You don’t need to bother with the details in order to know for sure that Israel is committing massive war crimes against the people of Gaza. With overwhelming fire-power, the most accurate weapons, complete control of the air and the sea, Israel is holding the people of Gaza captives for decades. Killing some 2000 Palestinians, most of them civilians, more than 400 children, within the first month of their assault on Gaza, can’t be justifiable self defense, neither “un-intended collateral damage”. It is Israel’s studied and consistently pursued policy to terrorize the Palestinian people by massacres and large-scale destruction, hoping to force them into submission.
But sometimes the details are also important. Especially where we want to discuss not only the behavior of the Israeli colonialists, but also of all the rest of the world that lets Israel go on with its crimes.
The encouragement of Israel’s war crimes was most blatant with the massacre of Rafah on Friday, August 1, 2014. A cease fire, agreed by both sides, entered into effect at 08:00. Two hours later the Israelis accused the Palestinians of violating the ceasefire, killing two soldiers and taking a third with them. Barack Obama, the main supplier of weapons for all Israel’s massacres, and Ban Ki-Moon, the secretary general of the UN that is supposed to promote peace, both hurried to back the Israeli version of affairs, not even calling for “restraint” but piling harsh words against the Palestinians.
As a response, Israel started an all out assault on Rafah’s people, with indiscriminate fire on populated areas from aircrafts, tanks and artillery. Bulldozers and tanks intentionally crushed homes on the families that happened to live there, without giving them an opportunity to evacuate. People that tried to run away were shot in the streets. Within two days some 150 people were dead and many more wounded.
Who violated the ceasefire?
On August 4, just two days after the massacre, Haaretz published an initial IDF (Israel’s occupation army) inquiry about the incident that ended the ceasefire. In Free Haifa, the same day, I quoted a single sentence from the inquiry as a proof that the basic violation was from the Israeli side. It said: “… a Givati Brigade patrol came under heavy fire while moving toward a building where a tunnel shaft was located.” Moving into enemy territory was against the letter and spirit of the ceasefire. It is hard to believe that the Israeli patrol expected Hamas militants to invite them to drink coffee together. In this case the question “who opened fire first?” (It will probably never be known, as both sides are dead) has no meaning.
Today (August 8) Haaretz published more comprehensive report of the same incident, again in Hebrew and English. What they try to stress (with more conviction than facts) is that the clash started after the ceasefire entered into effect at 08:00. But even their report, which they admit to rely only on Israeli sources, confirms the fact that the Israeli force was intentionally advancing and initiated the violation of the ceasefire.
According to Haaretz in English: “On Thursday night it emerged that a tunnel had not been destroyed on the northeastern edge of Rafah. Soldiers from the Givati Brigade’s reconnaissance force, under the command of Maj. Benaya Sarel, were told to advance a few hundred meters to look for the entrance shaft. According to a senior officer, the force finished its task at about 5 A.M.”
For what happened later we must revert to the Hebrew version which is more detailed:
“The soldiers began searching the area, which is mostly agricultural area with houses and greenhouses. After 08:00 Major Sarel noticed a suspicious movement in one of the buildings in the area. Sarel apparently suspected that a Hamas man was observing the forces. After consultation with his commanders on the radio, according to one version… he was allowed to examine the building”.
“Sarel went to check the building at the head of a small force… The rest of the force stayed a few dozen meters away, behind a building on the corner.”
So, according to the Isareli sources, all that Hamas’ people were suspected of in this incident was “observing” the Israeli force. It can be regarded impolite to stare at strangers, but it is hardly a breach of the ceasefire.
What really drives Israel mad, in this incident and in many others during the last month, was that their belligerence and provocations were met with stiff resistance by the Gazan fighters.
These details are important and we should demand from anybody that was misled by the Israeli lies and repeated them to apologize for the victims of the Rafah massacre.
More important, the people of the world should put an end to the free hand that the Israeli colonialist racist regime receives to kill Palestinians.
After all, the massacre of Rafah, like all Israel’s massacres in Gaza and elsewhere, are severe war crime, crimes against Humanity, with no regard to the lies and excuses they use to justify them.