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The Day In Israel: Sun Feb 1st, 2009

Click refresh to see new updates during the day.

For other liveblogging see The Muqata.

It’s the 1st of February and Israel is getting some much needed rain. And in other news:

  • Israeli President Shimon Peres said that Hamas should have learned a lesson just like Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah. In other news, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah learned a lesson.
  • The Spanish Foreign Minister told Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that the material we sent will serve to reverse the Spanish judge’s decision.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

10:58PM: The IAF has reportedly bombed a Hamas security target in Gaza, with no casualties reported.

10:40PM: The same day as I have reported about claims that an Egyptian company supplied the IDF with food comes speculation from the Iranian IRNA website that Israel and the Saudis are in cahoots.

Occupation of two Saudi islands of Tiran and Sanafir by the Zionist regime and the country’s silence about it signifies a covert deal between them.

These islands are quite significant strategically for Israel and Saudi Arabia.

One and a half year before the Gaza war, Saudi Arabia announced the construction of a bridge between Ra’s Al-Sheikh Hamid in Saudi Arabia and Egypt’s Sharm al-Sheikh to which the Zionist regime showed a strong reaction as Debka File website affiliated to the Israeli intelligence services had said that building the bridge can ensue an armed clash.

Gaza events and the meaningful silence of Saudi Arabia against Israeli atrocities raises the question whether the recent Gaza war is part of Saudi Arabian and Israeli secret deal to pursue construction of the project in Tiran?

10:07PM: The IDF has nabbed 5 palestinians carrying a gun, a knife and four Molotov cocktails.

9:50PM: Israeli action imminent? Rafah and Khan Younis residents have reportedly claimed to have received telephone calls from Israeli security forces warning them to evacuate areas from which gunmen are operating.

8:10PM: Hizbullah has reportedly prepared for the perpetration of a grave attack, such as the assassination or kidnapping of an Israeli target.

The Bureau said the threat of a very high level and reiterated its guidelines and general warnings for Israelis abroad, stressing that they must be particularly stringent.

It urged Israeli nationals to be alert to unusual phenomena, avoid visiting Arab and Muslim states and reject enticing offers from unknown or suspicious people.

I guess I should ignore that mail I received from Suha Arafat.

6:42PM: Some “peaceful” words from Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi:

6:37PM: 2 IDF soldiers were lightly wounded by shrapnel from the barrage of mortar shells mentioned in the 5:43PM update.

6:30PM: Another rocket has reportedly hit the Sderot area.

6:20PM: Today’s blood libel: Another palestinian allegation of Israeli war crimes, and I have yet again managed to uncover glaring inconsistencies in the versions of the incident offered by palestinians.

First consider the story as it appears in The Australian:

Threee witnesses have claimed that Israeli soldiers shot in cold blood two civilians who had their hands in the air on the second day of the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

In an investigation by The Weekend Australian in Gaza, the three people making the claim were on a tractor that was stopped by Israeli soldiers about 4 o’clock in the afternoon of January 4 in northern Gaza – the second day of Israel’s ground operation.

Two of the witnesses were on a trailer being pulled by the tractor and the third was sitting on one of the wheel coverings.

They say Israeli soldiers who had taken over a house they were driving past shouted from a balcony for them to pull over.

When two of the men, Matar Abu Halima, 18, and Mohammed Abu Halima, also 18, got off the tractor with their hands in the air, they were shot several times in the chest. One died instantly, the other shortly after. A few minutes later, two others on the tractor, Nabeela Abu Halima and Omar Abu Halima, were also shot, but did not die – a woman says she was shot in the arm because she refused to leave the scene, saying she wanted to help the injured, and a man says he was shot through the arm because he refused to strip naked.

Israeli Defence Forces are investigating the allegations, but said the two people shot dead had been terrorists.

The tractor was taking to hospital two injured people and the body of a 15-month-old girl who had died shortly before in a fire following an attack by an Israeli rocket.

The witnesses say following the incident with the tractor, the charred body of the girl lay by the side of the road for eight days. Her legs and stomach were eaten by dogs.

The Weekend Australian has seen a picture of the girl taken by medics who finally picked her up – her head and torso are recognisable, although black with burns, while her legs are stumps with only the bones remaining.

Her brother is keeping a copy of the photograph in his mobile phone.

The incident occurred outside a primary school in the northern village of Beit Lahiya, which the IDF had taken over as a base for tanks.

The woman, Nabeela Abu Halima, says soldiers also violated her house, defecating in her pots and pans by cutting the seats out of furniture and placing pans underneath.

She says they wrote graffiti on the walls, including, in Hebrew, “Next time it’s going to be harder” and “You have chosen Hamas!!!”, a map of Israel with a fist next to Gaza and the drawing of a naked woman.

Twenty-four hours after The Weekend Australian put the allegations to the IDF, spokesman Captain Benjamin Rutland said the IDF was investigating the matters raised. “They are working on this .. issue. It is more important to the IDF to conduct a very thorough investigation than to complete it speedily.”

Captain Rutland added: “The IDF trains its soldiers to minimise injuries to civilians and to respect all civilians on the battlefront.”

Later, the IDF issued a statement saying: “In this incident, two armed militants were spotted riding a tractor along with an infant’s body. The militants opened fire on IDF troops, and both the terrorists were killed in the following exchange of fire.”

An IDF spokesman would not provide an answer to why, if there were two armed militants on the tractor, four people were shot – two shot dead initially and two shot through the arms later – and why the body of an infant was left by the side of the road for eight days.

And he would not say what the preliminary investigation found about whether the soldiers had defecated in Nabeela Abu

Halima’s kitchen utensils, drawn graffiti and stolen her money.

Human rights investigators have begun working on the incident, which they say fits the definition of a war crime.

The two who survived both say they would give evidence about the incident to any official inquiry.

Nabeela Abu Halima is the mother of Matar. She said that as well as watching her son shot dead, her other son, Ali, 15, who was in the tractor, also saw his brother killed.

She said they had been travelling to the hospital when Israeli soldiers shouted from a balcony, “Stop! stop!”

“So we stopped,” she said. “We raised our hands. Mohammed and Matar raised their hands too and got off the tractor, but Israeli soldiers shot them.”

She said most of the bullets were in the chest of the two men; Matar appeared to die immediately but Mohammed was still alive.

He died some time later.

“An Israeli soldier shouted ‘Leave! leave!’ and I said ‘Just let me take Mohammed and Matar.’ They kept telling me ‘Leave! leave!’ and I said again, ‘Just let me take Matar and Mohammed.’

“After that, they ordered Mohammed (a second Mohammed on the tractor, the brother of Omar Abu Halima) to take off his clothes. He tore his clothes off and was completely naked.”

Nabeela Abu Halima said they then ordered Omar Abu Halima to strip naked and he refused. She said they then shot him through the arm. When she again refused to leave, she says they then shot her in the arm.

She said other people in the village said after they left, a tank turned the tractor on its side then ran over it, crushing it.

She said the incident and what she said Israeli soldiers did in her house have turned her from opposing Hamas to supporting them.

Apart from the graffiti, she says Israeli soldiers broke a cupboard and stole her life savings – about 30,000 Israeli Shekels (about $12,000).

She said she kept the money at home because “we don’t know how to deal with banks or investments”.

She said only a year ago she confronted Hamas fighters in her street who wanted to fire rockets into southern Israel, saying they should not because it would bring retribution upon her neighbourhood and that it would be people like her who suffered the consequences, not the fighters who would leave the area.

She said Hamas had threatened her when she had said this.

She added: “Now if Hamas members come back, I swear to god I will help them fire rockets into Israel.”

Given my previous experience with such allegations, I immediately searched for other testimony of this supposed event, and found this official testimony made to B’tselem.

Testimony: Members of Abu Halima family killed and burned in army’s bombing of their house, 3 January 2009

Ghada Riad Rajab Abu Halima, 21

Until last week, I lived with my husband, Muhammad, 24, and our two little daughters, Farah, 3, and Aya, 6 months, in the a-Sifa section of Beit Lahiya. We lived in the same house as Muhammad’s parents, Sa’dallah Abu Halima, 44, and Sabah Abu Halima, 44, and his brothers and sisters: ‘Omar, 18, Yusef, 16, ‘Abd a-Rahim, 13, Zeid, 11, Hamzah, 10, ‘Ali, 4, and baby Shahd, 1.

Our house had two floors. On the first floor were 250 square meters of storage rooms, and we lived on the second floor. We are farmers and have land next to the house.

On Saturday night [3 January], Israeli jets dropped leaflets calling on residents of the area to leave their homes. The army did the same thing in previous incursions and we didn’t leave the house, so this time, too, we decided not to leave.

Around 4 P.M. the next day [4 January], when all the family was in the house, the army started to shell our area. A few minutes later, shells landed on our house. Fire broke out in the house and several members of the family burned to death: my father-in-law, his baby daughter Shahd, and three of his sons – ‘Abd a-Rahim, Zeid and Hamzah.

My mother-in-law and her sons Yusef, ‘Omar and ‘Ali suffered burns. The fire spread throughout the house. I was holding my daughter Farah and we were both burned too. My clothes went up in flames, and some of my skin and Farah’s skin was scorched. Luckily, my baby daughter Aya wasn’t hurt. I ripped the clothes off my body and cried out that I was burning. I was naked in front of everybody in the house. My body was burning and the pain was excruciating. I could smell my flesh burning. I was in a horrible condition. I looked for something to cover me and shouted non-stop. My husband’s brother took off his pants and gave them to me to wear. The top part of my body remain stayed naked until my husband came and covered me with his jacket.

Then he ran to the road to get an ambulance or find some people to help us get the killed and injured people out of the house. He couldn’t find any ambulance or firefighting vehicle. His cousins, who live nearby us, Matar and Muhammad-Hikmat Abu Halima, came to help. My husband lifted me up, and Nabilah, his aunt, picked up Farah. Another aunt, who also came to help, took Aya.

Muhammad, Farah, Nabilah, her son ‘Ali, ‘Omar, Matar and I all got onto a wagon hitched to a tractor. Muhammad Hahmat drove it, heading to Kamal ‘Adwan Hospital. We also took the body of the baby Shahed. We left all the others in the house.

On the way, we saw soldiers about 300 meters from al-‘Atatrah Square.  Muhammad stopped the tractor and suddenly, the soldiers opened fire at us. They killed Matar and Muhammad-Hikmat. ‘Ali was wounded and managed to run away with Nabilah and ‘Omar.

The soldiers told my husband to undress, which he did. Then he put his clothes back on and the soldiers told us to continue by foot. We left the three bodies in the wagon. My husband, Farah, and I walked toward the square, where we got into a car that happened to be passing by. He took us to a-Shifaa Hospital. It was about 6 P.M. when we got to the hospital.

I am still hospitalized. My whole body was burned, and so was my face. Farah has third-degree burns.
We were referred to further treatment in Egypt and they tried to take us to Rafah by ambulance, but the army fired at us on the way. The driver was slightly wounded in the face and he drove back to the hospital. Now we are waiting for authorization to leave for Egypt.

I am once again left asking many questions.

1. How come in the Australian version, the IDF soldiers who shot the palestinians were on a balcony of a house they had taken over, and shouted for the palestinians to pull over, yet in the B’tselem version, the soldiers were “about 300 meters from al-‘Atatrah Square” and fired without saying anything?

2. How come in the Australian version, Nabeela Abu Halima and Omar Abu Halima were shot, but not so in the B’tselem version in which they managed to run away?

3. How come in the Australian version, a man was shot through the arm because he refused to strip naked, but in the B’tselem version, there is no mention of this?

5:50PM: As I posted yesterday, Egypt has begun installing cameras and motion sensors along its border with Gaza to combat palestinian arms smuggling.

5:43PM: 4 more mortar shells have landed in the western Negev. One person has been lightly hurt.

3:40PM: Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni have reportedly argued bitterly over Israel’s response to the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire deal.

In that argument, it is actually the female Livni who is displaying cojones.

2:40PM: Do yourselves a favor and watch this. You’ll have to look past the really bad translation, but it’s worth it.

2:30PM: Hamas has agreed to a one-year truce starting Thursday.

That’s nice.

12:55PM: Ha’aretz reports:

Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday threatened that Israel would issue a “fierce and disproportionate” response if Gaza militants continued to launch rocket attacks against southern Israel.

Enough of the talk. Just do something already. The palestinians have fired many rockets since the so-called ceasefire, and all they got for it was this lousy shirt some air strikes on smuggling tunnels and a couple of motorcycle riding Hamasholes.

The response has been disproportionately weak.

11:37AM: 2 mortar shells were earlier fired into the western Negev.

Meanwhile the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades of Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah have taken responsibility for today’s rockets.

11:07AM: On Sunday, the Rabbi Got More Bodyguards: Police have beefed up security around Rabbi Ovadia Yosef out of concern terrorists have been planning an attack.

9:23AM: A short time ago, IDF soldiers returned fire after being shot at near Kissufim.

Hamas want a response.

9:18AM: We have already seen many statements from Egypt blaming Hamas for the recent operation in Gaza and showing more understanding for Israel’s position than we have become accustomed to seeing.

Now the question is, was there more than just verbal support for Israel? Someone seems to think so.

An Egypt-based corporation offered food supply to the Israeli army Israel’s Channel Food company during its 22-day-massive offensive in the Gaza Strip, an Egyptian weekly newspaper says.

“While Gaza was burning and witnessing seas of blood, Egyptian trucks were travelling to El Aoudja crossing point east of Egypt to deliver the commodities of the International Union of Food Products to Israel’s Channel Food,” said El Ousboue newspaper.

“The Egyptian company’s owners located in the industrial city of Sadate managed to keep their big secret.”

The newspaper added that the first truck went to Israel less than 24 hours after the attacks had began. “It was loaded with more than 17 tons of green beans.”

“The Egyptian company’s workers were outraged by what was happening in the Gaza strip, but no one of them stopped carrying the food to Israel,” said the newspaper citing a source at the Egyptian company.

9:07AM: Palestinian terrorists have once again shown they care way more about harming innocent Jews than for their own children (yes, Golda Meir was spot on) – they’ve fired at least 4 Qassams into Israel this morning, with one landing in between two kindergartens.

Will we respond the way we need to?

6:00AM: A synagogue in Caracas, Venezuela, has been vandalized, with anti-Semitic graffiti being scrawled (such as “We don’t want murderers”, and “Jews, get out”), and religious objects being shattered. The culprits were about 15 anti-Israel-but-not-in-the-slightest-bit-anti-Semitic armed men.

But not to fear. I can see the Venezuelan government is on the case.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro condemned the attack and promised it would be investigated, while reiterating his government’s opposition to what he called Israel’s criminal government.

“We respect the Jewish people, but we ask respect for the people of Palestine and their right to life.”

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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