Israeli blockade on Gaza, an independent fact-finding commission to investigate possible war crimes, and for responsible parties to be held accountable. Five years later, Israel has not paid reparations to the victims, and there has been no accountability.

No accountability = no justice.  I wonder if Kerry, Abbas and Netanyahu have even discussed Operation Cast Lead during their recent “peace” negotiations.


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The first moments of Operation Cast Lead (video)

Warning: This 10-minute video provides gruesome and very disturbing images of death. I normally would not share such media, but Israel’s attack on Gaza on December 27, 2008 needs to be remembered in all of its details if Americans are going to learn any lessons from our financing and support of this carnage.

Mural on wall one block from the Arafat police station in Gaza.  The artist is Mohamed al-Derie, who participated in this season's Arabs Got Talent.

Mural on wall one block from the Arafat police station in Gaza. The artist is Mohamed al-Derie, who participated in this season’s Arabs Got Talent.

Israel’s first target that day was the police station where new recruits were gathered. I believe this might have been their graduation day from police training.

International law distinguishes between military and civilian targets. Under some circumstances, it’s permissible to kill members of the military, but never civilians who are not engaged in combat. The Goldstone Commission visited the police station, interviewed witnesses to the attack, and reported its extensive findings, available on pp. 99-111.

437. From the facts available to it, the Mission finds that the deliberate killing of 99 members of the police at the police headquarters and three police stations during the first minutes of the military operations, while they were engaged in civilian tasks inside civilian police facilities, constitutes an attack which failed to strike an acceptable balance between the direct military advantage anticipated (i.e. the killing of those policemen who may have been members of Palestinian armed groups) and the loss of civilian life (i.e. the other policemen killed and members of the public who would inevitably have been present or in the vicinity). The attacks on the Arafat City police headquarters and the Abbas Street police station, al-Tuffah police station and the Deir al-Balah investigative police station constituted disproportionate attacks in violation of customary international humanitarian law.

438. From the facts available to it, the Mission further believes that there has been a violation of the inherent right to life of those members of the police killed in the attacks of 27 December 2007 who were not members of armed groups by depriving them arbitrarily of their life in violation of article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

This 10-minute amateur video begins with a view of the Gaza skyline moments after the attack on December 27, 2008, the beginning of Operation Cast Lead. The videographer proceeds through the streets of downtown Gaza on his way to the police station where new recruits were gathered that morning, the first victims of the attack. Warning: the images and sounds are very disturbing. Video available on this link.  اللحظات الأولي لقصف مدينة عرفات للشرطة في حرب الفرقان (The initial moments of the bombing of the city police Arafat in war.)

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Timing of Operation Cast Lead

Israel’s stated reason for launching Operation Cast Lead (the 23-day bombardment of Gaza in Dec. 08 – Jan. 09) was in response to the Hamas rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel.

The day following the initial attack, Phyllis Bennis castigated the U.S. complicity in Israel’s airstrikes. There was an election coming up soon in Israel. Netanyahu (Likud Party) needed to show voters that he had the balls to protect them. (Of course, his balls were never on the front line!) He had to move quickly before Obama took office in mid-January because no one knew how Obama might respond. Clearly, Bush was in Netanyahu’s corner. Bennis noted:

The Israeli decision to launch the attacks on Gaza was a political, not security, decision. Just a day or two before the airstrikes, it was Israel that rejected Hamas’s diplomatic initiative aimed at extending the six-month-long ceasefire that had frayed but largely stayed together since June, and that expired 26 December. Hamas officials, working through Egyptian mediators, had urged Israel to lift the siege of Gaza as the basis for continuing an extended ceasefire. Israel, including Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni, of the “centrist” (in the Israeli context) Kadima Party, rejected the proposal. Livni, who went to Egypt but refused to seriously consider the Hamas offer, is running in a tight race for prime minister; her top opponent is the further-right Benyamin Netanyahu of the officially hawkish Likud party, who has campaigned against Livni and the Kadima government for their alleged “soft” approach to the Palestinians. With elections looming in February, no candidate can afford to appear anything but super-militaristic.

Further, it is certain that the Israeli government was eager to move militarily while Bush was still in office. The Washington Post quoted a Bush administration official saying that Israel struck in Gaza “because they want it to be over before the next administration comes in. They can’t predict how the next administration will handle it. And this is not the way they want to start with the new administration.” The Israeli officials may or may not be right about President Obama’s likelihood of responding differently than Bush on this issue – but it does point to a clear obligation on those of us in this country who voted for Obama with hope, to do all that’s necessary to press him to make good on the “change” he promised that gave rise to that hope.

Another researcher put Operation Cast Lead into a much broader Israeli military-intelligence agenda.

UN Building

On December 30, 2008, the U.S. blocked Libya’s proposal at the U.N. Security Council calling for a ceasefire.  Read the resolution here. The United States was the only member of the U.N. Security Council that refused to support a ceasefire resolution which passed 14-0 (with the U.S. abstaining). Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been instrumental in drafting the ceasefire resolution and so the other Security Council members were stunned when she abstained. Wish I could have intercepted that phone call between Bush and Rice before the vote to hear how it really went down!

As if shielding Israel from the world’s opprobrium in the United Nations wasn’t enough, on January 31, the U.S. hired a German merchant ship to deliver more weapons to Israel.

In the last days of December 2008, many Americans were caught up in the euphoria of Obama’s election, hopeful that change was in the air. In Gaza, only fighter jets carrying death and destruction were in the air.


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Israeli soldiers speak out

Israel’s Operation Cast Lead began on December 27, 2008 and ended 23 days later.  Thousands of Israeli soldiers were called up for active service. The assault by ground, air and sea against a largely defenseless population was calculated to be a “disproportionate response.” Three Israeli soldiers who participated in Operation Cast Lead talked about what they had done.


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9/11 and 12/27 – We Will Never Forget

Warning: Some people may find the following post offensive either because I draw a comparison between a tragedy in the USA with a tragedy in Gaza, or because I include heartbreaking pictures of the latter.

Americans 20 years or older won’t forget where they were on September 11, 2001.  Most Palestinians I spoke with during my stay in Gaza know about that tragedy too.

Palestinians 10 years or older (especially those living in Gaza) certainly know where they were on December 27, 2008. . . . and on December 28, 29, 30, 31, January 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18.  Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza five years ago was dubbed Operation Cast Lead by the IDF and lasted 23 days.  I suspect most Americans don’t know about Operation Cast Lead, but we should.

On 9/11, more than 3000 Americans died in a matter of hours:  2,753 died in lower Manhattan, 40 in a field near Shanksfield, PA, and 184 at the Pentagon in Washington. The perpetrators of this heinous crime were the fanatical followers of Osama bin Laden. He confessed and was killed by US special forces in Pakistan in May 2013.

New construction on the site of the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan

New construction on the site of the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan

The statistics vary about the number of Palestinians who lost their lives during those 23 days in 2008-09.  NGOs place the overall number of persons killed between 1,385 and 1,419, and more than 5,300 wounded. Approximately 3,500 homes were destroyed leaving more than 20,000 people in the Gaza Strip homeless.  

(Credits: all photos from Never Cast Lead Again blog)


In addition to homes, many mosques, U.N.-administered schools, universities, the power plant, and emergency medical crews were targeted. Because Israel refused to allow news reporters to enter the Gaza Strip (they sat on a hill at a distance and watched the slaughter from outside), the world must rely on the testimonies provided by witnesses to the fact-finding Goldstone Commission (summary here) (purchase e-book here) and personal blogs like this. I’ve written about Operation Cast Lead here.


The State of Israel has never been held accountable for the atrocities it committed during its Operation Cast Lead, despite the fact that the following legal findings, among others, were made by the United Nations fact-finding commission:

The Mission finds that in a number of cases Israel failed to take feasible precautions required by customary law reflected in article 57 (2) (a) (ii) of Additional Protocol I to avoid or minimize incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects. The firing of white phosphorus shells over the UNRWA compound in Gaza City is one of such cases in which precautions were not taken in the choice of weapons and methods in the attack, and these facts were compounded by reckless disregard for the consequences. The intentional strike at al-Quds hospital using high-explosive artillery shells and white phosphorous in and around the hospital also violated articles 18 and 19 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

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The Mission finds that the different kinds of warnings issued by Israel in Gaza cannot be considered as sufficiently effective in the circumstances to comply with customary law as reflected in Additional Protocol I, article 57 (2) (c). While some of the leaflet warnings were specific in nature, the Mission does not consider that general messages telling people to leave wherever they were and go to city centres, in the particular circumstances of the military campaign, meet the threshold of effectiveness. Firing missiles into or on top of buildings as a “warning” is essentially a dangerous practice and a form of attack rather than a warning.


The Mission found numerous instances of deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects (individuals, whole families, houses, mosques) in violation of the fundamental international humanitarian law principle of distinction, resulting in deaths and serious injuries. In these cases the Mission found that the protected status of civilians was not respected and the attacks were intentional, in clear violation of customary law reflected in article 51 (2) and 75 of Additional Protocol I, article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and articles 6 and 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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With regard to one incident investigated, involving the death of at least 35 Palestinians, the Mission finds that the Israeli armed forces launched an attack which a reasonable commander would have expected to cause excessive loss of civilian life in relation to the military advantage sought, in violation of customary international humanitarian law as reflected in Additional Protocol I, articles 57 (2) (a) (ii) and (iii). The Mission finds a violation of the right to life (ICCPR, article 6) of the civilians killed in this incident.


The Mission also concludes that Israel, by deliberately attacking police stations and killing large numbers of policemen (99 in the incidents investigated by the Mission) during the first minutes of the military operations, failed to respect the principle of proportionality between the military advantage anticipated by killing some policemen who might have been members of Palestinian armed groups and the loss of civilian life (the majority of policemen and members of the public present in the police stations or nearby during the attack). Therefore, these were disproportionate attacks in violation of customary
international law.


The Mission is firmly convinced that justice and respect for the rule of law are the indispensable basis for peace. The prolonged situation of impunity has created a justice crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory that warrants action.


The Mission notes that the responsibility to investigate violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, prosecute if appropriate and try perpetrators belongs in the first place to domestic authorities and institutions. This is a legal obligation incumbent on States and State-like entities. However, where domestic authorities are unable or unwilling to comply with this obligation, international justice mechanisms must be activated to prevent impunity.


The Mission believes that, in the circumstances, there is little potential for accountability for serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law through domestic institutions in Israel and even less in Gaza. The Mission is of the view that long-standing impunity has been a key factor in the perpetuation of violence in the region and in the reoccurrence of violations, as well as in the erosion of confidence among Palestinians and many Israelis concerning prospects for justice and a peaceful solution to the conflict.


The Mission considers that the serious violations of international humanitarian law recounted in this report fall within the subject-matter jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

The rule of law is the only thing that separates us from the beasts in the jungle. I wish Bin Laden had been brought to justice in a courtroom. I hope Israeli military commanders will be brought to justice in a courtroom someday. I hope American taxpayers will refuse to finance the Israeli occupation and war crimes, to the tune of $3 billion per year. Without accountability, there is no justice. Until that day, the world must not forget the atrocities perpetrated upon the Palestinians in Gaza five years ago.

The video contains 1106 slides composed of 981 picture slides, 87 Text Files and 38 Title Slides. Viewing time is 2:08 hours. It took about 1450 hours to complete the original presentation on May 15, 2011.


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