Ground operation day 6: IDF and civilian casualties, UN condemnations, rockets and IDF onslaught continue

The 6th day of the ground operation of Operation Protective Edge has drawn to a close and with it comes the sad news of 5 more IDF casualties over the last 2 days:

On Tuesday evening 2 soldiers were killed:

Capt. Dimitri Levitas HY’D

The IDF releases the name of one of the soldiers killed Tuesday evening in the Gaza Strip, Captain Dmitri Levitas, 26, of Jerusalem, a company commander in the Armored Corps who was killed by sniper fire.

Later on, the name of the second soldier was released:

First Lieutenant Natan Cohen, a 23-year-old platoon commander in the Armored Corps, is named as the second IDF fatality from Tuesday evening.

3 troops killed Wednesday morning:

Three Israeli soldiers were killed in the Gaza Strip this morning during a raid on a building, the IDF said.

All three belonged to the IDF’s Paratroopers Unit. According to the IDF, they were killed upon entering a booby-trapped house in the coastal enclave.

Lt. Paz Eliyahu HY”D

St. Sgt. Li Mat HY’D

St. Sgt. Shahar Dauber HY’D

22-year-old Paz Elyahu, from Evron, 19-year-old Li Mat, from Eilat, and 20-year-old Shahar Dauber, from Ginegar, were killed by an explosive device activated against forces in the Gaza Strip. The IDF says Elyahu was posthumously promoted to the rank of lieutenant, while Mat and Dauber were both posthumously promoted to the rank of staff sergeant.

The soldiers’ entry into the house triggered an explosion that caused part of the house to cave in. A gunbattle between armed militants and Israeli soldiers then ensued, leaving seven soldiers wounded, two of them seriously.

The remaining soldiers evacuated the dead and wounded under fire, and they were transported to Israel by helicopter.

The soldiers’ families have been notified.

Altogether, 28 soldiers were injured in operations throughout the Gaza Strip today, two of them seriously, ten of them moderately and 16 lightly.

Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, 32 soldiers have been killed.

May their memories be for a blessing and may their deaths not be in vain.

A foreign worker from Thailand was also killed today by mortar fire:

A foreign worker dies from injuries sustained by mortar fire from the Gaza Strip, the Ynet news website reports.

The worker was apparently in a greenhouse in a southern town when the attack occurred, and was subsequently evacuated to Ashkelon’s Barzilai hospital.

This brings the number of civilians killed to 3.

The number of wounded soldiers continues to rise with over 100 hospitalized:

Over 100 IDF soldiers are hospitalized for wounds sustained during Operation Protective Edge at medical centers around the country.

Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center is treating 61 troops, with three in serious condition, and 19 moderately wounded.

In the Sheba Medical Center, 21 IDF soldiers are presently hospitalized — one for serious injuries, 12 for moderate wounds, while eight are lightly injured.

Eighteen soldiers — two in critical condition, and four sustaining moderate wounds — are being treated at the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, while 11 other soldiers receive care at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center.

May they all have a full and speedy recovery, a refuah shlema.

Max Steinberg HY’D

Yesterday the funeral of lone soldier Max Steinberg, like the funeral of Nissim Sean Carmeli, was attended by 30,000 people who turned out to support his family and pay their respects for his sacrifice:

Most of the participants in the funeral did not know Max. They were citizens who decided to honor him for his sacrifice, following requests to do so which circulated in the media.

30,000 attend funeral of Max Steinberg HY’D

He was eulogized by a friend who said: “I remember your smile, and instead of crying, I laugh. You are a legend. I have lost a brother and a dear friend.”

His sister said: “You are a hero for thousands of Jews today.”

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said: “Over 30,000 people came to give you the honor of a hero. The strength of the Jewish people lies in people like you. This week, we buried soldiers from Morocco, Russia and Ethiopia here. Soldiers who fought for the Jewish nation.”

“We will never forget the soldiers who are buried here at Har Herzl, which overlooks our capital, Jerusalem.”

MK Rabbi Dov Lipman, himself an Oleh, read out a beautiful eulogy

“Max made his decision to move back to Israel while on a Birthright trip to Israel in 2012, specifically while standing here, on this mountain, when he came across the grave of a fallen soldier who came from American to fight in the IDF.  What sparked inside of Max when he had that experience?

“I think the answer can be found in words that Max’s mother related to the press in the United States – ‘He felt that if this was his calling, that being on the sidelines, or even in the backseat, was just not going to work,’ – Max heeded the call of Moses as we read in this past week’s Torah portion:  ‘Will your brothers go to war while you remain here?’

There’s much more. Read it all. It will bring tears to your eyes. Arutz Sheva also has a beautiful photo essay and video of the funeral.

Other highlights of the day:

IDF publishes clip showing Hamas gunmen in ambulance

The IDF says in a statement that it observed Hamas fighters use an ambulance to flee the scene of combat earlier on Tuesday.

“This morning, soldiers from the Paratroopers brigade encountered a militant squad, who were then targeted by an IAF aircraft,” the IDF says. “A number of other terrorists were identified fleeing the scene in an ambulance. The IDF did not target the ambulance in light of the possibility uninvolved civilians were in it.”

The spokesperson’s office uploaded a video of the fighters entering the ambulance here.

On a related matter, the IDF bombed Wafa Hospital today -   a move which, despite giving warning in advance, is sure to arouse the ire of the human wrongs rights groups despite their silence until now about Hamas abusing the neutrality of these sites for their own nefarious purposes:

The IDF launches strikes on the al-Wafa hospital in the Gaza Strip which, it says, serves as a Hamas command center and rocket-launching site.

“This in light of several occasions in which fire was opened at IDF forces from within the hospital grounds, and despite repeated warnings against such activities, and notifications to civilians to vacate the premises,” it says in a statement.

“Hamas terrorists have been intentionally abusing the hospital and other international protected symbols to indiscriminately attack Israel and its civilians. The IDF is determined in preventing the ongoing aggression by Hamas that is directed by a strategy of exploitation and abuse of the civilian population and its wellbeing,” IDF Spokesman Peter Lerner says.

See the video of the IDF warning Wafa Hospital to evacuate and then the actual bombing, including secondary explosions indicating there were explosives hidden in the hospital (a clear war crime):

The IDF is slowly gaining control of the Shejaiya neighbourhood, scene of the most intense fighting and a Hamas stronghold:

“Our soldiers are there and are advancing carefully, destroying tunnels, and searching for weapons,” and have destroyed 120 targets in the area to date, he says.

The IDF killed 30 “terrorists” in the past 24 hours, and 210 overall since the ground offensive was launched last Thursday, the army said in a statement. Twenty-eight operatives are in Israeli custody.

The army has uncovered 28 tunnels in the Gaza Strip, and completely demolished six tunnels as well as 57 tunnel entrances, the IDF says.

Those numbers were updated later in the day:

Since the beginning of the ground operation in the Gaza Strip, more than 28 underground tunnels have been uncovered, along 60 access shafts leading into them.

Some good news:

Israel takes out Islamic Jihad field chiefs

The Shin Bet announces it has managed, along with the army, to either kill or incapacitate four mid- to high-level Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders.

The four are the commander of the Khan Younis area, Akram Shaar, who was behind a series of attacks against Israeli soldiers, the Shin Bet says, and in charge of rocket fire from the area; Mahmoud Ziada, a resident of Jabalya, who had served as a battalion commander in the northern sector; Sha’aban Dahduh, of Gaza City, also a battalion commander, whom the Shin Bet refers to as “outstanding”; and Saeed Ma’amar, also a battalion commander, in the Rafah brigade.

Also: Top Hamas commander rumoured killed.

On the political front, former minister MK Danny Danon says Israel should cancel its security coordination with the PA.

The recently fired deputy defense minister writes in an op-ed for Foreign Policy: “Those among us who naively thought we could outsource the security and safety of our citizens to the Palestinian Authority should now understand that this was a dangerous gambit. While we will continue to encourage the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria to take responsibility for their day-to-day civilian lives, we can no longer allow the PA even the smallest amount of autonomy when it comes to anti-terror efforts. Only by allowing the Israel Defense Forces and our other security services to operate freely in every corner of Judea and Samaria will we be able ensure that all the residents of this land receive the level of security they deserve.”

He’s absolutely right. With the PA denouncing Israel, inciting violence against us and aiding and abetting Hamas, they are no peace partners. They are partners in crime with Hamas.

Just before the cabinet meeting this evening, the dovish Finance Minister Yair Lapid said that Israel may need to retake Gaza.

“We won’t stand aside and watch Israeli citizens being hurt and tunnels being dug to kibbutzim, to children’s houses or dining rooms,” he tells Channel 2.

Lapid stresses that it is Israel, not Hamas, that is deciding the pace of the fighting in Gaza.

“We are targeting the heads of Hamas as well. The heads of Hamas would do well to know that even their tunnels won’t save them,” he says.

Asked whether Israel distinguishes between the military and political leadership of Hamas, Lapid says there is “no difference” between “the political and military wings of a terrorist organization.”

On the diplomatic front, as expected, the UN Human Wrongs Rights Council condemned Israel’s actions as war crimes. Israel in turn condemned the Human Wrongs Rights Council resolution as a travesty:

Israel harshly condemns a statement made by the United Nations Human Rights Council earlier today accusing Israel of committing war crimes in the Gaza Strip and calling for an investigation into its operation there, saying the council’s decision is a “travesty” that should be “rejected by decent people everywhere.”

“Rather than investigate Hamas, which is committing a double war crime by firing rockets at Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians, the HRC calls for an investigation of Israel, which has gone to unprecedented lengths to keep Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way, including by dropping leaflets, making phone falls and sending text messages,” reads a statement from Jerusalem on the matter.

“The HRC should be launching an investigation into Hamas’s decision to turn hospitals into military command centers, use schools as weapons depots and place missile batteries next to playgrounds, private homes and mosques. By failing to condemn Hamas’s systematic use of human shields and by blaming Israel for the deaths that are caused by this grotesque human shields policy, the HRC is sending a message to Hamas and terror organizations everywhere that using civilians as human shields is an effective strategy.”

The indefatigable Hillel Neuer of UN Watch addressed the UNHRC and defended Israel in the face of interruptions from the usual suspects (Palestinians, Syria and Iran). Watch his impressive performance in this video:

This is particularly relevant since for the second time, rockets were discovered in an UNRWA school:

“As soon as the rockets were discovered, UNRWA staff were withdrawn from the premises, and so we are unable to confirm the precise number of rockets. The school is situated between two other UNRWA schools that currently each accommodate 1,500 internally displaced persons,” the organization said.

UNRWA said it “strongly and unequivocally condemns the group or groups responsible for this flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law,” but did not name any Palestinian entities, like Hamas, which rules the coastal enclave.

“The Agency immediately informed the relevant parties and is pursuing all possible measures for the removal of the objects in order to preserve the safety and security of the school. UNRWA will launch a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident,” the agency said.

The statement is almost identical to one released after the last hidden rockets case, when the organization found 20 rockets in another Gaza educational facility on July 16th, in the midst of fighting in Operation Protective Edge.

A day later, Israel’s UN Ambassador said he was certain that more such facilities housed Hamas weaponry.

“Yesterday, UNRWA admitted that it mysteriously found 20 missiles in one of its schools,” Ambassador Ron Prosor said on Friday in an emergency Security Council session on Gaza.

“I’m sure that if UNRWA takes the time to check its other facilities, it will discover that this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Hamas is using UN facilities to commit a double war crime by targeting Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians.”

UNRWA has been up to other nasty stuff, as Elder of Ziyon reports that they praised the smuggling of cement into Gaza back in 2011:

OK, you might be thinking, UNRWA surely didn’t know that the cement it was praising was being used for building terror tunnels, right?

But as Israel Behind the News reported last year, UNRWA’s administrators union is dominated by – Hamas:

[T]he “administrators union” in UNRWA fell into the hands of Hamas in the union elections which were held in UNRWA facilities in 1999, 2003, 2006, 2009 and later again in 2012.

In other words, Hamas controls funds and supplies that are dispatched to UNRWA in Gaza.

So, as I had reported recently, lots of the cement that was supposedly earmarked for UNRWA projects was being diverted to Hamas tunnels – and now we see that in all probability, some UNRWA officials were complicit with this crime.

I know we shouldn’t be surprised by this perfidy but it shocks me anew each time.

Interestingly, Britain seem to be fairly supportive of Israel at the moment, without the usual condemnations that we have become used to hearing. The British Foreign Secretary arrived in Israel this afternoon and the redoubtable Colonel Richard Kemp voiced support for Israel’s operation in Gaza.

And just a catch-up from yesterday’s news, here are two articles about Ban Ki Moon’s shameful message to Israel, and Binyamin Netanyahu’s response:

Anne Bayefsky in the Jerusalem Post writes about Ban’s shameful message at Israel’s hour of need:

It is hard to imagine two more unwelcome, uninvited visitors to Israel in the middle of a war against Palestinian terrorists than UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry.  But even more unwelcome is that they are working together.

Their common cause is that although Israel has a right of self-defense in theory, Israel ought to be prevented from exercising this right in practice.

Events over the past week have provided an extraordinary demonstration of this reprehensible nexus.

Ban Ki-moon said nothing about Hamas having failed to protect Palestinian civilians.  He said nothing about Hamas having put Palestinian civilians directly in harm’s way.  In fact he said nothing about any “atrocious action” by Hamas.  He also made no demand that Hamas “restrain” itself from fulfilling its stated goal, namely, that “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it.”

For the UN, no move that Israel makes short of surrender to the Palestinian mob, will ever be sufficient.

One rule for Israel and another for everybody else, evidently appeals to both the UN and the Obama administration. A shameful scheme in Israel’s hour of need.

Daniel Greenfield at Front Page Magazine mocks Ban’s request of Israel to discuss the root cause of the conflict:

Maybe the Secretary General can discuss the root cause of the Korean War with Kim Jong Un. That should be a fun chat.

The one word that Ban Ki-moon doesn’t use in his remarks is the H-word. Hamas. And without that everything he has to say is empty idealism.

Oh I know the underlying logic. Reduce the whole thing to the usual terms like “occupation” and “despair”. Empower the PLO by giving them more money. And assume that Muslims in the West Bank and Gaza will then vote PLO instead of Hamas.

The problem with that is it’s based on a series of false assumptions. Hamas violence isn’t a response to the blockade. The blockade is a response to Hamas violence.

Netanyahu responded by reminding Ban Ki Moon of all that Israel had gone through:

Netanyahu told Ban that “no country could sit idly by while its civilians are being increasingly and indiscriminately targeted.” He then called on the international community to hold Hamas accountable for not accepting any of the cease-fire proposals that have been offered to date, such as the Egyptian initiative and the Red Cross temporary cease-fire, and for committing the “double war crime” of using Palestinian civilians as human shields whilst deliberately targeting Israeli civilians. “The people of Gaza are the victims of the brutal Hamas regime,” he said.

The prime minister also told the UN secretary-general that cement Israel delivered to Gaza under international pressure was used to build a tunnel leading to an Israeli kindergarten with the intention of blowing it up or murdering Israeli children.

Meanwhile the FAA ban on flights to Israel has been extended (no surprise there)  but British Airways and Israeli airlines are continuing to fly.  Ovda airport near Eilat was also opened for business but it’s not clear how many flights will be using it.

There’s much more at the Times of Israel live-blog, particularly about more anti-Israel demonstrations around the world.

Let us hope for a quiet night and better news tomorrow.

May Hashem protect our soldiers and watch over all of us.

Posted in Defence and Military, Israel news, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The FAA ban on Ben Gurion airport – blackmailing Israel to sign a one-sided ceasefire?

Fly El Al. Only Israeli airlines are flying to Ben Gurion

The shocking and outrageous announcement by the FAA that it was instituting a ban on flying in or out of Ben Gurion Airport for 24 hours sounds like nothing so much as a not-so-subtle Mafia threat, as if they were saying “Nice little airport you got there. Shame if something happened to your burgeoning tourist industry. Just sign on the dotted line right here and we’ll make it all go away”.

I wasn’t sure if I was being paranoid – after all, a rocket or debris did fall on a house in Yehud and partially destroy it, and Yehud is but a few kilometers from the airport. However, rockets have been falling on the center of Israel for almost 3 weeks now – so why now?

Using the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine also doesn’t wash. That was brought down apparently by a surface-to-air missile whereas the house in Yehud was hit by a surface to surface rocket. Yes, it might hit a plane as it takes off or lands, but the chances of that are close to zero. As I said above, rockets have been flying at the Tel Aviv region for nearly 3 weeks now; in Pillar of Defence rockets were similarly shot at Tel Aviv, and the airport was not closed by anyone outside of Israel.

The well-known influential writer J.E. Dyer puts this case much better than me. With a snarky headline she writes “Finally, Obama leads from the front: The Hamas-FAA move against Ben Gurion“. Here’s an extensive excerpt from the article (emphases are mine) but read the whole thing:

For whatever reason, the Obama administration wasn’t willing to wait and lead from behind on this one.  Within hours of a Hamas rocket landing near Ben Gurion airport – for the first time in the current conflict – the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an order banning U.S. carriers from operating there.  As many readers will have heard, a Delta Airlines flight headed for Ben Gurion on Tuesday had to turn around over the Mediterranean and divert to Paris.

The ban is in effect for 24 hours, starting at 12:15 EDT on the 22nd.  The ban will be revisited at the end of the 24 hours (which at this point is about 10 hours from now).

A number of European nations have followed suit.

An unjustified political action

Pundits and other advocates have been swift to condemn this U.S. action, a serious measure of economic isolation which will deny Israel millions of dollars in commercial revenues even if it lasts only 24 hours.  Eugene Kontorovich points out that the message is prejudicial and the timing is suspicious, with John Kerry heading for Israel to try to broker a ceasefire.

The subtext here is that Israel has a sword at its neck: face a private-sector no-fly zone or agree to a cease-fire that lets Hamas keep its rockets, and thus close Ben Gurion Airport again at the time of its choosing. It is a lose-lose proposition. …

Moreover, the timing of the FAA’s absurd and unjustified warning seems to have more to do with Kerry’s visit to the region to impose a cease-fire on Israel. Until his administration’s flight ban, that effort seemed entirely futile.

The message is unsubtle.  “Nice commercial hub you got, there, Bibi.  Be a shame if anything happened to it.”

I would cite the example of Pakistan, where there have been multiple, very serious attacks on commercial airports in recent months, including an attack on an airliner in Peshawar, this one on the airport in Karachi, and an earlier one involving Taliban rocket fire in Peshawar.  In terms of the type of threat posed, the Pakistan Taliban is a fairly exact analogy to what Hamas can threaten Ben Gurion in Lod, Israel with – except that Israel does a much better job of securing Ben Gurion against the Hamas threat.  In none of the instances in Pakistan has the FAA banned U.S. carriers from flying in and out of the Pakistani airports.  At most, it has issued safety warnings.

Ordinarily – as with Pakistan – the U.S. would take such things into account and avoid issuing flight bans against an ally’s airport.  As an “abundance of caution,” the flight ban on Ben Gurion is a psychotic one in comparison with the FAA’s use of its judgment elsewhere.  See the Special Notices here for the FAA’s ongoing warnings for U.S. carriers about air space in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and North Korea.  And note that in spite of the much greater potential threat to commercial aircraft in Syria and Iraq (for example) than in Israel, the prohibitions for U.S. carriers are not absolute in either nation.

The prohibition on Ben Gurion is uniquely stringent, and inconsistent with FAA practices elsewhere.  It also had to be approved by Obama.  Israel is an ally, one of America’s closest partners in the world.  Cutting off her commercial airport from U.S. carriers is inherently a presidential-level decision, and Obama is responsible whether he made it or not.

Gatestone Institute suggests that the Hamas-FAA move against Ben Gurion – my formulation; that’s essentially what it is – has effectively eliminated any viable “two-state solution.”  Israel can’t tolerate the existence of a neighboring state that can hold the life’s blood of her economy at risk whenever it wishes – especially if Israel’s own chief ally doesn’t back Israel’s interests up, but instead throws in with her enemies.
Ironically for Obama and Kerry, however, what their little Hamas-FAA gambit has done is liberate Israel from the constraints of the Oslo mindset.  Whatever the ceasefire arrangement is, it will be temporary.  And everyone except Barack Obama and John Kerry will understand that Israel – along with all the other parties – will develop a new goal and a new strategy coming out of this conflict.  The likelihood is much stronger than it was three weeks ago that that new goal will not involve a “two-state solution.”

J.E. Dyer is not the only one suspicious about the Americans’ motive:

But is this really just a safety question? Via Israel Matzav:

WorldNetDaily’s Aaron Klein argues that it may not be.

Behind the scenes, several Jerusalem diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity questioned whether the FAA flight-ban was in part a tactic to press Israel into a truce with Hamas. A cease-fire would tentatively stop Hamas’ rocketing of the Jewish state.

Kerry is currently in Egypt in an attempt to negotiate a truce.

State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf suggested to reporters Tuesday that Kerry may stay in the Middle East until progress is made toward a cease-fire.

Except that the last three ‘cease fires’ did not stop Hamas’ rockets, and it’s Hamas that is unwilling to accept an unconditional cease fire (which Israelis are quite pleased about, but that’s a separate story).

Former NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg

All is not lost however. Former NY Mayor Bloomberg is flying to Israel on El Al on a solidarity mission:

US billionaire Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday he was jetting into Tel Aviv to show solidarity with Israel, calling for a US flight ban to be lifted immediately.

Bloomberg urged the US Federal Aviation Administration to reverse the ban, saying it had handed Hamas an “undeserved victory” in a more than two-week conflict with Israel.

He announced in a statement via his official Twitter account that he was boarding an Israeli airlines flight.

“This evening I will be flying on El Al to Tel Aviv to show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel,” he wrote.

He called Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion the “best protected airport in the world” where El Al flights had continued safely despite the European and North American hiatus.

“The flight restrictions are a mistake that hands Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately.

Kol Hakavod to Mr. Bloomberg. Halevai (if only) he was the President of the USA!

Meanwhile, Israel, as improvisational as ever, has opened up Ovda Airport near Eilat to handle international flights:

The Transportation Ministry announces that foreign carriers concerned about the security situation may land and depart from the Ovda airport located some 60 kilometers (40 miles) north of Eilat, beginning at noon.

Transportation Minister Israel Katz calls the FAA decision to ground flights “inappropriate” and “unfortunate.”

“There is no reason to cancel the flights to and from Ben Gurion Airport,” he says.

I would use much stronger and ruder words than “unfortunate and inappropriate”. Just as well I’m not a diplomat.

However I wonder how long it will take people to realise that Ovda is at least as dangerous as Ben Gurion. Look at its proximity to the Sinai, teeming with murderous Jihadi terrorists:

PM Netanyahu spoke to John Kerry (waste of time in my opinion) to ask him to rescind the FAA ban:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday evening, and asked him to help restore regular flights to Israel from the US.

Katz called on American aviation companies to return to normal functioning, stressing that Ben-Gurion Airport was safe for take-offs and landings, and that there was no security concern for passenger planes.

“There is no reason for the American companies to stop their flights and give a prize to terror,” he said.

Hamas has explicitly targeted the airport in hopes of stopping or slowing air traffic.

What Netanyahu doesn’t say is that it appears the Obama Administration’s explicit aim is davka to reward to Hamas. It is becoming more obvious by the day.  In any event his request was shot down:

The final irony about this whole scandal?

Shame a rocket didn’t hit his plane…

Posted in Defence and Military, International relations, Israel news, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

The disproportionate hatred of Israel

This post was originally going to be yet another article about media bias against Israel, but as I began compiling links it dawned on me (my brain is on a go-slow through internet-overload) that this media bias is but a reflection of a general irrational hatred of Israel that is prevalent in many European countries.

This hostility centers around several aspects concerning Israel and comes to the boil whenever Israel acts to defend itself against the vicious terrorists determined to destroy it.

The most conspicuous complaint about Israel’s self-defence is the accusation of disproportionate response” which (as I’ve written previously) arouses particular ire amongst Israel’s allies as well as its enemies:

Dismissing that accusation we have The Doctrine of Proportionality by Shoshana Bryen at the Gatestone Institute:

An Israeli journalist called Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system “unsportsmanlike.” He wondered what FIFA would say “if Germany, with its superior economy and industry, were to replace Manuel Neuer with a bionic goalkeeper… capable of calculating where each Argentine ball will come from, the exact position to stand in and amount of force needed to block it… On the modern battlefield (Israel) is a bionic Germany.”

How unsportsmanlike!

Even among Israel’s friends – and some Israelis – a “yes, but…” response is common. “Yes” Hamas started it; “Yes” Hamas puts military infrastructure in civilian neighborhoods; “Yes” Israel is entitled to self-defense, “Yes” the Israelis warn Palestinians. “But” more than 240 Palestinians have been killed to date and only one Israeli has died directly from rocket fire.

Isn’t that the definition of “disproportionate?” No. It isn’t.

Proportionality in international law is not about equality of death or civilian suffering, or even about firepower returned being equal in sophistication or lethality to firepower received. Proportionality weighs the military necessity of an action against the suffering that the action might cause to enemy civilians in the vicinity.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, investigated allegations of war crimes during 2003 invasion of Iraq, and in 2006 published an open letter containing his findings. Included was this section on proportionality:

“Under international humanitarian law and the Rome Statute, the death of civilians during an armed conflict, no matter how grave and regrettable does not constitute a war crime…. even when it is known that some civilian deaths or injuries will occur. A crime occurs if there is an intentional attack directed against civilians (principle of distinction) or an attack is launched on a military objective in the knowledge that the incidental civilian injuries would be clearly excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage (principle of proportionality).”

These talking points are extremely useful when countering such arguments in the media.

Another common argument against Israel – and this is against its very existence rather than its actions – is the “Shrinking Palestine” argument.  Jews Down Under tell us how to counter the “Shrinking Palestine Maps Lie”:

A timely piece posted with the permission of Edgar Davidson from the Blog of the same name. Please check it out.

One of the most pernicious and common lies propagated by anti-Israeli activists is the so-called ‘shrinking maps’ of Palestine (see bottom of this article). As with most anti-Israel propaganda (like “Israelis are baby-killers” whereas in fact Israel does everything to avoid any civilian casualties while Palestinians specifically target young children; and “Israel is an apartheid state” whereas Israel is the only country in the Middle East to provide full rights for all religious groups while the Palestinian Authority allows no Jews at all)  the claims are a  perfect inversion of reality.

The map demonstrates  the extent to which it is Israel that has been shrinking since 1973, in its desperate but increasingly futile hope to trade ‘land for peace’:

Shrinking Israel maps

Shrinking Israel maps

Now compare that factual reality with the propaganda maps that lie (see also Elder of Ziyon on this):

Shrinking Palestine Lie

Shrinking Palestine Lie

These maps are based on the completely false premise that, prior to 1947 there was an Arab state of Palestine. In fact the Palestine that was promised to the Jews as part of the Balfour declaration was the British mandate territory that includes what later become the state of Jordan (my map above top left). There was not – and never has been – an Arab state of Palestine even though, between 1948 and 1967 there was no ‘occupied territories’ of the West Bank or Gaza since these areas were then under the full control of Jordan and Egypt respectively. The Palestinian Arabs living there during that period never called for an independent state of their own.

Read the whole article to get an idea of how history is turned on its head and reversed in order to paint Israel in the worst possible light.

Of course as expected, in the light of Israel’s temerity in refusing to commit national suicide, anti-Israel demonstrations have been taking place around the world, and they have taken a very nasty antisemitic turn (again, as expected).

The worst protests have been taking place in France and they resemble nothing as much as a classic pogrom:

 Footage has emerged of anti-Israel protesters rioting in Paris as they fought running battles with French riot police Saturday.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Sarcelles, north of Paris, July 20, 2014

The violence came as far-left and Islamist extremists defied a ban on protests over the conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in Gaza, after a previous anti-Israel rally turned ugly when hundreds of extremists marched through a Jewish neighborhood shouting anti-Semitic slogans and attacked a synagogue. Dozens of Jewish youth mobilized to fight back and managed to hold off the attackers until police arrived.

French authorities responded to the violence by banning further demonstrations in a bid to calm tensions, despite fierce criticism and accusations of stifling free speech. French President Francois Hollande defended the move, and threatened that “those who want at any cost to protest will be held accountable.”

Also on Saturday, anti-Israel rioters once again attacked a synagogue in Paris’s Sarcelles neighborhood, hurling a molotov cocktail in a failed attempt to set it alight. The firebomb caused light damage to the building, but attackers did not manage to break into the synagogue after Jewish youths mobilized to protect it, some of them wielding iron bars and other makeshift weapons to fight-off the assault.

It’s gratifying to note that the French government have both condemned the violence and banned such demonstrations:

“It is unacceptable to target synagogues or shops simply because they are managed by Jews,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters during a visit to Sarcelles, which is also home to large non-Jewish immigrant populations.

“Nothing can justify anti-Semitism, noting can justify that kind of violence. This will be fought and sanctioned,” he said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manuel Valls has denounced a “new form of anti-Semitism” on the Internet that he said was spreading among youth in working-class neighborhoods.

In Germany the protests took a neo-Nazi slant when cries of “Gas the Jews” were heard at some demonstrations. The linked article gives details about anti-semitic protests in other countries too, such as the Netherlands and Morocco. The New York Times too has an article about the rise of European antisemitism in the wake of the IDF incursion into Gaza.

Britain too is not immune from these anti-Semitic protests against Israel, as Stand for Peace explains how Neo-Nazis took center stage at London anti-Israel protests:

Prominent Holocaust deniers took centre stage during recent anti-Israel demonstrations in London, where participants included such prominent neo-Nazis as James Thring and Lady Michèle Renouf, as well as members of the far-Right Neturei Karta sect. The protest was organised by a variety of far-Left and extreme Islamist organisations, including War on WantPalestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition, Islamic Forum of Europe, British Muslim InitiativePalestinian Forum in Britain and Friends of Al Aqsa [click links to read Stand for Peace's profiles of these groups]

(I mentioned this protest which Richard Millett documented in my post last week)

The international media have been fanning the flames, even if unwittingly (though I’m pretty sure it is very witting indeed), of this new antisemitism masquerading as anti-Israel sentiment. Just read the latest articles on CAMERA, Honest Reporting, BBC Watch and CiF Watch to get an idea. (Warning: may induce severe depression or blood-pressure problems).

Now that we’ve waded through all the nasty stuff it is refreshing to come upon a wonderful article, written by Brendan O’Neill (a non-Jew) in Spiked who remarks “There’s something very ugly in this rage against Israel“:

Why are Western liberals always more offended by Israeli militarism than by any other kind of militarism? It’s extraordinary. France can invade Mali and there won’t be loud, rowdy protests by peaceniks in Paris. David Cameron, backed by a whopping 557 members of parliament, can order airstrikes on Libya and British leftists won’t give over their Twitterfeeds to publishing gruesome pics of the Libyan civilians killed as a consequence. President Obama can resume his drone attacks in Pakistan, killing 13 people in one strike last month, and Washington won’t be besieged by angry anti-war folk demanding ‘Hands off Pakistan’. But the minute Israel fires a rocket into Gaza, the second Israeli politicians say they’re at war again with Hamas, radicals in all these Western nations will take to the streets, wave hyperbolic placards, fulminate on Twitter, publish pictures of dead Palestinian children, publish the names and ages of everyone ‘MURDERED BY ISRAEL’, and generally scream about Israeli ‘bloodletting’. (When the West bombs another country, it’s ‘war’; when Israel does it, it’s ‘bloodletting’.)

Anyone possessed of a critical faculty must at some point have wondered why there’s such a double standard in relation to Israeli militarism, why missiles fired by the Jewish State are apparently more worthy of condemnation than missiles fired by Washington, London, Paris, the Turks, Assad, or just about anyone else on Earth.

But during this latest Israeli assault on Gaza, we haven’t only seen these double standards come back into play – we have also witnessed anti-Israel sentiment becoming more visceral, more emotional, more unhinged and even more prejudiced than it has ever been, to such an extent that, sadly, it is now becoming very difficult to tell where anti-Zionism ends and anti-Semitism begins.

So in the latest rage against Israel, it isn’t only the Israeli state or military that have come in for some loud flak from so-called radicals – so have the Israeli people, and even the Jews.

How has this happened? How has opposing Israeli militarism gone from being one facet of a broader anti-imperialist position, as it was in the 1980s, to being the main, and sometimes only, focus of those who claim to be anti-war? Why does being opposed to Israel so often and so casually tip over into expressions of disgust with the Israeli people and with the Jews more broadly? It’s because, today, rage with Israel is not actually a considered political position. It is not a thought-through take on a conflict zone in the Middle East and how that conflict zone might relate to realpolitik or global shifts in power. Rather, it has become an outlet for the expression of a general feeling of fury and exhaustion with everything – with Western society, modernity, nationalism, militarism, humanity. Israel has been turned into a conduit for the expression of Western self-loathing, Western colonial guilt, Western self-doubt. It has been elevated into the most explicit expression of what are now considered to be the outdated Western values of militaristic self-preservation and progressive nationhood, and it is railed against and beaten down for embodying those values. It is held responsible, not simply for repressing the Palestinian desire for statehood, but for continuing to pursue virtues that we sensible folk in the rest of the West have apparently outgrown and for consequently being the source of war and terrorism not only in the Middle East but pretty much everywhere. A poll of Europeans discovered that most now consider Israel to be the key source of global instability.

This is where we can see what the new anti-Zionism shares in common with the old anti-Semitism: both are about finding one thing in the world, whether it’s a wicked state or a warped people, against which the rest of us might rage and pin the blame for every political problem on Earth.

The article is brilliant. There’s so much more there. Go and read it all.

Another non-Jew who is an indefatigable defendant of Israel is Pat Condell who spares no words in his snarky video “No peace in the Middle East? Blame Israel”:

To conclude on a slightly more optimistic note, Daniel Pipes questions whether indeed millions are protesting Israel’s actions:

  1. There are no “millions” involved. Far from it. Using RT’s own numbers, we find them significantly smaller: 17 participants; more than 10,000; 1,300; dozens; 4,000; and 150 demonstrators.
  2. The protests are hardly worldwide. RT lists them as having taken place in the United States, Argentina, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, France, Germany, and Australia.

Further research finds additional protests having occurred in Chile, Iceland, Belgium, Austria, Poland, *Tunisia, Greece, *Turkey, *Lebanon, Israel, *Egypt, *Jordan, South Africa, *Indonesia, and Japan. (* means Muslim-majority countries)

Aggregating all these numbers, one finds that:

  1. RT’s estimate that 6 demonstrations included a total of about 15,500 participants would mean that there were an average of some 2,600 protesters in each.
  2. Demonstrations have taken part in 23 countries of which 6, or about 25 percent, have Muslim-majority populations.

I’m not sure whether Pipes’ argument is substantive or merely statistical. If he is correct, then it is simply the anti-Israel media (surprise) that is magnifying the numbers to create more anti-Israel feeling.

As to what the solution is, I’m not sure there is one or if there ever will be one. Antisemitism is almost as old as the world itself.  Start from the Bible when Abraham was thrown into the furnace, continue on through Laban, slavery in Egypt and on to the present day.

Antisemitism is like a virus that mutates with every season or era, and thus no vaccine will ever be able to cure it. We just have to protest and act against it as much as possible and then to  learn to live with it and protect ourselves against it.

Posted in Antisemitism, Defence and Military, International relations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

UPDATED: Ground operation day 5 – 2 more soldiers killed, Hamas claims to have abducted soldier, IDF names him as Oron Shaul

A soldier salutes at the funeral of St. Sgt. Moshe Malko at Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem

The news so far for the 5th day of the ground operation of Operation Protective Edge (when will this war get a new name?) is that another two soldiers were killed in yesterday’s fighting, and Hamas have been claiming since the beginning of the week that they have abducted a soldier. It is fairly clear, though unconfirmed, that the soldier they claim to hold is no longer alive.

UPDATE: The army has named the missing soldier, believed KIA (killed in action) abducted, as Oron Shaul:

The IDF says the missing soldier who is believed to have died in the Gaza Strip on Sunday but whose body has not yet been identified is 19-year-old Oron Shaul from Poria.

Oron Shaul, believed to be killed and his body abducted by Hamas in Gaza

Oron Shaul, believed to be killed and his body abducted by Hamas in Gaza

Shaul and six other soldiers were in an armored personnel carrier which was hit by an anti-tank missile on Sunday, but while the others have been identified among the remains recovered from the scene, Shaul has not.

Hamas claimed on Sunday to have kidnapped Shaul, even publishing his name, but Israeli officials say gunmen may have simply retrieved some identifying items from the scene after the attack.

May Hashem avenge his blood. May his murderers and the sadistic inhuman beasts who abducted his body be punished from Heaven and on earth.

First here are the other updates from the Times of Israel (they are the best liveblog in my humble opinion):

IDF reveals name of 2nd soldier killed Monday afternoon

The IDF announces the name of the second soldier killed in action yesterday afternoon as First Sergeant Ohad Shemesh, 27, from Beit Elazari near Rehovot.

The first soldier was named earlier as Oded Ben-Sira, 22, from the northern community of Nir Etzion.

Shemesh’s funeral will take place Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 pm at the military cemetery in Mazkeret Batya.

Three soldiers were seriously wounded overnight, while four sustained light injuries in battles with Hamas, the IDF says.

There has been constant rocket fire on the south all morning, and earlier this morning rockets were shot at the Gush Dan region too (that siren caught me in the shower):

9 treated for shock, light injuries in central Israel

Magen David Adom teams in Petah Tikva and Yehud, east of Tel Aviv, are treating four people who injured themselves while running to shelters as rocket sirens blared in the city earlier.

Medics are also treating five people who suffered from shock.

Yehud home sustains direct hit by Gaza rocket

A rocket falls on house Yehud just east of Tel Aviv, causing extensive damage to a structure. Earlier reports were unclear as to whether it was just debris that had struck the house.

There are reports of two people lightly injured, though according to other accounts they were not physically hurt but were rather treated for anxiety.

Here’s a video of the devastation at the Yehud home:

The army issued some figures updated to Monday:

Troops uncovered 23 tunnels, killed 183 Hamas operatives, IDF says

Israel has uncovered 23 cross-border tunnels so far in its ground operations in the Gaza Strip, with 66 different access shafts to those tunnels, the military says.

Tunnel entrances have been found in houses and mosques, according to the army.

“They’re all interconnected, like a huge network of nerves and arteries,” says spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.

The IDF believes there are dozens more tunnels near the border, in various stages of readiness, which are intended for attacks against Israel.

The army says 183 Hamas gunmen have been killed by IDF troops operating on the ground in Gaza, and 470 injured. Twenty-eight operatives have been captured by troops and interrogated.

The military says a lot of the fighting on the ground has been focused around tunnel entrances, as Palestinian gunmen know the IDF is searching for the tunnels and concentrate their forces and ambush attempts in those areas.

In the past 24 hours the military says it struck 100 terror targets in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, including two mosques that served as Hamas compounds and weapons storage sites. Other targets included “rocket launching facilities” and command centers.

All told, 2,050 rockets have been fired at Israel since Operation Protective Edge began. One thousand six hundred have hit the ground, mostly in open areas. The Iron Dome defense system has fired at 450, with a 90 percent success rate, the army says.

Watch this IDF video of Hamas terrorists emerging from a tunnel, and then being eliminated:

The violence is not restricted to Gaza either. An Israeli man was shot and severely wounded in the Shomron:

A 25-year-old Israeli man is in serious condition after being shot in the West Bank by one or more Palestinian gunmen.

The IDF says the man was standing near Rehelim Junction, south west of Tapuah Junction, when he was fired upon from a vehicle.

He was taken to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva for treatment.

IDF forces are searching for the perpetrators.

In addition the army foiled an attempt to smuggle in arms and drugs from Jordan via the Dead Sea:

Shortly after 1 a.m. IDF lookouts spotted a suspicious vessel crossing the northern area of the saltwater lake.

When the boat reached the shore two men got out and hid a sack among the bushes on the beach. Three other men emerged and joined them. As the gang was still at the site, security forces arrived and detained them.

Officials uncovered seven shotguns, six pistols, and a large quantity of marijuana. Two of the men were from Jericho and the other three from East Jerusalem. All five were taken for questioning.

The IDF suspects that the weapons were intended for terror groups operating in the West Bank.

Returning to the headline, the most worrying news is that Hamas claims to have abducted a soldier, and indeed the IDF have said that they have now identified 6 of the 7 remaining unidentified soldiers from the group of 13 who were killed overnight on Saturday night, implying that one soldier is still missing:

The IDF has identified only six of the seven soldiers caught in a deadly ambush in Gaza City’s Shejaiya area earlier this week, the army announced Tuesday. The seventh soldier would appear to be missing in action. There is no definitive evidence of whether he is alive or dead.

“The identification process of six of the soldiers killed has been completed and confirmed,” the army said in a statement. “The efforts to identify the seventh soldier are ongoing and have yet to be determined.”

The announcement came several days after Hamas announced that it had abducted a soldier. “The Israeli soldier [name deleted] is in the hands of the Qassam Brigades,” a Hamas spokesman said more than 12 hours after the battle.

The army released the names of the six confirmed dead soldiers:

Sgt. Max Steinberg, 24, originally from Los Angeles; First Sgt. Shahar Tase, 20, from Pardesiya;
First Sgt. Daniel Pomerantz, 20, from Kfar Azar;
Sgt. Shon Mondshein, 19, from Tel Aviv;
Sgt. Ben Yitzhak Oanounou, 19, from Ashdod; and
First Sgt. Oren Simcha Noach, 22, from Hoshaya.

May Hashem avenge their blood and may their deaths not have been in vain.

The battle in Shejaiya began on Saturday night. During the early hours Sunday, a 1970s-model armored personnel carrier got stuck in one of the neighborhood’s narrow streets. A soldier and an officer got out of the armored vehicle to try and fix the problem, according to a report in the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth. Shortly thereafter, Hamas operatives opened fire on the stalled vehicle. An anti-tank missile penetrated the APC and exploded, causing immense damage.

The other soldiers in the area fought to reach the APC and either save or evacuate their comrades. Channel 10 reported that the army promptly summoned a drone over the area to provide visuals from above. No Hamas members, the channel said, were seen making contact with the APC or any of the bodies.

Nonetheless, after careful forensic work the army was not able to locate any traces of the seventh soldier.

Hamas, which, like Hezbollah, has a long history of sadistically toying with Israel over the fate of its soldiers, has released an ID photo of the apparently missing soldier along with his army ID number.

The family, which has been forced to swing back and forth between grim certainty over the fate of their son and a profound uncertainty, is being accompanied by army officers and constantly updated about the situation.

Maj. Gen. Orna Barbivai, the head of the IDF’s Manpower Division, has visited the family and is personally keeping them updated.

The IDF does say that there is little chance the soldier survived.

Two days after a Hamas announcement that it abducted an IDF soldier, the IDF says that the body of one of the seven soldiers who were in an armored personnel carrier that was destroyed in an attack early Sunday has not been identified among the remains recovered from the scene.

The bodies of the other six soldiers have been identified, and the seventh, whose name has not been released for publication, is presumed to have been killed in the attack.

The IDF stresses that there is little chance that the soldier survived the attack.

Hamas and other terror groups have been known to snatch remains of IDF soldiers and trade them for live prisoners.

This is a dreadful situation for the family. It is equally as dreadful for the IDF and a matter of huge concern to the whole people. I just hope Israel is not drawn in to another lopsided “prisoner” exchange for a dead body as happened with Hezbollah and the bodies of Regev and Goldwasser.

We are dealing with inhuman (I would go as far as to call them sub-human though it is strictly un-PC to say so) sadistic bastards who delight in torturing us psychologically as well as physically. We must not give in. We must stand firm, give the family as much support as we can, and then we must soldier on, literally.

May the rest of the day bring better news.

May Hashem protect our soldiers and watch over all of us.

Posted in Defence and Military, Israel news, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ground Operation Day 4 – another 7 soldiers killed

Smoke rises over Gaza City after Israeli strike

The ground operation of Operation Protective Edge has almost completed its 4th day and despite the massive IDF assault on Hamas’ terror infrastructure in Gaza the rocket-fire onto Israel continues, albeit at a slightly lesser pace.

The biggest blow from today’s news is that another 7 IDF soldiers were killed this morning in battle with Hamas terrorists:

Seven IDF soldiers were killed overnight and early Monday battling Hamas on the Israeli side of the border and inside Gaza, the IDF announced on Monday evening. Four of them were killed during a pre-dawn tunnel infiltration into southern Israel in which Hamas terrorists planned to attack Kibbutz Nir Am, military sources said.

The deaths bring the IDF toll since the launch of Israel’s ground offensive against Hamas in Gaza last Thursday night to 25.

The toll is greater than the number of soldiers who died in the two previous major Israeli efforts to thwart Hamas terrorism in 2008-2009 and 2012.

First Sgt. Yuval Dagan, 22, hy

First Sgt. Yuval Dagan, 22, hy”d Courtesy of the Dagan family

The seven were named as Lt. Col. Dolev Kedar, 38 from Modi’in; SS. Tal Yifrach, 21, from Rishon Lezion; SSgt. Yuval Dagan, 22, from Kfar Sava; Sgt. Nadav Goldmacher, 23, from Beersheba; SFC. Baynesain Kasahun, 39 from Netivot; Sec. Lt. Yuval Haiman, 21 from Efrat; and SS Jordan Ben-Simon, 22 from Ashkelon.

May Hashem avenge their blood, and may their deaths not be in vain.

It is notable that 3 of the 20 soldiers killed so far have been lone soldiers, boys who made aliya alone and served in the IDF while their families remained abroad:

The Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center expresses its condolences on Facebook for Jordan Bensemhoun, who was killed in Gaza fighting early Monday.

Bensemhoun, 22, immigrated to Israel from Lyon, France.

“Jordan came here alone, to do his part to defend all of us and keep all Israeli safe and free,” the center writes.

Bensemhoun is the third lone soldier killed in the last two days of fighting. On Sunday, Nissim Sean Carmelli and Max Steinberg, both originally from the US, were killed during fighting in the Strip.

The Lone Soldier Center, in Ra’anana, is named for Michael Levin, a lone soldier from the US killed in the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Over 12,000 people turned out for the funeral of Nissim Sean Carmeli tonight in Haifa:

More than 12,000 people have showed up at the military cemetery in Haifa’s Neve David neighborhood for the funeral of slain lone soldier Nissim Sean Carmeli.

Earlier on Monday, fans of the Maccabi Haifa team posted on Facebook calling for people to attend Carmeli’s funeral.

What a wonderful spirit of solidarity! If only this could have been in happier times.

The first ToI link continues:

Four of the seven were killed by a rocket-propelled grenade, fired by Hamas gunmen who emerged from a tunnel dug from Gaza into Israel near Kibbutz Nir Am. The Hamas cell, clad in IDF uniforms, emerged from the tunnel, and waited for an approaching IDF jeep before opening fire, killing the IDF officer and the three other soldiers in the vehicle.

Hamas terror tunnels

Hamas terror tunnels

The jeep had been sent to the scene as information on the infiltration was received.

Simultaneously, Hamas opened diversionary fire across the border.

Residents of Kibbutz Nir Am were told to stay in their homes while the IDF tackled the terrorist cell.

Troops from the Nahal Brigade converged and killed 10 of the Hamas gunmen. Two of the gunmen may have escaped back into Gaza.

Part of the incident was filmed in footage later released by the IDF.

“We paid a heavy price, but we averted a grave disaster,” said Sami Turgeman, the general in charge of the IDF’s Southern Command. “There is no Iron Dome protection against tunnel infiltration.”

The three other Israeli soldiers were killed in Shejaiya. Two were hit by an anti-tank missile fired into a building. Like the 13 IDF soldiers killed there overnight Saturday-Sunday, they were members of the Golani Brigade. The third may have been killed by IDF forces in error.

Watch this video of a tunnel being discovered by IDF troops under a Gaza residential house:

Just thinking about “what might have been” if those tunnels had not been detected is too chilling to contemplate. Were Hamas planning to use all those tunnels in one huge mega-attack, an Israeli 9/11?

The tunnel infiltration early Monday involved two groups of Hamas gunmen who surfaced shortly after six in the morning. Apart from the terror cell that emerged near Nir Am, the second cell, also clad in what looked like standard IDF military gear, emerged near Erez, on Israeli territory, several kilometers northeast of the Gaza city of Beit Hanoun. Surveillance soldiers spotted the infiltrators and summoned an aircraft to the area, the army said. The aircraft opened fire, killing the gunmen. No Israelis were hurt in the battle.

The squad that surfaced near Nir Am emerged from either a separate tunnel or a more southeasterly branch of the same one and was not immediately detected.

Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz told Israel Radio that the army believed the tunnel squads sought either to enter a civilian community or to attack a significant army post, with the ultimate aim of abducting a soldier or a civilian.

Earlier Monday, in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, forces from the Egoz unit engaged and killed 10 operatives, including one who detonated a suicide vest.

There were conflicting reports about the sex of the suicide bomber, but later reports said it was a woman.

Lerner, in depicting the pitch of the battles in Shejaiya, where dozens of Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers were killed Sunday, said that the combat there is “reminiscent of ‘Black Hawk Down,’ ” the film [and book] describing the 1993 battles in Mogadishu, Somalia.

IAF jet

In other news today, there are reports that the IAF struck a Sudanese arms arsenal, storing weapons for Hamas:

>Sources in Khartoum claimed on Monday that Israeli forces struck a weapons arsenal which held long range missiles for Hamas.

The Arabic-language UK-based newspaper Al-Arab reported that the government in Sudan is not confirming the incident in order to cover up relations with the terrorist organization in Gaza. Such ties could entangle the country’s president Omar al-Bashir with an accusation of supporting terrorism from the US and Western nations.

The attack came only hours after Israel accused the Sudanese government of storing long range missiles for Hamas.

Eye witnesses claimed to have seen a “huge explosion” and billows of smoke before ambulances and firefighters arrived at the scene. Six people were allegedly wounded in the attack.

House in Sderot after direct hit from rocket

The Times of Israel live-blog reports on heavy fighting in Gaza with Palestinian casualties mounting to over 500; heavy rocket fire in the south including a direct hit on a house in Ashkelon and a near-miss in Sderot, rocket launchers found near a school (again), anti-tank missiles stored next to a hospital, and renewed attempts by the UN and the US at a ceasefire (because we’re winning).

Luckily for us Hamas deny all knowledge of a ceasefire.

Meanwhile communities surrounding the Gaza border are in lockdown for the 3rd time today for fear of an infiltration by terrorists.  The residents have to contend with these dangers as well as the incessant heavy rocket fire pounding on them for years.

In a very surprising undiplomatic (but correct) remark, former Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, decried the arrival of John Kerry:

Michael Oren speaks out against Kerry visit

Michael Oren, who until recently served as Israel’s ambassador to the US, says Kerry is coming to the region despite not being invited.

In outspoken comments to Channel 2, Oren cites Kerry’s “long history” of unsuccessful diplomacy in the region, the Obama administration’s tense relations with Egypt, and the “tension” in ties between the Obama administration and Israel.

He says Kerry and the Obama administration have close ties with Qatar and Turkey, “who are not on the best terms with Egypt right now.”

Oren stresses that Kerry, as evidenced by his on-camera slip yesterday, was “not invited” to come out here. He decided that that’s what he wanted to do.

Oren’s comments follow remarks yesterday by Channel 2′s veteran Arab affairs analyst Ehud Ya’ari, who said flatly that Kerry’s trip was “bad for Israel” and that the US should be leaving it to Egypt to handle ceasefire efforts.

PM BInyamin Netanyahu talks to the press on Sunday night

Talking of politics, PM Binyamin Netanyahu spoke to the press on Sunday night and answered their questions. Here are Rapahel Ahren’s summary:

1. The operation has become a war. Until Sunday, the Israeli government was hesitant to refer to Operation Protective Edge as a war.

But on a day on which more than a dozen Israeli soldiers fell in enemy territory, Netanyahu was no longer stating that this was anything but a full-fledged war. “I would like to say to you that there is no war more just than that in which your sons and ours heroically fell,” the prime minister said, addressing the bereaved families.

2. It’s an existential war. The current campaign should not be seen as an imperialistic endeavor or an adventure to turn tyrannies into democracies, Netanyahu said. Unlike other nations who send their armies to fight in far-flung provinces, Israel is fighting for its very survival in its ancient homeland. The 13 soldiers from the Golani Brigade died “so that we can continue to live here,” he said. “We find ourselves in a milhama al habayit – a war for our home…

3. The war’s objective is loosely defined. Before he became prime minister, Netanyahu said that once he was in charge, the IDF would not refrain from finishing the job in Gaza — in other words, toppling Hamas. But now, in the middle of an expansive military campaign, with troops on the ground in Gaza, removing Hamas from power was not on his list of objectives.

Rather, the prime minister steadfastly defined the operation’s aims as restoring quiet to Israel for a prolonged time and severely damaging terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.

Netanyahu has formulated his goal in so amorphous a way as to enable him to stop the operation whenever he sees fit.

4. Abbas’s role. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas could be part of the solution to the conflict, Netanyahu said — provided Abbas understands that Hamas cannot be part of the peace process. [...] Now that even many parts of the Arab world see Hamas for what it is – a terrorist organization that, by refusing the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, proved that it doesn’t care about the lives of Palestinians – Netanyahu feels vindicated.

5. Relations with Turkey. Ties between Ankara and Jerusalem have hit rock bottom. In May, it seemed that the four-year-old feud between the two countries was about to end.

But after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent rants, during one of which he accused Israel of “barbarism that surpasses Hitler,” chances for a rapprochement have been reduced to close to zero. [...] “This is something that you would expect to hear from Iran or from Al-Qaida,” Netanyahu said.

6. Questions don’t hurt. Finally, a point that might seem mundane in times of war, but which is not entirely unimportant for a country that considers itself an exemplary democracy: the prime minister seems to have understood that Israeli journalists don’t bite, or at least not always. Netanyahu gives plenty of interviews to the foreign media, but very rarely fields questions from local journalists.

On Sunday, the prime minister took questions from the press, for the second time since the current operation started. And lo and behold, the Q&A format seemed to work just fine. His answers were considered to the point and and shed additional light on his thinking on various geopolitical issues.

“The press conference was excellent,” Israel Radio’s diplomatic commentator Chico Menashe opined afterwards. “If you’re not afraid of the media, you succeed.” Even political blogger Tal Schneider, one of Netanyahu’s harshest critics when it comes to his disinclination to answer questions, was full of praise, noting that he was “focused and precise” and didn’t dodge the issues.

It makes a pleasant change to have the lefty Israeli press on-side with the Prime Minister. Let us hope that this solidarity will continue to hold strong throughout this war and on into the future.

May Hashem protect our soldiers and watch over them, and may He protect all of Israel. May tomorrow bring better news.

Posted in Israel news | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Those Gaza casualty figures and Hamas’ use and abuse of civilian human shields

Regular readers of this blog will be well-used to reports of Hamas using human shields in order to cause maximum Palestinian physical casualties and maximum damage to Israel’s reputation.

Here are several links which help to illustrate this war crime and abuse human rights by Hamas, and which you can make use in countering the libels and smears out there in the international media.

Firstly, why does Israel not publish the real casualty figures in Gaza? The answer is no so straightforward:

For Operation Protective Edge, the only data published so far comes from the health ministry in Gaza. This ministry is run by Hamas, therefore rendering the number of casualties and injuries it reports more than unreliable, said Maj. Arye Shalicar of the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s unit. “Hamas has no shame about lying. We know they’re a terrorist organization that makes cynical use of casualty numbers for propaganda purposes. You can’t trust a single number they publish.”

And yet, the figures from the Gazan ministry are routinely adopted, unquestioned, by the United Nations. “According to preliminary information, over 77 per cent of the fatalities since 7 July have been civilians, raising concerns about respect for international humanitarian law,” states a situation report published Tuesday by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Once given the stamp of approval of such an important body, these numbers are quoted everywhere else.

“All these publications are not worth the paper they’re written on,” said Reuven Erlich, the director of the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. “They’re based mostly on Palestinian sources in Gaza, who have a vested interest in showing that we’re killing many civilians.”

“Our work doesn’t focus on the number of casualties, but rather on Hamas’s methods, which are the sole reason for the fact that civilians are being hurt; and on our method, which is to do everything to avoid civilian casualties,” said Yarden Vatikai, the director of the National Information Directorate at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tries to hammer this point home every time he talks to a world leader or to the press. “See, the Hamas and the other terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad are firing from Gaza when their rocketeers and their command posts are embedded in homes, hospitals, next to kindergartens, mosques,” he said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And so we are trying to operate, to target them surgically, but the difference between us is that we’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles. So naturally they’re responsible for all the civilian deaths that occur accidentally.”

Numbers matter, and although it’s tough to explain the many civilian casualties caused by Israeli air raids, there is nothing the IDF can do about it, officials insist. It’s simply impossible to establish an independent body count while the hostilities are ongoing, admitted a senior official in the government’s hasbara apparatus. “It’s a challenge. But even if you said: No, only 40 or 50 percent of those killed were civilian, and not 70 — would that change anything in the world’s opinion?”

The numbers game is not an arena in which Israel can win, the official said. “When it comes to arguments over the actual justice of our campaign, I think we can win. When it comes to numbers, though, we cannot win. Because first of all, we don’t really have the ability to count the casualties, and secondly, because most people don’t really care that it was, say, only 50 percent and not 60.”

If the UN or other groups want to investigate possible war crimes or the high number of casualties after Operation Protective Edge, Jerusalem will deal with it then, the official said. Even if Israel were to publish its body count at the same time as the Gazan health ministry, it would not prevent a second Goldstone report, he added. “The people involved in these kinds of reports are not interested in the exact numbers. If they want to attack Israel they will do it regardless of the true number of casualties. They have their narrative, and nothing is going to change that.”

I’m not sure that answer is adequate any more in these days of 24/7 news cycles, simplistic sound-bites and blatant propaganda.

One organization that is doing sterling work in providing real-time information in an easily digestible format is the IDF Spokesman’s office, via their blog and their social media accounts. Here is one of the IDF Spokesman’s tweets from yesterday for example:

And here is a video from the IDF showing Hamas terrorists shooting from within a civilian house:

Interestingly, Al-Jazeera have provided some very useful figures proving Israel’s point, as CAMERA points out:

Shown below is a chart of male fatalities in Gaza resulting from hostilities between Hamas and Israel between July 7 and July 14, derived from a list published by Al Jazeera on July 14. Information provided by Qatar-owned Al Jazeera should not be accepted at face value, as the emirate has close ties to the Hamas-led Gazan government, but nevertheless, the information provided in the list shows that as in past hostilities, the fatalities are disproportionately [compared to the overall population] among young males, which corresponds with the characteristics of combatants. Males over 40 years old are also disproportionately represented. Some of the fatalities in those over 40 years of age likely represent senior members of terrorist organization. Media coverage often parrots the line fed by Gazan authorities that “most of the casualties are civilians” despite the well-established propensity of Gazan authorities to exaggerate the proportion of civilian casualties.

The x axis shows the age from 1 to 65 and the y axis shows the number of fatalities associated with each age. The total number of male fatalities is 150, but the ages are only available for 131, and 3 over age 65 are not shown due to space limitations. So 128 are shown on the chart. There were also 20 female fatalities over the same time frame.
Of the 150 male fatalities, 83 are between the ages of 16-39, 28 are over 40 years old and 20 are under 16 years old. For 19 not shown, the age was unspecified, although one of these was listed as a member of Islamic Jihad.
Notably, only about 12 percent of the total fatalities are female, though females make up half the population. Also, the median age of Gazans is reported to be around 15. Males under 15 make up just 13 percent of the total fatalities even though they represent half of all males in the Gaza Strip.
Gaza fatalities according to Al Jazeera

Gaza fatalities according to Al Jazeera

Israellycool takes these figures and runs them further in their analysis of the Gaza casualty figures so far:

 Some of the claims I am seeing online include how the vast majority of Gazans killed are civilians, and how Israel is deliberately targeting them.

Regarding the latter, we all know this is nonsense – if Israel wanted to kill civilians it would carpet bomb Gaza. It is precisely because we want to avoid civilian casualties, that we opt for pinpoint strikes and ground operations, at risk to our soldiers’ lives.

But what about the first claim? Are the vast majority civilians?

Without having all of the terrorist obituaries or intel to prove who was a terrorist, this is hard to analyze. But what we do have is a list of the names and ages of those killed so far, which does provide us with some insights.

An anonymous Israellycool reader and her family spent countless hours going over this list from Al Jazeera – a media outlet that can’t be accused of slanting things Israel’s way. Their main findings regarding the casualties to date are as follows:

There are several very enlightening charts there. These two are the most useful:

Gaza casualty figures

Gaza casualty figures

Israellycool continues:

In other words, these figures bring into question how many of those killed were really innocent civilians.

What these figures also indicate is if Israel was indiscriminately killing Gazans, the representation in terms of gender and age would be broader (with relatively more children killed than the approx 18%, considering nearly 50% of Gazans are under the age of 14).

Another item worth reading, amongst so many others, is “Getting the law right on the Israel-Hamas conflict”:

the law of war does not require warnings before targeting enemy personnel — indeed, the law authorizes the use of lethal force as a first resort against enemy fighters and military objects. Imagine the absurdity of a system that required soldiers to give the enemy a chance to hide or plan an ambush by giving a warning before attacking: The United States did not warn German or Japanese soldiers before attacking them in World War II, nor should it have. Hamas militants are fighters, not civilians, and therefore are not entitled to protection from attack, just as Israeli soldiers are not protected from attack during conflict. It is the civilians of Gaza and Israel and every other conflict zone that the law seeks to protect, through a comprehensive web of protections and obligations.

Second, Hamas has announced that it is launching rockets at Haifa, at Tel Aviv, at Jerusalem and other Israeli cities. Not at military bases, army units, communication networks or any other military target, but at cities populated by hundreds of thousands, even millions of civilians. The law of war requires that parties distinguish between military and civilian targets and only attack military personnel and targets. Deliberate attacks on civilians and indiscriminate attacks — attacks that are incapable of distinguishing between legitimate targets and civilians — are prohibited and are war crimes.

Third, Hamas’s use of civilians and civilian buildings in Gaza as a shield is well known. Media reports tell of rockets being launched from residential buildings and schoolyards, munitions stored in houses, mosques and hospitals, Hamas leaders using civilian homes as command posts, and civilians being encouraged to go up on their roofs as human shields. These reports unfortunately rarely, if ever, mention that such conduct violates the law and, even more important, puts civilians at ever greater risk of death and injury.

Using human shields is not a romanticized effort at neighborhood defense — it is a war crime.

Do go and read it all.

And in case one still has trouble internalizing Hamas’ use of human shields, watch this chilling video:

And in order to show how insanely humane (and I mean that most sincerely) we are, here is a picture (h/t Zvi) of the IDF hospital to treat wounded Gazans in Israel.

IDF clinic for wounded Gazans

We need to keep our wits about us, both in the military fight and in the psychological war in the media.

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