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Gaza news 02/02/2009

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  • نردين احمد
    الرد: Gaza news 02/02/2009

    Those People in Gaza: Where Do They Come From, And Why Are They So Mad?

    "We tend to believe abroad that Palestine is nowadays almost completely deserted,

    Jaffa, Palestine : Palestinians gather at the Grand Serai (local government offices) in July 1908, to celebrate the al-Hurriyah Revolution (i.e. the Young Turks Revolution) against Sultan Abdul Hamid and in favor of the restoration of the constitution and the holding of Parliamentary elections. (via Walid Khalidi, Before Their Diaspora).

    a noncultivated wilderness,

    Jaffa, Palestine : General view of the city from the sea looking east, pre-1914. (Matson Collection, 1898-1914).
    and anyone can come there and buy as much land as his heart desires.

    Jaffa, Palestine : Street scene in the old city next to the Jaffa 's famous Clock tower, pre-1914 (Matson Collection).
    But in reality this is not the case.

    Jaffa, Palestine : The bazaar in 1896.
    It is difficult to find anywhere in the country Arab land which lies fallow;

    Jaffa, Palestine : General view of Jaffa and its orange groves, facing south; before 1914. (Matson Collection)
    the only areas which are not cultivated are sand dunes or stony mountains,

    Jaffa, Palestine : Harvesting the oranges. (Matson Collection)
    which can be only planted with trees,

    Jaffa, Palestine : Sorting and packing citrus fruits, 1920's.
    and even this only after much labor and capital would be invested

    Jaffa, Palestine : Oranges being wrapped for sale. (Matson Collection).
    in clearance and preparation. ...

    Jaffa, Palestine : Boxed Jaffa oranges being loaded for export, early 1920's. Jaffa oranges were Palestine 's leading export. After 1948, Jaffa 's nationalized orange groves and the established markets for their products provided the major source of income for the new state of Israel .
    We tend to believe abroad that all Arabs are desert barbarians,

    Jaffa, Palestine : The staff of the Government Secondary Boys' School ( al-Ameiryah High School ) in 1923. Seated center is Salim Katul, author of a series of textbooks in Arabic on the natural sciences.
    an asinine people who does not see or understand what is going on around them.

    Jaffa, Palestine : Elementary school pupils at the National Christian Orthodox School (1938).
    This is a cardinal mistake...

    Jaffa, Palestine : Carpentry class at the Government Secondary Boys' School, 1924. The inscription over the door reads, "The least worthy of you are the least learned".
    [When] the day will come in which the life of our people in the Land of Israel

    Jaffa, Palestine : The band of the National Christian Orthodox School (1938)
    will develop to such a degree that they will push aside the local population by little or by much,

    Jaffa, Palestine : Wolf Cubs and Boy Scouts with camping gear, at the Government Secondary Boys' School, 1924.
    then it will not easily give up its place...

    Jaffa, Palestine : The Government Secondary Boys' School first XI (Soccer) in 1923.
    One thing we certainly should have learned from our past and present history,

    Jaffa, Palestine : Palestinians demonstrate in Jaffa 's central square against the plans of the British government to increase Zionist immigration into Palestine , 27 October 1933.
    and that is not to create anger among the local population against us...

    Jaffa, Palestine : British Soldiers clubbing Palestinian dignitary Musa Kazim Pasha al-Husseini at the 27 October 1933 demonstration against British policy on Zionist immigration into Palestine . Musa Kazim Pasha al-Husseini died six months later, 27 March 1934, at the age of eighty-one, having never recovered from the effects of this beating. (via Walid Khalidi, Before Their Diaspora).

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  • نردين احمد
    الرد: Gaza news 02/02/2009

    Graffiti left by Israeli soldiers reads: "Until now/ A crawling saboteur (terrorist)/ 3 in the junction/ 2 in the plantation/ A suicide-old man/ [illegible]/ An innocent."
    Some of the graffiti reads:

    "We don't hate Arabs, but will kill every Hamas," and "IDF [Israeli army] was here! We know you are here. We won't kill you, you will live in fear and run all your lives!"

    For surviving members in families like hers, this psychological terror is real. For those who have been killed already, the "we won't kill you," is a lie. Ask the surviving fathers, mothers, siblings and children.

    From the rooftop, we see neighboring houses inflicted with the wrath of the Israeli military machine. And great swathes of land that once held homes and trees, now naked, stubbled with pillar fragments at painful angles, rubble, stumps and tank tracks.

    "Here, here, come look over here, over here."

    "That was all our land: clementines, lemons, olives ..."

    "That's my brother's house over there, its all broken ..."

    The drones were still overhead, the words too urgent, too many, too fast, too dizzying.

    Down to ground zero and on to more newly wrecked houses and lives. Past a water pump which served at least 10 houses in the area, hit by missiles, ruined.

    Passing more shells of houses, I meet Yasser Abu Ali, co-owner of a paint and tools supply shop bombed to the ground by two F-16 missiles. Seventeen people were immediately dependent on the revenue from the business, not accounting for indirect dependents (suppliers, buyers). As Abu Ali tells of his and his brothers' $200,000 loss, it is revealed that he is a cousin of Dr. Izz al-Din Abu al-Eish, the doctor whose three daughters and niece were killed by Israeli shelling on his house in Jabaliya. Everyone has their own story, and stories overlap, tragedies overlap and compound.

    Samir Abed Rabu's damaged home.
    At Samir Abed Rabu's, the tour begins the same as the others: everything is broken and upside down, there are Israeli soldiers' leavings (food, playing cards, feces) and graffiti: "Join the Israeli army today!" and other slogans from the patriotic invading and occupying forces.

    The house is more holes than walls, from multiple tank shells to automatic gunfire shots from the tanks. Seeing so many intentionally and deviously-ruined houses dulls the concept of damage. But strangely some things stand out as odd or notable amidst the wholescale destruction. Entrails of ceilings and support beams hang in threads. A chair sits gutted.

    And there are the sniper holes. I look out the hole facing Salah al-Din street, at the Dawwar Zimmo crossroads, and I realize that it was from one of these very holes that the emergency medical worker Hassan would have been shot, thankfully not killed (unlike the 13 other emergency medical workers). Thankfully we also weren't shot dead. These sniper holes litter house walls in homes all over Jabaliya, al-Tatra, al-Zeitou -- all over Gaza.

    The baby's bedroom was not spared from the attacks. A wall of cheerful cartoons and cute baby posters contrasts the ugliness of the gaping shelling wounds, a reminder that nothing is sacred to an army that will shoot children point-blank.

    The rotting donkey out back explains the stink, a stench different than that of the army's usual odor.

    Leaving Samir Abed Rabu's ruins, I see a newly homeless family making tea over a fire, behind the rubble of their former home.

    Saed Azzat Abed Rabu stands under a missile hole in his bedroom ceiling, explaining that on the first day of the land invasion, he and family had been in the house when a missile struck it. They frantically evacuated to a school and only learned of their house's post-occupation demise upon returning after the Israeli soldiers left.

    It is like the others: ravaged, left with soldiers' waste and wine bottles -- Hebrew writing on the label (wine isn't available here anyway, so there's no question who drank the wine), rooftop water tank blown apart, and rooftop views affording more sights of neighborhood destruction and of the lemon trees that once stood near Saed Abed Rabu's home.

    I left Abed Rabu that day, weaving among taxis, motorbikes, trucks and carts packed with belongings, people who had no home to stay in, who'd only come to retrieve what they could from their former lives. I'd seen more than I felt I could internalize or reproduce for others, but knew I'd go back for more stories because I knew there are more. More than I can possibly hear or pass on.

    A house violated

    Yousef Sharater and children in front of their damaged home.
    Remarkably, the staircase in Yousef Shrater's bombed and burned house is still intact, as are the 14 people who make up the three families who were living in the house. Shrater, a father of four, walks over broken cement blocks and tangles of support rods and up stairs laden with more chunks of rubble, litter left by Israeli soldiers, and other remnants of a bombed, then occupied, house.

    In the second story front room the original window is flanked by gaping holes ripped into the wall by the tank missiles that targeted his house. "They were over there," Shrater says, pointing just hundreds of meters away at Jabal Kashef, the hilltop overlooking the northern area of Ezbet Abed Rabu.

    In the adjacent room, Shrater points further east to where more tanks had come from and stationed. "My wife, children and I were in this room when they began shelling. We ran to the back room for safety, hoping it would be some protection."

    The back room is another haze of rubble and bits from explosions. The tanks had surrounded the entire Abed Rabu area and no sooner did the family take shelter in the back room when a new shell tore into the house, fired from tanks to the south of the house. "It hit only a meter away from the window," he points out, and leaning out the window and looking up, the hole left from the tank shell is just one meter above. "If it had come into the room, we'd be dead."

    Shrater explains how the Israeli soldiers forcibly entered the house and ordered the family members out, separating men and women and locking them in a neighboring house with others from the area. His father and mother, living in a small shack nearby, were soon to join them. The soldiers then occupied the house for the duration of the land invasion, as Israeli soldiers did throughout the Abed Rabu area, as they did throughout all of Gaza. And as with other houses in occupied areas, residents who returned to houses still standing found a disaster of rubbish, vandalism, destruction, human waste and many stolen valuables, including mobile phones, gold jewelry, US dollars and Jordanian dinars (JD), and in some cases even furniture and televisions, used and discarded in the camps Israeli soldiers set up outside in occupied areas. Shrater says the soldiers stole about USD 1,000 and another 2,000 JD (approximately USD 828) in gold necklaces.

    Yousef's father who suffers from asthma.
    Back in the east-facing corner room, Shrater steps around a 1.5-meter-by- 1.5-meter depression in the floor where tiles have been dug up and the sandy layer of foundation beneath was harvested. "They made sandbags by the window, to use as sniper positions." The bags are still there, stuffed with clothing and sand. "They used my kids' clothes for their sniper bags," Shrater complains. "The clothes they didn't put in sandbags they threw into the toilet," he adds.

    The whole house has sniper positions. Sniper holes adorn each of the two west-facing rooms overlooking the Dawwar Zimmo crossroads, where bodies were later found shot dead and unreachable by family members or emergency medical teams (including the Red Crescent medics who were shot at, one hit in the thigh, when trying to reach a body on 7 January).

    From the roof we see more clearly the surrounding area where tanks were positioned, the countless demolished and damaged houses and buildings, and bits of shrapnel from the tank missiles. Shrater's father, 70, is on the roof, and begins to tell of his experience of being abducted from his house and locked up with his wife and others for four days. "They came to our house there," pointing to the low-level home which housed him, his wife and their sheep and goats. "The Israeli soldiers came to our door, yelled at us to come out, and shot around our feet. My wife was terrified. They took all of our money, then handcuffed us. Before they blindfolded us, they let our goats and sheep out of their pens and shot them. They shot eight dead in front of us."

    The elderly Shrater, who suffers from asthma, and his wife Miriam were then blindfolded and taken to another house where for the next four days Israeli soldiers denied him his inhaler and his wife her diabetes medications. Food and water were out of the question, and Yousef Shrater's father says their requests for such were met with soldiers' retorts of "No, no food. Give me Hamas, I'll give you food."

    Mariam Shrater, still terrified from her four-day ordeal.
    The older man leads us downstairs and behind Yousef Shrater's house to his small home where a still-terrified Miriam sits, eyes still wide with alarm. "We saw terrible things, terrible things. I saw dead bodies on the street," she says, rocking back and forth in agony. Hajj Shrater agrees: "In 63 years, I've never seen anything like this."The denied insulin and syringe lie ground into the earth near their door, along with various tablets. Twenty meters away, the remains of the animal feed shed razed in the rampage mingle with rocks and rubble.

    The house between Yousef Shrater's and his parents has also been damaged. The asbestos roofing lies in hefty chunks on the floors of the bedrooms and kitchen, save for where it hangs precariously in the underlying waterproofing plastic sheeting, along with the heavy concrete blocks used to weigh the tiles down. The kitchen is black with soot from what must have been another white phosphorous fire, and empty shells lie in the burnt wreckage of the fire. Two metal doors from the factory across the street from Shrater's house, bombed by an F-16, are lying near the kitchen, having blasted clear across the street and over the roof of Shrater's house.

    Mahmoud Shrater, Yousef's brother and also an inhabitant of the main house, is at the house, clearing some of the rubble, sifting. "We need tents to live here now," he says, standing in the shell of what was their home.

    All images by Eva Bartlett.

    Eva Bartlett is a Canadian human rights advocate and freelancer who spent eight months in 2007 living in West Bank communities and four months in Cairo and at the Rafah crossing. She is currently based in the Gaza Strip after having arrived with the third Free Gaza Movement boat in November. She has been working with the International Solidarity Movement in Gaza, accompanying ambulances while witnessing and documenting the ongoing Israeli air strikes and ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.

    (Electronic Intifada)

    "Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law" (From Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948)

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  • نردين احمد
    الرد: Gaza news 02/02/2009

    One Family's Story
    Every family has a story, here are some of them. This was written by a fellow Canadian who is based in Gaza and is a member of the International Solidarity Movement in Gaza.

    Eva Bartlett writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 30 January 2009

    One Family's Story

    Destruction in Izbet Abed Rabu.
    There are many stories. Each account -- each murdered individual, each wounded person, each burned-out and broken house, each shattered window, trashed kitchen, strewn item of clothing, bedroom turned upside down, bullet and shelling hole in walls, offensive Israeli army graffiti -- is important.

    I start to tell the stories of Ezbet Abbed Rabu, eastern Jabaliya, where homes off the main north south road, Salah al-Din, were penetrated by bullets, bombs and/or soldiers. If they weren't destroyed, they were occupied or shot up. Or occupied and then destroyed. The army was creative in their destruction, in their defacing of property, in their insults. Creative in the ways they could shit in rooms and save their shit for cupboards and unexpected places. Actually, their creativity wasn't so broad. The rest was routine: ransack the house from top to bottom. Turn over or break every clothing cupboard, kitchen shelf, television, computer, window pane and water tank.

    The first house I visited was that of my dear friends, who we'd stayed with in the evenings before the land invasion began, with whom we had huddled in their basement as the random crashes of missiles pulverized around the neighborhood. I worried non-stop about the father. After seeing he was still alive, I'd done the tour, from the bottom up. The safe-haven ground floor room was the least affected: disheveled, piles of earth at bases of windows where it had rushed in with a later bombing which caved the hillside behind, mattresses turned over and items strewn. This room was the cleanest, least damaged.

    Upstairs to the first level apartment, complete disarray. Feces on the floor. Broken everything. Opened cans of Israeli army provisions. Bullet holes in walls. Stench.

    To the second floor, next two apartments, all of the extended sons and wives and children's rooms. More disarray, greater stench. This was the soldiers' main base, as can be ascertained, from the boxes of food -- prepackaged meals, noodles, tins of chocolate and plastic-wrapped sandwiches -- and the clothing left behind by the occupiers. A pair of soldier's trousers in the bathtub, soiled with shit.

    F. tells me: "The smell was terrible. The food was everywhere. Very disgusting smell. They put shit in the sinks, shit everywhere. Our clothes were everywhere. The last time they invaded [March 2008], it was easy. They broke everything and we fixed it. But this time, they put shit everywhere: in cupboards, on beds -- my bed is full of shit."

    She is strong and has handled the invasions before, but the desecration of her house has got her down.

    "A minute ago, Sabreen opened her clothing cupboard: there was a bowl of shit in it! They used our clothes for the toilet. They broke the door of the bathroom and brought it into our room. I don't know why."

    The door lies sideways on the floor of her bedroom, which itself looks like a tornado has taken apart. "They took out my lingerie and left it lying everywhere," she goes on, listing the personal grievances which are more hurtful than the financial wreckage.

    As F. continues to clear the soldiers' mess, she talks about her family's state of mind. "Abed [her young nephew] is very afraid, he wants to leave because of the zenana," referring the drones which fly overhead despite the ostensible ceasefire unilaterally declared by Israel on 18 January and violated by Israel since then.

    Where a mosque once stood.

    Land torn up by tank treads.

    "A professional army"

    When I visited two days later, the house much tidier but still soured with the clinging stench of the soldiers' presence. "We've cleaned as much as we can, but it's so difficult. We still don't have running water, we have to fill jugs from the town water supply." From walking the sandy track, I know how hard it is even empty-handed on foot, let alone laden with heavy jugs or trying to navigate any sort of wagon to carry large amounts of water. The track had been more of a proper dirt road before it, and the land around, was torn up by Israeli tanks and bulldozers.

    From the kitchen balcony I look out and see razed land below, bombed houses, the jumeiza tree beyond, burned but somehow still standing amidst the ruins. The cement water tank that had survived previous raids and that was there last month was finally gone, destroyed by aerial bombing.

    From the living room window we look out on the hilltop area behind which F. had already explained had hosted invading Israeli troops in the past. This time tanks not only amassed but created a massive earthen arena in which Israeli soldiers brought detained Palestinians. One neighbor, F. tells me, was taken there. He, 59, and his son, 19, were led there at gunpoint and stripped to their underclothes. The occupying soldiers surrounded them in tanks, in a circle. "We hadn't done anything wrong," they told F. later. They were detained in Israel for three days in solitary confinement, blindfolded, handcuffed, intermittently interrogated, beaten and interrogated again, asked "Do you have tunnels at your home? Where are the fighters? Where are the rockets? Do you know anything about Hamas? We will destroy your house if you know anything."

    F.'s sister, A, describes their 17 days at the Foka school, after evacuating their al-Tatra home. The schools which were to be a safe-haven (but were in reality not, as seen with al-Fakhoura and the other UN schools that were bombed and hit with what is almost certainly white phosphorous) were no YMCA, not even with the most basic of amenities, certainly not warmth, hot drinks, restful nights.

    "We couldn't sleep at all at night, we were very frightened. There was no security. Where could we go? We had no where to go. We were 35 people in one small classroom. There weren't any mattresses, no covers. It was cold, very cold, at night. No electricity. No water. The few bathrooms in the school had to serve hundreds of us; they were overcrowded, filthy. Our relatives were able to get us blankets after the first four days, then it was better. But we didn't have enough to eat, only a little bread, not enough for a family, and canned meat."

    The usual perspective and gratitude for surviving overrides what is her right to be indignant, depressed, to cry and lament their suffering.

    "Thank God we have a room in our house. Many people's houses were completely destroyed," she says of her own seriously-damaged house. The soldiers who ransacked, destroyed their clothes and shelled the home also stole a computer and 2,000 JD," she tells me. Why would she lie? I know the family to be honest, not deceitful. They have no reason to fabricate the thievery. And theirs is not an isolated case.

    Amnesty International sent a fact-finding team to Gaza following the Israeli attacks. Chris Cobb-Smith, also a military expert and an officer in the British army for almost 20 years, said "Gazans have had their houses looted, vandalized and desecrated. As well, the Israeli soldiers have left behind not only mounds of litter and excrement but ammunition and other military equipment. It's not the behavior one would expect from a professional army."

    And that was just one family's story.

    A life interrupted.

    Salvaging belongings.

    Psychological terror

    Two of her boys worked to pull pieces of clothing, books and anything reachable from under the toppled cupboard. Every item is sacred. The mother led me through her house, pointing out the many violations against their existence, every graffitied wall, each shattered window, glass and plate, slit flour bags -- when the wheat is so precious -- and the same revolting array of soldiers' left-overs: spoiled packaged food, feces everywhere but the toilet, clothes used as toilet paper. The same stench.

    "They broke everything, broke our lives. That was the boys room." We continue through the wreckage. "Look, look here. See that?! Look at this!" This is to be the refrain as we step over destroyed belongings into destroyed rooms.

    It isn't only the destruction, defiling, vandalizing, waste. It's also the interruption of life, a life already interrupted by the siege. She held out school books, torn, ruined, and asked how her children were supposed to study when they have no books, no power, had to flee their home, are living in constant fear of another bombardment of missiles (from the world's fourth most powerful amilitary).

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  • نردين احمد
    بدأ موضوع Gaza news 02/02/2009

    Gaza news 02/02/2009

    Palestinians hold Gaza truce talks in Cairo

    CAIRO (AFP) – Palestinian officials are gathering in Cairo on Sunday for talks aimed at bolstering a ceasefire in Gaza, as Israel threatened to strike at Hamas after Gaza militants fired rockets into Israel.
    Egypt has been mediating a truce after Hamas and Israel announced ceasefires on January 18, ending a devastating 22-day war that killed more than 1,330 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.
    An advisor to Ismail Haniya, who heads the Hamas government in Gaza, told AFP that the group was awaiting Israel's response to an Egyptian truce proposal.
    "We can speak with details about the truce after our delegation examines the Israeli response," said Ahmed Yusef, adding that Hamas expected the response by Monday.
    "But for now, things are moving in a positive direction."
    A Hamas team from Gaza is already in Cairo, as is Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, while representatives of Hamas's Syria-based leadership are due on Monday, a Hamas official said.
    In Jerusalem, a senior defence official told AFP that Israel was demanding an end to fire from Gaza and arms smuggling.
    "Israel does not negotiate with Hamas. Israel demands two conditions -- the total cessation of fire and an end to arms smuggling. Israel is only holding talks with Egypt on this issue," he said.
    The fragile ceasefire has been tested by tit-for-tat attacks which flared up after Palestinian militants detonated a roadside bomb at the Gaza border with Israel, killing a soldier.
    Palestinian militants have also fired at least seven rockets at Israel.
    "We've said that if there is rocket fire against the south of the country, there will be a severe and disproportionate Israeli response," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the weekly cabinet meeting.
    Hamas has said it rejects any ceasefire that did not end Israel's blockade of Gaza, which was enforced after the Islamist movement violently seized the enclave in a week of fighting with its Fatah rivals in mid-2007.

    Palestinians must unite for Gaza rebuilding: Egypt

    CAIRO (AFP) – Rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah must reconcile if an Egyptian-hosted donor conference for Gaza's reconstruction is to be successful, an Egyptian official was quoted as saying on Sunday.
    A 22-day war between Israel and Hamas left swathes of Gaza devastated, but international donors have expressed reservations over rebuilding the territory while the Islamist group and the Western-backed Fatah remain divided.
    Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said more than 70 countries are expected at a reconstruction conference on March 2, but that donors might not think the Palestinian cause is "worth supporting" if the rivalry continues, the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper reported.
    "The solution to this problem... (can come) from the Palestinian side. If they want a real international effort to help them... the only way is their reconciliation and unity," he said.
    Hamas and the Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas have been bitterly divided since the Islamsts seized Gaza in a week of bloody fighting in June 2007, leaving Abbas's power base limited to the West Bank.
    Egyptian efforts to reconcile the two groups foundered in November when Hamas boycotted a meeting in Cairo. Egypt has suggested February 22 as the date for the resumption of reconciliation talks.
    A Palestinian Islamic Jihad official told Al-Ahram that an Egyptian proposal aimed at shoring up ceasefires between Hamas and Israel in Gaza called for reconstruction over three stages, beginning with emergency aid.
    Experts would then assess the damage left by the war, but reconstruction will be "tied with the satisfaction of the international community with the political situation in Gaza," Jamil Yusef said.
    Israel launched a massive air, sea and land offensive against Gaza on December 27 in a bid to halt militant rocket fire. The war killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.
    Hamas says international donors must treat the group as the legitimate government in Gaza, while Fatah has said a unity government should oversee the reconstruction.

    Prosecutor looks at ways to put Israeli officers on trial for Gaza 'war crimes'

    From "The Times"
    Catherine Philp in Davos and James Hider in Jerusalem

    The International Criminal Court is exploring ways to prosecute Israeli commanders over alleged war crimes in Gaza.
    The alleged crimes include the use of deadly white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas, as revealed in an investigation by The Times last month. Israel initially denied using the controversial weapon, which causes horrific burns, but was forced later, in the face of mounting evidence, to admit to having deployed it.
    When Palestinian groups petitioned the ICC this month, its prosecutor said that it was unable to take the case because it had no jurisdiction over Israel, a nonsignatory to the court. Now, however, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor, has told The Times that he is examining the case for Palestinian jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed in Gaza.
    Palestinian groups have submitted arguments asserting that the Palestinian Authority is the de facto state in the territory where the crimes were allegedly committed.

    “It is the territorial state that has to make a reference to the court. They are making an argument that the Palestinian Authority is, in reality, that state,” Mr Moreno-Ocampo told The Times at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
    Part of the Palestinian argument rests on the Israeli insistence that it has no responsibility for Gaza under international law since it withdrew from the territory in 2006. “They are quoting jurisprudence,” Mr Moreno-Ocampo said. “It’s very complicated. It’s a different kind of analysis I am doing. It may take a long time but I will make a decision according to law.”
    Mr Moreno-Ocampo said that his examination of the case did not necessarily reflect a belief that war crimes had been committed in Gaza. Determining jurisdiction was a first step, he said, and only after it had been decided could he launch an investigation.
    The prosecutor’s office has already received several files on alleged crimes from Palestinian groups and is awaiting further reports from the Arab League and Amnesty International containing evidence gathered in Gaza.
    Under the Rome treaty that founded it, the ICC can investigate and prosecute allegations of the most serious war crimes only if the country responsible is unwilling or unable to do so through its national courts.
    States that are party to the treaty can refer cases of crimes committed by their citizens or on their territory. Cases involving the citizens or territory of a country that has not signed up to the court can be referred by the United Nations Security Council – as in the case of Darfur. Ivory Coast set a precedent as the first nonstate party to accept the ICC’s jurisdiction over alleged war crimes on its territory. It signed the Rome treaty but never ratified it. In 2005 it lodged a declaration with the court accepting the ICC’s jurisdiction over crimes committed there since September 2002.
    Palestinian lawyers argue that the Palestinian Authority should be allowed to refer the cases in Gaza on this same ad hoc basis – despite its lack of internationally recognised statehood.
    The case has wide-reaching ramifications for the Palestinian case for statehood. If the court rejects the case, it will highlight the legal black hole that Palestinians find themselves in while they remain stateless. However, it also underlines some of Israel’s worst fears about a Palestinian state on its borders. A Palestinian state that ratified the Rome treaty would then be able to refer alleged Israeli war crimes to the court without the current legal wrangling. The case could also lead to snowballing international recognition of a Palestinian state by countries eager to see Israel prosecuted.
    One avenue would be for Israel to agree to investigate its commanders and prosecute any crimes discovered. That would remove any case from the orbit of the international court. So far that appears unlikely, given Israel’s repeated denials of war crimes in Gaza.
    The Israeli army has, however, launched an internal inquiry into whether white phosphorus was used in some cases in built-up areas, having eventually admitted that it did use the incendiary substance, which is not illegal as a battlefield smokescreen but is banned from being used in civilian areas. Camera footage from one such attack shows what appears to be white phosphorous raining down on a UN school in Beit Lahiya, where Red Crescent ambulances and their crews were stationed.
    A coalition of Israeli human rights groups has urged the country’s attorney-general to open an independent investigation into allegations of war crimes by troops, urging that to do so could head off international court cases. The groups, including the antisettlement organisation B’Tselem, said that there had been reports of Israeli forces firing into civilian areas, denying medical aid to the wounded and preventing Palestinian ambulances from reaching them, and of firing at people carrying white flags.
    Meanwhile, the UN is preparing an inquiry into the bombardment of a UN school in Jabaliya, in the northern Gaza Strip. Israeli forces fired artillery shells outside the school, which had been converted into a refugee shelter for Gazans fleeing their homes. At least 43 people were killed. Israel said that Palestinian militants had fired from the compound, which was denied by the UN

    Israel bombs Gaza tunnels in series of air raids

    By Nidal al-Mughrabi

    GAZA (Reuters) – Israel launched a series of air strikes in the Gaza Strip Sunday, targeting a Hamas security complex and tunnels used to smuggle weapons after vowing a "disproportionate" response to cross-border fire.
    The aircraft carried out half a dozen strikes after three Israelis were injured by a mortar salvo, including two soldiers and the first Israeli civilian hurt since a January 18 truce ended Israel's 22-day offensive in the coastal enclave.
    There were no reported casualties in the air attacks. Five of the strikes targeted tunnels along Gaza's border with Egypt, used to smuggle weapons into the coastal enclave, in a zone known as the Philadelphi corridor.
    A further Israeli attack was on a security headquarters in a village in central Gaza that residents said had been vacated after Israel telephoned warnings to Palestinians to leave buildings that housed any weapons.
    An Israeli military statement said that "in response to rocket and mortar fire today, the air force has attacked a number of targets in the (Gaza) Strip, including six tunnels and a Hamas position." Hamas said five tunnels had been bombed.
    Egypt, with U.S. backing, has been trying to broker a long-term ceasefire that would end Hamas weapons smuggling into Gaza and also lead to a reopening of Gaza border crossings, one of Hamas's main demands.
    Israel's blockade of Gaza, since Hamas Islamists seized the coastal territory from Western-back Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007, has led to shortages of crucial supplies for many of the 1.5 million Palestinians living there.
    Israel's renewed air strikes came as its leaders took a hard line against rocket fire from Gaza ahead of a February 10 national election, which opinion polls predict right-wing leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who favors a tougher stance toward Hamas, will win.
    About a dozen rockets and mortar bombs were fired from Gaza Sunday, the Israeli military said.
    A wing of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a group belonging to Abbas's Fatah faction, said it fired some of the rockets, but not all were claimed.
    "The government's position was from the outset that if there is shooting at the residents of the south, there will be a harsh Israeli response that will be disproportionate, " Olmert, who is not an election candidate, said at the weekly cabinet meeting.
    "We will act according to new rules which will ensure that we will not be drawn into a war of incessant shooting on the southern border, which would deprive the residents of the south of a normal life," he said.
    Israeli radios quoted Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, a candidate for prime minister as head of the centrist Kadima party, as saying Israel would mount a new offensive in Gaza if necessary to halt rocket fire from Gaza.
    Olmert is not running, as he quit during a corruption probe in September and has stayed on as caretaker premier.
    A spokesman for the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip condemned what he described as Olmert's "aggressive statement."
    But the spokesman, Taher al-Nono, also urged all Palestinian factions to "respect the national consensus" on the ceasefire the Islamist group declared two weeks ago after Israel announced it was halting the Gaza offensive.
    Israel was criticized internationally for the deaths, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, of more than 1,300 Palestinians, including at least 700 civilians in the offensive it launched on December 27.
    Critics said Israel had responded disproportionately, in its air and ground offensive in heavily populated areas, to cross-border rocket attacks over eight years that killed 18 people. Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians were killed in the Gaza campaign.
    Israel said Hamas militants bore responsibility for civilian deaths in Gaza by operating inside its towns and refugee camps.
    Since the two-week-old truce, in addition to Sunday's injuries, an Israeli soldier was killed and three others were wounded when a bomb exploded next to their patrol. Israeli air strikes have killed three Palestinians and wounded 10.
    (Additional reporting by Allyn Fisher-Ilan, Jeffrey Heller, Adam Entous, Ari Rabinovitch and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Charles Dick)

    Iran calls for lifting of Gaza blockade

    EHRAN (AFP) – Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in a meeting with Hamas political supremo Khaled Meshaal on Sunday called for the lifting of Israel's crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip.
    "The Gaza blockade should be lifted and Gaza port and the crossings should be reopened for reconstruction, " Mottaki told the Palestinian official in Tehran, state television reported on its website.
    Mottaki said that it was the duty of other countries to help reconstruct Gaza and "exert efforts to offer help to the needy people through the legal government of Hamas."
    He praised "the resistance of Gazans" which had "put out the fire of the Zionist regime," during the 22-day war in the impoverished Palestinian territory.
    The Hamas leader arrived in Tehran on Sunday on his first visit since Israel's deadly offensive against his Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip.
    Meshaal, who lives in exile in Syria, was to meet top Iranian officials, address students of Tehran University, and attend a session of parliament, the state news agency IRNA reported.
    Meshaal is a frequent visitor to Iran, which is a staunch supporter of Hamas and does not recognise Israel.
    Last month, Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has drawn global outrage for his anti-Israel tirades, congratulated Hamas on its "victory" in the war with Israel.
    Israel's three-week onslaught against Hamas-ruled Gaza left more than 1,330 Palestinians dead. Thirteen Israelis were also killed during the conflict, which Israel launched to stop militant rocket fire from the territory.
    In 2006, Tehran pledged millions of dollars in aid to the Hamas government. But the Islamic republic has always insisted its support for Palestinian militant groups does not extend to arming or training fighters.