Tuesday, December 30, 2008

[ePalestine] AP/YNET: Ex-US Army engineer pleads guilty to spy charge (for Israel!!!) + Gaza

Dear friends, Oh dear friends, 

I can not start to explain the pain we all feel for Gaza.  While we all try to find words to do so, I will allow a friend on the ground to speak in his own voices below.  Then, I share with you one of Israel's sick scare tactics...imagine the 60% of Gaza's population that may answer this call are below the age of 15! 

But before that, let me pass to you a news story that just hit the US and Israeli newswires. Perfect timing, when the world is pre-occupied with Gaza burning...  see:

Now you tell me, what respectful country allows spys to walk home free?!

Act to save Gaza NOW,


From Sami A. Shafi in Gaza, a colleague and friend: 

The Independent – Dec. 30 

Sami Abdel-Shafi: Israel puts security before peace 

The international community must find a way to deal with Israel's continued belligerence and outright audacity in bombing the life out of Gaza. It is virtually meaningless when the Israeli government states that it is not deliberately targeting civilians in its air raids after having condemned them to a desperate and morbid humanitarian crisis. 

Even the Middle East Quartet – of the UN, EU, US and Russia – will not have fully functioned until its representatives have come here. It is a moral requirement that they witness how Gaza has for so long been engineered into a hell on earth. 

On 4 November, more than a month before the stated end of the truce, the Israeli army's incursion into Gaza drew renewed rocket fire and signalled the end of the ceasefire. Israel's Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, then offered Gaza two unfair choices. It would either be a dehumanising siege with bombs and rockets or a dehumanising siege with trickles of supplies under a ceasefire. These two scenarios clearly produce no benefit for ordinary people. 

I often feel guilt that the plight of Gaza has received significant attention when other impoverished spots have not. Palestine possesses the infrastructure for a decent life. But that is simply short-circuited by Israel and aided by the international community's reluctance to challenge it. 

The positive aspects of the British Government's practical measures to express its condemnation of continued Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank must be acknowledged. Its encouragement of Arab states to more effectively support reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas is only fair. Likewise, US President-elect Barack Obama could feasibly use Washington's power to get the Quartet to engage with Gaza's plight, to see how Israel is manipulating vital supplies and to witness the devastating consequences first hand. 

As Israel is hyperactive in punishing Gaza, it is also intent on convincing the world of its interest in peace. But it is pursuing not only a strategy of fruitless negotiating, but more dangerously – one of diluting initiatives so that they become unbinding and worthless. Israel's repeated sacrificing of peace for its security must be stopped before any credible peace plan for the Middle East can be implemented. Distractions – be they an extension of the truce with Hamas or the tragic military operations – are just that: distractions. 

Sami Abdel-Shafi is co-founder and senior partner at Emerge Consulting Group, a management consultancy in Gaza City 

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/sami-abdelshafi-israel-puts-security- before-peace-1216229.html

The Independent – Dec. 28 

Inside Gaza: 'The hospital morgues were already full. The dead were piled on top of each other outside' 

I am safe, and yet I feel like a walking dead person. Everything around me shows it. It is hard to write something of any coherence while exposed to cold winter air and to the smell that lingers after the detonation of Israeli bombs. They must have been massive. During the bombing I opened all the windows around my apartment to avoid them imploding as a result of the vacuum shocks sweeping through Gaza City after each enormous bang. While the bombing continued, I jumped down two flights of stairs to my father's house, to make sure he was OK. Should I open up all his windows too? That would expose the old man to the risk of illness. We have no medical care or medication. However, the risk from shattering glass was greater, so I opened them all. 

Mobile phones did not work, because of electricity outages and the flood of attempted calls. I flipped the electricity generator on so that we could watch the news. We wanted to understand what was going on in our own neighbourhood. However, this was impossible. Israeli surveillance drones flew overhead, scrambling the reception. All I could do was step outside, where I found crowds of frantic people, lines of rising smoke and the smell of charred buildings and bodies that lay around targeted sites nearby. Somebody said the bombs had been launched in parallel raids over the entire Gaza Strip. What was the target here? Perhaps a police station about 200 metres away. Other bombs annihilated blocks less than a kilometre away, where one of the main police training centres stood. When the strikes began, a graduation ceremony for more than 100 recruits in a civil law enforcement programme was under way. These were the young men trained to organise traffic, instil civil safety and maintain law and order. Many of them were killed, it is said, in addition to the Gaza Strip's police chief. 

News came by word of mouth. There had been more than 150 deaths and more than 200 people were injured or missing under rubble after the first two hours of bombing. Israel had said it would continue the offensive and deepen it if necessary. Likewise, it was said that Hamas had launched more rockets at southern Israeli towns, causing one death and four injuries. Gaza had never seen anything like the numbers of dead bodies lying on its streets. Hospital morgues were already full. The dead were piled on top of each other outside. 

Bombs targeting a Hamas security force building badly damaged an adjacent school, and several children were injured. We heard of many other targets around the Gaza Strip. It reminds me of the "shock and awe" campaign the Allies launched over Baghdad in 2003. But shock and awe did not bring stability or peace. 

These bombs were launched by Israel, as we had known they would be. The world watched the situation simmer then boil over, but did nothing. There are some who believe that hell is divided into different classes. The ordinary people of Gaza have long been caught in the tormenting underworld. Now, if the world does not heed what has happened here, our situation will worsen. We will be trapped in the first class of hell. 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/inside-gaza-the-hospital-morgues- were-already-full-the-dead-were-piled-on-top-of-each-other-outside-1213839.html


From The Times 

December 30, 2008 

'Prepare to be bombed': calls mark the start of psychological campaign in Gaza 

James Hider 

As the bombs rocked Gaza City, the telephone in the apartment where Mohammed was holed up with eight members of his family rang. When he picked it up, he heard a recorded voice similar to the automated sales pitches used by telemarketing companies. 

“It said that if I was hiding weapons or terrorists, my house would be bombed,” Mohammed, 26, a teaching assistant, said. The software engineer, who gained his master’s degree at the University of York, had been trying to leave home for six months to study for a PhD in Turkey, but Israel had denied him permission to leave. Now it was telling him to flee, but there was nowhere to go. 

Such phone calls have become common across the Gaza Strip, in what many see as a new stage in the psychological campaign to destabilise the Hamas-controlled territory. 

The messages vary, spreading fear and confusion, according to Sari Bashi, of the Israeli human rights organisation Gisha. Some tell people that they must leave their homes immediately to avoid being harmed; others are similar to the warning received by Mohammed. Some are direct threats: “Leave your house; it will be bombed soon.” The calls are causing such panic that the Palestinian phone company has issued its own recorded messages telling people to ignore the Israeli threats. 

“This is psychological warfare,” Linda al-Ghais, 32, a microbiologist and mother of three living in Gaza City, said. “We don’t know if it’s true or not, if they’ll bomb us or not. Everyone is very frightened.” 

Mohammed thought that the calls may be an attempt by Israel to cover itself in the event of civilian homes being hit. “They are doing this to show they are taking care in case civilians are hit, but clearly they are not taking care. Hundreds of people have died, many of them civilians and even children,” he said. 

An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on the calls. 

Ms Bashi said that the tactic was a clear case of psychological warfare being waged against civilians. “Gaza isn’t comparable to the wars in Leba-non or even in Sderot [the Israeli town that has borne the brunt of Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza]. In Gaza, the bombing is widespread throughout a narrow, densely populated strip of land whose borders are sealed. You’ve nowhere to go,” she said. 

The Israeli telephone messages give no indication of where people may find shelter. “If the message is that people are being given a chance to leave their homes, well, there’s nowhere to go,” Ms Bashi said. 

Many people who receive the messages are too scared to tell neighbours of the warning for fear that they will be branded as Israeli collaborators who have received a tip-off. That can cost you your life in Gaza. 

One family received a telephone message that their house was about to be bombed and fled without informing their neighbours, Ms Bashi said. When the house was attacked, the neighbours were furious that they had not been warned by the family. 

Israel is not alone in carrying out what the military calls “psy-ops”: 

Hamas has said that the Israeli bombardment has wounded the Israeli soldier whom it has been holding prisoner at an undisclosed location since a cross-border raid in the summer of 2006. 

Hamas officials told Israeli and Egyptian media that Corporal Gilad Schalit had been hurt, but did not elaborate on his injuries. 

The Israeli army prides itself on its policy of never leaving a man behind, alive or dead, and in the past has released hundreds of prisoners to secure the remains of fallen soldiers. 

“We were expecting there’d be all sorts of rumours and reports about Gilad,” an Israeli army official said. “We approached the family beforehand and warned them what to expect.” The army is suspicious of the reports, believing that the soldier is too important an asset for Hamas to allow any harm to come to him. It could not, however, discount the reports. “Anything is possible,” the army official said. 

Copyright 2008 Times Newspapers Ltd. 



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