- A US naval taskforce has reportedly been ordered to hunt down weapons ships sent by Iran to rearm Hamas in Gaza. In fact, the US Navy already intercepted a suspected Iranian arms ship in the Red Sea last week .
- Israeli Foreign Minister and Prime Minister candidate Tzipi Livni has warned that Bibi would be a boo-boo for US-Israeli relations.
- Pope goes the weasel: Pope Benedict has lifted the excommunication of Holocaust denying Bishop Richard Williamson.
Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)
10:38PM: Secretary General of the international federation of journalists, Aiden White, has accused Hamas of suppressing freedom of press.
White’s report on his return from the area says that “In Gaza we found evidence of intimidation by Hamas. This is completely unacceptable. We understand that humanitarian help to media including safety vests for journalists in danger have been seized and confiscated. This is intolerable.”
For their part, Hamas have completely denied the charges, saying White’s statement is “completely null and false.”
8:06PM: Andy Warhol would be proud.
8:03PM: Is it just me, or is this situation just absurd? The negotiation should be as follows:
Israel to Hamas: You fire on us one more time, and we’ll send you back to the stone age. End of negotiation.
6:26PM: Hamas to Fatah: “Reconciliation has to be based on fighting Israel, not making peace with it.”
6:08PM: Do yourselves a favor and read this Sydney Morning Herald report. Then send it to your friends.
Twice last year Mr Bayary was arrested by Hamas, and once he was jailed for six days for flying the Fatah flag above his house in Jabaliya. He now works part-time as an English teacher at al-Azhar University.
Palestinian civilians living in Gaza during the three-week war with Israel have spoken of the challenge of being caught between Hamas and Israeli soldiers as the radical Islamic movement that controls the Gaza strip attempted to hijack ambulances.
Mohammed Shriteh, 30, is an ambulance driver registered with and trained by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.
His first day of work in the al-Quds neighbourhood was January 1, the sixth day of the war. “Mostly the war was not as fast or as chaotic as I expected,” Mr Shriteh told the Herald. “We would co-ordinate with the Israelis before we pick up patients, because they have all our names, and our IDs, so they would not shoot at us.”
Mr Shriteh said the more immediate threat was from Hamas, who would lure the ambulances into the heart of a battle to transport fighters to safety.
“After the first week, at night time, there was a call for a house in Jabaliya. I got to the house and there was lots of shooting and explosions all around,” he said.
Because of the urgency of the call, Mr Shriteh said there was no time to arrange his movements with the IDF.
“I knew the Israelis were watching me because I could see the red laser beam in the ambulance and on me, on my body,” he said.
Getting out of the ambulance and entering the house, he saw there were three Hamas fighters taking cover inside. One half of the building had already been destroyed.
“They were very scared, and very nervous … They dropped their weapons and ordered me to get them out, to put them in the ambulance and take them away. I refused, because if the IDF sees me doing this I am finished, I cannot pick up any more wounded people.
“And then one of the fighters picked up a gun and held it to my head, to force me. I still refused, and then they allowed me to leave.”
Mr Shriteh says Hamas made several attempts to hijack the al-Quds Hospital’s fleet of ambulances during the war.
“You hear when they are coming. People ring to tell you. So we had to get in all the ambulances and make the illusion of an emergency and only come back when they had gone.”
(Hat tip: Thanos)
5:28PM: Many of you have asked me what is going on with the story of Dr. Al Aish, who claimed his daughters were killed by the IDF and whose story was used by anti-Israel propagandists. Last time we heard about him, I posted that medical examinations revealed his daughters had shrapnel inside them, consistent with a Qassam or Grad rocket.
Well, here’s the latest. Use the “CC” button to see the English subtitles (hat tip: Jameel).
4:05PM: More Pallywood: The Sydney Morning Herald has published a propaganda piece about a palestinian family that claims an IDF soldier deliberately shot at the children and grandmother (accompanied by this photo of grandma, looking every bit like the starving concentration camp victim).
Here are the events as described in the SMH:
Souad Abed Rabbo was in her apartment on the edge of the Jabalya refugee camp near the Israeli border on January 7 when the call came from Israeli soldiers for everyone in the area to come outside.
Her apartment had been bombed, and there was an Israeli tank unit approaching the building.
“We started coming outside of the apartment, and we were waving white flags to show that we were not fighters,” she said through a translator yesterday.
Among the first to exit the building were one of her sons, Khaled, and his wife and three daughters, Amal, 2, Sammer, 4, and Souad, 7.
Two soldiers were standing on either side of the tank outside the house, she said. Another of her sons, Husam, told the Herald that one of the soldiers was an officer.
“They were standing there just looking at us, and they were eating chips and one had chocolate and they were talking to each other,” Husam said.
“We were waiting for about 10 minutes for directions on where we should go.”
Husam and another son, Ahmed, said a third soldier rose from inside the tank, holding his rifle.
Their mother says she did not see the third soldier until he started shooting.
“He did it very slowly,” Ahmed said. “He took careful aim at the little girls, and shot Amal and Souad three times. Sammer started running back up the steps toward the house and he shot her also.”
Their grandmother started shouting, trying to push her son, Khaled, the father of the two shot girls, and his wife, back into the house. She was also shot, three times.
One bullet passed through her upper arm, another passed through her torso underneath her rib cage, and another was lodged in her abdomen.
Ahmed, Husam, and another son, Farj, recall that their mother and the three girls were dragged inside the house. “When the soldiers realised that two of the girls were dead, they said Khaled could take her to the hospital,”
Khaled starting shouting for help.
One neighbour who heard him was Ehab al-Asheikh, an ambulance driver, who told the Herald he went outside to see what had happened.
“I wanted to use the ambulance to drive Khaled to the hospital but I was prevented from doing so by the soldiers,” he said.
Khaled said the soldiers told him he could take his daughter to the hospital, and he set off on foot with Sammer in his arms. His wife walked with him, carrying one of the dead girls, and another brother, Ibrahim, carried the second dead girl.
Sammer was taken to Shifa hospital, then transferred to a hospital in Egypt and is now in intensive care in a hospital in Belgium and reportedly has severe spinal injuries.
The Israeli Defence Forces later destroyed the building, and all the other residential buildings in the neighbourhood.
Ehad al-Asheikh showed the Herald his ambulance which, was crushed almost beyond recognition underneath the rubble of his former home.
An Israeli military spokesman, Captain Benjamin Rutland, said the allegations were being treated seriously and being investigated.
“With regard to this particular incident, this is being investigated at the very highest levels of the IDF,” Captain Rutland said. “It is a very thorough investigation.”
Captain Rutland stressed that at no stage did the IDF target civilians.
Khaled Abed Rabbo showed pictures of the dead girls taken on his mobile phone. He also claims that he has video footage of the girls, taken after they had died, but this was not shown to the Herald.
Khaled Abed Rabbo is on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank city of Ramallah, as a policeman. The family is associated with the Fatah movement of the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, and is not believed to have any connections to Hamas.
He is demanding a full inquiry and wants the chance to present his own evidence.
“Why do they come after us?” Khaled asked the Herald. “We are not militants here. We are not Hamas. We are just ordinary people.
“Somebody did this to my daughters and I want the world to know what is going on here.”
And here’s the version of events as reported in the Independent:
Mr Abed Rabbo stood near the wreckage off his subsequently destroyed home on the eastern edge of the northern Gaza town of Jabalya yesterday and described how a tank had parked outside the building at 12.50pm on 7 January and ordered the family in Arabic through a megaphone to leave building. He said his 60-year-old mother had also been shot at as she left waving her white headscarf with her son, daughter in law and her three grandchildren.
“Two soldiers were on the tank eating chips, then one man came out of the tank with a rifle and started shooting the kids,” Mr Abed Rabbo, who receives a salary as a policeman from the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in Ramallah said. The family say they think the weapon used by the soldier was an M16 and that the first to be shot was Amal. Mr Abed Rabbo said that Suad was then shot with what he claimed were 12 bullets, and then Samer.
The soldier who fired the rifle had what Mr Abed Rabbo thought were ringlets visible below his helmet, he said. The small minority of ultra-Orthodox Jews who serve in the army are in a unit which did not take part in the Gaza offensive and only a very small number of settlers who also favour that hairstyle serve in other units.
Khaled Abed Rabbo said that there had been a delay before the ambulance could reach the building because the road from the west had been made impassable by the churning of the tanks.
The soldiers had in the end let the family leave on foot, he said. He added that they walked two kilometres before finding a vehicle to take them to Kamal Adwan Hospital. He said: “I carried Suad, who was dead, my wife carried Amal and my brother Ibrahim carried Samer.”
Which raises the following questions:
- How come in the SMH version, the grandmother was shot after the children were shot, a while after she left the house waving white flags, but in the Independent version, she was shot as she was waving a white headscarf?
- How come in the SMH version, Amal and Souad were shot three times, but in the Independent version, Souad was shot 12 times?
- How come mention is made in the SMH version of Sammer being shot as she “started running back up the steps toward the house,” yet this rather relevant fact is omitted from the Independent version?
- According to the SMH, the grandmother was shot three times, with bullets passing through her upper arm and her torso underneath her rib cage, and another being lodged in her abdomen. If the IDF soldier was really aiming at the family, how come he was not able to kill her (like he allegedly did to the kids)? If anything, she was an easier target. Furthermore, how come in the photo, she looks like she has nothing more than an arm wound?
- How come in the SMH version, the soldiers dragged the family into the house, but in the Independent version, the soldiers let them alone?
- How come in the SMH version, there was no delay in finding an ambulance, since one of the neighbors was an ambulance driver, yet in the Independent version, there was a delay before an ambulance could reach the building “because the road from the west had been made impassable by the churning of the tanks”? And even then, the family only got to an ambulance after a 2 km walk?
- How come in the SMH version, the ambulance driver complained that he was prevented from getting to the hospital by IDF soldiers, resulting in the family walking there on foot, yet the Independent version makes no mention of this, and in fact makes it sound like the ambulance did make it to the hospital?
- How come in the Independent version, the father was able to see ringlets visible below the soldiers helmet, despite trying to avoid being hit by bullets? Furthermore, how is this even possible, given (as the Independent actually mentions) “the small minority of ultra-Orthodox Jews who serve in the army are in a unit which did not take part in the Gaza offensive and only a very small number of settlers who also favour that hairstyle serve in other units”?
“The government once again reiterates its commitment to stand by the IDF soldiers and commanders and provide them with protection in the international arena in matters concerning actions taken while serving as the State’s emissaries..The IDF’s soldiers and commanders operated according to moral standards and with full faith that their cause was just. The IDF is a moral and ethical army, and I know of no other army that implements such high standards..There is no room for self-flagellation.”
9:28AM: Here is Holocaust denying bishop Richard Dick Williamson doing his thing.