Liveblogging the Conflict: Thurs Jan 29th, 2009
Click refresh to see new updates during the day.
For other liveblogging see The Muqata.
- Late last night, the IAF struck a weapons manufacturing site near a Hamas outpost and a smuggling tunnel.
- Speaking of smuggling tunnels, IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan said that he doubted the long-term efficacy of our bombing campaign against them
Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)
12:10PM: That’s it from me for today. Liveblogging to resume tomorrow (there could even be more updates to this post if any of my occasional co-contributors feel like posting anything).
Until then, thanks for dropping by, and if you appreciate my blogging, please feel free to help support it:
Aussie Dave, signing off.
11:58AM: MK Arye Eldad wants to turn the inquisition back on the Spanish.
11:43PM: Weirdest Israeli political campaign commercial. Ever.
(hat tip: Jameel)
11:37PM: Turkish television has reported that Shimon Peres called Erdogan and apologized to him (Hebrew link).
Which begs the question….why??
10:58PM: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to do everything in his power to break off relations with Israel.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan walked off the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, red-faced after verbally sparring with Israeli President Shimon Peres over the fighting in Gaza.
Erdogan was angry after being cut off by a panel moderator after listening to an impassioned monologue by Peres defending Israel’s recent offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Erdogan declared to Peres: “You are killing people.” A finger-pointing Peres told Erdogan at Thursday’s panel that he would have done the same if rockets had been falling on Istanbul.
The confrontation saw Peres and Ergodan raise their voice shouting, highly unusual at the elite gathering of corporate and world leaders, which is usually marked by learned consensus seeking and polite dialogue. It showed how emotions remain frayed over Israel’s offensive against Hamas that ended less than two weeks ago.
The packed audience at the Ergodan and Peres session, which included President Obama’s close adviser Valerie Jarrett, appeared stunned.
Here’s the video from the World Economic Forum. If you want to skip to the chase, start from Peres speaking at 39:25 (he actually speaks very well and with great emotion).
10:26PM: Listen here to what Israeli National Infrastructures Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said about the decision by a Spanish judge to open a probe against him and six seven other current or former Israeli officials over a 2002 bombing in Gaza.
8:30PM: Israeli PM Olmert is to celebrate his interrogation barmitzvah on Friday.
6:37PM: You remember the alleged UN school massacre?
Well, surprise surprise, it didn’t happen.
They heralded the tragic news of Jan. 6, when mortar shells fired by advancing Israeli forces killed 43 civilians in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The victims, it was reported, had taken refuge inside the Ibn Rushd Preparatory School for Boys, a facility run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
The news shocked the world and was compared to the 1996 Israeli attack on a UN compound in Qana, Lebanon, in which more than 100 people seeking refuge were killed. It was certain to hasten the end of Israel’s attack on Gaza, and would undoubtedly lead the list of allegations of war crimes committed by Israel.
There was just one problem: The story, as etched in people’s minds, was not quite accurate.
Physical evidence and interviews with several eyewitnesses, including a teacher who was in the schoolyard at the time of the shelling, make it clear: While a few people were injured from shrapnel landing inside the white-and-blue-walled UNRWA compound, no one in the compound was killed. The 43 people who died in the incident were all outside, on the street, where all three mortar shells landed.
Stories of one or more shells landing inside the schoolyard were inaccurate.
While the killing of 43 civilians on the street may itself be grounds for investigation, it falls short of the act of shooting into a schoolyard crowded with refuge-seekers.
The teacher who was in the compound at the time of the shelling says he heard three loud blasts, one after the other, then a lot of screaming. “I ran in the direction of the screaming [inside the compound],” he said. “I could see some of the people had been injured, cut. I picked up one girl who was bleeding by her eye, and ran out on the street to get help.”But when I got outside, it was crazy hell. There were bodies everywhere, people dead, injured, flesh everywhere.”
The teacher, who refused to give his name because he said UNRWA had told the staff not to talk to the news media, was adamant: “Inside [the compound] there were 12 injured, but there were no dead.”
“Three of my students were killed,” he said. “But they were all outside.”
Hazem Balousha, who runs an auto-body shop across the road from the UNRWA school, was down the street, just out of range of the shrapnel, when the three shells hit. He showed a reporter where they landed: one to the right of his shop, one to the left, and one right in front.
“There were only three,” he said. “They were all out here on the road.”
News of the tragedy travelled fast, with aid workers and medical staff quoted as saying the incident happened at the school, the UNRWA facility where people had sought refuge.
Soon it was presented that people in the school compound had been killed. Before long, there was worldwide outrage.
Sensing a public-relations nightmare, Israeli spokespeople quickly asserted that their forces had only returned fire from gunmen inside the school. (They even named two militants.) It was a statement from which they would later retreat, saying there were gunmen in the vicinity of the school.
No witnesses said they saw any gunmen. (If people had seen anyone firing a mortar from the middle of the street outside the school, they likely would not have continued to mill around.)
Thanks to Elder of Ziyon for this find, who also goes on to quote the AP report that proves there were gunmen in the vicinity of the school.
6:12PM: A mortar shell landed in Sha’ar Hanegev not long ago.
One of the participating websites (http://arabland.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/we-stop-saying-israel-and-we-say-israhell/) boasted:
On google SEO Customized :
we got IsraHell about 40.000 result 6 days ago
2 days ago we were about 102.00
now we are about 117.000
Please write an articles why We say IsraHELL
Currently, there are 125,000.
Meanwhile, one of my favorite terms ‘Hamashole’ currently has over 1,210,000 entries!
4:55PM: Quote of the Day:
“In the decision room, I make decisions, not coffee.”
– Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
I’ll take two sugars, thanks Tzipi.
4:47PM: A liberal Egyptian Journalist rips Hamas a new one.
4:38PM: The pains of Spain are at it again.
2:46PM: Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan:
“President Obama must redefine terror and terrorist organizations in the Middle East, and based on this new definition, a new American policy must be deployed in the Middle East.”
I think we can all see where he is going with that.
1:53PM: Letter from a reserve soldier (Hat tip: A Soldier’s Mother)
An Open Letter to A Citizen Of Gaza:
I Am the Soldier Who Slept In Your Home
By: Yishai G (reserve soldier)
While the world watches the ruins in Gaza, you return to your home which remains standing. However, I am sure that it is clear to you that someone was in your home while you were away.
I am that someone.
I spent long hours imagining how you would react when you walked into your home. How you would feel when you understood that IDF soldiers had slept on your mattresses and used your blankets to keep warm.
I knew that it would make you angry and sad and that you would feel this violation of the most intimate areas of your life by those defined as your enemies, with stinging humiliation. I am convinced that you hate me with unbridled hatred, and you do not have even the tiniest desire to hear what I have to say. At the same time, it is important for me to say the following in the hope that there is even the minutest chance that you will hear me.
I spent many days in your home. You and your family’s presence was felt in every corner. I saw your family portraits on the wall, and I thought of my family. I saw your wife’s perfume bottles on the bureau, and I thought of my wife. I saw your children’s toys and their English language schoolbooks. I saw your personal computer and how you set up the modem and wireless phone next to the screen, just as I do.
I wanted you to know that despite the immense disorder you found in your house that was created during a search for explosives and tunnels (which were indeed found in other homes), we did our best to treat your possessions with respect. When I moved the computer table, I disconnected the cables and lay them down neatly on the floor, as I would do with my own computer. I even covered the computer from dust with a piece of cloth. I tried to put back the clothes that fell when we moved the closet although not the same as you would have done, but at least in such a way that nothing would get lost.
I know that the devastation, the bullet holes in your walls and the destruction of those homes near you place my descriptions in a ridiculous light. Still, I need you to understand me, us, and hope that you will channel your anger and criticism to the right places.
I decided to write you this letter specifically because I stayed in your home.
I can surmise that you are intelligent and educated and there are those in your household that are university students. Your children learn English, and you are connected to the Internet. You are not ignorant; you know what is going on around you.
Therefore, I am sure you know that Qassam rockets were launched from your neighborhood into Israeli towns and cities.
How could you see these weekly launches and not think that one day we would say “enough”?! Did you ever consider that it is perhaps wrong to launch rockets at innocent civilians trying to lead a normal life, much like you? How long did you think we would sit back without reacting?
I can hear you saying “it’s not me, it’s Hamas”. My intuition tells me you are not their most avid supporter. If you look closely at the sad reality in which your people live, and you do not try to deceive yourself or make excuses about “occupation”, you must certainly reach the conclusion that the Hamas is your real enemy.
The reality is so simple, even a seven year old can understand: Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip, removing military bases and its citizens from Gush Katif. Nonetheless, we continued to provide you with electricity, water, and goods (and this I know very well as during my reserve duty I guarded the border crossings more than once, and witnessed hundreds of trucks full of goods entering a blockade-free Gaza every day).
Despite all this, for reasons that cannot be understood and with a lack of any rational logic, Hamas launched missiles on Israeli towns. For three years we clenched our teeth and restrained ourselves. In the end, we could not take it anymore and entered the Gaza strip, into your neighborhood, in order to remove those who want to kill us. A reality that is painful but very easy to explain.
As soon as you agree with me that Hamas is your enemy and because of them, your people are miserable, you will also understand that the change must come from within. I am acutely aware of the fact that what I say is easier to write than to do, but I do not see any other way. You, who are connected to the world and concerned about your children’s education, must lead, together with your friends, a civil uprising against Hamas.
I swear to you, that if the citizens of Gaza were busy paving roads, building schools, opening factories and cultural institutions instead of dwelling in self pity, arms smuggling and nurturing a hatred to your Israeli neighbors, your homes would not be in ruins right now. If your leaders were not corrupt and motivated by hatred, your home would not have been harmed. If someone would have stood up and shouted that there is no point in launching missiles on innocent civilians, I would not have to stand in your kitchen as a soldier.
You don’t have money, you tell me? You have more than you can imagine.
Even before Hamas took control of Gaza, during the time of Yasser Arafat, millions if not billions of dollars donated by the world community to the Palestinians was used for purchasing arms or taken directly to your leaders bank accounts. Gulf States, the emirates – your brothers, your flesh and blood, are some of the richest nations in the world. If there was even a small feeling of solidarity between Arab nations, if these nations had but the smallest interest in reconstructing the Palestinian people – your situation would be very different.
You must be familiar with Singapore. The land mass there is not much larger than the Gaza strip and it is considered to be the second most populated country in the world. Yet, Singapore is a successful, prospering, and well managed country. Why not the same for you?
My friend, I would like to call you by name, but I will not do so publicly. I want you to know that I am 100% at peace with what my country did, what my army did, and what I did. However, I feel your pain. I am sorry for the destruction you are finding in your neighborhood at this moment. On a personal level, I did what I could to minimize the damage to your home as much as possible.
In my opinion, we have a lot more in common than you might imagine. I am a civilian, not a soldier, and in my private life I have nothing to do with the military. However, I have an obligation to leave my home, put on a uniform, and protect my family every time we are attacked. I have no desire to be in your home wearing a uniform again and I would be more than happy to sit with you as a guest on your beautiful balcony, drinking sweet tea seasoned with the sage growing in your garden.
The only person who could make that dream a reality is you. Take responsibility for yourself, your family, your people, and start to take control of your destiny. How? I do not know. Maybe there is something to be learned from the Jewish people who rose up from the most destructive human tragedy of the 20th century, and instead of sinking into self-pity, built a flourishing and prospering country. It is possible, and it is in your hands. I am ready to be there to provide a shoulder of support and help to you.
But only you can move the wheels of history.”
Yishai, (Reserve Soldier)
1:00PM: The IAF struck a motorcycle carrying two Hamasholes in Khan Yunis. One of them was a nasty gentleman by the name of Muhammad Auda Khamdan Samiri, a member of a Hamas’ cell that perpetrated the Tuesday roadside bomb attack. He is also a member of the Global Jihad organization and was involved in an attack that left two soldiers dead in March of last year.
11:42AM: Within the last hour, the IAF has been operating in Khan Yunis. Initial reports indicate 8 palestinians have been injured.
Ok, I made up the part about the goat.
10:32AM: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni have told US Mideast envoy George Mitchell that Israel would respond to every Hamas violation of the cease-fire.
In other news, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni still think there is a ceasefire.
9:45AM: Excellent video showing that “war” rallies we have been seeing are more pro-Hamas hate rallies.
9:30AM: From the Department of the Bleeding Obvious: Likud chairman Binyamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu has said that Israel did not finish the job in IDF Operation Cast Lead, and it would be up to the next government to do so.
(also from the Department of Political Opportunism).
7:36AM: About 30 minutes ago, a Qassam landed near Sderot.
5:52AM: More from Hamas cheerleader, Jimmy Carter.
5:46AM: Israeli intel organizations are to examine claims of careless use of classified information during the fighting in Gaza that supposedly led to the loss of palestinian agents.