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The Day In Israel: Mon Feb 2nd, 2009

Click refresh to see new updates during the day.

For other liveblogging see The Muqata.

Israel’s “disproportionate” response to the Qassam rocket and mortar fire came in the form of a number of air strikes that hit targets including six smuggling tunnels and a Hamas outpost. The outpost was of course empty since we had telephoned warnings to palestinians to leave any buildings where weapons were located.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

11:32PM: That’s it from me for today. Liveblogging to resume tomorrow.

Until then, thanks for dropping by, and if you appreciate my blogging, please feel free to help support it:

Aussie Dave, signing off.

10:47PM: Sticks and stones may break my bones but..let’s just leave it at that.

9:17PM: Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has proposed the construction of a 48-kilometer long tunnel that would connect the northern Gaza Strip with the southern West Bank.

Brilliant! What could possibly go wrong?

8:55PM: You just can’t make stuff like this up: Human Rights Watch routinely sends letters to the heads of opposing “armies” after a conflict.

For example:

April 30, 2007

Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah

c/o Ali Fayyad, Director

Consultative Center for Studies and Development

Beirut, Lebanon

Dear Sayyid Nasrallah,

Human Rights Watch is writing to you today with respect to the conflict that occurred between Hezbollah and Israel in July-August 2006. As an independent and impartial  organization dedicated to monitoring and promoting compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law, Human Rights Watch published extensively on Israel’s violations of its obligations under humanitarian law in its bombardment of Lebanon, as well as on Hezbollah’s violations in its rocketing of Israel.

—-

To supplement the reports we have already issued, Human Rights Watch is now preparing more comprehensive reports on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict of last summer.

The information we seek from Hezbollah will be an important element in our assessment of Hezbollah’s conduct. Human Rights Watch is able to investigate, on the ground in Israel, civilian casualties, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and the presence of military targets nearby. Only Hezbollah officials, however, can explain exactly what military objective they were targeting during a particular strike and any precautions they took to prevent civilian casualties during that strike. Such information will help us in our task of measuring compliance with the legal requirement that warring parties, in directing their operations, distinguish at all times between the civilian population and combatants, and between civilian objects and military objectives.

We have already sent a letter similar to this one to Israeli authorities, requesting information on Israel’s targeting strategies during the conflict.

What follows are questions that we wish to ask Hezbollah that are derived from our field research and our monitoring of Hezbollah’s public positions.

We hope very much that Hezbollah will reply to these questions, so that our final report can reflect Hezbollah’s positions and information that it considers relevant to the subject matter. All pertinent information that we receive by May 11 will be reflected in our final report.

We have first several general questions, and then a series of questions connected to specific incidents that we have researched.

I. General Questions

1. Does Hezbollah consider itself bound, in its armed conflict with Israel, by the laws of war (international humanitarian law), as defined by the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols?

1. In a number of statements made during and after the conflict, Hezbollah claimed to have hit military targets inside Israel far more frequently than has been reported. Hezbollah attributed this discrepancy to Israeli censorship. Please provide details about the dates, locations, and targets of Hezbollah’s strikes on military objects inside Israel.

1. On October 19, Human Rights Watch issued a report that Hezbollah fired cluster munition rockets into Israel that landed in civilian areas. As we wrote in our October 31 letter to Hezbollah (copy attached), we met with villagers who on July 25 had been injured by a rocket that contained submunitions in Mghar, in the eastern Galilee. Based on our examination of the ordnance we concluded that Hezbollah fired into Mghar Chinese-made Type-81 rockets containing 39 MZD-2 or Type-90 submunitions. Our letter sought Hezbollah’s response to our evidence that Hezbollah had fired these submunitions during the conflict. On December 26, Human Rights Watch’s Beirut director, Nadim Houry, raised the subject of our letter and our hope for a reply with Ali Fayad, head of the Hezbollah-affiliatedConsultativeCenter for Studies and Development. We have still received no oral or written reply to this letter. Can you provide one?

1. Hezbollah rockets hit three hospitals, SafedHospital (July 17), the Western Galilee (Nahariya) Hospital (July 28), and MazraMental Hospital (July 29). Did Hezbollah intentionally target these facilities? If so, why? If not, what were the intended targets? More than 45 rockets landed within 500 meters of RambamHospital in Haifa during the course of the conflict, according to the police department of that city. Although none hit the hospital itself, was Hezbollah targeting RambamHospital? If so, why? If not, what was the intended target?

1. Rockets hit the city of Kiryat Shmona more than any other city in Israel, according to official Israeli statistics. 1,017 rockets landed in or near the city, 248 of them inside built-up areas, according to those statistics. Was Hezbollah targeting the city of Kiryat Shmona itself? If so, why? If not, what were the intended targets? What precautions, if any, were taken to minimize the risks to Israeli civilians when directing fire at these targets?

1. Our field research indicates an effort by Hezbollah to strike refineries and storage tanks in the port of Haifa, such as the Delek oil refineries, which were hit by rockets on July 16. Is it correct that Hezbollah targeted refineries and storage industrial sites in the Haifa and HaKrayot industrial zones? If so, do you consider these objects to be legitimate military targets for attack under international humanitarian law and, if so, why?

1. After two rockets landed in Haifa on August 6, killing two elderly Arabs and seriously wounding two others, you said on al-Manar television, “To the Arabs of Haifa, I have a special message. We have grieved and we are grieving for your martyrs and wounded people. I beg you and turn to you asking you to leave this city. I hope you will do so. Over the past period, your presence and your misfortune made us hesitant in targeting this city, despite the fact that the southern suburbs [of Beirut] and the rest of the heart of Lebanon were being shelled, whether Haifa was being shelled or not. Please relieve us of this hesitation and spare your blood, which is also our blood. Please leave this city.” Is this statement urging Arabs to evacuate Haifa an indication that Hezbollah wished to minimize Palestinian-Israeli civilian casualties but not Jewish-Israeli civilian casualties? If not, how should this statement be interpreted?

II. Specific Incidents

What follows is a list of incidents involving civilian casualties and civilian infrastructure that we have investigated in Israel. The information, based on our field investigation of the sites and witness accounts, includes the date and location of the rocket attack and the civilian toll it caused. Please note that the letter we sent to the IDF includes a request for information on 97 separate strikes that accounted for over 500 deaths in Lebanon.

For each of the incidents listed below, we would welcome the following information from Hezbollah:

a) The specific objective of the attack and the target selection and review process.

b) Any specific precautions taken to ensure that the object of the attack was a military objective, if it was, and to avoid indiscriminate and/or disproportionate civilian casualties.

c) Efforts taken, if any, to select a method of attack and weapon to limit indiscriminate and/or disproportionate civilian casualties.

d) Any post-strike battle damage assessment undertaken to review the results of the particular strike and the results of that assessment.

—-

Human Rights Watch realizes that it will require a significant commitment to provide the information we have requested, but we feel that the effort will be a crucial contribution to a realistic understanding of the Israel-Hezbollah conflict.

Thank you for your consideration. We hope that you will provide responses to the preceding questions by May 11, so we can take them into account our final report.

We would welcome a meeting to discuss these questions, as well as any other issues you wish to raise.

Sincerely yours,

Kenneth Roth

Executive Director

As Israellycool reader and real-life friend Melvyn – who alerted me to this – said: I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

7:48PM: While I was in my car driving home, palestinians fired yet another Qassam towards Israel. Depending on who you believe, it either landed near the security fence between Israel and Gaza or it hit a kibbutz in the Sha’ar Hanegev region. The important thing is it doesn’t seem to have hurt or killed anyone.

5:53PM: Interesting combination.

5:27PM: It has been revealed that IDF soldiers shot and killed a terrorist this morning in southern Mount Hebron, thus preventing a major terror attack.

Palestinians claim he was just a poor soul trying to find work. It wasn’t a gun, it was a hair dryer.

5:23PM: The starving Gaza video (2:00PM update) is back up.  It seems the creator wanted to add music to it.

5:15PM: Ha’aretz reports that according to a Hamas official, Israel’s terms for a cease-fire have thwarted Egypt’s mediation efforts.

I am guessing it is the “ceasing the fire” term that Hamas find so unreasonable.

5:10PM: The “starvation” video of my 2:00PM update has been inexplicably deleted. You can see the images contained in it over here.

3:55PM: The Turkish Jewish community has denied reports that a synagogue in the northwestern part of the country was set ablaze by vandals.

2:20PM: One of the criticially injured Hamasholes in the IAF strike earlier today has now become one dead Hamashole.

2:00PM: More on the starvation in “concentration camp” Gaza.

1:15PM: According to the palestinian newspaper Al-Ayam, Egyptian forces yesterday blew up a number of palestinian smuggling tunnels (Hebrew link).

12:40PM: Palestinians are claiming 3 are critically injured following an IAF strike on a car in Gaza.

12:35PM: A powerful piece from Michael Yon (hat tip: Martin)

How Can the World Be Blind to Israel’s Existential Threats?

I heard Benjamin Netanyahu, the person who could soon become Israel’s new prime minister, speak this week at the Jerusalem Conference. The most pressing point that he talked about was that under no circumstances should Jerusalem be divided. Many believe that if Jerusalem were to divide, the terrorist group Hamas would set up a headquarters here, which would result in Iranian agents — who also wish to see genocide against the Israelis — setting up shop within the confines of Jerusalem.

It is amazing to me, as an American who travels the world on a near-constant basis, that there is so much confusion over who the terrorists are. Hamas is a terrorist organization that condones and facilitates suicide bombings and will kill every Jew on the planet if they have the chance. Meanwhile, Israel is an energetic democracy with a vibrant press. I could sit right here in Jerusalem and write bad things about Israel and Jews, and nothing would happen. Maybe I wouldn’t get invited somewhere or would be called an anti-Semite, but that would be it. Neither the Jews nor the Israelis would harm me, though they likely would write bad things about me. I came to Israel with no press accreditation and at the airport they knew that I was a writer. Yet they let me in and have allowed me to freely roam the country. Today I was in very close proximity to Mr. Netanyahu. Mr. Netanyahu talked about how, in this very hotel, Rehavam Ze’evi had been murdered just a few floors above our heads. The security seemed incredibly lax by American standards. Bernard Lewis and other extremely smart people were there.

Israel is a free country that abides by the rule of law. By contrast, if a writer were to go to Gaza or Iran, for instance, and start writing bad words, he might wind up on the news, dead. Israel allows Christians and Arab Muslims to worship freely, while Hamas wants to see us all at the bottom of the sea. Hamas, supported by Iran, is clear about their goals: they want to wipe out Israel completely, utterly, with finality. But it’s not just Israel that Hamas wants to kill; they want to kill all Jews everywhere. Complete genocide.

And when Iran has the capacity to launch rockets over to Europe or the United States, one can count on it happening. If they can manage to hatch nuclear weapons, we could see Israeli cities annihilated, leaving Israelis with little choice other than to respond with nuclear weapons, which could leave millions dead. If Iran gets nuclear weapons, Iraq will want them, as will other nations who are threatened by Iran. I’ve lived in Europe for about six years, and it is easy to imagine Europe being engulfed in a massive religious and race war. America is relatively sedate on the racial front, but Europe could explode if a serious terrorism wave were to sweep through.

It is simply astounding that many foreign governments do not see this for what it is. Good Muslims are murdered by Muslim extremists in probably dozens of countries, yet certain European governments insist that there is some sort of moral equivalence between Hamas and the democracy called Israel. At this conference, I hear incredulous Jews who are concerned that their soldiers and political leaders might be charged with war crimes and arrested if they travel to Europe. This is just one example of the racism that vexes Europe and keeps it behind where it could be. Imagine for a moment that Cuba were launching missiles at Florida. We would sink their navy, shoot down their air force, wipe out their army, and kill Castro. Yet thousands of rockets have been raining down on Israel, while many members of the international community demand that Israel do nothing. These rockets are advertised to be small and not much of a nuisance, but each one carries about 15 times more explosives than a hand grenade. Hamas favors launching the rockets when kids are going to or coming from school. Clearly they are trying to murder the children who are growing up under attack. The Israelis have proven time and again that they will choose peace if given a chance. Hamas, when given a chance, chooses war.

I hear great concern that our new administration will turn its back on Israel, leaving Israelis to fend for themselves. But these feelings are not limited to the Israelis. Concern comes from numerous allies that the United States might go cold. I’m hearing these concerns from Iraqis, British, Lithuanians, and Israelis, to name a few.

I can safely be called anti-war. But being anti-war does not mean we can hide our heads in the sand in regard to the proximate and growing threat from Iran. If you want to see World War III unfold, just sit quietly about Iran. Iran could be the opening chapter of an apocalyptic era.

12:02PM: Over half an hour ago, another mortar shell fired from Gaza landed in an open area of Eshkol.

11:55AM: The ICC is currently exploring ways to charge IDF officers over alleged war crimes in Gaza.

10:25AM: The Jerusalem Post reports:

cartmanPalestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday that he will not hold reconciliation talks with the rival Hamas group unless it accepts his authority, lowering chances the two sides will work out their differences any time soon.

8:55AM: Ha’aretz reports that vandals have set fire to a synagogue in northern Turkey.

5:56AM: Heh. Methinks the caption writer is missing something.

5:55AM: Anti-Semitism Anti-Zionism on Hamas television.

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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