By Stephen Lendman
Perhaps suggesting a larger-scale planned offensive, recent violent Israeli outbreaks struck Gaza, the West Bank, and Israeli/Lebanon border, the first there since the summer 2006 war.
Like Cast Lead, it was Israeli aggression – violent, lawless and unrelenting, a scorched-earth blitzkrieg, inflicting vast destruction, causing billions in damage, killing over 1,000 Lebanese, injuring thousands more, and displacing around a million others (about one-fourth of the country’s four million population), including over 300,000 children fleeing north for their lives. In the end, Hezbollah handed Israel a humiliating defeat. Perhaps revenge is planned.
On August 4, Ma’an News reported that Israeli and Lebanese troops clashed – exchanging fire, killing four Lebanese citizens, including three soldiers. One Israeli soldier was killed. Reports said violence erupted after Israeli soldiers crossed the border, then tried uprooting a tree to install a surveillance camera and equipment, a chain of events leaving five dead. An IDF spokesman said soldiers hadn’t entered Lebanon, but were between the UN-administered Blue Line and Israel’s border fence.
Lebanese accounts had Israeli soldiers in the area, removing trees to install surveillance equipment. Israel called it "routine maintenance." Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri condemned what he called Israeli violation of Lebanese sovereignty. Lebanon’s parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, wants a complaint against Israel filed with the UN Security Council. Israel may file its own in response, its Foreign Ministry saying "Israel sees the firing on an IDF force which acted in coordination with UNIFEL (Blue Helmets) in the border region in the last hours a blunt violation of Security Resolution 1701."
Hariri wants the UN to demand Israel implement Resolution 1701, calling for demilitarization of the area within the Blue Line where UNIFEL troops are stationed. Throughout its history, Israel has spurned all UN resolutions criticizing its policies and actions.
On August 3, Haaretz writer Jack Khoury headlined, "(Hassan) Nasrallah: Hezbollah will respond if Israel attacks Lebanon’s army," saying:
In a speech marking four years since the end of the 2006 war, Hezbollah’s leader said:
"I say honestly, that in any place where the Lebanese army will be assaulted and there’s a presence for the resistance, and it is capable, the resistance will not stand silent, or quiet or restrained….Israel’s aggression against Lebanon has not stopped, and what happened today only proves that. Since the ceasefire and until today, Israel has blatantly violated (the UN Security Council resolution) more than 7,000 times, and no one has lifted a finger, not even the Security Council."
He also praised Lebanon’s army and said Hezbollah was on highest alert during the incident. "I was personally in contact with (Hezbollah) commanders in the area, and I asked them not to act before receiving a direct order. We announced that we would not initiate any activity as long as we did not receive authorization from the highest command of the Lebanese army."
On August 5, Haaretz writer Gideon Levy headlined, "Only we’re allowed," saying:
"After Tuesday’s border clash, Israel will continue to ignore UNIFEL and the Lebanese army….Those bastards, the Lebanese, changed the rules. Scandalous. Word is, they have a brigade commander who’s determined to protect his country’s sovereignty. Scandalous."
Levy explained that in Gaza a "fence is a fence." Getting near it is enough to get shot and killed. In the West Bank, nearly the entire Separation Wall ignores the Green Line. Palestinians are forbidden to cross.
In Lebanon, it’s different. Israel makes its own rules, ignoring "fences," crossing the border illegally, invading Lebanese air space, at times aggressively. Until 2000, Israeli forces occupied South Lebanon for 18 years, its so-called "security zone." Today, all Palestine is occupied since 1967.
"We’re allowed" to be there. Palestinians "aren’t allowed" to resist. "We’re allowed" to enter Lebanon. "They’re forbidden" from reacting. Try it, and "Lebanon must learn a lesson, and we will teach it. And what about us? We don’t have any lessons to learn. We’ll continue to ignore UNIFEL," UN resolutions, the rule of law, "the Lebanese Army and its new brigade commander, who has the nerve to think that his job is to protect his country’s sovereignty." Scandalous.
Israeli Provocations in Gaza
Six days of Israeli air strikes left several dead and dozens wounded. In addition, IDF shellfire killed one Palestinian and wounded two or more others. The attacks are the latest provocations occurring regularly without warning.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reported the air strikes, one against Hamas member ‘Isa al-Batran from the al-Boreij refugee camp, another against Gaza City’s runway, targeting security vehicles near the presidential compound. Neighboring homes and buildings were damaged. Residents were terrified. At the same time, tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border were attacked, ones providing essential supplies prohibited under siege. No casualties were reported.
The next day, a missile killed Izziddin al-Qassam Brigade member ‘Isa Abdul Hadi al-Batran in Central Gaza, the attack destroying area residential structures. Earlier assassination attempts failed, the latest taking his life, his wife and five children.
Near Erez crossing with no provocation, Israeli snipers shot three workers, collecting materials from rubble stockpiles. Israel maintains a 67 square km Gazan agricultural area "no-go zone," regularly shooting Palestinians who enter, including farmers on their own land.
PCHR called the attacks "part of a series of the Israeli war crimes committed which reflect (its) disregard for the lives of Palestinians."
On August 2, a massive explosion rocked Gaza’s Deir al-Balah refugee camp injuring 58, including 13 children and nine women, one suffering a miscarriage as a result. It also destroyed seven houses and damaged 30 others.
The Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas’ armed wing) issued an August 3 press release saying:
"We confirm that what happened resulted from a Zionist security operation intended to assassinate field leaders in the" Brigades.
Eyewitnesses said bombs placed in a house belonging to senior Hamas official Alaa al-Danaf exploded, initial reports saying Israeli missile strikes caused it. Al-Danaf wasn’t killed.
On August 4, in a series of daily attacks, an Israeli air strike killed one Palestinian and wounded another east of Khan Younis in Gaza. Nearby residents are reminded of last winter’s Cast Lead, again seeing dead, wounded, destruction, and scattered debris, part of Israel’s campaign to traumatize them.
PCHR launched a "serious and comprehensive investigation" to determine what happened in Deir al-Balah – whether stored bombs exploded, sabotage occurred, or other factors were involved. Israeli involvement is always suspected, especially since days of air strikes preceded it, regular attacks against Gazan civilians, leaving dead and wounded behind.
Preceding the latest attacks, Haaretz reported rockets fired at Israel’s southern port city of Eilat. No casualties were reported. Another struck Aqaba, Jordan, killing one civilian and wounding four others. Israel blamed Hamas, but Jordanian security forces said they came from Egypt’s Sinai or southern Jordan, not Gaza, Hamas strongly denying involvement.
Since Cast Lead ended in January 2009, Hamas maintained a unilateral ceasefire, Israel violating theirs repeatedly, recent air and ground attacks the latest provocations, countered by Palestinian resistance factions (unaffiliated with Hamas), firing one or more Grad-type rockets, hitting an area in Ashkelon, Israel. No deaths or injuries were reported.
On August 1, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemned the Israeli attacks, warned of new escalation, and asked the international community to intervene "to ensure that civilians and their property are protected in the occupied Palestinian territory."
Regular West Bank Incursions and Repression
In late July, PCHR reported the following:
— Israel continued to impose free movement restrictions throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including access to the city; currently 630 permanent manned and unmanned checkpoints are maintained as well as 60 – 80 "flying" (temporary) ones erected every week;
— Separation Wall construction continues, nearly all on confiscated Palestinian land, around 12% of the West Bank when completed;
— at least 65% of the main roads leading to 18 Palestinian communities are closed or fully controlled by Israeli forces;
— around 500 km of restricted roads cross the West Bank; one-third or more of the Territory, including East Jerusalem, is inaccessible to Palestinians without very hard to get permits;
— peaceful demonstrators are regularly assaulted, injured, arrested, and at times killed;
— in one week, Israeli forces conducted 25 incursions into West Bank communities, and five others in Gaza; WB ones included al-Mazra’a al-Gharbiya village near Ramallah; ‘Anata village near Jerusalem; Jayous village near Qaqlilya; the al-Fawar refugee camp near Hebron; ‘Allar and Baqa al-Sharqiya villages near Tulkarm; Dura, Ethna, Bani Na’im, Sa’ir, Nouba, and Beit Oula villages near Hebron; the town of Salfit; al-Shawawra village near Bethlehem; al-Zawia village near Salfit; ‘Anabta and Kufor al-Labad villages near Tulkarm; the city of Tulkarm; the city of Qalqilya; Shwaika suburb near Tulkarm; Jalbourn and Deir Abu Da’if villages near Jenin; and on August 5 the Al-Frahen area near Khan Younis in central Gaza with bulldozers and tanks, firing on farmers and other civilians; no injuries were reported;
— in all of them, excessive force was used; streets were patrolled; homes invaded and searched; contents damaged or destroyed; arrests made; and civilians shot; one death was reported, others wounded, what happens regularly throughout the Territories in violation of international law, what Israel hasn’t recognized, respected, or obeyed for over six decades, targeting protected persons and citizens they’re supposed to safeguard.
Why PCHR and other human rights organizations want Fourth Geneva’s High Contracting Parties (HCPs) to fulfill "their legal and moral responsibility (to) ensure Israel’s respect for Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, (and) take effective steps" to demand compliance, what must and will happen with or without HCP help, pressure building to assure it, but not soon or easily.
– Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.