More Horrors Revealed of U.S.-Israeli Massacre in Gaza

by Larry Everest

On January 17, the hail of U.S.-Israeli bombs and missiles, tank shells and bullets that savaged Gaza and its people for 22 days stopped and, at least for now, Israel has withdrawn its forces. In close coordination with the U.S. Israel declared a ceasefire in the war. (On January 18, Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared a one-week ceasefire and the opening of Gaza’s border crossings and the lifting of Israel’s siege.)
The full scope—and the deliberate criminal nature of this U.S.-Israeli massacre—continues to emerge, along with new U.S.-Israeli moves to crush the Palestinian people. And the carnage is staggering. The Palestinian Ministry of Health reports (January 19, 2009) that 1,314 Palestinians were killed, including 416 children and 106 women; 5,320 were injured, including 1,855 children and 795 women. Meanwhile, 13 Israelis were killed, nine of them soldiers—three by friendly fire and 84 were injured. Palestinian casualties will no doubt climb as more bodies are discovered amidst the widespread rubble.
The list of Israeli targets ran the gamut of society: residential neighborhoods, apartment blocks, a UN headquarters, with a vocational center, food warehouse, and fuel depot; schools, universities, money-changers, farms, harbors, markets, and many others. 
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics estimates that 4,100 residential homes were destroyed and 17,000 damaged, along with “20 mosques, 25 educational institutions and medical facilities, 31 security offices, 16 government buildings, and 1,500 factories and shops. The Office of the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator pointed out that 16 health facilities and an equal number of ambulances were destroyed or damaged during the 22-day conflict.” (Thalif Deen, Inter Press, January 21, 2009)
A War on the Palestinian People
These numbers only tell part of the story. Israel’s cold-blooded murder of unarmed civilians also points to an onslaught deliberately targeting the Palestinian population.
On January 14, members of the Samouni family living in the village of Zeitoun outside Gaza City were dragged out of their homes and executed by Israeli soldiers—in front of their children. Nine-year-old Abdullah Samouni watched his father being shot dead as he tried to surrender to Israeli forces. “Holding his arms in the air, he said: ‘He was surrendering like this. My father came out and they shot him right away.’” (Telegraph, UK, January 21, 2009)
Khaled Abed Rabbo and his family live in Jabalya in northern Gaza. On January 7 a tank parked outside their home and ordered them out. They obeyed. Then, as Rabbo recounted, “Two soldiers were on the tank eating chips, then one man came out of the tank with a rifle and started shooting the kids.” Two of his daughters were murdered, two-year-old Amal and seven-year-old Suad. A third daughter, four-year-old Samer, sustained critical spinal wounds. His 60-year-old mother was also shot, even as she waved a white headscarf. Their home was destroyed. (The Independent, UK, January 21, 2009)
Palestinians in the southern village of Khuza’a were attacked over a 12-hour period by tanks and bulldozers—killing 14. A survivor said, “By 6am the tanks and bulldozers had reached our house. We went on the roofs and tried to show we were civilians with white flags. Everyone was carrying a white flag. We told them we are civilians. We don’t have any weapons. The soldiers started to destroy the houses even if the people were in them.” Israel shot people waving white flags of surrender, fired on an ambulance trying to rescue the wounded, and even shot white phosphorous shells into the heavily populated area. (Guardian, UK, January 18, 2009)
“Even the humanitarian aid is bombarded by the Israeli air force,” said Kostas Konstantinidis, a Greek doctor working in Gaza. “They are destroying the warehouses where we keep the medical and all the pharmaceutical containers. Even those things, they are bombarding them. They are bombarding hospitals. They are bombarding everything.” (Democracy Now!, January 20, 2009)
Human Rights Watch (January 16, 2009) condemned Israel for using heavy artillery—“which inflict blast and fragmentation damage up to 300 meters away”—in residential neighborhoods of Gaza City: “Firing 155mm shells into the center of Gaza City, whatever the target, will likely cause horrific civilian casualties.”
White Phosphorous — A Terror Weapon
Israel used one of the most savage weapons of war—white phosphorous—in densely-populated areas of Gaza. White phosphorous shells, according to the New York Times, “disperse pieces of felt soaked in phosphorus” in the air upon exploding. Phosphorous is extremely flammable: “It can set buildings on fire. It can stick to the skin and burn all the way down to the bone and kill you. It can be deadly when you inhale it,” a spokesperson for Human Rights Watch explained. Its use against civilians is banned in a protocol to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, making its employment a war crime.
Ms. Abu Halima told the New York Times (January 22, 2009) what it was like when a white phosphorous shell hit her family farm in Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza, creating a firestorm that burned her husband and four of their nine children to death. “Fire came from the bodies of my husband and my children,” she said. “The children were screaming, ‘Fire! Fire!’ and there was smoke everywhere and a horrible, suffocating smell. My 14-year-old cried out, ‘I’m going to die. I want to pray.’ I saw my daughter-in-law melt away.”
Five members of the Halima family were killed, and five others seriously wounded, when a white phosphorous shell hit their home in the town of Atatra on January 3. Dr. Nafiz Abu Shahbah said he “was sure white phosphorous was responsible...wounds at first appeared superficial ‘but it eats at the flesh, it digs deeper and gets to the bone.... The whole body becomes toxic.’” (Times of London, January 21, 2009)
“Send Gaza Decades Into the Past”
On the first day of Israel’s attack on Gaza, Yoav Galant, the commanding officer in Israel’s south, said the assault would “send Gaza decades into the past.” Other Israeli generals talked openly of “disproportionate force” and causing “great damage and destruction” aimed at any peoples, villages, or areas where resistance against Israel takes place. (Jonathan Cook, “Israel’s Doctrine of Destruction,” The National,, Abu Dhabi, January 20, 2009)
Such statements, along with Israeli actions—indeed its entire history—make clear that the gruesome slaughter of Palestinians was conscious and deliberate—the core of a strategy to crush the will of the Palestinian people and shatter Palestinian society.
The Guardian UK analyzed that, “One obvious benefit to Israel of pulverising ‘civilian Palestinian infrastructure’ is that ‘people who lack collective institutions and are reduced to scrabbling for their very survival are easier to dominate.’” (“Israel Wanted a Humanitarian Crisis,” January 20, 2009)
Gaza—Still Strangled
The strangulation of Gaza has not ended; in the aftermath of the slaughter, Israel, backed by the U.S. and Egypt, is still trying to strictly control everything that comes in and out of Gaza to further punish and control the Palestinian people. Only 120 trucks of aid a day are currently being allowed into Gaza for a population of some 1.5 million; according to the ceasefire Israel agreed to with Hamas last June, 750 trucks per day should be allowed. Israel is demanding complete control of aid into Gaza and warns that bombing could resume if Gazans are able to get supplies through tunnels to Egypt.
Two human rights groups petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to evacuate Gaza’s wounded and for delivering electricity to Gaza, whose health, water and sewage systems are near collapse due to Israel’s siege and assault. “The court rejected the petitions without even waiting to hear the arguments against it by the Israeli government.” (Democracy Now!, January 22, 2009)
Obama Administration: New Double-Talk, Same Support for Israel
Barack Obama did not utter a word during Israel’s 22-day slaughter of the Palestinian people. He said he was silent because the U.S. only has one president at a time. Well, now he’s president, so what did he have to say about Israel’s massacre?
“Let me be clear: America is committed to Israel’s security. And we will always support Israel’s right to defend itself against legitimate threats,” Obama stated. “No democracy can tolerate such danger to its people, nor should the international community and neither should the Palestinian people themselves.” (Jerusalem Post, January 22, 2009)
So, Obama—just like Bush and all the system’s representatives—starts from the needs of imperialist empire. And that means firmly supporting Israel—their settler-colonial garrison state in the Middle East.
Only after making THAT starting point clear, did Obama offer hypocritical and hollow sympathy to the victims: “Our hearts go out to Palestinian civilians who are in need of immediate food, clean water, and basic medical care.” This, after refusing to utter a word or do anything to stop Israel from murdering Palestinians and denying them food, water, and medicine.
The people of Gaza are still suffering in excruciating, inhuman, and truly intolerable ways. The efforts to crush them continue, the fighting could resume any time. Mass resistance against these crimes and mass education to expose to people the real nature of what’s going on in Gaza, as well as the nature and history of Israel and how it serves as an outpost of Western imperialism in the Middle East is very urgent. Watch and for news of protests, teach-ins, and other opposition to U.S.-Israeli crimes against Palestine.


This article first appeared on the website of Revolution newspaper.