On the third day of Operation Punching Bag (aka Protective Edge), Israel has stacked up 72 Palestinian corpses like cordwood. Sixteen of them are children, ten are women, and almost none are militants (one senior Hamas leader was killed on the first day). 550 have been wounded.
Israel began amassing its forces around Gaza days before the invasion allowing the militant leaders to go into hiding in underground bunkers and tunnels (like those built by the Vietnamese during the war or the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto).
“We will have to take over Gaza temporarily, for a few weeks, to cut off the strengthening of this terror army,” Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s intelligence minister, told Israel Radio. “If you ask my humble opinion, a significant operation like this is approaching.”
This is not merely an opinion, an invasion is definite according to my Israeli source. It’s only a matter of whether it happens tomorrow or three days from now. But it will happen.
Sheera Frenkel writes that the IAF concedes it has already bombed anything of military value in Gaza. Now it’s pursuing “secondary targets,” which it defines as residential homes! Homes of what it claims are Hamas leaders. But we know that many of these homes will not be those of Hamas leaders, and even those which are will likely contain civilians who will be murdered.
This happened on the first day of the war when neighbors of a Hamas leader moved into his home when the IDF warned it would bomb it. The result was that despite knowing there were civilians inside, the IDF destroyed the home and eight family members were killed. Today, a senior military officer conceded the strike was an error, but an unavoidable one:
“There was nothing to be done, the munition was in the air and could not be diverted,” a senior air force officer said. “Although you see [the family members] running back into the house, there was no way to divert the missile,” he said.
What a load of horsecrap. How long does it take for a missile to reach its target from the moment it’s fired? 2 seconds? Three? So you mean to tell me that when the pilot fired the missile there were no civilians in sight, but that three seconds later they miraculously made their way inside it? Israel has massive aerial surveillance which selects targets and views them throughout the flight of those attacking them. A pilot too can see what he’s attacked. It’s the job of the flight controller to view the target and make out civilians. There’s no way the controller and pilot both missed seeing them. Again, a likely war crime in the making.
The IDF has the quaint idea that calling someone to warn them their home will be destroyed by a massive bomb in five minutes absolves them of any violation of war crimes conventions. This interpretation follows the Israeli penchant for twisting rules for its own benefit, like the character in Alice in Wonderland who says:
A word means precisely what I want it to mean, nothing more and nothing less.
My hope is that there will come a day of reckoning when Israel’s generals and security agents will be told the law means something entirely different than they supposed.
An Israeli friend sent me the flyer I’ve displayed here which was a patriotic broadside distributed by the IDF just as the 1956 Sinai War began. Sixty years later, the echoes of today’s carnage in Gaza still resonates:
The will to win: the first condition for victory!
Tonight our forces will break through to Gaza.
GAZA is a living part of the body of Israel that has been severed from it. A fist thrust toward the State, a base for the Egyptian murderers, a center for the fedayeen, an eternal threat to our security.
Opposite [Gaza] is Nachal Oz, Beeri, Kisufim, Nirim, a string of settlements blossoming on the border with the enemy. Our settlements sit solitary amidst threat and harassment, shelling and death. We’ve protected them on our southern border.
Residents of the Negev! Today the hour has arrived!
Fighters! Tonight we will break through and flood the outposts of the enemy, uprooting the gates of Gaza and break their bolts. As veterans of battle we will uphold the best of our fighting tradition, our military strength and iron will, to strike the enemy and win!
We will battle with him with the full measure of our military and human strength.
Strike the enemy! Return and strike again!
Until he is overthrown by the sword of our unit!
Forward to battle and victory!
–The Unit Commander
Sixty years later. What has changed? Nothing, other than the flowery archaic prose of post-State Hebrew has given way to a more idiomatic contemporary Hebrew. Today, we see the same brutalism. The same false conviction that we are marching onward to ultimate victory. The same hope only meant to be dashed when defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory after the troops go home and everything returns to status quo ante. As I’ve often said before, this is the definition of insanity. Beating your head against the wall believing that if you only did it one more time, that would make all the difference. Israel’s leaders should be in psychiatric clinics, not in the halls of power.
Whenever there is a war, the NY Times sends Steven Erlanger to augment Jody Rudoren and Isabel Kershner. Erlanger is similar in approach to Ethan Bronner, a clear supporter of Israel who sees the Palestinian story as peripheral to his beat. I’ve criticized a number of Erlanger’s more egregious articles. But today, he made a beaut of a mistake:
Only in March, Israeli forces intercepted a ship in the southern Red Sea, 1,000 miles from Israel, that contained a shipment of M-302s that the Israelis said had been intended for their militant adversaries in Gaza. Israel blamed Iran, which supports Hamas and Islamic Jihad, for the shipment. They denied the Israeli accusation.
Since Erlanger is based in Paris, he’s not up to date on Middle East developments. Otherwise he’d know that the claim those weapons were meant for Gaza was made by Israel after it intercepted the ship. However, as often happens in these circumstances, Israeli intelligence made a major error. The shipment, so found a UN panel of experts, was meant for Sudan (where it was headed) and not Gaza. Israel never acknowledged its error. It hoped the rest of the world wouldn’t notice: the standard Israeli bluff. But this means both Erlanger and the Israelis made errors!
Another random note: I’ve noted that the higher the Gaza body count, the more hasbara activity there is on social media. I imagine hasbara worker bees sitting in a conference room at the foreign ministry, keyboard warriors for Zion. They should be earning overtime. What really humors me is when the obvious ones exclaim incredulously: “Hasbara? Me? You must be kidding!”
NOTE: A week ago I published a story about a major Israeli police corruption scandal. The information was provided to me by a source, who called himself “Joe Black” (obviously enamored of Hollywood romantic treacle) I’d never worked with him before. He provided the arrest record of one of the key figures in the investigation which established the accuracy of his claim.
A few days later, Mohamed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped and brutally murdered. The source found a Facebook post published by the Shomron Community Council claiming the lead suspect was Ezra Batzri of Har Nof, Jerusalem. The source promised names of the other suspects which he never provided. He also offered Batzri’s arrest record, which he didn’t provide.
An Israeli blogger tweeted that a source had given him the names of the suspects and Ezra Batzri wasn’t one of them. The real ringleader was a fellow named Yosef Ben David. Ben David’s father, like the possibly fictitious Batzri, is a rabbi. Also, like Batzri, Ben David is a product of disaffected Mizrahi Haredi youth, and follower of La Familia, the notorious racist Beitar Jerusalem fan club. The blogger tweeted three other names of suspects: Israel Yosefian, Yakov Abuhazera and Elad Twito. I understand that three of the six suspect originally arrested have been released. I don’t know whether these individuals are still in custody or were released.
I no longer have full confidence in my source and his identification of the lead suspect. It appears more likely that the blogger is right.
As I’ve written here before, the Hasbara brigade is itching to put one over on me. This may’ve happened in this case, though I have no way to be sure. I’m writing this in the interest of transparency. When I may’ve made an error I act pre-emptively and acknowledge it.