Israel attacks Gaza (16 May 2007)
On 16 May 2007, Israel renewed air strikes on the beleaguered Gaza Strip, firing on a Hamas Executive Support Forces base in southern Gaza, killing three. In the following days, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Israel “intensified air attacks targeting civilian facilities and paramilitary sites … IOF [Israeli Occupation Forces] claim that these attacks come in response to [the] launching [of] home-made rockets at Israeli towns.”
After the sixth day of the new offensive, PCHR reports, “26 Palestinians, including 18 civilians, have been killed and 97 others, including 44 civilians, have been wounded.” During the same period, one Israeli civilian was killed and several more injured by the firing of homemade rockets from the Gaza Strip.
The latest assault on Gaza comes six months after a cease-fire marked the end of last year’s deadly “Operation Autumn Clouds,” which followed Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip in late June. UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, John Dugard writes that these operations “took the form of repeated military incursions into Gaza, accompanied by heavy shelling, render[ing] the question whether Gaza remains an occupied territory of academic interest only … Between 25 June 2006 and the truce that came into force at the end of November 2006, over 400 Palestinians were killed and some 1,500 injured. More than half of those killed and wounded were civilians. Of those killed some 90 were children; and over 300 children were injured. During the same period three israeli soldiers were killed and 18 wounded, and two Israeli civilians were killed and some 30 injured in Sderot and its precincts by Qassam rockets fired by Palestinians from Gaza.”
Israeli officials have stated their intentions to resume the extrajudicial execution of Hamas leaders and activists. The Israeli public security minister Avi Dichter stated on army radio on 21 May that exiled Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal “is a more than legitimate target and I am convinced that at the first opportunity we will rid ourselves of him, despite the difficulty of the task.” Dichter was echoed by national infrastructure minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer who stated on Israel Radio the same day, “I don’t distinguish between those who carry out the [rocket] attacks and those who give the orders. I say we have to put them all in the crosshairs,” adding that “if [Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail] Haniyeh is part of those who give the orders to carry out attacks, that will make him a legitimate target.”
Indeed, according to PCHR, a 20 May Israeli air strike on the Gaza home of Hamas politician Dr. Khalil al-Haya killed “seven members of [his] family … and an activist of Hamas. In addition, three civilians, including two brothers, were wounded.” One child was amongst those killed. The current operation in Gaza comes in the midst of a week of fighting between Palestinian groups that claimed about 50 lives, and news reports that the US government intends to increase its funding and arming of the forces under Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan as part of a plan developed by US Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams to violently overthrow the democratically-elected Hamas government.
Meanwhile, Israeli strikes cut electricity to 50,000 Gaza residents despite Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem’s warning in a 17 May letter to Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz, “respond[ing] to the calls by Israeli politicians to cut off Gaza’s water and electricity,” that “intentionally harming civilian infrastructure constitutes prohibited collective punishment and could also constitute a war crime.”
|Palestinians inspect a destroyed workshop after an Israeli air strike in southern Gaza City, 20 May 2007. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)|