Friday, July 07, 2006

Israel steps up attacks on Gaza

The already dire situation in the Gaza Strip became even worse over the course of June as Israel stepped up it's attacks on the poverty stricken territory. Israel has been pounding Gaza with air and artillery strikes, and ground troops have also crossed the border.

According to the independant Palestinian Maan News Agency, 55 Palestinians were killed by the Israel army in June, with 304 injuries. On June 29, Israel also abducted 64 members of the Palestinian parliament. On the night of July 1, Israel also launched an air strike on the headquarters of the Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh.

The situation was escalated by Israel after Palestinian militants kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Sharit on June 25 following a fire fight on the Israeli side of the border near Kibbutz Kerem Shalom. Israel's response was swift and brutal, with air strikes on Palestinian infrastructure and the invasion of ground forces to the east of Rafah in south Gaza.

Water shortage is also a huge issue in the Gaza Strip. With Gaza's only power station mostly destroyed by an Israeli air strike on June 28, the pumps which spread water throughout Gaza ceased to function. Dr Majid Abu Ramadan, the Mayor of Gaza, said that because of the cut in electricity, sanitation pumps and garbage collection have stopped functioning leading to mountains of garbage bieng piled high in the streets. He said that this situation will bring yet another machine with which to kill Palestinians, namely diseases.

June 28 also saw attacks on many of the bridges in Gaza, virtually splitting the territory in two and making already difficult travel even harder. All border crossings into Gaza have been closed, meaning much needed food and medicine cannot reach those who need it. On June 2, Israel reopened the Karni crossing for 150 trucks per day for four days, a move which many see as woefully inadequate. Salim Abu Safiyeh, the Director-General of Palestinian Crossings, said on July 3 "that it was imperative that food and other essential items be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip if the world wants to avoid a humanitarian disaster."

Another weapon Israel has used in it's latest offensive is fear. Israeli jets are flying across Gaza at all hours, sometimes striking and sometimes not, forcing Gazans to live in a permanent state of anxiety. Additionally, Israeli jets are deliberately creating sonic booms over Gaza, following Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's order "to make sure no one sleeps at night in Gaza". The Maan News Agency states "The continuous sounds of shelling, warplanes and sonic bombs [sic] disrupts normal life both during the day, when it causes shock and fear, but even more so at night, when it induces real terror in Gazan residents who are enduring the sudden, loud and menacing sounds in the darkness."

Meanwhile in Israel, many anti-occupation activists and groups have voiced their concern and demanded an end to Israeli state terrorism. Renowned journalist Gideon Levy stated in the Haaretz daily newspaper that "A state that takes such steps is no longer distinguishable from a terror organization." He went on to state that "What we are doing now in Gaza has nothing to do with freeing him [kidnapped soldier Gilad Sharit]. It is a widescale act of vengeance, the kind that the IDF and Shin Bet [Israeli internal intelligence] have wanted to conduct for some time." Anti-occupation group Gush Shalom has continued it's call for the removal of Dan Halutz, commander-in-chief of the Israeli army, after having participated with local anarchists in a demonstration outside Halutz's home earlier in June. The group also held a demonstration of over 100 peace activists outside the Ministry Of Defense within 24 hours of the Israeli incursion beginning.

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