Tag Archives: Israel Defense Forces

Accountability for war crimes? ICC

When and how will Israel be held accountable for war crimes committed during its 51-day Operation Protective Edge in 2014?  The operation killed 2,251 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom were civilians, including 299 women and 551 children. The operation also caused massive destruction to 18,000 homes and other civilian property, including hospitals and vital infrastructure.

Most of the destruction and damage has not been repaired in the past three years. Neither has any serious investigation been conducted.

Two legal NGOs in Israel — Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and Adalah — have been absolute bull dogs, pushing the Israeli authorities to comply with their responsibilities under International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL). For the past three years, they have submitted petitions, complaints, claims and every manner of documentation to press for justice for the victims of Operation Protective Edge. To no avail.

IHL and IHRL require Israel to investigate allegations of suspected violations committed during Operation Protective Edge, with independence, impartiality, effectiveness, promptness and transparency and to prosecute those allegedly responsible.

But as with its inquiries into past military operations, Israel has delayed, denied, deflected and dismissed every attempt by the United Nations and others to come clean with its actions in Operation Protective Edge.

That hasn’t stopped Israeli soldiers from talking about their experience in Operation Protective Edge.

On August 28, 2017, Al-Mezan and Adalah published their 9-page report documenting their attempts to hold Israel accountable — Gaza 3 Years On: Impunity over accountability Israel’s unwillingness to investigate violations of international law
in the Gaza Strip. No surprises here.

The cases concerned severe events that resulted in the killing and serious injury of Palestinian civilians, including women and children, and the massive destruction of civilian objects. The evidence in these cases suggested that the attacks were carried out in violation of the principles of distinction and proportionality, which could amount to grave breaches of IHL. These cases mostly concerned incidents of:
 Direct attacks on homes causing many civilian deaths and injuries;
 Direct attacks on children (e.g. the four Bakr children playing on the beach and the Shuheibar children feeding pigeons on a house rooftop);
 Direct attacks on five UNRWA schools that were sheltering civilians;
 The bombing of mosques, hospitals and a shelter for people with severe disabilities;
 Attacks on civilian infrastructure and the municipality workers fixing them.

After Operation Protective Edge, Israel cynically created the Fact-Finding Assessment Mechanism (FFAM) to improve its investigative abilities but after three years, 46.4% of the complaints filed by Adalah and Al Mezan were referred to the FFAM for examination and then closed, without opening a criminal investigation or ordering further action against those involved. 43% of the complaints remain under examination by the FFAM or received no response.

The Military Advocate General’s responses to such cases:
 Secret evidence: The materials collected by the FFAM and other intelligence materials cannot be revealed because they are classified;
 Military necessity: Certain incidents in question were undertaken based on military necessity (these arguments were written vaguely and did not include any supporting evidence);
 No non-military witnesses: The FFAM did not find any need or use in taking testimonies from non-military witnesses.

This whole exercise may seem pointless because when has Israel ever been held accountable for its violations of international law?

This time things might be different.

Ms Fatou Bensouda

Ms Fatou Bensouda – Prosecutor

The Office of the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) has launched a preliminary investigation. (pp. 25-32) But the ICC can’t assume jurisdiction in this case if the State of Israel has an effective mechanism for investigating and prosecuting these claims. In November 2016, the Prosecutor said she would “assess information on potentially relevant national proceedings, as necessary and appropriate.”

That’s why this report from Al-Mezan and Adalah is so very important. It clearly shows that Israel is incapable and unwilling to investigate and hold itself accountable. If the Prosecutor agrees, she can recommend that the ICC take the case.

Israel needs to be held accountable, sooner rather than later. This report provides the ammunition to open the courthouse doors. Bravo Al-Mezan and Adalah!

The case of the Abu Dahrouj family provides another illustration of Israel’s unwillingness to investigate. On the night of 22 August 2014, an Israeli warplane fired two missiles at a home belonging to the Abu Dahrouj family in central Gaza. The Israeli missile strike killed five members of the Abu Dahrouj family, including two children, and wounded multiple civilians and caused extensive damage to neighboring homes. Although [Israel] acknowledged that the missile attack was carried out directly on a civilian home and did not target any combatant or military object, no investigation was opened and the case was closed without any action against those involved.


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“Why can’t the Palestinian leaders build a state like the Zionists did after the Holocaust?”

“Why aren’t the Palestinian leaders building a country like my parents, survivors of the Holocaust and millions like them, did with Israel, instead of building tunnels, shooting missiles and subjecting their people to untold horrors?”

I gasped when I read this question sent to me by a well-educated, university professor in Israel. It was a serious question, deserving a serious response.

Where to begin?

To dissuade my friend of any notion that Palestinians might be incapable of building a country, I’ll remind him of the cities, industry, agriculture, schools and civic life that flourished in Palestine before my friend’s parents and other Zionists arrived. Please watch this 10 minute video.

When I returned from Gaza two years ago, I wrote my layman’s version of the history of Palestine here and here. Israel’s 67 years of dispossession, ethnic cleansing, and occupation of Palestine — as well as current events, including the Palestinian resistance and Israel’s successive military operations in the West Bank and Gaza — can only be understood in the context of the Nakba. I believe my Israeli friend’s question is sincere because either he doesn’t know about the Nakba (past and present) نكبة or he has decided to ignore and minimize the ongoing impacts of the Nakba.

I credit Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky for opening my eyes about the Nakba.

In the late 1980s, a group of Israeli historians, including Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris, began to challenge the commonly accepted version of Israeli history based on newly declassified Israeli government documents. Morris called them the New Historians. They went head-to-head with the traditional historians who cast Israel as the peace-seeking victim in a hostile Arab world, the David-and-Goliath narrative. The New Historians shared a more nuanced history of the exodus of the Palestinians and the reasons for the persistent political deadlock with the Arab states in the region.

Professor Ilan Pappe’s book “Ethnic Cleansing” was my education about the Nakba. I hope my friend will read it. In this video, Pappe describes in great detail about the Zionists who committed the Nakba crimes. He urges us to know the names of the perpetrators, the victims, the places and events of the Nakba. Pappe also speaks about the “conspiracy of silence” by the international community in 1948. Please watch.

So . . . . . why can’t the Palestinian leaders do what the Zionists have done (are still doing) in creating the State of Israel?

  • If my friend’s parents and other Zionists had decided to live peacefully side-by-side with the indigenous population when they arrived in Palestine, as Jews, Christians and Muslims had lived for many years, we would certainly be watching very different events unfold in the Middle East today.  The footage in this short clip shows a time when Palestinians of all faiths lived and worked side by side in harmony.
  • If the Zionists believed in a democracy that values plurality rather than an apartheid regime that values Jews over non-Jews, we would certainly be watching very different events unfold in the Middle East today. Saree Makdisi explains apartheid very well here and in his book “Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.”

“Apartheid” isn’t just a term of insult; it’s a word with a very specific legal meaning, as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1973 and ratified by most United Nations member states (Israel and the United States are exceptions, to their shame).

apartheid wall

  • If Israel had not waged three military campaigns in Gaza over the past six years, Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009), Operation Pillar of Defense (2012) which I witnessed first hand from the ground in Gaza, and the most recent Operation Protective Edge (2014), and if Israel lifted the multi-year siege and blockade of Gaza, and if Israel allowed Palestinians in Gaza to travel freely to pursue educational opportunities, visit family, accept jobs, seek medical attention, etc., — if none of these inhumane actions had occurred and were still occurring — we certainly would be witnessing a vibrant economy in Gaza with the next generation of Palestinians living in hope, not despair. Instead, the U.N. is predicting that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020. Some of my blog posts from Operation Pillar of Defense are here, here and here.

I can hear your retort now, my friend.  It sounds something like this.  (I hope you are not offended, but I’ve heard the same words spoken seriously by many, many Jews.)


So long as the Zionists maintain the brutal occupation and dehumanization of the Palestinians, as they have for decades, resistance will continue.  Resistance in the form of political resistance at the United Nations, resistance at the International Criminal Court, cultural resistance such as teaching the next generation the Palestinian traditions, economic resistance, non-violent resistance in Budrus, resistance with the pen, and violent resistance.

I’ll conclude with Noura Erakat’s well-reasoned explanation of why Israel’s occupation is illegal. As an attorney yourself, I hope you will give Ms. Erakat the time and respect she deserves by reading her paper.

I appreciate your question which initiated this blog post, and I hope we will continue this discussion. Even more, I hope the occupation and dispossession of Palestinians from their land, which your parents and other Zionists started so many years ago, will come to an end very soon.


Filed under Gaza, Hamas, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Nakba, nonviolent resistance, Occupation, Peaceful, People, Politics, Settlers, United Nations, US Policy, Video

Day #46 – Aug. 21, 2014 – Remembering

Shujaya 7

An Israeli isn’t too happy with my blog posts, especially the posts about last year’s assault on Gaza.  (I’m not sure “war” is the proper term because it connotes greater parity between two military forces, which is certainly not the case between Israel and Palestine.)

He believes I’m inciting hatred (doesn’t know how to spell “incite”).

Not content that the war of last year, in fact it’s over a year since the last bomb was dropped or the last rocket fired and with much to write she decides to run a day by day dairy of last years war. Why? What does she hope to achieve by this?

So I thought I would answer him.  Explain what I hope to achieve.

My daily postings about Israel’s 51-day assault on the Gaza Strip last summer are meant to remind us (anyone reading) of the horrific events of last year, to educate people about some of the details of the assault, and to stand in solidarity with my friends and every Palestinian in Gaza who endured the unthinkable last summer. You are not alone!

My Israeli critic writes that the war is over. It would be better to write about “positive events” such as the Palestinian/Israeli orchestra.

The war is over, for the time being lady, please start reporting on positivity and not your reports that are so full hatred. Thank you. Maurice

That is an absurd statement.

The war is not over for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.


Gaza is Hell: Desolation and destiny in a land in limbo – Alice Su, The Atlantic, May 2, 2015

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip—Eight months after last summer’s war between Israel and Palestinian militant groups, Gaza remains in ruins. Drive five minutes into the territory from the crossing point in southwestern Israel and you reach Beit Hanoun, one of the areas hit most severely by land and air during the conflict. Bright blue sky spreads over buildings with big bites taken out of them. Half-eaten bedrooms and kitchens yawn open to reveal tangled wires, broken rock, and household goods: a slipper, a pack of sanitary pads, a ripped-up schoolbook. People peek over mounds of rubble from tents behind their former homes, like aliens come to settle an abandoned planet.

Suicide rates on rise in Gaza – Mohammed Othman in Al Monitor.

Awadallah expects the number of suicide cases to increase in the near future due to the deteriorating situation in Gaza. “There is no glimpse of hope for the Israeli siege to end or for the situation to improve. In the past, we used to say that Hamas’ employees in Gaza were not receiving their salaries; now the Palestinian Authority’s employees no longer receive their salaries. The situation is going downhill and the suicide attempts are bound to increase,” he said.

Cold Misery: Gaza is sinking amid hostility from Israel, Egypt and its Palestinian brethren – The Economist, Jan. 17, 2015.

In recent months Israel has arrested about 20 boys trying to clamber across the border. Real prison, says Walid’s father, might be better than life in the open jail of Gaza. And if shot? Well, he laughs, a quick death is better than the slow one on offer.

Shujaya 11

These are just three of many, many stories coming from Gaza today. This past May, former President Carter visited Israel and Palestine, noting that the conditions in Gaza are deplorable.

So my Israeli critic wants the world to forget, to turn a blind eye away from the disaster in Gaza. Not a natural disaster. Not an unexpected disaster. What’s happening to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip today — right now — is a human-designed and engineered disaster. The responsibility lies squarely at the feet of the state of Israel, of the Israeli leaders, the IDF, the Israeli public, and people like Maurice who prefer to bury their heads in the sand.

That is truly disgusting!

Shujaya 6

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Day #38 – August 13, 2014 – Leading horses to water


On my ride to DC this morning, I took my new book about the Israeli assault on Gaza last summer — “Gaza Unsilenced.”  Check out the Table of Contents here.

Laila El-Haddad

Laila El-Haddad, Editor

Refaat Alareer, Editor (2012)

Lora with Refaat Alareer, Editor (2012)

The Editors write: “How do you provide an accurate and humanistic — a real narration — of the Palestinian story that is Gaza?”

In Gaza Unsilenced, we attempt to do this. We set out to compile a compelling collection of some of the best writing, photography, tweets, art, and poems from that harrowing time and the year that followed, to depict as truthfully and inclusively as possible what was done to Gaza, what the impact has been on both the people and the land, and how they are coping under a still existent siege.


As Palestinians from Gaza who were watching the horror unfold from abroad, we were driven by a sense of urgency, despair, and obligation to curate ad edit this book, to be a conduit for voices writing from and about Gaza, as a means for changing the narrative and thereby changing public opinions, which we hope can help push the long-standing U.S. policy of blind alliance with Israel in a different direction, and ultimately let Gaza live.

I’ve met both editors — Laila and Refaat — personally, and you will too when you pick up their book. They introduce themselves in a very personal way. I won’t share the details, you will find them in the book’s Introduction, but my heart goes out to both Laila and Refaat, and to the thousands of Palestinians impacted by Israel’s brutal occupation, seige and war crimes.

By some estimates, Israel’s use of firepower on Gaza by land, sea, and air during Operation “Protective Edge” was equivalent to the atomic bomb used in Hiroshima. Concretely, some 23,400 tank shells, 20,4000 artillery shells, and 2.9 million bullets, or “almost two bullets for ever man, woman, and child in Gaza.”

I’ve decided this is a book my members of Congress must read. I’m ordering copies for Representative Michelle Lujan-Grisham, Senator Tom Udall and Senator Martin Heinrich.  I’m also going to send copies to President Obama, former President Carter, and candidate Bernie Sanders.  I can lead these horses to water, but can’t force them to drink.  Their time will be well-spent reading Gaza Unsilenced.  You can order your copy here.

 By now, it should be clear that this story is not simply the story of a 51-day attack. Nor is it one about 2,200 people killed during the attack. It is not even a story of an Orwellian world where war is peace and victims are villains. It’s a story of what happens when, despite the ability to do so, powerful nations choose to remain silent or, worse, are complicit through financing the crimes being committed in the name of their taxpayers.


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Day #26 – August 1, 2014 – Black Friday in Rafah

There were many atrocities committed in the Gaza Strip during last summer’s military operation, but if one stands out above all others, it must be Black Friday, August 1, 2014. The U.N. Independent Commission charged with investigating Operation Protective Edge spoke with 22 witnesses about these events, among them victims, medical personnel and journalists. It also studied submissions, video and satellite imagery and public reports from relevant stakeholders. The following description of the events of Black Friday are from the Commission’s Findings.



350.        In response to the killing of two IDF soldiers and the capture of Lt. Hadar Goldin, the Reconnaissance Unit of the Givati Brigade launched a major military operation on the town of Rafah in the morning of 1 August, or “Black Friday” as it was dubbed in Gaza. When the operation started, Israeli forces acted on the basis of the assumption that Lt. Goldin might still be alive. He was proclaimed dead several hours later, following the discovery of his blood-stained effects. There are conflicting reports about whether the capture of the Lt. Goldin occurred before or after a ceasefire that was due to come into effect. According to official Israeli sources, hostilities resumed “following a ceasefire violation by Hamas and the attempted kidnapping of an IDF officer.”

352.        During the operation, the IDF closed off areas of Rafah to block movement in and out, presumably to prevent the captors from leaving the area with the captive soldier. Residents returning home that morning – following the announcement of a ceasefire – found themselves trapped with no access to safer sanctuaries, as Rafah was basically turned into a closed military zone. According to media accounts, the IDF fired over 1000 shells against Rafah within three hours and dropped at least 40 bombs. Tanks and bulldozers demolished dozens of homes.  Inhabitants came under intense attacks in their homes and in the streets. Witnesses reported to the commission that dozens of homes were destroyed by IDF bulldozers. Ambulances and private vehicles trying to evacuate civilians from the fighting were also hit. As a result of the operation, virtually every person or building in Rafah became a potential military target. Families gave accounts of dividing their children into separate groups before fleeing their homes, in the hope that only one group might be fired on and the others would survive.

353.        “Before I left, I called my neighbour and agreed with her to  divide into two groups, so that, if one group were targeted, the others would survive. I left with my two younger daughters, whereas my neighbour left with her daughter and my eldest daughter Asil. We reached a place called Mashrough Amer in Salahaddin Street and found a lot of vehicles that had been recently destroyed as they were still emitting fumes. [… ]We later learned from the news that Shawka, our neighbourhood, had been targeted by 600 missiles in the span of one hour. The area had been totally destroyed and, as far as I can remember, the missiles I witnessed appeared to have been fired from the ground, probably a tank. I understand that Rafah city was targeted mainly from the air. Al Shawka, however, is on the margins of Rafah and very close to the border. There, all the attacks were launched by tanks. When I returned home, I found my house partially destroyed by three missiles. The house was empty and nobody had been hurt.” Saleh Hussein Abu Mohsen from Rafah

354.        A father described an incident in which three persons were killed and six injured, including himself, while trying to flee to safety. Beginning on from 17 July, the family had moved from one refuge to another to avoid the shelling. When they arrived at Mashrou’ Amer on 1 August around 11 a.m., tanks in front of the Sa’ad Sayel barracks fired at them. When they ran away in two groups, the eldest daughter was killed. The commission understands that the fiercest attacks occurred during the first four hours following the rumored capture of Lt. Goldin. The bombardment was reported to have been most intense in the eastern neighbourhoods of Rafah, such as Mashru’ Amer, Tannur, Hay al Jneina, Uruba Street, Al Shawka, Zallata, the Airport neighbourhood and Salahaddin street, with up to 95 per cent of the victims coming from these neighbourhoods. Satellite imagery shared with the commission corroborates that the destruction was concentrated in these areas.

355.        Doctors working at the Abu Yousef Al Najjar Hospital in Rafah told the commission that, in the last days of July, many civilians had rushed to the hospital not to seek medical care but “because they felt that the hospital was the safest place for their families and children. On 1 August, as the security deteriorated, patients from Al Najjar hospital were transferred to the Kuwaiti hospital. According to eyewitnesses, two missiles struck the Al Najjar hospital, which caused destruction to some of the infrastructure such as the windows, doors and the air conditioning system. Ambulances were also hit. For instance, at around 3 p.m., an ambulance transporting injured civilians in the Msabbeh neighbourhood was hit. The vehicle caught fire and three crew members and 5 other people were killed. The commission spoke with two ambulance workers from Al Najjar hospital who witnessed part of the incident. They said that, earlier on that day, the Al Bir Taka Mosque in northern Rafah had been hit and they were called to rescue the wounded. Three ambulances were dispatched, one of them driven by their colleague Atef Salah Ibrahim Al Zamali, who took a short-cut in order to save time. When the other two ambulances arrived at the scene a little while later, they found Atef’s ambulance enveloped in flames, about 250 meters away from the mosque. They could not approach the vehicle due to the heat. While they were there, another strike on the burning ambulance caused a second explosion. The eyewitnesses thought that this second explosion was not caused by an airstrike, but by a mortar, as fragments of shrapnel exploded around the ambulance area. The intense bombardment continued. After extinguishing the fire, the Civil Defence managed to extract the burned bodies from the vehicle and found inside, in addition to the three ambulance crew members, the bodies of a man, a woman and three children. They discovered that the man was an elderly patient. The woman was his daughter who had asked to accompany him in order for her children to be evacuated to a safer place.

356.        Dozens of shells struck the premises of the hospital, wounding a number of civilians and causing marginal damage to its infrastructure. The hospital was eventually evacuated and no other casualties were reported. The doctors also said the hospital received more than a thousand casualties on the first day of the operation alone. According to the UN Protection Cluster, 100 fatalities were recorded in Rafah on 1 August 2014, including 75 civilians (24 children and 18 women). Leaked audio recordings of IDF radio communications suggest that the fire was indiscriminate, with one Lt. Colonel telling his troops “to stop firing like morons” and another ordering a hesitant soldier, “Go, go, go![…] Give him another shell”. According to a media report, the Givati Brigade Commander invoked the Hannibal Directive in response to the capture of the IDF soldier:

“[A]t 09:36, after speaking to the commander there I uttered a word no one wants to utter – Hannibal, i.e. abduction. I started planning an assault towards Rafah. I ordered all of our forces to move there, in order to prevent the abductors from moving”.

358.        The “Hannibal Directive” was devised in 1986 and is widely understood to be “a code word for an IDF order that states that in the case of abduction of a soldier, everything must be done to prevent the escape of the abductors or captors, using gunfire, even if it endangers the life of the soldier.” According to official Israeli sources, the “IDF General Staff Directive for Contending with Kidnapping Attempts [also known as the “Hannibal Directive”] provides methods and procedures for preventing and frustrating attempted kidnappings of Israeli nationals (both civilians and IDF soldiers). This Directive has been in force for decades and has been amended several times. […] As an operational order, however, the Directive’s specific content is classified. As with other classified directives, revealing all of this Directive’s contents would provide adversaries with the ability to frustrate its very purpose.”  It appears that the procedure is premised on a very strong political commitment by Israel to do its utmost to ensure that no soldiers are captured by armed groups to avoid substantial leverage to armed groups in subsequent negotiations with Israel. A press report quoting the commander of the IDF’s Orev Unit provides a possible explanation for how the IDF viewed the goals of the 1 August operation in Rafah:

In such an event you do all to prevent the country from experiencing another turmoil as it underwent in the Gilad Shalit affair

While the Hannibal procedure was modified several times, apparently to clarify that it did not call for the killing of captured soldiers, it appears still to be unusually expansive in terms of defining what targets are legitimate military objectives.

IDF’s and Palestinian armed group’s version of events

361.        The commander of the reconnaissance battalion of the Givati Brigade, Lieu Col Eli Gino, was reported as stating that, “The fire was proportionate, and when they kidnap a soldier, all means are kosher, even if it exacts a price”. The press further quoted Col. Winter as saying that, “those who kidnap need to know they will pay a price. This was not revenge. They simply messed with the wrong brigade”. The events of 1 August in Rafah are presently being considered by Israel’s Military Attorney General for a possible criminal investigation.

362.        Israeli media reported on 15 April 2015 that an internal investigation by the IDF had concluded that no war crimes had been committed. Instead, the findings shed light on operational flaws vis-à-vis the IDF’s reaction to the capture of Lt. Hadar Goldin.[1] The media cite Givati Brigade commander Col. Winter as having stated that “[t]he brigade’s plan of operation took into account the cease-fire going into effect and was based on a situation in which, by 8 a.m., the forces would cease attacks and only after securing the territory, would initiate searches for tunnels. However, this was not the situation, and when the cease-fire went into effect, forces from the patrol unit entered to search an area that had not been conquered and in an unsecured sector”. The IDF apparently concluded that “from an analysis of the unit’s actions, it can be determined that in contrast to standard warfare and the simple instructions given during Operation Protective Edge, here, as a brigade, we managed to confuse the fighters and to put them in an unreasonable situation

   363.        With respect to Hamas’s version of events, according to press reports, Hamas stated that “Israel pretends that one of its soldiers had been kidnapped to cover its crimes against the civilians in Gaza strip, and to divert the attention of international public opinion towards an Israeli prisoner with the Palestinian resistance.” He added: “We have no information about an Israeli prisoner.” Also according to press reports, in a press release of 2 August, Al Qassam Brigades announced that it was not “aware of a missing soldier, nor his whereabouts or the conditions of his disappearance.”

Summary Legal analysis

Several factual elements of the shelling and bombing in the Rafah area on 1 August 2014 lead to important concern as to the conformity of this attack with international law.

365.        Information received by the commission concerning attacks on all vehicles in the area, including ambulances, as well as incidents in which groups of civilians appear to have been targeted by tank fire, raises serious concerns as to the respect by the IDF of the principle of distinction. The alleged invocation by IDF troops of the Hannibal Directive may indicate that the objective of targeting vehicles was to prevent the flight of those who had captured an IDF soldier. While targeting a vehicle whose passengers are fighters and who are escaping with a captured soldier may be legitimate, the information reviewed by the commission reveals a different course of events.  In Rafah, all vehicles appear to have been targeted, irrespective of their civilian or military use. Civilian vehicles, including ambulances, are civilian objects and cannot be targeted unless they are used in a way that makes an effective contribution to the military action. International humanitarian law provides that in case of doubt whether an object that is normally used for civilian purposes is being used to make an effective military contribution, it shall be presumed not to be so used. However, based on information collected by the commission, the opposite appears to have been the case on 1 August in Rafah, where all vehicles in a certain area were targeted. This amounts to a deliberate attack against civilians and civilian objects and may amount to a war crime.

366.        Statements made on IDF audio recordings, as well as the amount and types of ordnance fired at some Rafah neighbourhoods, also raise concern with regards to the respect by IDF forces of the principle of distinction. The alleged use of over 250 mortar shells, a statistical weapon with a wide impact area, in a densely populated area, as well as the firing of over 800 artillery and tank shells with wide area effects in a densely populated and built up area over the period of a few hours, indicate the use by the IDF of methods and means of combat which in the circumstances were of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction. This is demonstrated by the high number of shells that hit the Al Najjar hospital premises, and the number of civilians who were struck by shells in the street while attempting to flee. The attack of 1 August 2014, therefore, appears to have violated the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks.

367.        In relation to the “Hannibal Directive”, the IDF has stressed that: “allegations that IDF directives, and particularly, the IDF General Staff Directive for Contending with Kidnapping Attempts (also known as the “Hannibal Directive”), permit IDF forces to exercise force in a manner that does not accord with the principle of proportionality, are incorrect. […] The Directive does not grant permission to violate the Law of Armed Conflict, including the rules relating to distinction and proportionality. To the contrary, and as with all IDF directives concerning combat situations, IDF forces are required to adhere to the Law of Armed Conflict at all times when implementing the directives’ provisions. The use of unrestrained force is never permitted, even in the direst of circumstances.

368.        Nevertheless, the attack in Rafah on “Black Friday” raises concerns with regard to the IDF’s respect of the principle of proportionality. The invocation of the ‘Hannibal Directive’ and reported statements by IDF officers present during the attack provide a clear indication of the objective of the attack – namely preventing or putting an end to the capture by an armed group of an IDF soldier. Given the amount and type of ordnance used, as well as the likely presence of civilians in the area due to the announced ceasefire, a reasonable military commander should have known that such an attack could result in a high number of civilian casualties as well as in damage to civilian objects. In order for an attack to be considered proportionate, international law requires that the expected incidental loss of civilian life and damage to civilian objects not be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

369.        The latter point must be examined in depth. Preventing the capture or freeing a soldier from captivity may be conceived as a concrete and direct military advantage, albeit of a limited nature, since the loss of one soldier in a large army such as the IDF does not reduce its military capability. When doing so in a manner that is highly likely to result in the soldier’s death, it further reduces the concrete and direct military advantage. On the other hand, some have argued that in such a case the proportionality test must take into account the strategic consideration of denying the armed groups the leverage they could obtain over Israel in negotiations for the release of the captured soldier.

370.        The commission considers this an erroneous interpretation of international humanitarian law. The leverage that armed groups may obtain in negotiations does not depend solely on the capture of a soldier, but on how the Government of Israel decides to react to the capture in the aftermath. The strategic military or political advantage sought is therefore not a concrete and direct military advantage as required by international humanitarian law. An assessment of the strategic and political advantage depends on a large number of post facto elements which are merely speculative for the commander on the ground at the moment he decides to launch the attack. Indeed, the proposed interpretation of the anticipated military advantage, which would allow for abstract political and long-term strategic considerations in carrying out the proportionality analysis, would have the consequence of emptying the proportionality principle of any protective element. The commission finds therefore that the IDF attack of 1 August 2014 in Rafah could have been expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life and damage to civilian objects which would be grossly excessive in relation to the anticipated concrete and direct military advantage, and may therefore amount to a war crime.

371.        What is more, the commission believes that the military culture resulting from such policy priorities may have been a contributing factor for the unleashing of massive firepower on Rafah, in total disregard for its impact on the civilian population. Applying the ‘Hannibal Directive’ in the context of a densely populated urban environment using heavy weaponry inevitably leads to violations of the principles of distinction and proportionality.

372.        The nature of the attack, as well as statements reportedly made by an officer present in Rafah after the events, indicate that the IDF did not comply with its obligation to take constant care to spare civilians. Based on the information gathered by the commission, it does not appear that the IDF took all feasible precautions to adequately verify whether the targets of the attacks were indeed lawful military objectives and to choose the weapons used in the attack with a view to avoiding or at the very least to minimizing civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects.

373.         Finally, as the IDF had aerial assets over Rafah on “Black Friday”, it is very likely that commanders on the ground quickly gained knowledge of the calamitous impact of the attacks on civilians and civilian objects. This knowledge of the likelihood that the intense bombardment would lead to significant casualties is illustrated by the warning given to the doctors in Al Najjar hospital to evacuate the hospital. Yet, even though the attack lasted several hours, it was not suspended. This may constitute a violation of the obligation to do everything feasible to suspend or cancel an attack when it becomes apparent it is not respecting the principles of distinction or proportionality.

374.        The strikes against the Al Najjar hospital and against ambulances in Rafah also raise concerns as to the respect by Israel of the obligation to protect medical units and transports in all circumstances.

This week, Amnesty International released its report about Black Friday, see here.

There is overwhelming evidence that Israeli forces committed disproportionate, or otherwise indiscriminate, attacks which killed scores of civilians in their homes, on the streets and in vehicles and injured many more. This includes repeatedly firing artillery and other imprecise explosive weapons in densely populated civilian areas during the attacks on Rafah between 1 and 4 August. In some cases, there are indications that they directly fired at and killed civilians, including people fleeing.

In response, the Israeli spokesperson said: “In contrast to Amnesty’s claims, the IDF – as the military of a democratic state committed to the rule of law – conducts all its operations in accordance with international law”.

Mondoweiss and Ynet published an 11-minute video earlier this year containing heavily edited recordings set to dramatic music and “published with permission from the IDF censor.” Chief of Staff Benny Gantz denounced their release — “The army is not a reality TV show…not that I’m hiding anything” — and has reportedly ordered the military police to find those responsible.  Watch the video here.

A journalist/commentator with The Independent, Ahron Bregman, provided some insight into the man responsible for the IDF’s actions on Black Friday.

“The colonel who orchestrated the assault on Rafah was Ofer Winter, the commander of the Givati Brigade. A religious settler, on the eve of the Gaza war he dispatched a letter to his troops, laden with biblical references, which perhaps explains the ferocity with which they attacked Rafah.

What Colonel Winter called on his troops to do was, effectively, to conduct a religious war on Gaza. Here are some quotes from his letter:

“History has chosen us to be the sharp edge of the bayonet of fighting the terrorist enemy from Gaza which curses, defames and abuses the God of Israel’s battles … We will… wipe out the enemy… Using all means at our disposal and with all required force… I turn my eyes to the sky and call with you ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.’ God, the Lord of Israel, make our path successful, as we are about to fight for Your People, Israel, against an enemy who defames your name.”

Colonel Winter managed to wipe out many Palestinians — but alas, they were non-combatant civilians. Therefore his actions, as well as those working with him, must be thoroughly investigated by the UN to establish whether it amounted to war crimes. We cannot allow The Hannibal Protocol to be used in such a way again.”

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Filed under Gaza, IDF, Israel Defense Forces, People, United Nations, Video

Day #24 – July 30, 2014 – Capitol Hill Briefing

A year following Israel’s Operation Protective Edge —- its 51-day assault on Gaza —- members of the U.S. Congress have received precious little information about the impacts of Israel’s military campaign, the one they generously funded and restocked on this day in 2014. ABC News reported (7-30-14):

On July 20 Israel made a foreign military sales request for munitions that included an undisclosed amount of 120 mm tank rounds and 40 mm illumination rounds for grenade launchers. The defense official said the ammunition was sold to Israel as a “routine” foreign military sales request and not an emergency request to tap into the U.S. military stockpile in Israel.

The Israeli request to purchase the ammunition was made just days after Israel launched its ground offensive into Gaza. The fighting in Gaza since has resulted in the deaths of 1,340 Palestinians and 59 Israelis, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. More than 7,200 have been injured.

The U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, along with others, organized a briefing for Congress yesterday.  About 75 people attended, a good number considering the event was competing with a hearing on the nuclear agreement with Iran.

The full hour-long video of the briefing is available here.  The speakers were:

Nadia Ben-Youssef, USA Representative, Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

Eman Mohammed, Gaza photojournalist; contributor, Gaza Unsilenced

Brad Parker, International Advocacy Officer, Defense for Children International Palestine

Moderated by: Josh Ruebner, Policy Director, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

Each speaker is a heavy-weight in his/her own right and each presents compelling testimony. You can view each of their presentations separately here.

If you have time or a limited attention span and can only watch one, I recommend Nadia’s presentation. She is an attorney who talks about the efforts to hold Israel accountable.

Although I invited my Congressional delegation, they didn’t attend. 😦  I’m going to send them this blog post with a simple request.  After funding Israel’s military and giving the Green Light for its operation last summer, they should be informed about the impacts of U.S. unconditional support for Israel’s “right to defend” itself.  I’m going to be a pitbull and demand they listen to Nadia Ben-Youssef.

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Filed under Gaza, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, People, United Nations, US Policy, Video

Day #7 – July 13, 2014 – Jon Snow returned to Gaza

British journalist Jon Snow returned to Gaza one year after the war to see for himself what changes have occurred. I wonder if any American journalists have returned to Gaza.

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Filed under Gaza, People, Video

Things I learned about Israel recently

Recently, a friend of a friend of a friend shared an essay that someone had written about Israel.  Although the essay was factually accurate, it was a very long read and some of the language might be construed as inflammatory.  I knew it would be a difficult piece for anyone who loves Israel.  So I’ve taken the liberty to shorten the essay, “soften” the tone, but hopefully retain the facts and intent of the original author.

Only strong people who are critical thinkers and want to find justice in the Middle East should read this. I’m honestly looking for intelligent feedback to disprove any of these points.

(From Ash Madi: “Things I learned about Israel recently”)

#1     Zionism is a political ideology that has betrayed the teachings and values of Judaism to justify a colonial project based on the systematic ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people of Palestine.  Political Zionism is to Judaism what ISIS is to Islam: a grotesque distortion of the values and spirit of religion.

#2     Zionist nationalism is based on a form of nationalism found in Eastern European nations such as Russia and Poland, which is based on ethnic ownership of the land. Poland is for ethnic Poles and Russia is for ethnic Russians. This contrasts with Western European nationalism found in places like France and the US where the land belongs to anyone who is a citizen of the state.

Figure 1: Gaza Strip blockade. Source: UN OCHA

Figure 1: Gaza Strip blockade. Source: UN OCHA

#3     Zionism draws much of its arguments for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine from the 5 books of Moses and the book of Joshua. The latter is the story of how the ancient Israelites conquered the promised land of Canaan (present day Levant) under the leadership of Joshua and the full blessing of God by repeatedly perpetrating massacres of unfathomable barbarity against the Canaanites where no man, woman or child was left standing. The latest massacre of the people of Gaza through indiscriminate bombing of civilians, women, children, residential buildings, hospitals, schools and even shelters follows the spirit of the book of Joshua. Conversely, Jews in the West have a more universalist approach based on the tradition of the prophets.

#4     Before declaring the independence of Israel, Zionists had already committed 16 massacres against the Palestinians and ethnically cleansed 200,000 of them. All of this happened before neighboring Arab armies decided to intervene. The Zionist narrative claiming Israel was gratuitously attacked by the Arab armies is a lie.


#5     The highest court in Israel has determined that “Israeli” is not an identity.   Jewishness is the foundation of identity in Israel, not citizenship. Palestinians in Israel are considered simply “Arabs”, since Palestinian identity is not recognized. However, this abstract pure Arab identity exists only in Israel. Everywhere else Arab people are Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian, Iraqi and Palestinian.

#6    Israel fully meets the internationally recognized legal criteria of apartheid as defined in the International Covenant on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid which includes the following 6 categories of crimes:
– Massive violation of human rights and civil rights
– Imposition of inhumane living conditions, such as poverty
– Society-wide legalized discrimination in areas such as finance, housing, employment, education, and access to cultural events
– Isolating the victim group geographically, such as in ghettos
– Exploitation of labor, such as slavery or forced labor or discrimination in wages
– Inhumane suppression of rebellion against apartheid

#7    Israel controls all of the land from the river to the sea. On this land Jews are a minority with all the rights and privileges while Palestinians are a majority deprived of their most basic human rights. There are 4.55 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and 1.68 million Palestinians who are “citizens” of Israel, for a total of 6.23 million Palestinians. On the other hand there are 6.12 million Jews including the 0.5 million Jewish settlers living illegally in the West Bank. In order to arrive at a fictitious Jewish majority, the state of Israel doesn’t statistically count the West Bank and Gaza as part of Israel’s territory while simultaneously counting the Jewish settlers of those territories as citizens of Israel. The effect of this gerrymandering is to make the 4.55 million Palestinians who live under Israeli occupation disappear magically.


#8    In the West Bank, Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law, while Jewish settlers who live just next door are subject to Israeli civil law. Israeli soldiers in the West Bank can arrest, shoot and kill Palestinians, but they have no authority whatsoever over Jewish settlers. All over the West Bank there are roads and highways that are for Jews only and Palestinians are forbidden from using them.

#9  Palestinians are subject to relentless persecution to the extent that they are not just punished for resisting, but also prevented from surrendering. Surrender entails that one is left in peace after surrendering. However Palestinians are not given that choice. They are humiliated, dispossessed and killed no matter what they do.

#10   Palestinians in the West Bank are denied freedom of movement by being required to go through a multitude of Israeli checkpoints intended to humiliate and control them. Palestinians in need of medical assistance are required to have a permit to pass through checkpoints.


#11   During WWII the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto smuggled food and weapons into the ghetto through tunnels. The Nazis called them terrorists.  Palestinians in Gaza have built tunnels for the very same purposes and Israel calls them terrorists.

#12   The letter bomb, parcel bomb, barrel bomb, market bomb, and car bomb were all introduced into the Middle East by Zionist paramilitary groups such as the Irgun, Lehi and Haganah. One of the most famous Zionist massacres in Palestine is the massacre of Deir Yassin. The village, which had declared neutrality during the 1948 hostilities, was depopulated following the massacre of over 250 villagers, half of them women and children, at the hands of Irgun and Lehi commandos. This event helped trigger the 1948 exodus of more than 700,000 Palestinians who were expelled from their homes or fled fearing other massacres. The culture of terrorism and ethnic cleansing, inaugurated and pioneered by Zionist paramilitary groups and upon which Israel was founded, continues to the present.

#13   Israel is among the top 10 exporters of weapons in the world. This is all the more remarkable considering it is a very small country that competes with much larger countries like the UK and China in terms weapons sales. One of the main selling points of Israeli weapons is that they are marketed as being “combat proven” because the weapons have been successfully tested on Palestinians. Israel is involved in the sales of weapons to 190 countries (there are only 193 countries in the world!). This means that many countries that appear to be Israel’s enemies are actually customers of its weapons industry.


#14   Israel sold weapons to Rwanda and Serbia while these countries were in the midst of horrific genocidal campaigns.

#15   The West Bank and Gaza are laboratories for the testing of weapons and population control techniques. Palestinians are the guinea pigs. The end users are people around the world whose police forces are trained by Israel and whose prisons are supplied by Israeli technology. This includes many western countries, including Canada, by virtue of the Canada-Israel “Public Security” Agreement signed in 2008. The state of Israel is effectively becoming a template for state control and domination around the world.


#16   Many military and police officials from various countries including the U.S. and China visit Israel to learn Israeli crowd control techniques, propaganda and warfare strategies. A Chinese general recently visited Israel to learn how the IDF framed and executed the massacre in Gaza. The Maryland police department among many others is trained by the Israeli police and military. Israel is also responsible for supplying weapons to various police departments around the world.

#17   Since Israel’s founding, Israeli military experts have provided support to the following regimes:
– Dictatorship of Manuel Noriega in Panama
– Dictatorship of Sani Abacha in Nigeria
– Dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile
– Dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania
– Dictatorship of Mengistu Mariam in Ethiopia
– Dictatorship of Jorge Videla in Argentina
– Dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire
– Dictatorship of Ne Win in Burma
– Apartheid regime in South Africa
– Paramilitary death squads in Colombia
– The current government of China

Shujaya 9

#18   Israel has nuclear and ballistic missiles capable of reaching as far as Europe in addition to German-made Dolphin-class submarines capable of delivering cruise missiles with nuclear warheads. It also has 10 satellites in orbit spying on various parts of the world and the Middle East in particular.


#19   The “peace process” involving a “two state solution” has been a sham from the very beginning and was always intended as a decoy to buy time for Israel to steal more land, build more settlements and create more facts on the ground under the cover of a vague interminable peace process that never went anywhere.

#20   The two state solution is officially dead and buried after the failure of the Kerry initiative. Israel has fully assimilated the West Bank to the extent that trying to get it back in one piece for the establishment of a Palestinian state is the equivalent of trying to get your sandwich back after someone has swallowed it. The electricity, water and road infrastructures are unified across Israel and the occupied territories.

Gaza 2014 - credit D. Cormier

Gaza 2014 – credit D. Cormier

#21   Talk  about the “two state solution” is naive by reinforcing the erroneous idea that peace will come from further segregating the Jews and the Palestinians, when in fact segregation is the root of the problem rather than its solution. Before the arrival of the Zionists, Jews, Christians and Muslims in Palestine lived together harmoniously in a land that has always been a mixing place at the crossroads of continents and civilizations.

What It Means to be Palestinian

#22   The only viable alternative to the current Israeli regime of occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing is a Bi-national democratic state similar to Switzerland and Belgium. Such a state would guarantee equality for all and the right of Palestinians to return to their rightful homes anywhere in Palestine. A two state solution would not guarantee this fundamental right. If people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds can get along in countries like Canada and the U.S. there is no reason why Jews and Palestinians can’t get along in a Bi-national democratic state in Palestine. What stands in the way of peace is not Iran, ISIS, or Islam. The real and only obstacle is Zionist Jewish supremacy. Slavery ended, segregation ended, Nazism ended, South African apartheid ended and Zionist apartheid and occupation must inevitably end too. Israel is on the wrong side of history, fighting a battle it can never win.

#23   The condition for putting hatred behind and turning a new page is the acknowledgement by Israel of the historic injustice it committed against the Palestinians and reparations for the crimes perpetrated. This will be the beginning of a healing process that will allow Palestinians and Jews to live together peacefully as equals.

Palestine Inside Out


Filed under Gaza, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Occupation

IOF + APD = excessive force

There may be a connection between the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), as I wrote about here.

APD at Occupy protest in 2011

APD at Occupy protest in 2011

The Law Enforcement Exchange Program (LEEP) brings them together for joint training programs and exercises.  The LEEP Handbook notes:

There are 700,000 law enforcement officers in the United States. If properly trained and informed, local law enforcement can serve as the “eyes and ears” of the nation to prevent and best respond to terrorist attacks.

The Law Enforcement Exchange Program (LEEP) was created
in cooperation with the Israel National Police, the Israel Ministry of Internal Security, and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) to support and strengthen American law enforcement counter terrorism practices.

“Excessive force” is the common denominator.

Yesterday (4/10/14) the U.S. Department of Justice released its findings following a 16 month investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department.

The Albuquerque Police Department has engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force, including deadly force. The pattern and practice is the result of serious systemic deficiencies in policy, training, supervision and accountability. The police department’s failure to ensure that officers respect the Constitution undermines the public trust.

This was not news to the victims’ families who have been showing up at city council meetings for years alleging excessive force and demanding some accountability. In the past 4 years, Albuquerque police have killed 23 people and wounded 14 others.

APD at Occupy protest in 2011

APD at Occupy protest in 2011

The New York Times called the DOJ report “scathing” and the Albuquerque Journal’s headline affirmed that APD is violating citizens’ rights with excessive force.

The Department of Justice reviewed 20 fatal shootings by Albuquerque Police between 2009 and 2013 and found that in the majority of cases the level of force used was not justified because the person killed by police did not present a threat to police officers or the public. The DOJ also reviewed the use of nonlethal force involving significant harm or injury to people by APD officers and found a similar pattern of excessive force by officers against people who posed no threat and was not justified by the circumstances. 

Palestinians and activists know far too well about Israel’s use of excessive force. Amnesty International (AI) published an excellent report in February 2014 on the subject, available here. Among its findings, AI recommends that the USA and others:

Suspend transfers to Israel of munitions, weapons, and related equipment including crowd control weapons and devices, training and techniques until substantive steps have been taken by Israel to achieve accountability for previous violations and effective mechanisms are in place to ensure that items will not be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law.  … This recommendation is particular relevant to the USA, as the largest foreign source of supply of weapons, munitions, police equipment and military aid to Israel.

Weapons used by Israeli forces in the West Bank against peaceful protesters.

Weapons used by Israeli forces in the West Bank against peaceful protesters.

I attended the Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission meeting and asked if the APD was participating in joint training programs with Israeli law enforcement. I didn’t expect an answer, and didn’t get one. I’m going to have to follow-up with a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA).

We must demand that the civil rights of New Mexicans and Palestinians are respected and protected.

APD dressed in riot gear

APD dressed in riot gear


Filed under Israel Defense Forces, nonviolent resistance, US Policy

Preparing to fight

I’ve been told that every house in Rafah has weapons (a hand grenade, a gun) so families are prepared to defend themselves. This may be pure bravado or wishful thinking, but it might be true.

Maybe Israeli military intelligence knows about this preparation and that’s why the IDF decided not to engage in a battle on the ground in November 2012. Who knows?

That leads me to think — “a hand grenade or a gun are poor defenses to F-16s and drones launching an assault by air.” How would the dynamics in the Middle East change if Palestinians had access to the 21st century weaponry that the US provides Israel?

The New York Times reported on Hamas training the next generation of fighters in Gaza. Jan. 14, 2014, Training Fighters of Future Across Gaza, by Fares Akram.

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Dozens of high school students scrambled among the sand dunes here in recent days, learning how to shoot AK-47 rifles, crawl under barbed wire and jump over burning tires. Their bearded commanders barked at those who were too slow in hoisting iron bars overhead or those who hesitated around the thick flames.

The six-day program, Futuwwa, enrolled about 13,000 boys at nearly a dozen sites across the Gaza Strip over the past week, with trainers from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. It was the first time the program had taken place during a school break, and it grew out of an elective that has been offered in Gaza’s high schools since 2012 that consists mainly of lectures about weapons, street-fighting techniques, fitness and Israel’s recruitment of spies.

I know many Americans will read this and think it confirms that Israel is legitimately fighting against terrorists on its borders. But think about it.


Israeli soldiers (why not call them “terrorists” too?) routinely do exercise drills with their weapons. Israeli high school students know they have mandatory military service waiting for them when they graduate. Both sides are brainwashing the next generation to hate the other.

Why should Palestinian students be condemned for engaging in the same kind of preparations?

Palestinian freedom fighter

Palestinian freedom fighter

As a mother and grandmother, I would prefer that neither side send their children off to fight, but I won’t be a hypocrite. If the IDF is going to continue to brutally occupy the Palestinians, then the Palestinians must be able to defend themselves.

Only when the rules of engagement have been changed, only when the occupation ends, will mothers have hope for their children on both sides.

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Occupation