This is the end of the first week of Israel’s war against Gaza. The NY Times has heartbreaking photos of the aftermath of the air attack on a Palestinian rehab center in which two severely disabled Palestinian women were killed and three others injured. Most of the 19 residents were away on the weekend visiting their families, or the carnage would’ve been much greater. The caretaker at the center was badly burned in the attack. She’d only started her job a few weeks before and was terribly grateful for having it, according to her son.
I reported yesterday on a failed Israeli commando raid on a northern Gaza beach where the IDF claims long-range rockets were launched. Hamas claims that it knew about the raid in advance and ambushed Israeli forces. My Israeli source, as I reported last night confirms there was an ambush and that the Shayetet 13 soldiers were repulsed (see above FoxNews report in the midst of the fighting). The fact that the IDF called in helicopter gunships and F-16s to repel the Palestinian attackers indicates the Israeli force was in trouble and needed assistance extricating itself from the field.
Also, the IDF claims four commandos were “lightly injured.” Have you ever heard of lightly wounded soldiers being treated in a hospital’s orthopedic ward? I’m guessing the injuries are worse than reported.
The IDF, naturally, sees the operation differently. It says that it was successful and implicitly attempts to rebut my claim that air power was required to save the commandos’ butts. According to Yisrael HaYom (aka Bibiton):
After the raid ended, the IAF attacked the site and hit it. Purpose of the mission was to neutralize long-range missile launchers. According to a senior army officer, the nature of the target required a commando raid and it was part of the original plan to attack from the air after the commando force had left the area. Also, according to the officer, the commandos were dispatched to gather intelligence and learn what was at the site.
This is a muddy, muddled statement. If you know a site has long-range missile launchers, you don’t have to send out a force to discover what’s there. If you send a force to a target at which you don’t know what you’ll find, you’re asking for trouble. Apparently, this may be what happened. Either the IDF knew what was there or it didn’t. You can’t have it both ways.
Another possibility is that the raid was a probe of Hamas’ defenses to determine how it would react to a larger sea landing of its forces. Or just a probe of Hamas’ defenses to see how they would react. Whatever the original mission, the commandos had their asses handed to them. Now, the IDF is saving face by denying what really happened.
Hamas says its fighters were lying in wait and after four of the Israeli force were wounded they decided to abort the mission and returned to the sea to make their escape. The Palestinians also claimed shelling by air and sea covered the Israeli retreat.
To any readers who would like to claim that my report of the failure of the mission echoes that of Hamas, I remind you that my report last night preceded any Palestinian claims about it. My source knew it had failed before anyone publicly claimed it had.
I also recently reported that the U.S. embassy in Israel had directed U.S. citizens in Gaza seeking to evacuate to contact them to make the necessary arrangements. It appears the embassy messed this operation up quite badly. Hundreds of Americans are now stranded there:
From 6 to 6:30 this morning, foreign nationals in Gaza were asked to arrive at a U.N. facility in Gaza city. From there, diplomats said, they would be moved by bus to the border and evacuated from the Gaza Strip.
…Several hundred Palestinians with dual American citizenship who remained in Gaza Sunday night, unable to leave as fighting there entered its seventh day.
The U.S. embassy called after midnight telling the evacuees they needed to arrive by 6AM that morning at the compound. The problem is that there is no way of getting anywhere in Gaza now. No taxis, no buses. If you go out you’re an open target. So how did the embassy expect everyone to be able to get there inside that 30-minute window? If you didn’t get there, you’re out of luck. You’re stuck for the duration. I’m certain the embassy would not treat American-Jewish citizens this way if an evacuation was necessary in Israel. They would travel to their homes to pick them up if necessary.
Sheera Frenkel tells the story of a Palestinian-American stranded in Gaza with two young babies. She has been trying to leave Gaza for weeks, but could not because in order to leave via Egypt you have to bribe the border officials. The U.S. embassy refused to help her at first, until the staff of TED, where she is a fellow, intervened. Then the embassy did contact her, but behaved incompetently and ineffectually. Now she’s missed her last chance to escape the fighting, left high and dry by the almighty U.S. government, which seems to have little concern for its Arab-American citizens in harm’s way.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.